Tim Lee on ‘network neutrality’: Libertarian computer geeks should forge a third way

“Many computer geeks are also libertarians, so it’s not too surprising to hear Tim Lee proudly describe himself as a member of both groups,” Scott Woolley reports for Fortune. “No, what makes Lee unusual is his passion for figuring out exactly what it means to be both a libertarian and a technophile. What’s the best way to increase both the power of technology and the preserve of liberty?”

“As Washington feuds over rules that will govern the digital future, that question seems particularly important, timely and (for Lee and others with a libertarian bent) confusing,” Woolley reports. “Take the raging fight over ‘network neutrality.’ Protecting the open nature of the Internet, where anyone can communicate with anyone else on essentially equal terms, surely advances the cause of individual liberty. Yet the government now seeks to advance that goal with a new layer of new regulations, exactly the sort of thing libertarians naturally distrust.”

“The 31 year-old Lee, who is among other things an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a PhD candidate in Princeton’s technology and public policy program and an increasingly well-known blogger, first became fascinated with solving such seeming paradoxes thanks to a gut feeling he had about some of his natural political allies,” Woolley reports. “‘It was obvious to me that some of the things that some libertarians were saying about tech policy were wrong,’ he says.”

Woolley reports, “Just as libertarians disapprove of both Republicans (for their tendency to regulate private conduct) and Democrats (for their tendency to regulate the market), Lee argues that libertarians should forge a third way in tech policy.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote over 4½ years ago back in June 2006: We don’t presume to know the best way to get there, but we support the concept of “Net Neutrality” especially as it pertains to preventing the idea of ISP’s blocking or otherwise impeding sites that don’t pay the ISP to ensure equal access. That said, we usually prefer the government to be hands-off wherever possible, Laissez-faire, except in cases where the free market obviously cannot adequately self-regulate (antitrust, for just one example). Regulations are static and the marketplace is fluid, so extensive regulations can have unintended, unforeseen results down the road. We sincerely hope that there are enough forces in place and/or that the balances adjust in such a manner as to keep the ‘Net neutral. What do you think?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jax44” for the heads up.]

24 Comments

  1. That said, we usually prefer the government to be hands-off wherever possible, Laissez-faire, except in cases where the free market obviously cannot adequately self-regulate (antitrust, for just one example).

    Pretty big exception, there.

  2. Three forms of government:

    Democrat – Nobody can do anything that remotely adversely affects me or anyone else.
    Republican – I can do what I want and everyone else can do what I want.
    Libertarian – I can do what I want and everyone else can go fsck themselves.

  3. The crux of the issue is “Whose property is the internet?” I would think about the question with a parallel question: “Whose property are roads?”. The answer is “the peoples”, that is they are common property for everyone to use and no one may charge others to use them. I suppose you could build a private road and charge others for use, but I’m sure only a few destinations would be served by the free market road builder. And you sure wouldn’t be allowed to build the only road to a piece of property, be free to charge whatever you wanted for access and be protected from anyone else building another road.

    It’s OK to charge for bandwidth, IMHO, but the price structure must be the same for all comers, bits is bits. No varied structure that favors your own content or disadvantages the bits for text messages over the bits for voice calls. That would be Net Neutrality, as I see it. But who will oversee the bandwidth sellers, if not government?

  4. Yeah, having no laws worked so well for the telecom industry. How many laws had to be passed again, to prevent Ma Bell from abusing her monopoly?

    True freedom is a delicate balance between rules and rulelessness. Like traffic laws, we need the right rules in place to ensure that we have the best combination of law and liberty, for as many people as possible.

  5. “Yeah, having no laws worked so well for the telecom industry. How many laws had to be passed again, to prevent Ma Bell from abusing her monopoly?”

    Actually, phone service was pretty good under the old system. BTW, there was also GTE and other small regional systems, not to mention local systems that tied into Bell.
    And don’t forget about Micrwave Communications, INC. handling a large chunk of long distance traffic during the ‘monopoly’.

  6. If Net Neutrality isn’t enacted, I guarantee my iTunes downloads will mysteriously start to creep along. Comcast is my ISP…..they have a competing download service…..hmmm……

  7. The cable industry was deregulated in 1993. How many of you have a competing cable company in your area now? Exactly – no one.

    Deregulation and the free market are not always the panaceas that Republicans make them out to be.

  8. Does “X” even own a computer? He/she sounds like someone who logs on at the library everyday.

    Just nasty partisan name calling on the political crap that keeps showing up here.

    X, I’m calling you out pal, tell us something about computers and Apple or we’ll know you are just and angry little pussy who’s found a tolerant place to spew.

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