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'Net Neutrality' Proves We Need Stronger Government, Higher Taxes

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Governments are created by society's most powerful members to protect themselves from each other. That's why even libertarians say defending the validity of contracts is a bedrock government function.

To do that job, government has to be stronger than any entity, or group of entities, so that when it says do X, X gets done. This is what our military means when it says it has a "two-war" doctrine -- that we need to be able to defend ourselves not just against one enemy, but any alliance of enemies.

In government, that strength is a function of money as well as laws, and government's income is taxes. If a company, or industry, disagrees with a regulation, it should be able to be heard; but they shouldn't be able to write the rules. And it shouldn't be able to ignore them, endlessly litigate the matter while waging a PR campaign in media they own, and keep making money until the court forces them to stop breaking the law.

This doesn't mean they won't. They will. If they defy the government so sedulously that the government has to sue them to enforce the law, they'll endlessly argue their case in the public sphere in the run up to any case, and, eventually, fight in court.

Consider, for instance, the history of the asbestos and tobacco industries, or the current battles being fought over fracking and climate change, much less net neutrality. In the prelude to such cases, government is forced, because of partial compliance or outright flouting the rules, to devote resources that could be put elsewhere if said flouting didn't exist. That is, to do its job, it has to be able to move effectively on all fronts.

Likewise, once the matter does reach court, government will find it's only one litigant, while in the case of suing an industry, each company will have its own legal team, while chipping in to pay for a separate, industry-wide team. In that case, each defendant can spend as much as the entire government does, and government can be outgunned -- drowned in expensive motions, depositions, research -- even copying costs and travel.

So government needs to be able to afford to fight the case. It can't be outspent. And to do that, government needs income -- that is, taxes. Otherwise, it just can't hire the staff to do its job, which is one reason that today, lobbyists often wind up effectively writing the regulations that apply to them.

That, I have no doubt, is what happened in the net neutrality matter. Like every other industry group that wanted to change the rules and make more money, the big Internet providers applied for a change in the rules, mounted a strong lobbying effort and deeply influenced the law.

Now they seem about to succeed. The result for small businesses, independent bloggers -- anyone who can't afford premium service -- will be premature burial on internet searches and, very likely, altogether.

This is where higher taxes come in. For 35 years, the underlying claim of the right has been that government has grown so big that it threatens individual liberty, and that to maximize individual liberty, government must be minimized. And since, goes the line, the internal logic of all large organization is to grow, just talking about shrinking the government is useless; government has to be forced to shrink by cutting off its income. This is called "Starve the Beast."

But in a society in which corporations are natural persons with civil rights, minimizing government tips the balance of power in favor of big capital, so that shrinking the government makes the world a better place for GE and Amazon, leaving the rest of us to play on what's then referred to as a "level playing field," pitched at a 45 degree angle.

That's why government can't be made small enough to drown it in the bathtub, and why lower taxes mean trouble for the little guy. And why we as a people need higher taxes as a matter of survival.