Holiday Rate of Exchange:
UnNetting Net Neutrality

from Raymond

 

Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara is irritated at widespread criticism of the FCC after the vote to end net neutrality:

No. The FCC didn’t “give” the ISPs anything. It restored the rights of ISP providers to manage content traffic on their own networks—the networks that they built—as they see fit.

Our readers react:

Dave Dubya (of Freedom Rants):

Let’s see. Corporate control of the internet is good because the tyrannical government has been dictating what we say and read on the internet. The FCC is bad because corporations should control public airwaves.

This present catastrophe must be stopped at all costs. My “free speech” has been suppressed! Help me, libertarians!

Oh, that’s right. We are on our own and corporations own the internet AND the government. Well, that should work out swell. ..for somebody. I wonder who?

Infidel753 who writes at his own site.:

The FCC didn’t “give” the ISPs anything. It restored the rights of ISP providers to manage content traffic on their own networks—the networks that they built—as they see fit.

Typical libertarian tactic — resort to semantics and abstractions instead of addressing practical effects of things. The question is, will this mean that ISPs will be able “to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds” or not, regardless of the terminology being used to describe it? Because if that kind of thing starts happening and the internet turns to crap, nobody will care about semantics.


Trey::

Something Something Market Forces Something Something Invisible Hand Something Something Freedom.

Ryan:

Indeed, if net neutrality is being undone, it is for a reason–and not for something so abstract as some principle of freedom. Those in favor of undoing it should be able to explain to us what that reason is and how people benefit from it, just as those in favor of preserving it have done. But their arguments consistent primarily of nonsense like this:

But for all the hollow talk by net neutralityists about protecting consumers, who in their right mind would want the state to dictate what we say and how we say it to each other?

In other words: the government is going to take over everything and control us! That’s not realistic and it’s not unstoppable in any case. But for some reason, these people either dismiss or find untroubling the possibility of ISPs doing things like throttling speeds for content that does not pay extra for the privilege of speed or does not have some sort of partnership with them, which could stifle innovation and competition among content providers. And they frequently argue that we should simply vote with our wallets, as if it were that simple and we all had a choice in the first place. They truly sound like they either have never used (or “shopped” for) the internet themselves or are being paid to spread typical right-wing propaganda.

You and I agree: libertarians focus too much on semantics and abstractions, neglecting the consequences. Why is legal freedom X so important? Not because it is good in itself, but because it has certain effects in the real world that cater to our values and goals. If some restriction on that freedom better serves our values and goals, then we should be willing to embrace it, not treat it as some doomsday event. That’s exactly what we see here: net neutrality serves some of the very principles that conservatives claim to cherish, yet the voices against it are made up overwhelmingly of conservatives, as is often the case. And the rest of us have to put up with their self-destructive behavior and the vile politicians whom they elect to facilitate it.

Infidel753:

Ryan: Why is legal freedom X so important? Not because it is good in itself, but because it has certain effects in the real world that cater to our values and goals. If some restriction on that freedom better serves our values and goals, then we should be willing to embrace it, not treat it as some doomsday event.

Libertarians don’t seem able to grasp this because they treat property rights as absolute. In the real world, no single consideration can be absolute, inviolable no matter what. Every consideration has to be balanced against other considerations. My right to do what I want in my own home has to be balanced against the neighbors’ right to not be disturbed by noise. A company’s right to run industrial processes as it chooses has to be balanced against the effects of pollution on others. And so on.

But libertarians have for some reason singled out property rights as absolute, never to be infringed regardless of how much harm results. Taking any one consideration as an absolute to which all others must yield will inevitably produce absurd and painful results in some cases. Property rights are no exception.

Trey::

Well, sure, there’s a counter-balance to property rights. Market Forces. You don’t like the company’s industrial processes? Simply do not reward their processes by utilizing their goods and services. If you get enough people to follow your lead than the company will either change or die.

Now this mindset is pretty naive, but that’s the check against property rights. In their mind. From what I can tell. Nevermind the fact that this might work on a small Mom ‘n Pop store on Main Street in Podunksville, USA but the businesses regulations really reign in are GM, GE, Comcast, etc. Government Regulation is society’s attempt to check these powerful corporations that one individual or a group of individuals couldn’t deal with. However, in some peoples’ minds, Government morphed into this nebulous evil entity rather than the representation of all people in the society.

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