Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Libertarian Internet

There’s a principle we keep getting reminded of lately: if the government wants to implement something beyond the proper role of government, not only will government fail to achieve the stated goals; it will likely do exactly opposite of the stated goal.

Today’s example is “Net Neutrality,” with the purpose of assuring a free and fair internet.

by A. F. Branco, November 17, 2014
The background for this relates to a rural Midwest area where only one internet provider, Comcast, was available. And they were slowing the speed at which downloads could occur for video streaming site Netflix.
If free enterprise were allowed to solve the problems, this would be solved in some combination of alternatives entering the marketplace, or costs going up for a service that takes up so much bandwidth, probably passed along to consumers. Then, if consumers weren’t satisfied, competition would lead to more alternatives, greater innovation, and lower prices. Especially in internet technology that has been the rule. In fact, that’s how the market handled this singular case.
But government sees an area where it has very little control, and therefore by definition would like more power, and offers “help” as a way to get it. Government will step in and make things more “fair”—so that the Comcast/Netflix difficulty never happens again. It will solve this tiny, localized, already-dealt-with problem by imposing restrictions, rules, and controls—maybe even a government kill switch for the entire internet—so we can feel assured, with government bureaucrats at the helm of the world’s communications network. Who thinks that sounds like a good solution? Raise your hands.
A few large companies, mainly related to cable communications, are in favor. So that they can block out competition and control the market. It’s not about better service for you.
While looking for the best way to explain why you should call your representative and express your extreme disapproval for the creation of a new “department of the internet,” I came across Stu Burguire’s entertaining and thorough version. Stu is an associate of Glenn Beck, and has his own TV show on on Saturdays. Blaze blogger Wilson summarized Stu’s points:
  • Net neutrality will not help your internet experience.
  • The government will not make the internet better.
  • Companies won’t be ruining your internet experience anyway.
  • The arguments in favor of net neutrality ignore the advancements in technology that would solve the supposed problems being addressed by net neutrality.
  • There is no compelling reason for the government to get involved.
  • The internet is absolutely not a human right.
  • The truth about the Comcast/Netflix battle that is used as the evidence to support net neutrality, proves the exact opposite of what net neutrality supporters argue.
  • But, other than that, net neutrality is awesome!
Except, don’t take that last one seriously; there very well could be even more non-awesome things about it.
Rather than my explaining further, I’ll send you to watch Stu’s 7 ½-minute video (unable to embed, but you can watch it here), and afterward I’ll add a few comments from the Spherical Model perspective.
OK, assuming you enjoyed that...
My favorite point is that this government, which couldn’t get one single website up and running is asking you to trust the elite government experts with control of the entire “interweb.” Do they have a sense of irony, or what?
The internet is a rather large microcosm for examining the world of the libertarian. This is what the country would be like with libertarian government. New technology. Stuff getting lower cost and more widely available all the time. Freedom to do business or say pretty much whatever you want. Freedom to connect with whoever you want, assuming willingness of the receiver. Things keep getting better, faster, and cheaper. Yay!
Of course there’s some bad along with the good. Pornography. Lies. Theft. Fraud. All things that are already illegal in the non-virtual world for good reason. Yet there they are. And sometimes we’re bombarded with them—images we don’t want to have to unsee. Not to mention pop-up ads interrupting our experience.
In other words, in the libertarian world there are some bad things sharing the same neighborhood with the good. And the libertarian doesn’t bring in officials; the libertarian pulls out his own shotgun, or shrugs it off with a live-and-let-live approach.
I’m not quite a libertarian. But then, the internet isn’t quite a lawless anarchy either.
Anything that is already illegal is also illegal on the internet, so you report it to the police (or whichever appropriate authority for your issue). Prosecutions happen all the time, but the prosecution of such crimes is somewhat below 100% successful response. (Also true for petty theft or home invasion.) But technology has already been developed in response to the market—people who don’t want the filth bombardment can use filters to keep certain sites or types of images from being allowed onto their devices. Same for pop-up ads—just adjust your settings. As for those emails from some guy in Nigeria needing money, or your good friends on a trip to Europe and suddenly in need of funds (even though you know they’re in town, plus they’re not close enough friends for you to be their emergency contact)—you block those as junk mail, and delete without opening any that get through.
If you’re defrauded in a purchase (and you’ve done due diligence by being careful who you’re dealing with and how they handle your personal and financial information), then you have some recourse through your credit card company, as well as the police.
We need constant vigilance. But we do a better job when it’s personal to us than a distant uninvolved bureaucrat would do.
The libertarian-like internet world can be understood on the Spherical Model. The freedom and level of interest are personal, where appropriate. And the free enterprise shows how prosperous such a world can be without some controlling authority limiting the market. The good is what you get in the northern hemisphere of the model (and arguably the western local control quadrant—although appropriate level is necessary for anywhere in the northern hemisphere). But the bad is what you get in the southern hemisphere, southwest quadrant.
Almost all of the bad has to do with civilization issues. Pornography is savage. Fraud is savage. Theft is savage. Anything else is a result of people choosing to do ugly harmful things, for money or just for fun.
I’m in favor of allowing everyone to limit the savagery in their lives. And better law enforcement would be appreciated. Live-and-let-live won’t do when drug deals are taking place in the schoolyard down the street (been there, seen that) or when the worst filth is aimed toward family members in my home.
In an optimistic civilized world, those wanting to protect themselves from pornography would so greatly eclipse the willing consumers that the market would cause that plague to disappear. Until that happens, though, we do need personal, constant vigilance—combined with better technology as more of us show the demand for protecting ourselves in our online world.
Of course we need government for legal protections—as we do now. What we absolutely do not need is another bureaucracy tasked with deciding who gets what service, at what cost, limiting innovation and progress. We don’t need some bureaucracy deciding what can and cannot be said—for example, on this website. Is it fair that I only express my own opinion instead of the opposing viewpoint? What if the government decides I’m not fair? Or decides I’m so wrong that such ideas should not be expressed?
The internet isn’t broken. Government’s offer to “fix” it is a thinly veiled grab for control over a thus-far free world.


  1. One of the things business is doing is allowing companies to purchase "fast lanes" on the internet. Believe it or not, this will help everyone more than "net neutrality" where that will be banned.
    Take for example Netflix, which is one of the biggest consumers of bandwidth. By dedicating lines to Netflix it not only ensure that Netflix subscribers get fast reliable streaming, but you also keep that traffic off of the other lines so it doesn't clog up the channels that you're trying to use to post pictures of your cat to Facebook.
    To make a visual of this, imagine a highway where you have a tollway style freeway that is bracketed by feeder roads (like the Sam Houston Tollway in Houston). This is what the current system is. Now to change it for "net neutrality" imagine that you changed the highway so that it no longer has the freeway lanes, just the same number of lanes set up like a normal city street.
    People are screaming that there are still be the same number of lanes, and this will be more fair to the little guy. This is stupid. The first system allowed people to pay to get access to the freeway and that sped up their trip, but it also sped up the person who stayed on the feeder road by taking traffic out of his lane. It also had the side benefit that the infrastructure would be supported more by the heavy users. The second scenario will lead to gridlock and higher costs for the light user. So, if you hate the little guy and/or want to slow down your internet in general, support net neutrality.

  2. Thanks for the extra info. In Stu's video (linked above), he shows a chart about the better service that came out of the Comcast/Netflix challenge. But this explains it in more detail.

    There are still a couple of days to share your opinion about the FCC takeover of the internet. Glenn Beck provided this link: