On Thursday the FCC commissioners are to vote on what is generally being called net neutrality, but rightly should be called Obamanet, as L. Gordon Crovitz explains in The Wall Street Journal.
If socializing a sixth of the economy can be called Obamacare, socializing the Internet should be given the moniker of its chief author.
The plan is to cover the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which states in part:
“All charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for and in connection with such communication service, shall be just and reasonable, and any such charge, practice, classification, or regulation that is unjust or unreasonable is hereby declared to be unlawful …”
Goodbye innovation and disruptive changes to the status quo. Everything will be equal, equally slow and costly and mired in regulation and government paperwork.
“Utility regulation was designed to maintain the status quo, and it succeeds,” writes Crovitz. “This is why the railroads, Ma Bell and the local water monopoly were never known for innovation. The Internet was different because its technologies, business models and creativity were permissionless.”
Writing in Politico, Ajit Pai, an FCC commissioner, and Lee Goodman, an FEC commissioner, explain, “Unfortunately, some see any realm of freedom as a vacuum in need of government control.”
They argue the purpose of the whole thing is control and control’s sake and nowhere in the 332-page plan — which is secret until after the FCC vote — is there any explanation of what needs to be fixed.
“While the FCC is inserting government bureaucracy into all aspects of Internet access, the FEC is debating whether to regulate Internet content, specifically political speech posted for free online,” they write.
Democrat FEC commissioners have proposed regulating political “express advocacy” online. Just as some states do with political advertising.
This reminds one of the warnings from Friedrich Hayek in “The Road to Serfdom,” written shortly after World War II:
“It is revealing that few planners today are content to say that central planning is desirable. Most of them affirm that we now are compelled to it by circumstances beyond our control.
“One argument frequently heard is that the complexity of modern civilization creates new problems with which we cannot hope to deal effectively except by central planning. This argument is based upon a complete misapprehension of the working of competition. The very complexity of modern conditions makes competition the only method by which a coordination of affairs can be adequately achieved.
“There would be no difficulty about efficient control or planning were conditions so simple that a single person or board could effectively survey all the facts. But as the factors which have to be taken into account become numerous and complex, no one centre can keep track of them. The constantly changing conditions of demand and supply of different commodities can never be fully known or quickly enough disseminated by any one centre.
“Under competition – and under no other economic order – the price system automatically records all the relevant data. Entrepreneurs, by watching the movement of comparatively few prices, as an engineer watches a few dials, can adjust their activities to those of their fellows.
“Compared with this method of solving the economic problem – by decentralization plus automatic coordination through the price system – the method of central direction is incredibly clumsy, primitive, and limited in scope. It is no exaggeration to say that if we had had to rely on central planning for the growth of our industrial system, it would never have reached the degree of differentiation and flexibility it has attained. Modern civilization has been possible precisely because it did not have to be consciously created.”