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regulating against regulation – what are you thinking Kay Bailey?

September 23, 2009

As Ryan Singel reports for Wired, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R – Texas) has introduced legislation that would block the FCC’s proposed “net neutrality” rules. She opposes what she calls “a significant regulatory intervention into a vibrant marketplace” – not an unusual justification for a Republican. What’s odd, though, is that she seems to concur that net neutrality is precisely the principle that has kept the marketplace so vibrant. As her press release states:

Net neutrality refers to policies that promote the internet as an open platform for innovation and economic growth, while discouraging intentional discrimination against particular content or applications. These basic principles have been in place for years and have successfully spurred major advances in content, applications and performance with minimal government involvement.

If that’s the case, then what harm is there in codifying those policies so that the internet will forever be preserved as “an open platform for innovation and economic growth”? Apparently, any regulation is bad regulation, even if it will protect the free marketplace. In other words, Hutchinson is not really for free markets, but just against government regulation.

Some of you may want to stop reading here… but if you’d like to follow me on a complex tangent, read on:

Gadamer, in Truth and Method, pointed out that Kant’s fatal flaw was being prejudiced against prejudice itself. In other words, Kant was so much in favor of enlightened rationality and so much against traditional forms of knowledge, like Church dogma, that he ended up creating a dangerous tradition himself – the tradition of rejecting all traditions. The ultimate end result, unfortunately, was to uproot ethics and aesthetics, leaving us with a technocracy.

Hutchinson is making a similar error here. She is literally trying to regulate against regulation, and she does not seem to realize that the result will be the erosion of the free market on whose behalf she claims to be acting, just as Kant could not foresee that his myopic privileging of reason would ultimately lead to a senseless relativism.

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