USA Today: Accomplice in Rent Seeking

Something from last week that slipped through the blogging cracks was this page-one USA Today story entitled "U.S. Net access not all that speedy". Like most USA Today articles, it's short and punchy. Unfortunately, it's also a good example of a common MSM malady: acting as an uncritical megaphone for a special-interest group. The group in this case is the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.

The USA trails other industrialized nations in high-speed Internet access and may never catch up unless quick action is taken by public-policymakers, a report commissioned by the Communications Workers of America warns.
Oh, no! Another crisis, one that can only be solved by "public-policymakers"! And—as anyone who has even a hint of cynicism in their bones might expect—the solution involves plenty of regulations, mandates, subsidies, tax breaks, and outright government spending, that all wind up sending money into the pockets of CWA workers and (hence) their union.

Now, of course you would expect the CWA to be in favor of that. You might not expect USA Today to be taken in so completely by a slick rent seeking union campaign, but there it is. There's nary a hint in their story that—just maybe—there are other things Americans might want to spend money on besides high-speed Internet access, and (in any case) it might be a good idea for market mechanisms to work out matters of supply, demand, prices, and costs. The story might as well have been written by the CWA, with USA Today's reporter simply putting her name on the top.

The article helpfully points the reader to the slick website the CWA has set up in support of this campaign,, full of smiling Americans of all colors, ages, sexes, and abilities demanding "high speed internet for all." And—I must admit—they have a very cool page where they'll measure the upload and download speed to the computer from which you're browsing. You can compare your speeds with the "typical" results from your state, the US, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, and Japan.

[A slight boast, not that you care: I have standard-issue Comcast cable modem access, which scored a 6408 Kbps download speed, which was faster than all but the Swedes and Japanese. The upload speed was 2287 Kbps, better than all others in the comparison. Heh! "I got mine, Jack." But despite these good results, I don't feel unusual. I've just decided to spend some extra money on faster access, without asking the government to force someone else to provide it.]

URLs du Jour


Happy Birthday, USA!

  • If you're an American, as I am, one of your Independence Day duties is reading this article from Thomas Sowell.
    Too many Americans take the United States for granted and are too easily impressed by what people in other countries say and do.
    I plead guilty, at least to the former. I avoid the latter by being compulsively xenophobic, which is probably not great either, but …

  • If you recycle, as I do, you'll want to check out this article by Michael Munger. Despite the fact that he's a Poli Sci prof at Duke, his article is well-written and funny. You'll almost certainly learn some things. Unfortunately, if you're like me, one of the things you'll learn is that you're a sap.
    There is a simple test for determining whether something is a resource (something valuable) or just garbage (something you want to dispose of at the lowest possible cost, including costs to the environment). If someone will pay you for the item, it's a resource. Or, if you can use the item to make something else people want, and do it at lower price or higher quality than you could without that item, then the item is also a resource. But if you have to pay someone to take the item away, or if other things made with that item cost more or have lower quality, then the item is garbage.

  • If you drink bottled water, as I do, you might be interested in Buzz Lileks' post; bottled water is apparently on the horizon as the Next Big Environmental Hatefest. Especially if you read Munger's article linked above, you'll enjoy this quote from a San Francisco news story:
    "It costs millions of dollars for our cities to dispose of plastic bottles, whether it's through recycling or landfill or where they end up in the waste stream," said Gigi Kellett, Campaign Director for Corporate Accountability International. "This has a huge impact on where that money could be spent on other aspects of city life, like maintaining our public water systems."
    So garbage is garbage, no matter if you call some if it "recyclables."

    I also liked one of the commenters at the Buzzzzz:

    I can taste the difference between tap and bottled, unless the latter has been opened, left in a car in the hot sun for four days, right next to an old dirty sock. Then the two are indistinguishable.
    In our case, the local water has had a decades-long problem with high arsenic levels, lovingly chronicled at the Google. According to the EPA:
    Non-cancer effects can include thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting; diarrhea; numbness in hands and feet; partial paralysis; and blindness. Arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate.
    "Other than that, though, it's fine!" They can have my Poland Springs bottle when they pry it out of my numb hands.