Sean King

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Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nationalizing the Internet

Mitch Wagner Asks: Should the US Nationalize the Internet?

The case for letting the government run the Internet is tempting. Rather than letting telcos, media companies, and spammers fight to control the Internet, we could just let the government run the pipe to ensure its continued fairness.

Tempting? Really?

Setting aside the question of whether the US should nationalize the Internet, the more intriguing question is, could it? I'm not techy, but it is apparent to me that the Internet is a widely distributed network of computers. Millions of nodes are being added daily, and a growing percentage of these are outside of the United States. How would the US "nationalize" and regulate these resources even if it wanted to?

As for whether it should, Mitch offers this understated counterpoint:

Government regulation has a tendency to enshrine incumbents. A government-run Internet might become even more of a tool of big business than before, with the AT&Ts, Verizons, Googles, and Microsofts of the world setting the menu and leaving startups and innovators to fight over the the crumbs that fall off their table.

It might? It might?! That's exactly what would happen. Regulation, and especially nationalization, invariably benefit the incumbents and enshrine a privileged class. This under-appreciated fact explains why most super-successful capitalists (e.g., Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Ted Turner) drift toward socialism late in life. They are driven in this direction by their own self-interest.

Much, much more on this important subject later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bill Gates has seriously disappointed me in recent years. I read an article a few years back entitled something like "Why Bill Gates Hates Google" and it was awful to find out that a man who made his own way like Bill Gates has become so bitter and backwards in his thoughts, basically scorning what it was that allowed him to become who and what he is today. This is only a tangential aside to this post, but I agree with you, and wanted to bash on Gates for a moment.

-- Your Sister