A Bit of Self-Promotion

Scott Woolley of Fortune made my day by writing this flattering profile of yours truly:

Much as libertarians argue that supporting freedom in both the bedroom and the boardroom is not only a viable political philosophy but a logically consistent one, Lee argues that techies need to consider the “the possibility that the open-vs-closed debate might be orthogonal to the free-markets-vs-regulation debate—that one can be pro-openness and anti-regulation.”

Asked about the Republican opposition to net neutrality he is withering, saying that the right has blundered into an ignorant opposition to open networks. “Free marketeers…because they see people use left-wing rhetoric to talk about this openness stuff they assume ‘I must be on the other side,'” Lees sighs. “The dynamic becomes self perpetuating.”

Lee sees Republican opposition to unlicensed spectrum (of the sort that makes Wi-Fi possible) or any alteration of the patent rights as similarly ignorant, based on what he calls “a vulgar version of the Coase Theorem.”

That theorem, which helped economist Ronald Coase win the Nobel prize, states that as long as property rights are clearly defined the market will maximise wealth irrespective of who starts out owning the property in question.

Lee’s says that libertarians often ignore Coase’s critical caveat—that his theorem holds only in the absence of transactions costs, which in the real world tend to be substantial. Thus the vulgar version becomes: “More property rights are always better.”

For readers who are interested in more details about these arguments, I discussed spectrum policy and property rights back in April. I wrote about the Coase theorem and patent policy last year (and here’s more on patents in the software industry). And I did a pro-market, pro-openness paper on network neutrality for Cato a couple of years ago.

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2 Responses to A Bit of Self-Promotion

  1. Sean L. says:

    Radley Balko linked to it on his site, theagitator.com. The Fortune piece is nice, and well deserved. Congrats.

  2. Friday says:

    that regardless of how the “resource” (in this case, the right to clean air/the right to potlule) is allocated the final environmental outcome will be the same… but the distributive effects can be very different! Having said that, I agree that the simplest thing to do is just tax CO2 emissions at the source. In fact, I would go further, and say CO2 should be taxed at the mine-mouth/well-head (except for natural gas, where there are a lot of mom and pop operations, so the natural gas distributor is a better place), with some additional policies in place to deal with land use change, landfill methane, and so forth. The problem, as Alastair notes, is that such a policy needs to be global. But at least, if it is tax-based, it isn’t a cap on developing nation emissions, and the money stays domestic, so I see it as a lower barrier than a cap-and-trade approach. And in a really ideal world, the industrialized world would subsidize the developing world to encourage them to join (either through CDM/JI type efforts, or a straight-up monetary transfer), and penalize non-participants through border taxes.Note that it would be REALLY hard to do a good carbon-footprint border tax, but that would be ideal.-MMM

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