December 6, 2011

Can't I vote for "None of the above?"

Recent comment by Mr Gingrich:

The people who get on their computer to access the internet to send a note to their friends about the dangers of big government are using a device developed by the U.S. government — a computer, with an interface developed by U.S. government grants, what we then called the (Defense Department's) Advanced Research Projects Agency, in order to access a worldwide system (also) developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This is stupid in SO many ways.

1. Research into promising new technologies is not the sort of thing conservatives are worried about. Especially if the technology is then passed on to the private sector. But government tends to grow inexorably, even in technology research. And to cling to control. As witness NASA. We should be developing and colonizing Space right now, but we can't because of the stranglehold of government.

2. DARPA was not trying to create the Internet. It was simply trying to link a few dozen computers so that they could be used more efficiently. DARPA was funding numerous computer projects at various universities, and had to buy fabulously expensive new computers for each project. They wanted a simple way for a researcher in one place to use a computer in another.

3. If there had been a government project to create the--tah dah!-- "world communications project of the future," it would almost certainly have failed. As I recall there were such attempts, ponderous and official, and the Internet simply grew so fast that they slipped into irrelevance.

4. When the Internet started to explode in the 1980's, many of the early users hated what was happening. They wanted bandwidth to be reserved for the important things they were doing and not squandered by a frivolous public. If government had still been in control, who can doubt that it would have tried to strangle change?

Posted by John Weidner at December 6, 2011 8:17 AM
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