For A Brief Moment I Almost Agreed With Kevin Drum, Then I Got Over It

Kevin Drum seems here to be making the case for Federalism

Via Vox, here's a colorful map from Broadview Networks that helps illustrate one reason that policymaking in Congress often seems so disconnected from the real world. It's because policymakers tend to be pretty well-off folks living in a pretty well-off region that shelters them from the problems many of the rest of us encounter. If you live in Missouri, you might be annoyed [about a local problem].  But if you live in Washington DC or northern Virginia, guess what? [Your local situation is much better]! Virginia is ranked #1 in the nation, and DC is right behind it. So is it any wonder that this really doesn't seem like a pressing problem in Congress?

Wow, this seems like a great argument for Federalism, as well as a number of libertarian critiques of government in general.   Good going, Kevin!

But then I realized he doesn't really believe this.  Drum is as much a supporter as anyone on the Left of Federal mandates over local action (e.g. Common Core).

Further, I realized that he was essentially nuts.  Because the issue he is lamenting is Internet speeds.  Some people have faster Internet than others, and he is just so frustrated that Congress does not realize this.  He actually seems to be hoping Congress will somehow intervene to equalize Internet speeds.  I would love to know, in these people's minds, if there are any issues to trivial for Congress to wade into.

By the way, if Congress had stepped into Internet regulation, we would still probably be surfing at 1200 baud.  After all, all that high speed Internet stuff might kill jobs at Hayes and US Robotics (makers of old telephone modems for those too young to remember).  Look at how long it took to get a political/corporate consensus on HD TV standards.  Ugh, we would probably all have that goofy French TV-computer solution the Left wanted to force on the United States 15 years or so ago.

Postscript:  The UN ITU spent a lot of time driving phone manufacturers to using micro-USB in a bid at government-led standardization.  The only problem is that micro-USB sucks.  It is ubiquitous, which is nice, but from a form and function standpoint is far harder to use and plug in than Apple's lightning connector, which is much easier to insert, less prone to damage, and can be inserted in either direction.  Perhaps young people with better eyes do not notice but I spend a lot of time jamming micro usb cables in the wrong way.  I hate having to put on my glasses just to plug in my phone, which is why I like my Nexus 5 with wireless charging.


  1. Matthew Slyfield:

    "I would love to know, in these people's minds, if there are any issues to trivial for Congress to wade into."


  2. Incunabulum:

    USB has some weird spatial distortion technology in it. Its the only thing I know of where you can insert it one way and have it not work, rotate it 180 degrees and it still will not go in, so you have to rotate it *another* 180 degrees to get the right orientation.

  3. Onlooker from Troy:

    Yep, sadly not. Meddling power mongers, debating what our children eat for lunch, and other such nonsense. It's truly maddening.

  4. Rick C:

    It's self-evident there's not. Every once in a while someone in the press forgets and asks if someone in Congress--usually a Democrat--sees any limits on the Federal government, and the mask slips and they say no.

    They don't believe in 50 laboratories of democracy--they want one government.

  5. Rick C:

    Well, that's only the full-size A ports. Micro USB is keyed.

    A solution to Warren's problem is to look at which way the port goes on your phone, and then put a dot of paint or something on the side that would be up when plugged in to the phone. (This doesn't work if you, like me, have a mix of devices that put the ports in different orientation. My old HTC has the socket turned around from my Samsung. Ugh.)

  6. Andrew_M_Garland:

    "Any issues too trivial for Congress"

    Congress regulates things to coerce political contributions from industries, to favor established contributors, and for advertising, to show the public that they are doing things for them.

    The advertising is always about small, intrusive things which directly affect people but are none of congress' business. Along with internet speeds, school nutrition and the integrity of baseball (drug use) come to mind.

  7. joshv:

    I really don't understand the left's position on Internet speeds. Basically they seem to think that rapacious ISPs are raking us over the coals with monthly fees, and spending the money on executive salary instead of re-investing in infrastructure. The solution - declare the ISPs common carriers and force them to share their infrastructure, though I bet secretly they'd love to just nationalize Comcast, AT&T, Cogent, etc... and declare free 1Gbps Internet for all.

    We've got some precedence for both models. For the first, power transmission. You can now buy electricity from companies that don't actually make electricity or transmit it. They don't run the grid, they don't maintain it, they just re-sell the services and equipment of those of those who do. I've got no idea how this is supposed to engender competition, and to the extent it does it tends to run the fly by night providers with the lowest rates out of business (similar to what happened with DSL over shared lines).

    For the second model we've got AT&T - well not really nationalized, but a government conferred monopoly, so close enough. Remember how cheap long distance was? Oh right - expensive until the market was deregulated. Remember how innovating AT&T phones were? Oh right, they were expensive and they sucked until it was made legal to buy your own phone - then they got slightly less expensive and sucky, but at least you could buy somebody else's model.

    The solution is de-regulation and invalidation of exclusivity agreements. Once the courts stop allowing incumbent ISP to attack competitors (commercial or municipal), 1000 points of fiber will blossom on the land.

  8. Daublin:

    There *is* a federal version of the Internet: it's the plain old telephone network. Everywhere you go in the country, the telephone network is available and works exactly the same.

    The same, but not very well. Video calls never became standard, besides being demonstrated decades ago. Long-distance calls have stayed at high prices, which might have seemed plausible before Skype busted it open. Digital connections, as you would use to tunnel onto the Internet over the old network, runs at a mediocre 64kb ISDN rate, just like it always has.

  9. ErikTheRed:

    Not to mention the fact that Lightning can do a lot of things that USB can't - such as stream digital video and audio to a relatively dumb device on the other end (yes, you can stream stuff over USB, but you more or less need a computer on the other end to decode and playback the media).

  10. ErikTheRed:

    Micro USB is keyed, but the tin around the edges can get bent and once that happens it's a bit of a mess.

  11. Rick C:

    True. Fortunately most cables are pretty cheap--I buy extras so I have spares, and throw them out with any damage.

    I've had the teeth fail on one or two, so the cable won't stay in the socket. That's really annoying.

  12. smurfy:

    Much like the full size, micro USB is built on the 50/50/90 spec. Every time you insert it you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, yet 90% of the time you will get it wrong.

  13. xtmar:

    What I will say for the hard wired telephone companies (and to a much lesser extent the cell companies) is that voice service is super reliable, even when other infrastructure, like electricity and gas, is down. Now, perhaps having that last digit of reliability isn't worth the added financial and innovation costs, but it's not worth nothing.