Governments have played a major role in the IT sector

Contrary to what libertarians seem to think the government played an important role in the rise of the Internet and the IT sector in general. Here are just a few of the ways:

Government-funded research was important in creating the Internet:
ARPANET ,where the Internet began, was created by DARPA.
The NPL, funded by the British government, played a key role in developing the concept of packet-switching.
The Cyclades network funded by the French govenment was also influential in the design of the early Internet.
The world wide web was created at CERN which was funded by European governments.
Mosaic an early and important web-browser was created at the government-funded NCSA

Hardware: Much of the hardware running our electronic devices comes from East Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea. These countries are not libertarian and the government played a huge role in setting up these industries. Arguably it has been one of the most successful examples of industrial policy and without it I doubt the cheap, really powerful hardware we use would have come so quickly.

Human capital: Many of the top engineers in the technology industry were educated at state-funded universities around the world including the US. For example many of the top computer engineers in Silicon Valley come from the IIT’s which were created by the Indian government. State-funded institutions in China and Russia have played a similar role as has UC Berkeley in the US. Subsidized technical education around the world has increasad the supply of high-quality computer engineers which in turn has fueled the technology sector.

Competition policy: Many industries in the tech industry have massive economies of scale and network effects. Without competition policy these would end up being completely dominated by one or two companies which would have nearly full freedom to extend their monopolies. Antitrust policy can often seem clumsy in practice but I believe it has hugely beneficial deterrent effect on large companies preventing them from abusing their monopoly. In a world without competition policy, we would probably live in a technology world completely dominated by AT&T and IBM which would ruthlessly squash any company which posed the slightest threat.

I am sure there are plenty of other important public policies particularly when it comes to setting standards and ensuring openness. Not to mention the importance of military and space funding in the development of the computer industry.

The bottom line is that governments around the world have played a massive role in the technology sector. Without government intervention I don’t believe we would have anything remotely like the Internet and technology industry we have today.

No disagreement, but did you mean to post in thisthread?

No. I am not quite sure what that thread is about but this one is just about the government and the IT sector. I was skimming through the Libertarian Nations thread and I wanted to start a discussion on this tangent.

Why didn’t I think of that? (I have no objections to a merger)

A cite is needed for this, but it is my understanding the US Government is largest purchaser and user of IT products and services in the world.


Not demonstrated by the OP. This is the fallacy of Hypothesis Contrary to Fact:

“If it weren’t for Marie Curie, we would know nothing about radiation today!”

Great minds and all that (or grape mints, I don’t know). Lantern, you may want to check out TriPolar’s thread–he had the same notion as you.
I don’t get how anyone can seriously argue that anything near a modern, industrialized state could evolve without substantial government intervention and subsidization. Take any industry and you can barely swing a cat without smacking poor Fluffy’s head into some critical area that exists because of massive government involvement. I suppose you could handwave away some things (e.g., railroads were purely private, because the government had no right to the land it was granting in the first place) or daydream about some steampunk wet dream–but not if you harbor any hopes of being taken seriously.

The IT sector being created through purely private-sector action? Not even plausible in an Ayn Rayn fantasy.

I don’t know about this but I decided to have a look at the listof top supercomputers and it’s completely dominated by government-funded institutions from around the world including public universities. It’s a good indicator of how important the government is in cutting-edge research.

I agree, as most others in this thread. What is surprising is that so many IT departments are lousy with libertarians. And moreover, libertarian density is so bottom-heavy. That is, the lower on the totem pole, the more likely you’ll find a libertarian. (At least in my experience.)

No, I’m sorry but this is the Fallacy of Using Fallacies as Magic Spells. As your link points out, the Fallacy of Hypothesis Contrary to Fact requires that the claim be poorly supported. The OP lays out how government assistance made possible or accelerated research at critical junctures in IT development. This at least establishes a prima facie case that that government assistance played a significant role. You seem to think that just because you used Proper Noun Capitalization together with the word “fallacy,” you have somehow dealt with the points raised in the OP. That is not the case. To meet your burden, you should adduce some particular facts that tend to show that the absence of government assistance at those points would not have retarded the progress of IT R&D.

Also two demerits for failing to use Latin or Greek.

I am not sure what other evidence is needed. When the government massively subsidizes some activity you get a lot more than what the private sector alone would produce. In the last century the government has massively subsidized science and technology research. If it hadn’t done this, far less research would have been conducted and the technology sector wouldn’t be nearly as advanced as it is today.

Though the private sector has done some great research at places like Bell Labs its incentives to do basic science are pretty limited. In recent decades shareholders have put pressure on corporate labs to cut down on basic science.

Would Bell labs have been Bell labs had it not been for government intervention? Around the turn of the century they argued for–and were granted–a monopoly on telephone service in exchange for regulation.

So again, someone arguing that Bell labs is any kind of an example (not that you are) is smashing his poor kitten’s head against government intervention and subsidies that made the ostensibly private sector institution possible.

Ah, cite. Wiki, but a cite nonetheless.

Ok, first of all, are you saying Lantern doesn’t believe that?

And assuming you simply object to the conclusion, if the word ‘remotely’ wasn’t in that statement, would you have the same objection?

While I’m reluctant to even post here, since I’m not sure what you’re arguing, I’d say that the Government contribution to IT is akin to building the interstate highways. You build the infrastructure, then (as a libertarian would say) you get the hell out of the way and let markets use them to produce stuff, raising the standard of living, paying taxes, and in general making people’s lives better.

If you think of the interstates - they build them, then police them. They maintain them (sort of), they add regulations for use (speed limits, wide loads, HOV, etc). In IT, they facilitated the internet buildout, they develop and enforce standards, they operate CERT, they fund ICANN and other stuff, and they pass laws to beat down spammers and fraudsters.

Well, in general, all this lovely capitalism wouldn’t be flourishing without being able to operate in a stable, secure environment, which is largely the responsibility of, and thanks to, the big, bad government. Libertarians, on this point, at least, are about as grounded in reality as Puff The Magic Dragon.

Oy. Libertarians want a stable, secure environment with rights protected by the government.

I haven’t seen a lot of evidence of this. Oh, sure, it’s mentioned in the abstract, but the proposed actions/inactions say otherwise. Libertarians seem to be tonedeaf to the law of unintended consequences, among a plethora of other things.

What is your evidence that libertarians don’t support a stable government. Or is it your contention that only a “big, bad” government is a stable government? If so, then do you have a cite for that? The internet and computers were certainly got a huge push from the government.

Libertarians also want the Government to know what I’m doing in my bedroom at any given time. I’ll tell them what I’m doing in my bedroom at any given time, but I won’t say it here, so as to defend the possibly virgin eyes, but this should give you an idea: What is the sound of one hand clapping? lol.

Funding highways, R&D and public universities goes well beyond the scope of strict libertarian principles. Libertarians would argue that all these things could be provided by the private sector which is of course true. However government investment can greatly accelerate the creation of infrastructure and research and this has played an enormous role in rise of the IT sector which is my point.

This is especially true for countries like Taiwan and South Korea. In the 1970’s these countries were still quite poor and their corporations were far behind US giants like IBM. Without serious government investment and encouragement the private sector would not have made the massive investments which are needed to be competitive in computer hardware.

This is a good paper(pdf)which looks at the rise of the tech sector in Taiwan and the role of the government. Compared to South Korea the government played more of a facilitating role but it was still enormous and certainly beyond the scope of libertarian principles. Basically Taiwanese policymakers studied the Silicon Valley model and consciously set out to build a similar ecosytem with research universities and venture capitalists at Hsinchu Park.

Both universities mentioned were public-funded and the ESRO was a government-funded research institute.