04 April 2012

Liberalism’s Incoherence

The guarantee of landline telephone service at almost any address, a legal right many Americans may not even know they have, is quietly being legislated away in our U.S. state capitals.
AT&T and Verizon, the dominant telephone companies, want to end their 99-year-old universal service obligation known as “provider of last resort.” They say universal landline service is a costly and unfair anachronism that is no longer justified because of a competitive market for voice services.
The new rules AT&T and Verizon drafted would enhance profits by letting them serve only the customers they want. Their focus, and that of smaller phone companies that have the same universal service obligation, is on well-populated areas where people can afford profitable packages that combine telephone, Internet and cable television.

Disclaimer: I don’t know if Johnston is a liberal.  I do know that this opening sentence personifies quite nicely liberals’ view of rights.

The liberal dichotomy—and corresponding hypocrisy—is typified by how they desire for everyone to have everything while simultaneously condemning everyone for materialism (talk about projection!).  In this case, liberals would agree with Johnston’s assertion that basic telephone service is a right.  This positive view of rights implies that someone will have to provide them with the service, even if it isn’t profitable.

This view of rights extends to everything—education, health care, internet service, wages, employee benefits, etc.  Everyone should have everything they want.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants the same things, and so what people do with their newly-acquired positive rights is try to get whatever they can for themselves.  This behavior is individualistically rational, and entirely predictable.  It also tends to promote materialism, which is often condemned by liberals.

The modern condemnation of materialism is seen in the environmental movement.  Consumption is condemned, as evidenced in the condemnation of burning fossil fuels, which is an essential source of energy, particularly in regards to the propulsion of automobiles.  The solution to our current environmental problems is to burn less fuel in particular by driving less.

Interestingly, one reason why we drive so much is because it is cheaper to live in areas that are not as population-dense, thanks in no small part to federal subsidies.  One contributing federal subsidy is that of mandated telephone service (seriously, how many people would live in the country if there were no communication infrastructure?).  There are other subsidies besides this, like FDR’s programs to bring electricity to rural areas, or other programs to bring urban levels of infrastructure to rural areas.

And so, this is liberalism’s incoherence in a nutshell.  First they demand all sorts of subsidies for everyone (like with phone service), then they get upset at people being wasteful.  Solving the first “problem” begets the latter problem and also its solution. Ironically, they’d have what they wanted if they simply left everything alone.  Of course, I’m assuming that they want a specific outcome, and not merely the power to control other people’s lives.


  1. With cell coverage being what it is, land lines are an anachronism. The argument is completely backwards. The customers who can best afford it are precisely the ones who are rejecting it.

    The third world has been going this way for years since their land line installation was always burried under corruption, long delays, bureaucracy and bribes. Cell tech allowed the consumers to cut the government out of the process.

    The phone companies are right. The land line is obsolete. Business has a profit motive to satisfy customers and customers want more bandwidth and higher wireless connection speeds not 100 year old 2-wire analog technology phones.

    I haven't had a home phone for years. everyone in my house has their own cell.

  2. @Prof. Hale- I also find it interesting that the author of the article complains about removing the land line instead of calling for more development of cell phone coverage in rural areas. This Luddism is simply stupid.