No surprise people want a free lunch

When you use an analogy, the two things you compare must be similar enough, or else it makes no sense. It only serves to distort your perception of reality. Steve Anderson’s analogy with hockey may be cute, but it’s totally inappropriate and in no way helps us understand what is going on in the telecom sector.

Hockey referees apply rules that are the same for all players and almost never change; the CRTC changes the rules every time it issues a new decision, sometimes favouring one player, sometimes another, as it tries to reconcile various contradictory objectives.

This has nothing to do with impartiality or fairness. It’s called state economic planning and is in permanent conflict with the real basic rules of economics, those of a free market. If these were applied impartially in the telecom sector, we would not need the CRTC.

It’s also absurd to divide all the telecom players into two big teams. The independent ISPs should more accurately be compared to peewee teams allowed to play in the NHL series with special rules that give them a guaranteed number of passes and shots, while there is no goalie to defend the other team’s net. Some might see this as “fair competition,” but that’s no reason to use it as a model to develop a $40-billion industry.

Mr. Anderson offers no solution to the basic problem that we raised in our commentary: the fact that independent ISPs survive and are able to offer unlimited plans only because they are given privileged access to somebody else’s infrastructure. To decree that this access can continue at no extra cost doesn’t add one gigabyte of capacity to the network. No more than peewee players would add any interest and real action to NHL games.

All in all, Mr. Anderson only backs his support for Industry Minister Tony Clement’s decision on one argument: Many Canadians want unlimited Internet. But that’s not an economic argument, it’s a political one. Everybody wants a free lunch and when there is a possibility that the government will give you one by forcing someone else to pay for it, it’s no big surprise that many people are in favour of that.

And what about the hockey analogy? Mr. Anderson wants the minister to side with all those Canadians who signed his petition. Should hockey fans then be allowed to vote on which team should win? Would that be fair? It would certainly destroy the rules, and the game itself.

If you believe OpenMedia, Canadians get the worst Internet services in the world. They have to pay more and have a very limited choice. Canada, writes Mr. Anderson, has fallen behind in terms of speed, cost and “openness.”

If so, why is it that they spend more time online than anyone else on earth – twice as much as the worldwide average, actually – according to a recent study? They watch more YouTube, visit Facebook and use Twitter more often than almost everybody else, including Americans and other G7 nations.

Nobody should be fooled by the use of terms like “fairness” and “openness.” They are simply code words for old socialist fallacies, i. e., the belief that government can take over an industry and distribute unlimited amounts of everything for free to everyone. It’s no surprise that there are lobbies advocating these types of policies; what’s amazing is that a socalled conservative government is willing to implement them.

For attempting to promote discredited central-planning theories and ignoring the laws of economics, Mr. Anderson should spend five minutes in the penalty box.

Paul Beaudry and Martin Masse are fellows of the Montreal Economic Institute. They both worked as policy advisors to then industry minister Maxime Bernier in 2006-07.

Back to top