One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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And many, many other ways government is stupid, imperious, and an impediment to progress and the marketplace.
Here’s hoping the poor flood victims of Louisiana – aren’t subjected to the governmental inanity being inflicted upon the poor flood victims of South Bend, Indiana:
“Today, the City of South Bend is reminding residents of South Bend and St. Joseph County that with the recent flooding, many structures in the community may have experienced structural damage. Repairs and/or reconstruction activities to structures that are located in the floodplain and were damaged due to the disaster will require a local building permit from the South Bend/St. Joseph County Building Department as required by local ordinance.”
Get that? Your life is turned upside down. Your house has been damaged by flood waters. Damaged portions are oft a threat to the entire edifice. And you need to, you know, live there. So you must repair as quickly as possible.
You need to get your government flood insurance involved – and off the schneid to pay you (as a holder of a government flood policy let me tell you – that ain’t great). You need to secure a contractor to assess the damage and pitch a bid – inordinately difficult in situations such as floods because there aren’t nearly enough contractors to go around.
And the South Bend, Indiana government’s chief concern? That you come up with the money (of which most flood victims are at the moment woefully short) to pay government its permit fees – so that government will grant you permission to rebuild your home.
Is this an outlier? A governmental anomaly? Of course not
Looking at Louisiana’s flooding today – reminds of the Katrina flooding in 2005. As then-President George W. Bush started the federal government repair effort – what did he do? He suspendedthe government-impediment-to-progress Davis-Bacon Act:
“The Davis–Bacon Act of 1931 is a United States federal law that establishes the requirement for paying the local prevailing wages on public works projects for laborers and mechanics. It applies to ‘contractors and subcontractors performing on federally funded or assisted contracts in excess of $2,000 for the construction, alteration, or repair (including painting and decorating) of public buildings or public works.’”
Get that? When the government is forced by their own law to pay a minimum wage – they let themselves off the hook. Because deep down, government knows just about every law it passes to “help” – hurts. If a law’s a bad idea ever – it’s a bad idea always. If government doesn’t want any part of it – neither do we.
We have all of this (and more) in mind when we say government lording over the entirety of the Internet (via Net Neutrality) – is a bad idea. You think the Davis-Bacon Act is old? To execute the Web grab, government went all the way back to 1887 railroad law. (How’s that for relevant to a 21st-Century World Wide Web?)
Before the government did this, we warned that it would result in less private sector investment. And it did:
“This capital flight is remarkable considering there have been only two occasions in the history of the broadband industry when capex declined relative to the prior year: In 2001, after the dot.com meltdown, and in 2009, after the Great Recession.”
We also warned that these new regulations would impose a Mother-May-I, preemptive-government-permission-required impediment to innovation – much like what South Bend, Indiana is foisting upon its waterlogged residents.
And it has. Way back on June 6 we wrote:
“Behold: ‘Zero rating.’ An Internet wrinkle, which really isn’t even new or different. ‘Zero rating’ is Internet providing companies allowing you unlimited access to websites – without it counting against your data cap. This is the web equivalent of pre-paid postage and toll-free phone numbers – nothing new or different….Sixteen months into the Net Neutrality regime advocates spent a decade-plus saying was imminently, vitally important – and the government still hasn’t decided whether or not to grant us permission to engage in this mundane economic practice.”
The government had sixteen months to make a “zero rating” decision. During which time the entire Internet sector is in a holding pattern over LaGuardia. But even with the government’s Sword of Damocles overhead, the sector moved forward. Because that’s what businesses have to do. So some started offering customers “zero rating” plans. (And who knows how many more would have – were it not for the government’s threatened extermination of them.)
Well, it’s now nearly three months even further down the road. During said interval, millions of businesses have made hundreds of millions of decisions in the daily execution of their duties. Because that’s what businesses have to do. But is the government any closer to a decision on “zero rating?” Of course not.
Now nineteen months later, is the government any closer to even broad-stroke definitions of what would constitute Net Neutrality violations? Of course not.
But businesses have to make decisions. And please customers. So despite the government’s Sword, we get:
T-Mobile vs. Sprint: The Battle for Unlimited Data: “The carriers unveiled new unlimited data plans that are significantly less expensive than previous offers. But which one is really the better deal?”
We may never get to find out which is the better deal. Because:
Nineteen months in – and businesses still don’t know what government will allow them to do.
That’s no way to run a railroad. Or deal with flood victims. Or regulate businesses.
When we talk about government-induced uncertainty – this is what we mean.
[Originally published on Red State.]