|Man Without Qualities|
Monday, June 12, 2006
Dead Again III: Steve Forbes Gets One Right
Steve Forbes, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
What network operator indeed?
For his sake, lets hope that Mr. Forbes is only trying to persuade Congress and the general public - and not the "net neutrality" supporters on the Blogosphere! Many of those people supported intellectual property theft supermarkets like Grokster - despite the obviously analogous argument: "What content creator is going to create lots of high quality, expensive content if the profit is to stripped off by file sharing web sites?"
The economic model the Net Neutralizers seem to posit is one in which expensive content and hardware networks can be supplied by a profitless system - or efficiently provided by a system that suppresses efficient returns to the providers, and quite possibly denies them any returns at all. And all of this is apparently supposed to be justified, supported and ultimately financed by the great, new, ever-increasing-returns-to-scale Paul Romerian goodies created through net-enabled activities like people watching purloined movies delivered almost for free from those Grokster-like Bit Torrent supermarkets? Sure, fellas. And no doubt Santa Claus will make up any shortfall. I just can't wait.
Why do the the arguments of the Net Neutralizers sound so much like nostalgia for the fever swamps of the late 1990's internet boom? Could it be that so many of the people writing the copy for the Net Neutralizers today are the same people (and their intellectual legatees) who fronted for the profitless 1990's boomers? Lawrence Lessig's bloviating, of course. But Paul Romer's own website today includes the giddy boast that he "was named one of America's 25 most influential people by Time magazine in 1997." Does Professor Romer have no awareness of what was going on in his immediate intellectual and financial vicinity at that time? Perhaps he should do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much investment was misdirected within, say, 10 miles of his current Stanford office during those years.
Could it be that so many of these Net Neutrality supporters also supported those who told us in the 1990's that "stickiness" and "hits" and the rest of the palaver of that busted era had replaced (or, better, "transcended") prosaic considerations such as "net revenue" and "cost of capital" as the variables de jour. Or could it be echos of the 1990's profitless boomers telling the world such things, and that anyone who didn't agree with such things, that "you just don't get it," with a manufactured indignation uneasily similar to the tone Mr. Forbes correctly identifies in the Net Neutralizers today?
I think it's something like that.
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