[discuss] shifts in IANA/accountability discussion: your thoughts?

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Fri Jun 20 05:35:59 UTC 2014

On Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 09:37:16AM -0700, David Conrad wrote:
> it most definitely is not free. Pretending otherwise is a waste of
> time.

I think David and I really agree, but because it's convenient to
hang this on his message, I observe that it is not a waste of time,
exactly: it has worked well for many people.

For instance, to return to the original analogy, the "public roadways"
are paid for not only out of the public purse; but also in pollution,
despoiled lands, suburban sprawl, long commute times, lost
communities, and so on.  Economists call that sort of stuff
"externalities", because the market-feedback model doesn't capture
them (sometimes well, sometimes at all).  We all pay -- even those who
aren't using the roadways directly, and indeed even those who have
tried to structure their lives to avoid directly contributing to the
trend of expanding road networks.

Now, it might well be that some technologies -- automobiles seem to be
one of them, and so perhaps is the Internet -- are so pervasive that
one nearly can't avoid them (at least indirectly -- how did you get
your food?).  But pretending that all these costs are not there -- for
instance, pretending that you get to have gmail without accepting the
entire user-as-product model implicit in the market dynamics of Google
-- is an excellent way to make foolish policy.  Those who wish to
claim that "the Internet" needs to be available without cost in money
either need to come up with an accounting system for all these other
costs that does not boil down to money (there's a raft of cranky
sub-disciplines in economics just for this problem) or else need to
face up to reducing the other costs to money.  

If the (subsequent?) claim is that one ought to get these money costs
paid for from the public purse, that seems to me to be, at the very
least, in need of some argument stronger than saying, "Human right!
Human right!"  I'm not sure how much taller the Benthamite stilts
could get and still be inside the atmosphere.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

More information about the discuss mailing list