Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government The Internet Your Rights Online

Is Net Neutrality Really Needed? 705

Posted by samzenpus
from the six-of-one-a-half-dozen-of-the-other dept.
darrad writes "An opinion piece over at the Wall Street Journal lays out an alternate theory on why we have new regulations from the FCC on Net Neutrality. There is a lot of talk about this subject, particularly among the tech sector. Most of the talk centers around preventing companies from charging more for traffic or black holing other traffic. However, the question should be asked, is granting control over the Internet to political appointees the way to go? Regardless of your political point of view shouldn't the Internet remain free from regulation?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Is Net Neutrality Really Needed?

Comments Filter:
  • by seebs (15766) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:53PM (#34645138) Homepage

    We all know what we want: We want Comcast to be unable to charge Google extra for the service of letting customers access Youtube. But it's really hard to phrase this well enough and clearly enough that it lets network admins do the kinds of QoS and traffic shaping things they need to do in order to provide good service, or for that matter, block unwanted traffic entirely.

    I am not at all convinced that getting the government involved will improve my life.

  • False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goombah99 (560566) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:53PM (#34645142)

    It's not a choice: one is not "handing it over control to political appointees". It is simply saying not packet dicrimination. So yes there will be regulators but they do not have fiat control, just enforcement responsibilities.

    Thus this discussion is starting out on a false premise.

  • Answers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenFenner (981342) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:54PM (#34645152)

    Regardless of your political point of view shouldn't the Internet remain free from regulation?"

    Yes.

    Should ISPs be free from regulation?
    No.

  • by moortak (1273582) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:55PM (#34645158)
    Do you trust someone with a profit motive to screw with your connection, or someone with a political motive?
  • by uncanny (954868) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:56PM (#34645172)

    Regardless of your political point of view shouldn't the Internet remain free from regulation?"

    Yes, very much so, which is why we dont want companies regulating it. Content or availability.

  • by Senes (928228) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:57PM (#34645200)
    In an environment of "the customer is always right," the market can be trusted to deliver exactly what is in the customers' best interests without any form of outside interference.

    In an environment of telco monopolies, multi-year contracts, terms which the provider can change at will, and more; it becomes necessary to restrict what providers can and cannot do because the customers are left powerless other than as voters who tell the government what they want.
  • by ubergeek65536 (862868) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:58PM (#34645206)

    But it's my job to say what type of traffic is unwanted. If I wanted to live in China I'd move there.
    It's difficult to decide who I trust less the government or big business; maybe that's because there isn't much difference between the two.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:58PM (#34645224)

    Net neutrality is a misnomer. What is needed is are regulations to stop ISPs from doing any or all of the following:

    Discrimating by site. Non-DDoS traffic to site "A" should not cost more than going to site "B".

    Add/modifying/deleting in flight traffic. Throttling/QoS is one thing, adding adds via Phorm, or changing people's postings to Web boards in flight is another.

    Blocking/slowing down one site, just to make another site seem faster.

    Unneeded snooping on connections. Traffic should be considered PII, stored only a few days to check for security breaches, then binned. It is not to be sold to any ad companies who want router logs.

    Expanding infrastructure. We never see Japanese ISPs wringing their hands in front of the Diet and saying how they are being driven into the ground by people in Tokyo watching TV on their phones. Nor do we see this in Korea or Singapore. ISPs build infrastructure, not just whine about people actually using their services.

    We need to address issues exactly, not bundle them under the hazy "net neutrality" topic.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:59PM (#34645236)
    The FCC has been regulating the air waves for over 76 years! Never had a problem with that.

    So where the fuck is this coming from???

    Sure you want some government appointee to handle the patent office but god forbid they oversee the internet to make sure that CONSUMERS don't get screwed out of what they are PAYING FOR!

    Look it's the Wall Street Journal. SO it's a hatchet job.
  • by howlingfrog (211151) <ajmkenyon2002&yahoo,com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @04:59PM (#34645242) Homepage Journal

    In what way is a large, powerful institution that can control the flow of information NOT a government? In what way is showing preference for certain packets over others NOT regulation?

