Public “monopoly” …

Via Positive Liberty, “New Epstein Book“:

“he says is the greatest weakness of the Progressivist economic perspective: the notion that monopoly was bad, unless it was run by government. ”

I have not read the book and am responding to hearsay about it, but I am not sure I agree with the premise. I disagree that a public “monopoly” is a monopoly. One key element of a monopoly is exclusive control. However, I think that a public entity is not exclusive in that same way that a private entity gains exclusive control over a commodity or service.

Public control is an attempt to address needs that private interests will not or cannot meet. For example, municipalities are thinking about offering government developed wireless because private entities are, dare I say, colluding to create a dynamic of scarcity in order to keep prices and profits high.

A Slashdot post about a recent survey pointed out that 45% of respondents that did not have broadband did not because the price was too high.

So, there is a place for public entities to check private enterprises that are sequestering value. In a way, the public is willing to pay a premium for goods and services, which entities sequester as profits, but only when reasonable. The goods and services must be reasonable and the prices must be reasonable. When either the goods and services are not or the prices are not, the only way for the private entity to continue sequestering profit is deceit to keep the public from finding another way to achieve those goods and services or to develop an alternative.

And, more importantly, let us remember that monopoly power is not in and of itself illegal. It’s the improper use of monopoly power that is illegal. However, I will admit that I am generally suspicious of monopoly or oligonomy market power. The lack of fresh air and transparency seems to me to be too much temptation to allow.

Let’s also keep in mind that conflating economic systems with political systems is not necessary. So, the “progressive economic perspective” may be a shorthand way of ignoring important issues. At the same time, it’s important not to ignore the interdependent issues of race, poverty and war made clear by Martin Luther King, Jr.

On the other hand, I have been coming to grips with the realization that good government requires good people. In some sense the conservative criticism of large government is correct: when there is too much power in government, bad people can do bad things. There is, I think, no better example of this than what has happened when this conservative administration took control. The conservative warning was correct, only I don’t think we collectively realized it was more prescient than it was descriptive. They were recognizing what they would be like given the chance to control the government, and they see in others what they would do if they were the government.

That begs the question of what the progressive / liberal blind spot is, of course, but it seems somehow appropriate that conservatives should be in control of small government because when they’ve got a big government all hell breaks loose.

I wonder if the progressive blind spot is too much consensus? The divisiveness and factioning of progressive movements helps it address a wide plurality, where when consensus is achieved at the expense of inclusion?