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.
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.