Saturday, June 13, 2015

David Harsanyi: Forget Net Neutrality, and Abolish the FCC

Back in 2010, when the Federal Communications Commission first tried to impose so-called “net neutrality” rules, David Harsanyi of The Denver Post identified the danger in such regulation. Rather than merely argue for rolling back net neutrality regulations, Harsanyi rightly and far-sightedly identified the fundamental problem, arguing that it’s not enough to quibble over regulations. More importantly, he wrote, Save the 'Net; abolish the FCC. Here are some excerpts:

It's not that we don't need the FCC's meddling, it's that we don't need the FCC at all. Rather than expanding the powers — which always seem to grow — of this outdated bureaucracy, Congress should be finding ways to eliminate it.

Why would we want a prehistoric bureaucracy overseeing one of the century's great innovations? As a bottom-up, unregulated and under- taxed market in which technological innovation, free speech and competition thrive — at affordable prices, no less — the Internet poses a crisis of ideology, not commerce, for the FCC. It's about control and relevance. What else can explain the proactive rescue of the Web from capitalistic abuses that reside exclusively in the imagination of a handful of progressive ideologues?

And in a statement that seems almost prophetic, Harsanyi warned:

Even as Chairman Julius Genachowski claims that he will employ a "light touch," the FCC leaves open the possibility that it will use the Title II docket to classify broadband as a public utility. . .

Given the recent moves by the Obama Administration to do just that—regulate the internet as a public utility—Harsanyi’s call for abolition of the FCC is more important than ever. I urge reading Harsanyi’s op-ed in full.

I posted this commentary under my screen name “Mike Zemack”:

Harsanyi is right: The FCC, a 1926 Republican creation originally called the Federal Radio Commission, is a direct threat to freedom of speech and should be abolished outright. The very idea of a government-operated "communications commission" conflicts directly with the principles behind the First Amendment. Ultimately, one or the other will disappear, as they cannot logically co-exist. I would add that Net Neutrality is also a threat to property rights, since internet providers would be forced to grant access to their equipment to all comers whether they wish to or not.

But the most bizarre justification for the FCC's action is that it would prevent internet monopolies.

Monopoly power thrives under regulatory regimes, as only a few minutes of rational thought can demonstrate. There are only two ways for any would-be "monopolist" to thwart smaller but superior competitors - meet the challenge in the marketplace or buy political influence over the regulators. The first method puts millions of "consumers" in charge of picking the winners through voluntary trade. The second concentrates power over an entire industry in a small clique of commissioners armed with the power of government's legal monopoly on physical force... i.e., law. Such concentrations of political power always acts as a magnet for powerful special interests seeking to "influence" the regulators. At the top of that list will always be the kinds of businesses that seek to trample competitors by government favor.

The only protection against true monopoly "economic" power - the power of a corporation to legally bar competition - is a free market, because only government can legally thwart a successful business competitor. Free markets separate political power from the economic realm, thus leaving a level playing field of free and voluntary trade. To concentrate political control over economic activity as a means of preventing monopolies is straight out of Orwell's 1984.

Related Reading:

Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet—Raymond C. Niles for The Objective Standard

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