Friday, August 15, 2003

Do not call praise: Pejman Yousefzadeh write in Tech Central Station today in praise of the national do-not-call list. What's more, he defends it from a conservative/libertarian perspective.
What should make the "do not call" list ultimately palatable to conservatives and libertarians -- indeed, what infuses the program with conservative and libertarian values -- is the fact that the decision whether to make one's phone number inaccessible to telemarketers is ultimately left up to individuals. I may just as easily decide to rid myself of irritating telemarketer phone calls, as I may decide to take advantage of offers that are made through telemarketing, and allow telemarketer phone calls to be made to my home. The power and presence of individual choice helps trump any lingering concerns over the presence of government in the creation and maintenance of the "do not call" list.
I'm not sure I buy that argument. Maybe somebody can give me a good working definition of Libertarian (often it seems to mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean - anarcho-capitalist, agnostic-free marketeer, liberal who needs a job), but does induividual choice really sum it up. Doesn't the resigned acceptance of the costs of the free market, coupled with the great benefits and incentives it provides, play a part. It's really easy to accept the free market's rule when it's providing lower prices on cell phones or baby diapers, but the real test for one's commitment to something comes when there's a little pain involved. Like when globablism means you're out on your butt, or a phone call interrupts your dinner. Don't like telemarketers, get caller id and screen for them. Hate the phone ringing during dinner, turn it off till you're finished. If it's really a pain in the ass, get a cell phone and be done with it. I did that a couple years and it's worked out great. Granted, I'm single, no kids, and tend to move more frequently than most, so it's easier for me than most. But the choices we make have costs and how is it fair to restrict a company from perfectly legal, legitimate, and productive marketing techniques just because we get annoyed by a phone call that doesn't need to take longer than ten seconds to terminate. Then Pejman, whose blog I am a fan of, goes further to compare the do-not-call list with school vouchers and privatised Social Security as examples of a friendly government cooperating with the market.
The government would be present as a participant in any voucher program, as the vouchers would be funded through government appropriations. However, the choice of whether or not to participate in a voucher program would remain with individuals.

Similarly, individuals would have the choice of deciding whether or not to keep their Social Security investments as they currently are, or deciding to privately invest them in the hopes of achieving a higher rate of return.
But Pejman, those are both incidents where the government already has a monopolistic stranglehold on the public dollars and destinies. Vouchers and privatisation are both attempts to give the market more influence on peoples education and income. The government sponsored do-not-call list goes the other way. Just because government intervention does something that improves your lifestyle, doesn't mean it's justified.

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