Paul Soglin on Govt Regulation "Rural Electrification, Town Roads, Grandma's Telephone, and the Packers on Cable TV"

I like how this post starts:

It was not Milton Friedman's free market capitalism that brought electricity to rural Wisconsin and America. It was not Ronald Reagan's dismissal of government regulation that paved roads from the farm to town. It was not some silly Neocon view of the world that installed a telephone in Grandma's living room in some poor neighborhood of Milwaukee.

All of those changes were the result of government interference in the market place through regulation, taxation, and the redistribution of both public and private resources.

After the 1936 passage of the Rural Electrification Act, bureaucrats worked to assist electric utilities to wire rural America with low-interest loans and technical assistance. Congress decided that the social value of rural electrification would mean progress for farmers and their families. It was not some invisible hand that lead to the mechanization of American agriculture.

State legislatures and county boards voted to build paved roads to small towns and farms. That was a redistribution of tax dollars, mostly coming from wealthy city folks. Some of it was self interest, some of it not. After all, getting goods to market, through these public subsidies benefited the producer and the consumer.

Eighty years ago the telephone was a luxury. Yet state legislatures and their regulatory public service commissions made it clear to AT&T that if the behemoth wished to wire wealthy neighborhoods, they would have to provide service to the poor ones as well.

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