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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Infrastructure as Public Good

Via Doc Searls. Lawrence Lessig writes:

Broadband is infrastructure — like highways, if not railroads. If you rely upon "markets" alone to provide infrastructure, you'll get less of it, and at a higher price.

Yeah, if you didn’t subsidize infrastructure, and people had to pay for it on a cost basis, they might actually have to make rational decisions of how much to consume based on the cost of providing it. Awful, huh?

Then, you might be buying something from a small factory 15 miles away, instead of from a big factory 1000 miles away that’s able to invade the local market because highway subsidies make it artificially competitive. You might be buying produce from a local farmer, instead of from corporate agribusiness plantations in California using subsidized irrigation water from the Army Corps of Engineers and shipping their food cross-country on subsidized highways. And without subsidized transportation to piggyback on, Wal-Mart’s artificially efficient high-speed and -volume distribution system might not be able to drive local retailers out of business.

Awful, just awful.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, I think that you and Lessig are talking about different things: I think you are talking about individual costs and individual consumption (which can hide subsidies), whereas Lessig is talking about societal cost and consumption (which should include cost of subsidies).

Anyway, I think that the big, questionable assumption in his writing is that the state can solve the public goods "problem". This is one of the standard myths of statism, and is based on a very limited line of reasoning. I don't know that anyone has provided empirical support for this, and I don't know that it is possible to provide empirical support.

I'm not too read-up on this issue, but I suspect that I would side with Lessig. It seems the issue is whether the Internet should be treated as the property of the ISPs or whether it should be treated as a commons. Neither is ideal, but I lean towards the commons model as more liberating.

Where I disagree with Lessig is how we come to support that model. Lessig has a liberal statist perspective. He assumes that the debate is between liberal statists and corporate statists, so he derives his conclusions from liberal statist assumptions, and strongly asserts those assumptions, along with sound-byte "justifications", such as the one you quoted. And of course, the way that assumptions become myths is for many people to constantly assert them...

January 28, 2006 6:33 AM  
Blogger Xerographica said...

The solution is to allow tax payers to vote with their taxes. Let them decide whether the private or public sector is better at providing a "public" good.

November 15, 2010 7:47 PM  

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