    Anarchism is feudalism. There is no such thing as total deregulation--the choice is about who gets to regulate and how much say you and I get in it.

  • First impressions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:00PM (#34645252) Homepage Journal

    I look at the link and I think, "Gosh, is the Wall Street Journal capable of delivering an objective opinion on this? They do, after all, have a stake in the issue."

    So I click through, and there's the sub-head: "The campaign to regulate the Internet was funded by a who's who of left-liberal foundations."

    Technically, I have to actually read the article to come up with an opinion. But I had a chili dog for lunch, and I don't need to be nauseated any further. I might even agree with the article's conclusion, but I doubt I'll find the reasoning sound.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne (414635) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:04PM (#34645298)

    Thus this discussion is starting out on a false premise.

    The claim that Net Neutrality is "government regulation of the Internet" is a lie perpetuated by politicians acting on behalf of the cable and telephone monopolies. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to prevent the cable and telephone monopolies from shutting out competitors (or people they don't like).

  • by jwietelmann (1220240) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:04PM (#34645300)
    If they were willing to either A) deliver all of us the kind of bandwidth promised in their Unlimited*** plans, or B) charge by the megabyte instead of by the month, this should be moot. I paid for that bandwidth, and I'll use it as I see fit. If I need to prioritize my own traffic, I'll do so with my router. That way my streaming video doesn't interfere with my VOIP calls.

    But they're not talking about that, are they? They don't want my streaming video to interfere with their other customers' VOIP calls... which would seem to suggest that they don't actually have the capacity to deliver their Unlimited****** (up to) 10Mbps** that they sold to everyone in my neighborhood.

    We have this fundamental problem where these companies have oversold the bandwidth, and the only solution they're willing to consider is to invent rules that will give you less of what you paid for. Because any other solution would force them to abandon an already-misleading marketing gimmick.
  • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:04PM (#34645322)

    The Internet is not going to remain free, regardless of what happens. Either Telcos and content providers integrate to add value to their commoditized dumb pipes and control where users go through caps and channel pricing, or the government regulates what Telcos and ISPs can and cannot do to users. One is the guaranteed effect of a capitalistic system in a market with very high barriers to entry, the other is the result of a population wanting some input on how a market prone to the creation of monopolies.

    This means that the argument that a lack of regulation is the same as a free system is a flat-out lie. It necessarily implies that corporations will never engage in monopolistic rent-seeking, which is clearly false.

    The only question then is: who gets to control the Internet? A corporation, or a bureaucrat? Furthermore, will control be left to an entity that is guaranteed to create a system that is designed to maximize its profit, or to an entity where the common citizens has even a chance of providing input?

    This doesn't mean that any regulation is good. Some regulation will lead to the same result as no regulation. Some will lead to worse results. But there is at least the chance that it will lead to a better result. What's more, other countries have already shown what kind of regulatory environment is more beneficial to users than the one that currently exists in the US. So it's not that it's hard - it just requires some politicians to be afraid of their constituents.

    Finally, I'd like to point something out that Americans seem to have a hard time understanding: a corporation is not a person. Furthermore, a corporation behaves like a sociopath. This means that things that benefit a corporation are not the same that benefit society as a whole. Remember that next time a corporate lobbyists argues that what's good for them is good for the country.

  • by Senes (928228) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:04PM (#34645324)
    The FCC doesn't "control" the internet. It is merely prohibiting ISPs from controlling their customers' access to the internet. The electric company sells you electricity, they don't get to tell you how you can and can't use it - that's the nature of net neutrality.
  • by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:05PM (#34645332) Journal

    The crux of John Fund's ENTIRE article is, to paraphrase, "Net Neutrality is bad because it was created by SOCIALISTS! AND MARXISTS! AND THEY DON'T DENY IT!"

