Hysteria and 'Net Neutrality'…Or Government-Control of the Internet

Jack Kerwick
|
Posted: Dec 19, 2017 9:50 AM
Hysteria and 'Net Neutrality'…Or Government-Control of the Internet

Here are a few things that everyone who is interested in forming a thoughtful view on whole issue of so-called “Net Neutrality” should keep in mind.

First, the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius advocated on behalf of an idea that has since become enshrined in a doctrine that his followers recognize as “the Rectification of Names.”  To put the point simply, Confucius realized that in order to discern reality for what it is, we must call things for what they are.

In order to resolve problems, we must affix to them accurate labels.

Confucian wisdom couldn’t be more pertinent to the issue at hand, for insofar as it is used to refer to the position for which the Obama administration’s has become the popular face, the term “Net Neutrality” is about as inaccurate and misleading a label as any demagogue can conjure.

An eminently and literally more accurate label is that of “Government-Control” of the internet.

Even “Net Socialism” is significantly more accurate than so-called “Net Neutrality.”

In other words, the conflict over this issue is not, as the media would have us think, a conflict between the champions of Big Telecom, on the one hand, and, on the other, the champions of a free internet to which all have equal access.

Rather, the conflict is between those who favor a government monopoly over the internet and those who oppose this monopoly.

Second, the objection that Government-Control of the internet—“Net Neutrality”—is needed in order to prevent the oligopoly of the few Big Telecom companies from running roughshod over consumers while preventing smaller, less resourceful prospective competitors from undermining their cartel, though superficially plausible, is ultimately misplaced.  It’s even, arguably, illogical.

Admittedly, the concern about the abuses of Big Telecom is one with which many of us can sympathize.  Yet one needn’t be a fan of the gargantuan internet service providers (ISPs) to recognize that while an oligopoly of sorts truly does exist in this arena, at least there is more than one ISP.

In other words, if it is the potential abuse of power that has the proponents of “Net Neutrality’ up at night worrying, then this is actually all that much more reason for them to oppose “Net Neutrality.”

The reason is simple: Given that so-called “Net Neutrality” is actually Net-As-Controlled-By-Government, and since the government is a real monopoly, there is much greater potential for abuses of power on the part of the government than any that might exist when the power is dispersed between several actors that are in competition with one another, as it is with the big ISPs.

Some division of power is better than none.Power is indivisible when it is consolidated within one entity, a central, supreme government.  When that power is disseminated among two or more entities, as it is in the case of an oligopoly, then while many of us will lament the restricted range of the competition, this does not change the fact that there at least is some competition, some range of choice.

Such is not the case in any government-directed enterprise.

So, to paraphrase one of Aristotle’s criticisms of Plato’s theory of Forms, those who favor “Net Neutrality” are like those who, thinking it difficult to count when the number of things falls below 100, propose as a solution that they try instead counting up to 1,000.   

Third, the internet has been around for decades now. It has revolutionized our lives in too many ways to count.  Those who have invented and developed the World-Wide Web (and his insistence to the contrary aside, Al Gore had nothing to do with it) have placed a bottomless sea of information at the fingertips of anyone and everyone who want to avail themselves of it.  

And they did this in the conspicuous absence of “Net Neutrality.”

Though Barack Obama would have us believe otherwise, private actors did indeed “build that,” the internet; neither Obama nor Elizabeth Warren nor any other politician had anything at all to do with it.

Fourth, those Chicken Littles who are now screaming from the rooftops that the world as we know it is going to come to a grinding halt and only the affluent will be able to afford internet access should have no challenges finding ample examples of such misery from all of those dark days leading up to 2015, the year that the Obama administration imposed “Net Neutrality.” After all, a world without the latter is hardly some hypothetical scenario; it’s the only world we had from the time the internet became accessible to the public back in the early to mid-1990s up until two years ago.

That there are no examples of these doomsday scenarios and that, as was already noted, the lives of billions of human beings have been exponentially enriched by the internet in a pre-“Net Neutrality” era are facts that militate powerfully against the alarmism now on display.

In fact, the whole situation calls to mind a quip that Ronald Reagan once made regarding Keynesians: They are people, the Gipper said, who, upon seeing an idea work in practice, will wonder whether it will work in theory.

We can say the same thing about the champions of “Net Neutrality.”