Tuesday, June 21, 2005

What, Me Worry?

My husband drives me crazy sometimes. He is “Mr. Preventative Maintenance.” The oil in our cars is changed at regular 3,000 mile intervals. He keeps meticulous records of all service our autos have received making sure the tires are rotated, the brake pads are measured and all the fluids are checked and changed out. But it’s not just the cars. He dutifully replaced the oil in our new lawn mower, just as the manual told him to, after two hours of use. He spent quite a bit of time online finding just the right winter cover for our new air conditioning unit. Eye exams are every two years, dental cleanings every six months without fail, insurance policies are carefully examined and the dog gets her yearly visit to the vet right on schedule.

Me, not so much. If it doesn’t sputter, squeak, falter, look bad, smell bad or show signs of rust, I’m not too concerned. I put off an eye exam so long that by the time I finally went, the optometrist shook his head and said “Lady, there is no way you could pass a driving test with that vision.”

My personal “What, Me Worry?” philosophy of life makes me inclined to think that the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s latest proposal to turn the Federal Communications Commission into the Federal Trade Commission is somewhat interesting. The idea is that the FCC stops doing all that preventative rule making and just sits back and waits to “respond to instances of abuse of market power.”

“This far-reaching and comprehensive reform would replace regulation based on techno-functional characteristics with market oriented regulation,” said working group co-chairman Randolph May.

I love it when people come up with new terms. “Techno-functional” sounds like something you’d hear blasting out of London nightclubs in the 90’s.

May went on, “We felt a benefit of our approach was that it would largely eliminate the elaborate web of rules and regulations that has grown up under the existing statute.”

PFF thinks regulation should be based on antitrust laws and economics probably because mentioning pesky stuff like the “public interest” is profane. Then again, when they do get around to mentioning the “public interest” it’s a definition of “public interest” that is purely market driven rather than consumer or service driven.

Later today there’s what they are calling a “public forum” at the Hyatt on Capitol Hill. It will include Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) and FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy. Lunch will be served so that will be good. A report will be officially issued on the FCC as FTC and folks will be invited to ask questions. PFF President Ray Gifford called the new proposal “bold thinking.”

But it seems to me that all this schmoozy talk isn’t anything new although it certainly is “bold.” This proposal smells like what my mother used to call “closing the barn door after the cow got out.” You don’t do anything until something happens, but as honest people understand, once something happens it may be too late.

Which brings me to another point. Don’t you just hate it when people put together these “think tanks” under the auspices of intelligent inquiry and supposedly objective empirical exploration and all they end up being is a front for big business?

I finally got my eyes examined because my husband wouldn’t stop nagging me. He wasn’t satisfied to wait until I actually got into an accident while straining to read road signs. So in that way, I guess he’s like the current regulatory regime. He was trying to prevent a disaster. Me, on the other hand, had these deep underlying motives (vanity for one) that made me justify jeopardizing the public interest. So in that way, I guess I was like the Progress & Freedom Foundation, so blind they shouldn’t be trusted to drive.

Read all about it! Progress & Freedom Foundation!

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