    That is, of course, the problem with a lot of the commentary about Net Neutrality (although more on the side against Net Neutrality than for, I've noticed, although maybe that's just my own biases showing). None of the commentary actually address the issues of why Net Neutrality is or isn't necessary. Rather, it devolves into arguments about collateral issues like crying socialism like John Fund does here. He thinks Net Neutrality is bad because a "socialist" came up with it. As if a person's political views will render a person's idea per se invalid.

    There are always those who thinks the way to score political points is to try to fit the word "socialism" as many times as they can into an article and call it an argument.

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:11PM (#34645422) Homepage Journal

    wow, just ... wow. Are you really that ignorant?

    Profit never keeps anything in check. EVER. It drives people to do whatever they can to make money, regardless of who is getting screwed over.

    Politician, ultimately, answer to us.

  • Re:Answers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moryath (553296) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:14PM (#34645460)

    But the problem with NOT having government regulation is that the monopolies fuck the consumer just as hard then.

    Look at all the places in the US where cable companies have a monopoly, simply because they managed to raise the barrier to entry high and entered into collusion agreements with other companies to pull out (my area used to have TW, Comcast, and Verizon for cable TV options, now we're stuck with Comcrap only because they ran Verizon out by running under cost and then TW "traded" us away by promising to pull out of our city if Comcrap pulled out of another city on the other side of the state).

    Now look at what precisely Comcrap has been trying to do: block off streaming video from Youtube, Hulu, and Netflix to force people in their monopoly-areas to pay more for Comcrap's crappy shitty "video on demand" cable service instead.

    No. In this case, we need government regulation. The trick is making sure it's the *right* regulation and properly enforced.

  • Real problem (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:18PM (#34645526)

    > maybe that's because there isn't much difference between the two.

    Especially in the Internet biz. For 99% of customers the choice is between a huge bloated government granted and regulated monopoly telco and the almost as bloated government grated and regulated cable company. Then there is a couple of wireless options here and there most of which are owned and operated by the monopoly telco and will never deliver enough bandwidth to matter.

    But the bigger problem with the FCC is the newspeak. Whenever progs open their piehole words come out but they don't mean what normal people assume they mean. "Freedom is Slavery" "Ignorance is Power" "Ministry of Truth" "Network Neutrality" You can bet your last dollar that the absolute last thing the FCC has in mind is "Neutrality".

    Hopefully the courts will knock this one down as fast as the last attempts by the FCC to exceed their mandate.

  • by protektor (63514) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:20PM (#34645546)

    Profit will only keep market forces in check if there is actually a free market with all risks associated with a product are disclosed by the company. The and only then can consumers decide how much risk they are willing to take and the price at which they are willing to purchase that product with known risks. You also need to make sure that monopolies aren't leveraging their monopoly in one market to monopolize new markets. This is exactly what has happened with telcos and cable companies who got in to the Internet business.

  • by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:20PM (#34645550) Homepage Journal
    Good point, the free market can sort this out. I'll just dump comcast and sign up with my local dial up. That'll show them.

    In the mean time, what does a majority of the country do - since most of us do not have multiple options for broadband?
  • by ubergeek65536 (862868) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:24PM (#34645636)

    The free market is the problem. You trust Comcast to do the right thing? I've got a nice piece of swampland to sell you. Many people only have one available provider in their area, ie there is no choice.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:25PM (#34645648) Homepage

    The entire article just talks about what leftist-liberal-marxist-socialist groups are supporting network neutrality. There is no evidence that this guy even knows what the issue is. You could replace "Network Neutrality" with "Lowering Taxes" or "Abortion" and not even notice. There's only one single attempt to even talk about the legislation:

    There's little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic.

    That's the only "fact" he stated, and it is completely wrong.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:27PM (#34645682)
    No, the claim that the government will limit itself to what you call Net Neutrality is the lie. Yes, most of the people who argue for Net Neutrality are arguing for something that would prevent the ISP big players from shutting out competitors, but all of the proposed government "net neutrality" plans are about regulating content. Just because you mean the obvious by a term, doesn't mean that's what the politicians and bureaucrats mean when they use the same term.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:30PM (#34645738)
    There are no "natural monopolies". The idea of "natural monopolies" was one that was popularized to justify the government interfering in the telephone market to create the original AT&T monopoly.
  • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:31PM (#34645740) Homepage Journal

    When was the last time that voting in one of two directions actually had much correlation with what any single voter wanted?

