Our 'Net on Regs

Thursday, February 12, 2015

John Stossel warns us that the central planners who want to regulate the Internet will ruin it in the process, and he provides us with examples of other things ruined or made impossible by central planning:

Eighty years ago, it took workers only 15 months to build the Empire State Building. But this century, using vastly superior construction equipment, building the new World Trade Center took 10 times as long. Eighty years ago, some trains ran faster than 100 miles per hour, but now even the "high-speed" Acela train averages only 90 miles per hour because government safety rules demand that American trains be heavier.

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel says the current state of regulation should frighten us: "You would not be able to get a polio vaccine ... approved today." He's right. The first batch of Salk vaccine gave polio to 40,000 people. If that happened today, the FDA would immediately stop the research. Salk's vaccine would not have had a chance to save thousands of lives and prevent so much misery.
Stossel notes that central planning interferes with the spontaneous order of the economy, which he likens to that in many daily situations, such as a crowded ice skating rink. Indeed, as we see below, Stossel once tried to direct traffic on a skating rink and failed miserably, as did an Olympian with more expertise. Stossel notes that the "planning" fails because, "no 'planner' knows the wishes and skills of individual skaters better than skaters themselves".

The ice skating rink is the Internet. The rink with a "regulator" is our 'net on regulations.

The ice skaters in the video complain of a lack of freedom and fun with central planning, and an economist later in the video notes that the order that was disrupted had come from the bottom up. All this reminds me of -- and beautifully concretizes -- a quote from the economist George Reisman I have used here on several occasions:
The overwhelming majority of people have not realized that all the thinking and planning about their economic activities that they perform in their capacity as individuals actually is economic planning. By the same token, the term "planning" has been reserved for the feeble efforts of a comparative handful of government officials, who, having prohibited the planning of everyone else, presume to substitute their knowledge and intelligence for the knowledge and intelligence of tens of millions, and to call that planning. [bold added]
I think the video of John Stossel (or Brian Boitano) directing traffic on a rink is an image that deserves to be disseminated widely in the face of the latest push to "regulate" the Internet. To borrow from an old anti-drug PSA, that ice-skating rink "is our 'net on regs". Stossel notes that regulation supporter Hillary Clinton is a self-described "government junkie". Many junkies are also pushers, so I think the analogy is apt on multiple levels.

-- CAV

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