Sam Seder, the anti-libertarian crusader, on government and the internet

As I have looked for libertarian-type videos on YouTube, it has become difficult to avoid the videos of Sam Seder, actor and comedian turned progressive radio commentator and host of The Majority Report. He’s apparently made a profession of repackaging the most hackneyed of statist canards in a hip and freshly pugnacious style. To me, it comes off as so much trolling, almost unworthy of response, but a so much of him appears in that, as a trove of source material, I can no longer resist.

So today I caught this video, in which Sam claims to pwn the Libertarians … again.” Let’s have a look at this alleged pwnage:

That’s it. He starts with a quote, ostensibly from a listener:

Libertarians are the paradigmatic born-on-third-base types. They have no appreciation that society for hundreds of years has built up the material comfort and wealth they benefit from. They’re just rationalizing their own entitlement.

Sam Seder agrees immediately and wholeheartedly, and then proceeds to rationalize his own entitlement to high-speed internet wherever he goes. His theory seems to be that if a useful thing (such as a reliable internet connection) exists then everyone should have it, regardless of cost. If some person does not have the thing, then the private market has failed and the government must therefore provide it.

Where does this logic take us? If Sam Seder wants to move to a mountain top, or anywhere else for that matter, he is not thereby entitled to bathe constantly in the glow of high-speed internet. He might want to look into HughesNet—but he’s not entitled to it. Where does he think the stuff comes from? If the government mandates that he be offered internet service on the mountain, then in so doing it has required the telecom companies to forego other more potentially useful ventures. You can’t satisfy everybody all the time.  Markets excel over bureaucrats at deciding which ventures are most worthwhile to pursue. The livelihoods of market participants depend on satisfying customers. The livelihoods of bureaucrats do not. Government bureaucrats always get paid, whether they do a good job or a poor job.

Not impressed with ARPANET.

Not impressed with ARPANET.

Sam Seder’s grand finale was to remind us that the government created the internet. This classic statist conversation stopper ceased to impress me once I reflected on its implications for about three minutes. ARPANET was apparently a military program. The military has two functions: 1) To destroy things, and 2) to defend against other people—usually other governments’ militaries—destroying things. What really happened, then, was that the government siphoned the most brilliant technical minds away from the private sector, where they would have worked in service of mankind, and into the government sector, where at best they would have defended against government aggression, and at worst they would have enabled government aggression. If this is supposed to warm me up to government, I’m sorry. It doesn’t.

There’s about a zillion different accounts of how the internet formed and came to be what it is today. Some credit government less than others. So government invented the ARPANET in 1969? Touché. John Stossel wrote a short piece summarizing what happened after that:

Why didn’t the private sector develop an Arpanet?

According to Andrew Morriss of The Freeman, two reasons: First, government crowded out the private sector by hiring many talented computer scientists. Second, laws required the FCC to authorize new networks, and “Regulatory barriers to entry, not a lack of entrepreneurial activity, slowed the efforts to build private networks.”

In 1995, government fully privatized their network. That’s when the current internet started to flourish. Morriss says, “the real Internet grew out of a spontaneous ordering process of the interactions of millions of individual users…. The explosive growth in commerce, for example, became possible only when the government’s ban on commercial use of the networks it financed was lifted.” …

Yes, President Obama, government invented the Arpanet. But what happened next shows how government fails, but individuals succeed. Government enacted barriers to private-sector research, and took decades before it allowed all of us to benefit from an important new technology. Once it was privatized, individuals – not government -created the internet that we know today.

Here are the keys to government success: First, siphon the brightest minds away from the private sector with tax money. Then, erect regulatory barriers to block what remains of the private sector from participating. Lastly, sit on what you’ve created and watch it stagnate for thirty years. Yes, I concede that the government does all of that quite well, but is that better than what the unmolested private sector could have accomplished? I have my doubts.

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4 Responses to Sam Seder, the anti-libertarian crusader, on government and the internet

  1. Zap says:

    He owns you dumbfucks good, hoo boy!
    Can’t wait for the next round of pwning libertardians xD

  2. rymurphy12 says:

    I’m sorry but your argument is laughable. It’s like all those poor scientists were kidnapped away from all those plentiful private sector jobs and forced to work in a secret underground lair on their terrible statist projects. A more plausible theory is that the reason scientists flock to government is because the private sector is largely uninterested in large scale scientific research and development. Furthermore the reason the internet took off after it was privatized is because the government already spent billions of dollars investing in the infrastructure that made the internet possible. To this day most of the internet companies are uninterested in investing in expanded internet infrastructure. Which is why Europe, which has more government involvement has higher speeds at lower cost while Google can’t even shame internet companies to at least up their base speed to 100 Mbps. But hey, keep trying. You should really call on Sam’s show.

    • RestoreByTim says:

      I’m not sure why one theory is “laughable” while the other is “plausible”. Maybe your caricature of what I wrote is laughable. I can understand that, but seems plausible to me that an institution that collects its revenue not by satisfying customers, but rather by threatening imprisonment, would have a more reliable supply of capital to invest in scientific researchers and research that may or may not yield a useful result. It also seems plausible to me that private actors who have a budget tied to their productivity might be more selective and circumspect about the R&D ventures they pursue. It seems further plausible to me that one potential cause of private disinterest in infrastructure investment is the expectation that government should foot the bill.

      You’ve written that Europeans enjoy greater internet speeds due to greater government involvement. That’s true. I accept that, but I accept also that it comes at a cost: the opportunity cost of other things that could have been done with those resources. I suppose you take for granted that achieving a higher internet speed was the best of all possible things the European governments could have done with those resourced. That’s plausible, but personally I’m not entirely sure about that.

      You’ve written some plausible things. I’ve written some plausible things. You’ve gotten a laugh out of some of what I’ve written. That’s cool. I’m glad I could provide that for you, albeit unintentionally.

      Maybe later I’ll actually go re-read what I wrote here. I didn’t even bother, it’s so old, and this little WordPress app doesn’t show it unless I ask. Maybe I wrote something really silly! Maybe I’ll get a good laugh myself. 😀

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