    It seems to me more like the two main parties in the US are shaping the people, not the other way round. You can see it whenever someone goes on a long rant demonising "republicans" or "democrats", acting like their "side" is 100% right and everything the opposite side believes is wrong. It's absurd.

    Of course, most humans love to have their thinking done for them, so they just jump on one of the bandwagons and start taking potshots at the other one.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:34PM (#34645796)

    You use two words that don't go together.

    "Free market" and "comcast". Comcast is a local Government-created monopoly, not a free market. Please learn the difference. Comcast is similar to the electric, water, or natural gas monopolies. In a truly "free market" we'd not have monopoly but instead be able to choose from CC or Cox or Cablevision or Time-warner or AppleTV or whoever

  • by TooOldForThis (2437) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:34PM (#34645800) Homepage

    Do you trust someone with a profit motive to screw with your connection, or someone with a political motive?

    Profit motive. Because I can take my business elsewhere.

    And since when has any government regulating body ever been satisfied being limited to their original mandate? Exactly what was the FCC's original purpose? Don't underestimate the desire to hold power over others, even from government functionaries. *Especially* from government functionaries.

    -k

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:34PM (#34645810) Homepage Journal

    But it's really hard to phrase this well enough and clearly enough that it lets network admins do the kinds of QoS and traffic shaping things they need to do in order to provide good service, or for that matter, block unwanted traffic entirely.

    More important, it's really hard to phrase it well enough so that your average member of congress or Fox News viewer can understand.

    I am not at all convinced that getting the government involved will improve my life.

    I'm equally unconvinced that getting AT&T or Comcast more involved will improve my life.

    There was a time before the telcos ruled the Internet, when it was almost entirely a government-funded project. And it did just fine thank you very much.

    And if you think there's any part of the anti-net neutrality forces that are concerned about "providing good service" you are delusional. I'm not confident that the "unwanted traffic" that the telcos want to block isn't the stuff that's best about the Internet.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:38PM (#34645870) Journal

    The FCC has been regulating the air waves for over 76 years! Never had a problem with that.

    I have a lot of problems with how the FCC regulates the air waves.

    The Fairness Doctrine is being leveraged to ensure that there are only two viable political parties. It ensconces in law that there are two, AND ONLY TWO, political viewpoints which are eligible for "fairness" enforcement. If there is an issue in which a particular viewpoint is expressed over broadcast media, the burden on the broadcaster is to provide equal time for "the opposing viewpoint"... as if there is just one. As far as the Fairness Doctrine is concerned, there are no Libertarians, no Greens, no Peace&Freedom, no John Birch, no Tea Party, no American Communists... only "conservatives" (Republicans) and "liberals" (Democrats). This is part of how the two main parties ensure that they're the only ones who get to play. And there has even been talk of using the law to shut down conservative talk radio altogether, to reduce the number of broadcast viewpoints to exactly one.

    Ham radio operators are very familiar with the shortcomings of the FCC, and how the biggest political contributors get the frequency bands. The FCC is also deliberately ignoring the fact that one of its darlings, Bandwidth Over Power Lines, generates significant radio noise in amateur bands which would actually make the US non-compliant with treaties and international law concerning radio noise that interferes with the internationally agreed-upon ham bands.

    The FCC also is empowered to enforce the ability of homeowners to deploy antennas, for reception and transmission. Court cases have held, time and time again, that homeowners' associations, municipalities and other mind-your-neighbors'-business groups cannot bar people from deploying antennas for legal use which meet building code and federal standards. However, the FCC has consistently shirked that duty for private users, concentrating entirely upon commercial operations.

