Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lessig Says Dump the FCC, I Say Don't Stop There

Stanford Law School Professor and founder of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society had a article in Newsweek this week (see also). Some of his observations are profound and, in my opinion, right on target: "Economic growth requires innovation....Washington is practically designed to resist it."

In other ways he stops short of identifying the full problem. He wants to abolish the FCC, but he would replace it with another bureaucracy. It would only be a matter of time before the new bureaucracy was bogged down with the same problems the FCC faces. In addition, there are numerous other governmental bureaucracies that are fully as stifling in their spheres as the FCC is in its sphere.

Innovation is stifled by bureaucracy and regulations. Most regulation does not fulfill its intended result. Further, when elected officials and bureaucrats are given so much power it goes to their heads and they think they can actually protect us and the economy. Lessig says, "commissioners are meant to be "expert" and "independent," but they've never really been expert, and are now openly embracing the political role they play. Commissioners issue press releases touting their own personal policies."

Who in the economy is most capable of stroking and schmoozing politicians? Big business. Competition is tough and the outcome is never certain, even for established corporations with long histories. In fact, established corporations with their own bureaucracies can be a disadvantage. That is why big business seeks favors and favoritism from big government. Because government has the power to control and has already taken billions of dollars from us it is really the only entity in a position to grant favors. Again, Lessig says, bureaucrats develop "an almost irresistible urge to protect the most powerful."

The combination of big business and big government scratching each others' backs is reprehensible and destructive to competition.

I understand that competition means there will be winners and loosers. We are watching some big loosers, the American car makers, grovelling before congress even now. If these entities end up on the bone pile there will be many innocent employees who will be out of work and a few big wigs that will walk away with great post-employment packages. This is more the doing of government favoritism than a failure of the free enterprise system. Adam Smith's invisible hand will never be able to quickly sort through these problems and we will always move forward haltingly, because hundreds of different solutions will be tried and not all of them will work, but this is also the greatest benefit of free enterprise. The solutions that work will be better and stronger.

Many say that people are greedy and will not help their fellow man, but I say that is patently untrue. People are uncommonly good and generous. It's only when they feel they have already been bled dry through taxes that people tend to hold back and even then when the need is real people still give generously.

John Lennon said, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." All I am saying is give people and freedom a chance.

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