The Krs One song Whad Kinda World starts with the verse:
There’s no such thing as a government
There’s only people rulin over people
People jerkin around people
People lendin a hand to people..
What part of the system do you play?
Who do you oppress? .. Uhh!
For some it’s difficult to release the assumptions you’ve held for so long about what government means and what business means. It’s hard to go against the indoctrinated assumption that the free market is always good when you are taught that at an assumptive level from childhood. I’m talking about antitrust here but I mean to include the public and the government of those people in the considered system.
I will talk about this in terms of the internet because that is the easiest way for me to wrap my own mind around the point I’m making and to give solid examples. So first I ask – Do you have a problem with government regulation?
Take time if you need it to consider an answer, but if you have an immediate gut reaction feel free to go with that. It is natural to resist authority so I think the most common response to this very generic question is yes. I don’t want to have frivolous rules governing my behavior that were decided by someone I don’t even know. It’s annoying and frightening. It affects what I can and can’t do when laws and rules are set in place and it also guides me indirectly by affecting what I have access to.
We allow these laws and rules however (and in fact “We the People” create them) to allow us a level of comfort from our fears. It is illegal to kill because I don’t want to be killed and that crime is punished in order to discourage it from happening. So I’m hoping at this point we’re all on the same page in seeing some restrictions are either necessary or acceptable in order for us to live a free and happy life.
Who gets to make the rules? Government is a construct of large groups of people that exists to make and maintain the rules over behavior and trade. In the United States a new form of government was invented (or revised and better defined at least) that attempts to represent the interests of all people being governed as well as possible. This is of course an impossible task but still the attempt to solve this problem is noble and admirable. Everything everywhere is susceptible to problems and corruption does in fact go hand in hand with governing unfortunate as that may be. Despite this the government that we have is in principle an entity working toward the good of all people but now I have to ask, who else makes rules?
There is another faceless mass that we can pretend is an entity of its own and that is business. I can say “[Time Warner, Wall-mart, Apple, ‘The Media’] is evil” and it feels right. The business is branded to be it’s own entity and to have its own identity and when it makes me upset and I feel oppressed by it it’s easy to forget that the business is still people. I can cite religion in the same way but that discussion would take us way outside of the scope I want this article to have.
Businesses can and have become large enough to have an extraordinarily powerful set of controls on people. This control is exerted or enforced by rules that the companies may choose on their own, or in partnering with other companies. It may also take the form of availability such as limiting or eliminating a product. This is regulation. It is not being done by the government but it is still the same thing.
All that being said I don’t have any rock solid argument for just government or just businesses having regulatory control. I believe that the markets are to complex to give any steadfast rule of that nature but the defining factor separating the group of people and ideas that is the government from those that are a business is the guiding goal. I said earlier that the intention of our U.S. government is at least in principle to do the most good for the people of our country. A business may be defined with any principle and the nature of our markets makes it so that any business, even one aimed at an entirely different or public serving goal, must make money. This does not make businesses evil. It does however mean that being good or bad to the people of our country and our world necessarily comes second if at all to other goals. Such goals may be ignored entirely depending on the level to which consumers will turn down service on moral principle.
In the debate for “net neutrality” I have seen supporters of big business and deregulation put forth that government regulation of the internet would be in total opposition to the principles of freedom and openness. My counter to this is that the networks are already regulated. The companies that argue against government regulation are still made up of people and still making decisions about the regulation of the network. While many times bad practices are handled naturally by the free market the difficulty of creating the internet in the first place has left us without enough consumer options to fight back against corporate action and therefore I think the control should fall to the system of people that we have voting power over.
I also want to rant about lobying … but that’s another story…