    The FCC, as it currently stands, is not someone you want to have any sort of power over your Internet connection, either directly or through your ISP. It is politicized, bought-and-paid-for by lobbyists, and is utterly unresponsive to public needs and concerns.

    It's about big money and big government, nothing else.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:40PM (#34645898) Homepage Journal

    Politician, ultimately, answer to us.

    In theory, sure. In practice, nah, not really. They don't answer to anyone because there is not a significant enough chunk of folk that give a damn anymore.

    That said, I do not think the profit motive is a better option either. The best solution would probably just involve setting up some kind of distributed network that doesn't require payment to a central authority to access. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to go about doing that.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:42PM (#34645934) Homepage Journal

    Let's let the free-market solve the problem.

    Why don't you ask Santa Claus to sort it out while you're at it. He's just as real.

  • by Haeleth (414428) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:51PM (#34646092) Journal

    Either you trust the government : no choice of provider (that much, history should prove)
    Or you trust business : you can choose (for a little more money probably, yes, deal with it) a better provider

    ...but you are trusting them to do different things.

    I trust businesses to provide me with internet service. That's their job. The government isn't going to do it, nor should it.

    I trust the government to regulate businesses to the extent necessary to make sure there is fair competition and the free market keeps on working. That's their job. If you believe the businesses will do it themselves -- will take actions specifically designed to ensure that new competitors can emerge and take customers away from them! -- then you are a fool.

    I don't want the Internet to be regulated. It's a wonderful resource full of free speech and free information, and the government should keep its hands off it and not try to tell me which sites I can visit. But that's a different thing from wanting internet service to be regulated. I have absolutely no problem with the government telling Comcast to keep its hands off and not try to tell me which sites I can visit, either.

    tl;dr: leave the web alone, but regulate the pipes.

  • by protektor (63514) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:51PM (#34646104)

    There is very little problem with the Internet. This is a solution looking for a problem. All this is going to do is legalize companies discriminating against other sites online. They are going to say it is legal for me to make sure my network runs well, since I can't control the big bad Internet out there. So they will QoS the local traffic to give everything local better traffic rates. Then they will basically lackmail companies like Yahoo, Netflix, and other CDNs (Content Distribution Networks) like Akamai, one of the first. You want great web performance to your web site you should put your content servers in our network for huge monthly fee. Thus those sites will work great because they are part of the local network. Backbone providers will do the same thing by offering large websites direct connections, now they are part of the network, so they can QoS that traffic. The entire time every company will be saying, Hey you said we could manage traffic to make our networks run the best possible, it's not my fault that I don't/can't control traffic out there on the big bad Internet. This is how these companies will grab as much money off the table as they possibly can. Then they will say heavy bandwidth users are a problem for making our network run like crap. So we are going to go to a measured service since we can manage traffic to make sure our network runs fine. Then consumers will still pay $40-$60 a month for Internet but have limits like 30gig and each extra gig is $5. All this does is legalize what they have wanted to do for years, but haven't because they were afraid of market forces in response to this type of plan.

    All this has done is screw the consumer, and screw innovation.

    You want real Internet competition. Stop letting the telcos and the cable companies have monopolies on the last mile. Stop letting them use their historic monopoly status to trample and destroy anyone who tries to compete at the local last mile level. Telcos and cable companies have had monopolies on the last mile for 40-100 years. The cities and the states are then bought off by these companies to make it impossible to even run your own lines to compete against them. These companies have used their monopoly status to run all the other ISPs out of business. They have propped up the Internet side using the other side of the house (phone & TV) to drop prices so low that others can't compete, and attacked other ISPs by lying about them, then once they are gone they start jacking up prices. All you have to do is look at how many independent ISPs there were 15 years versus now. Now about 90% of the US uses one of 10 ISPs. That isn't free market competition, that is monopoly leveraging and market collusion. I have seen telcos and cable companies tell the state and cities that independent ISPs have no business trying to compete with them for the Internet. That it is their domain, they know best and if you don't want huge problems you shouldn't allow these guys to exist. The telcos and cable companies were very pissed that the independent ISPs existed years ago. They saw them as taking food out of their mouths, they were an affront, and should not be allowed to exist. They waged a campaign against independent ISPs and were very successful, using lobbying and fake grassroots groups.

