July 2010 Archives

I've argued that things like Network Neutrality are right as a matter of economics (that is, they promote a better economic outcomes for everyone: see economists make this argument here and here), that it is critical as a matter of First Amendment freedom and to prevent "virtual redlining." Below I add an additional argument, one which seeks to approach this as a question of the proper role of government in the first place.

In the last few decades, we have seen the idea of the role of government shift.  In the late 19th century, culminating in Roosevelt's New Deal eras that government serves to level the playing field between citizens and corporate interests -- providing basic rules of the road  and ensuring some level of fundamental fairness for everyone -- with a University of Chicago/Free Market approach that maintains that government has no role except, perhaps, in the case of "market failure." The "market failure" argument usually reduces down to a question of competition. In this theory, if we have "competition," that solves our problems because if there is competition then it must be that whatever the "competitive market" produces is what "the market wants" and therefore is the best possible policy.

There are many things wrong with this line of reasoning.
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