Friday, April 9, 2010

NRO: The Solution for Arbitrary Network Neutrality Regulation : the Non-Objective Regulation of Antitrust Law????

Following the decision against the FCC in favor of Comcast, the NRO has come out against Network Neutrality saying, quote:

"...competition directs broadband toward its most efficient uses... It would be a huge mistake to impose by fiat a single business model on the carrier side of the Internet"

The arguments that the editors of the NRO present to support its position are mostly economic in nature but it betrays an ignorance of economics by using the idea that Network Neutrality is "pro-consumer" because of  competitive pressure.  In any economy, there are no consumers unless there are producers and usually these people are one and the same.  You produce when you work, you consume to sustain your body and live your life.

The editors' focus on the consumer seems to imply that the interest of the consumer is to be achieved by competition alone implying fully that the producers, internet service providers, have no property rights and no say so long as there is adequate competition (by what standard?).

The article goes on to ominously indicate that the battle is not yet won and that the FCC may attempt to reclassify the Internet as a “telecommunications service”. This would seem to be a very arbitrary loophole but regulations are arbitrary to begin with.  For instance, by what right does the government claim to regulate how people dispose of their private property?  NRO doesn't ask, NRO doesn't care -- Blank out.

And just what does the NRO suggest?  That the magic bullet to solve this workaround is the mess of contradictions known as Antitrust law.

"we are sure to hear louder calls for Congress to regulate the Internet or to grant the FCC the explicit authority to do so. These calls should be ignored. The Internet has thrived in the absence of homogenizing federal regulations, and this organic development should be allowed to continue so long as competition can act as a check on anti-consumer practices. If the broadband market becomes insufficiently competitive, then — as Apple CEO Steve Jobs might say — there’s an app for that: The United States has antitrust laws for regulating competition and monopolistic access."

First, let us analyze the flaw in their position.  Competition they claim, is the only reason why we shouldn't let the FCC march right in and tell service providers how they have to run their networks.  (Rights? What rights?) Competition is not a primary consideration of a free society.  The primary consideration is whether you get to be an end in yourself - to live for your own sake.  Even if the government and the NRO ignore this, the people who control investment capital do not.

As for antitrust. Well, you can try to fight fire with fire but you're likely to get burned in the process.  I will let Rand's words speak for me:

The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror. Yet these laws were created and, to this day, are upheld by the “conservatives,” as a grim monument to their lack of political philosophy, of economic knowledge and of any concern with principles. Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.

If that sounds like a recipe for handing over massive amounts of control to someone else's whims, it's because it is.  Unfortunately, Conservatives have demonstrated time and again, they don't know or care to know the damage non-objective law does to the concept of rights.  But they need to learn it and why rights are fundamental.  It's either that or we continue with arbitrary government coercion depending only on which gang happens to be in control eventually resulting in disintegration and collapse of civilized society.

See also: America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business (Audio Lecture)