    All of this just allowed the consumer to get screwed again. Only the state forcing cities to open up is going to help. I doubt the feds have the authority to do anything about the local level.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zeroshade (1801584) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:54PM (#34646150)
    Except none of the government plans are about regulating content...so your argument just kinda falls flat.
  • Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jwietelmann (1220240) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @05:56PM (#34646172)
    In a truly "free market", private companies would have to own the telephone poles on which they run their lines, and to own the telephone poles, they'd probably have to own the sidewalks. So then they'd snap up sidewalks in walled-off shapes that keep anyone else from putting up poles or running wires into their fiefdom.

    Or the government would have to lease the right to run data lines on public property to anyone who asked. But then that government would have to set a price, which means the government is now in the internet business whether they like it or not.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that a "free market" for broadband cannot and will never exist.
  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:12PM (#34646424)

    Exactly. And since having a truly free market for broadband is physically impossible (or at best, extremely infeasible) for the exact same reason it's impossible for electric and water providers, we have to go with government regulation.

    When someone invents a way to deliver broadband over wormholes, THEN we can think about having a free market in broadband service.

  • by TheEyes (1686556) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @06:30PM (#34646704)

    Mod parent up. This is the most insightful thing I've read all day on NN.

    I'm a little annoyed by conservatives treating regulation as some sort of sin. Regulation prevents corporations from putting melanine in our milk, or floor sweepings in our sausages (both have happened in the past). Regulation (in theory) keeps companies from ripping us off left and right, and encourages competition.

    Before government regulation began with Teddy Roosevelt in the twentieth century, we lived in what was known as the Gilded Age, where massive corporations stiffed competition and milked customers for money while giving little or nothing in return... sound familiar? We've been deregulating for thirty years, so it should come as little surprise we're entering a Second Gilded Age. We should have remembered that corporations can't regulate themselves; now we'll have to learn that lesson anew, or face the consequences.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:09PM (#34647178) Homepage
    Consumers buy business class service is just dumb. That is like suggesting if you're not happy with your flight options then buy your own plane.

    The US government is refusing to regulate the internet correctly and big business is just waiting to turn it into cable tv. Unfortunately people seem to uninterested both sides will end up fucking it up completely.
  • False choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @07:36PM (#34647422)

    Either you trust the government : no choice of provider (that much, history should prove)
    Or you trust business : you can choose (for a little more money probably, yes, deal with it) a better provider, additionally you can build something yourself

    Talk about false dichotomies. I don't trust either one and neither should you. I trust restrictions on each and a balance of power. We have separate branches of government because concentrating too much power in any one branch inevitably leads to abuse of power. We have government oversight of business to curb the inevitable excesses of corporate behavior. We allow corporations AND individuals to have a voice so that government does not abuse its power. We also have freedom of the press to keep both government and corporations (more) honest.

    Both government and corporations can be a powerful force for good as well as evil in society. Laws and careful checks and balances are how we ensure that they both remain more on the good side than the bad.

    Additionally your notion that there is always a choice with corporations simply isn't the case. I have precisely one choice of corporation when buying electricity, garbage disposal, natural gas, and mail delivery. I have precisely two choices for landline telecom services (a recent development from one) only one of which provides internet service to my address. Some businesses simply are natural monopolies and the only realistic way to keep them in check is through government oversight and regulation.

  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:01PM (#34648082)

    Let me quote from the preamble to the GNU General Public License:

    To protect your rights, we need to prevent others from denying you these rights or asking you to surrender the rights.

    That principle applies to so many different situations. People often discuss freedom under the false assumption that you have freedom unless the government takes it away from you. That view is way too simplistic. There are many threats to freedom from many sources. The fact is, lots of people will try to restrict your freedom unless they are prevented from doing so. That is what government regulation is about (when it's done properly, which certainly is not always the case): protecting your freedom by denying others the right to restrict it.

