[WSIS CS-Plenary] The Economist on the 'realdigitaldivide'
Mueller at syr.edu
Tue Mar 15 00:01:29 GMT 2005
>>> Sasha Costanza-Chock <schock at riseup.net> 3/14/2005 7:07:42 AM >>>
>I apologize for bringing this back on-list,
Why? It would be nice to have a substantive discussion of actual
communication policy issues on this list for a change.
>[The] cock-sure 'answer' proposed by the Economist: (surprise
>liberalize and privatize and the market will take care of everyone.
Well, it's just the flip side to those who persistently claim that "the
market" is responsible for every problem and that state intervention in
"the market" can cure every evil. It's the debate of the 1980s, and it's
time to move beyond it.
For those of us with a longer historical perspective on
telecommunications development, it is impossible to ignore the fact that
most of the world spent about 75-100 years with national telephone
monopolies ostensibly devoted to "public service" and "universal access"
and managed to produce rates of telephone penetration that were
shockingly low. Waiting lists of 5-10 years, indifferent extensions of
service, pricing as a luxury, cross-subsidies to politically favored
interests, stunted development - the story was all too familiar,
repeated in country after country. The introduction of competition in
the last decade or two and the development of new regulatory models
designed to facilitate a competitive system broke the world out of that
cul de sac and it's really hard to find cases where it didn't improve
things relative to the past.
Now we know, of course, that market liberalization of the sector can't
cure every social problem but we ought to have learned something about
the dangers of overregulation and over-politicization of the sector,
too. So lets move forward, and not reproduce old ideological debates
between "communism" and "capitalism" when it's clear that economies
without markets collapse into inefficiency and stagnation, and markets
without institutions fostering equal rights and distributional equity
create their own set of social problems.
>Of course, they frame it as 'market failures' rather than as
>inherent to markets
Is your point that markets are inherently evil and we should abolish
them altogether? Hmm, didn't someone try that before?
Look, I respect people with a more leftist orientation and am perfectly
willing to work with people whose ideology differs from mine when
possible and appropriate. I will firmly resist, however, interventions
based on the assumption that we are all ideologically homogeneous, or
the idea that one can establish one particular ideology or viewpoint as
the dominant one simply by repetition.
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