Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Net Neutrality: A Path to Censorship

Chris Slavens
By Chris Slavens: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So goes the old saying; its originator, Bert Lance, is perhaps best known for his involvement in the BCCI scandal of the 1980s, but the phrase became a modern proverb. It warns folks not to attempt to repair or alter something that is running smoothly; today, its wisdom should be applied to the Internet.

A recent Hart Research Associates poll found that 75% of Americans think the Internet is “working well,” and 55% believe the government should not regulate it. Yet proponents of Net Neutrality, most of whom hail from the political left, disagree.

Net Neutrality is the principle that all websites should be accessible with equal speed, and that the federal government (specifically, the Federal Communications Commission) should see to it that they are, or else. No longer would access be a private matter between buyer and seller. If implemented, the FCC would be granted regulatory powers over much of the Internet, a prospect that should terrify anyone who favors free, uncensored speech.

When asked why Net Neutrality is necessary, its proponents usually spout outlandish conspiracy theories, the most popular of which involves a sinister plot by evil telecom companies to discriminate against certain groups of users, block access to select websites, and stifle free speech. Of course, this is not happening, and there is no logical reason to assume that it ever will. Even if such a scenario did occur, the free market would provide solutions; competition, not regulation, is the best way to ensure that the Internet remains open and free.

Admittedly, most proponents of Net Neutrality probably believe they are fighting for a noble cause. “Save the Internet!” they cry. “Keep the Web free!” Yet they fail to realize, or else ignore, the fact that government regulation of the Internet would inevitably lead to the very loss of online liberty that they argue could occur in the absence of a broadband regulatory authority.

But behind these well-meaning -- if misguided – activists, there are authoritarians who are stirring the pot, repeating the “save the Internet” rhetoric out of political necessity, while privately viewing Net Neutrality as the first step towards establishing government censorship of ideas they believe to be outdated, undesirable, or dangerous. The Internet makes it easier than ever before for Americans of all races, religions, and income levels to exercise their First Amendment rights, which poses a serious threat to those grappling for long-term power; they are desperately searching for a way to stifle dissent and control the flow of information.

A Republican takeover of the House, which seems increasingly likely as the midterm elections approach, would certainly delay the implementation of Net Neutrality, but that will not be enough. Americans must draw a line in the sand, and firmly instruct the federal government to keep its hands off the Internet. It is not the role of the FCC (if indeed it has a legitimate, constitutional role, a point which is open for debate) to tell Internet access providers how to operate their businesses; this duty falls on consumers, who will surely take their business elsewhere if they do not receive satisfactory service. Short of a future monopoly on Internet access, there is simply no reason for a government agency to involve itself in this process.

At the very least, the FCC should wait for a problem to occur before proposing a solution – otherwise, it is only trying to fix something that, most Americans agree, “ain’t broke.”

Chris Slavens is a libertarian columnist. He lives in Sussex County, Delaware. He contributes to numerous conservative sites including NetRight Daily, ARRA News Service, Conservative Voices, and his own blog, Slavens Says.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Castle’s Campaign Tactics Contributed To Loss

By Chris Slaven: When Rep. Michael Castle lost to conservative challenger Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s Republican primary election last week, political analysts scrambled for answers. The unthinkable, the impossible, had happened; Castle had never lost an election in the First State since his first campaign for State Representative in 1966. In the following decades, he held nearly every elected office in the state, and was thought by all to be a shoo-in candidate when he decided to run for the Senate seat formerly held by Vice President Joseph Biden.

Commentators point to Castle’s embarrassing voting record, and his liberal stance on social issues like abortion, as they try to figure out how a Tea Party candidate with virtually no money managed to take down a well-funded veteran politician who had the full backing of the state Republican Party, but it is apparent to Delaware voters that those looking into this tiny state from the outside simply don’t get it.

To understand why O’Donnell was able to win last week, one must first know a bit about the complex political situation in Delaware. There are three counties; New Castle is small, heavily populated, and very liberal (this is Castle’s home turf), Kent is home to the state capital, Dover, and has both liberal and conservative elements, and Sussex is mostly rural and strongly conservative. New Castle governs the rest of the state, and the Republicans of that county are more liberal than the Democrats of Sussex.

Castle did most of his campaigning in left-leaning New Castle, attending a few local festivals, and on one occasion shaking hands at the University of Delaware before a big football game. He rarely visited Sussex, refused to be interviewed on the county’s lone talk radio station, ignored conservative groups like the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, and generally made no effort to connect to conservative Republican voters outside of his home county.

O’Donnell also hails from New Castle, but she campaigned vigorously in all three counties, embraced the state’s growing Tea Party movement, regularly appeared on conservative talk shows, and actively sought endorsements from out-of-state celebrities like Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity (which she eventually received). While the Castle campaign and GOP were sneering at O’Donnell and telling the press that she wasn’t a serious candidate, she was meeting voters in the conservative region of Delaware. Some of these Republicans had never met Castle, in all of his years in office, but now they enjoyed frequent contact with his enthusiastic opponent.

Does the average voter support a career politician that he never sees, or an upbeat challenger who seeks him out? For the answer, ask Mike Castle.

This is not to say that Castle’s loss was solely the result of geographic rivalry. He had long been called a RINO (Republican in name only) even by those who voted for him, and one effect of the state’s Tea Party movement has been to nudge many of its Republican participants towards an uncompromising blend of constitutional conservatism and libertarianism.

Much has been made of O’Donnell’s supposed inability to defeat the Democratic nominee, Chris Coons, who Castle would have beaten easily. For giving up an easy win in favor of an uphill battle, her supporters have been criticized by prominent voices on the right like Karl Rove and Charles Krauthammer. What these critics don’t seem to understand is that O’Donnell’s supporters do not care. Many viewed their votes as retaliation for years of being snubbed by Castle and the state Republican Party, and are not likely to regret their decision if Coons wins the Senate seat in November.

The lesson from Delaware is simple, or should be. Republican politicians can no longer afford to alienate conservative voters, even in blue states. The winds of revolution are blowing with hurricane strength, and those who stand in the way of the people are likely to find themselves blown into early retirement, just like Mike Castle.
Chris Slavens is a libertarian columnist. He lives in Sussex County, Delaware.
This column was published by the
Review Messenger on September 22.

Tags: Chris Slavens, Delaware, Mike Castle, Christine O’Donnell, campaign tactics To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to Conservative Voices. Thanks!