  • by sac13 (870194) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:55AM (#34651988)

    I'm a little annoyed by conservatives treating regulation as some sort of sin. Regulation prevents corporations from putting melanine in our milk, or floor sweepings in our sausages (both have happened in the past). Regulation (in theory) keeps companies from ripping us off left and right, and encourages competition.

    Regulation prevents oil spills? Regulation prevents big bank misdeeds? Regulation of food keeps us from getting tainted food that never needs to be recalled?

    What industry has been regulated and competition increased? Name an industry that you have problems with that isn't regulated. Why is it the industries that people continuously complain about are the one's that are the most regulated? Is that just a coincidence?

    Before government regulation began with Teddy Roosevelt in the twentieth century, we lived in what was known as the Gilded Age, where massive corporations stiffed competition and milked customers for money while giving little or nothing in return... sound familiar? We've been deregulating for thirty years, so it should come as little surprise we're entering a Second Gilded Age. We should have remembered that corporations can't regulate themselves; now we'll have to learn that lesson anew, or face the consequences.

    It does sound familiar. It's not historically accurate, though. During that period, the standard of living for common people increased immensely. Of course, that doesn't stop the populist revisionism from claiming that a handful improved their lot at the expense of others. Did some get rich? Of course. Did some work hard for little in return? Relative to today, yes. But, relative to the squalor and frequent starvation of a completely agrarian society, they were much better off.

    You can't compare people to people in different classes to determine how well they're doing. The richer have always been better off. They always will be. You have to look at their standard of living compared to someone of an equivalent social level prior to the time you're observing.

    If someone has more resources, options and thus stability than before, they've benefitted. Sure, it'd be nice if everyone could have mansions and a Mercedes, but it's not practical or possible. So, unless we just want to bitch for the sake of bitching, we have to concentrate on improving people's lives at each level. And, as much as we might not like it, the rich are going to improve as well... and they will ahead of everyone else. But, history has demonstrated that over time everyone rises.

    20 years ago, it was mostly people that were "rich" that had cell phones. If you saw someone with one, you thought of them as someone of means. Do you think the same thing when you see someone with a cell phone today?

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:10PM (#34655412) Homepage

    Regulation prevents oil spills? Regulation prevents big bank misdeeds? Regulation of food keeps us from getting tainted food that never needs to be recalled?

    Uhhh... yes, yes, and fuck yes.

    Talk about epic logic fail. You look at a bunch of incidents, and conclude that *all* government regulation has failed. But it doesn't occur to you that far *worse* would've happened if regulation wasn't in place.

    Hell, one need only look at the US before and after the Clean Air Act. Last I checked, I haven't seen any fucking rivers bursting into flames. Have you?

    What industry has been regulated and competition increased? Name an industry that you have problems with that isn't regulated. Why is it the industries that people continuously complain about are the one's that are the most regulated? Is that just a coincidence?

    1. ISPs are a great example. Here in Canada, there are a number of DSL providers that wouldn't exist if regulations weren't in place to force the local telco to lease out their lines.

    2. Dumbass, the industries that aren't regulated are the ones that *don't need regulation in the first place*.

    3. This is the converse of 2. Industries that *are* regulated are the most likely to try and work around those regulations in order to stifle competition or take advantage of consumers.

    But, relative to the squalor and frequent starvation of a completely agrarian society, they were much better off.

    And therefore everything was hunky fucking dory?

    No.

    They were relatively better off, yes. But they were still buying patent medicines that didn't work, suffering in unsafe workplaces, and generally being fucked by businesses.

    Of course, that doesn't stop the populist revisionism from claiming that a handful improved their lot at the expense of others.

    Uh, who claimed that?

    The simple fact is that a few got rich, everyone else got a little better off, and the serfs still got gangraped by the robber barons. They just got to work in a factory while it was happening, instead of subsisting on a farm. Government regulation combined with organized labour allowed the serfs to fight back.

I'm a Lisp variable -- bind me!

Working...