Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Missing The Point

Sacha Sagan of PC Magazine misses the point entirely when it comes to the government and free markets.

In what seems like an otherwise innocuous article about advanced cell phone capabilities in Europe, Sagan opines:
But I can't help thinking that our carriers' locked-down thinking on mobile applications needs to be opened up with a government crowbar.

If the market can't provide sufficient competition on its own, let's goose it, so a new market of mobile applications and Web services can truly take off.

Sagan doesn't seem to understand that as soon as American consumers demand the services currently in use in Europe and elsewhere, that those companies will provide them. Perhaps the wireless providers can be forced to offer certain applications but consumers cannot be forced to use or pay for them.

People just don't think. If the government can demand that company X provides a product or service, especially something like wireless phone service then we have ceased to have a free market at all. Whatever innovation and autonomy remains is simply because the government has not yet taken an interest. Maybe we should force BestBuy to sell circuit boards and diodes so consumers can build their own electronics and have more real choices. Maybe we should force Starbucks to start serving full meals because consumers have to make a separate stop for food. I'm sure if Starbucks started serving meals people would buy them. We need government regulation to force Starbucks to provide what consumers really want!

This isn't really about mobile applications, it's about the mentality that the government should intervene when we aren't happy with the choices presented to us. The government is simply not capable of being an innovator or forcing innovation. The first thing that someone will point to will be the break of up the phone company in to Baby Bells. It was government regulations to begin with that prevented competition from getting a foothold in the first place. Look at what VoIP service such as Vonage and Skype is doing to the traditional land line market! No government regulations were necessary to create that market. Regulation could halt it though. It's big, established companies that have a long and proud history of using government to stifle their competition.

A smaller government with few, but well established laws prevent big companies from limiting their competition through lobbying for various laws and regulations. Sure, those companies will whine and complain about the cost of regulation compliance but they know those same costs are what keep the competition away and leave consumers with fewer choices.

More government is NEVER the answer when it comes to what the market offers consumers. It's a lesson I hope Sacha Sagan learns soon.

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