Profile: Pete Ashdown, US Senate 2006

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Pete AshdownPete Ashdown may have an uncanny resemblance to Steve from the Dell commercials (“Dude, you’re getting a vote!”), but don’t knock his campaign strategy, which takes open-source to a whole new level with a wiki and regular online chats. Running against incumbent Senator Orin Hatch in Utah, Ashdown is tapping into the geek corners of the Internet. I’m simply going to gank the informative writeup from MeFi and move on:

Pete Ashdown, the founder of Utah’s oldest ISP, is apparently crazy enough to challenge Orrin Hatch’s reelection. Ashdown descided to run when he heard Hatch propose that p2p user’s computers should be required to explode (see also the INDUCE Act). Ashdown’s campaign is the first to wikify its platform & strategy. Boing boing has endorsed him.

OK, the million dollar question, is he libertarian? Short answer: no… democrat. Longer answer: he’s more of a left-of-center libertarian with free market views that tip him more left of center than most purist libertarians will like:

The march towards privatizing and deregulating everything is where I depart with my Libertarian friends. The free-market only works if there is robust competition. The “invisible hand” becomes “invisible clothes” when you start looking at infrastructure, health care, and energy. If the market is dominated by a powerful entity or if entry is cost-impossible, then how does competition have a chance? In fact it doesn’t and guess who suffers?

Arthur emphasized and Lessig touched on the idea that there is a role for government in markets. I say not merely in fostering competition but also where there is a societal benefit. Free-marketeers decry any municipal participation in peoples’ lives as socialism, but that is answering the argument with an extreme. If pure capitalism has brought us Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and a #16th ranking in worldwide broadband deployment, it is time for the pendulum to swing towards a more active role of government.

When a free-marketeer presents Amtrak as an example of government waste, I have to wonder what they think of the Interstate Highway System. This is also a government program and the cost has been in the trillions. Toll roads with electronic payment systems may have their place, but where would the United States be if Eisenhower had decided to wait for private enterprise to build the highway system? It is the same place we are headed because of the endless wail for privatizing everything in the past 30 years. Commercial healthcare has not brought us universal coverage. Commercial energy has lowered standards but not price. Commercial transportation needs bailout after bailout. America continues to suffer under this delusion.

Yet even with that kind of non-endorsement of deregulation and privatization, I think he has some serious moderate libertarian cred if you check out his position on several issues that party-line Democrats usually diverge on, such as guns, national security / immigration and trade.

He may not be the perfect match Utah libertarians will probably seek, but he looks like a realistic choice in 2006.

  1. I loved this.

    If pure capitalism has brought us Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, and a #16th ranking in worldwide broadband deployment, it is time for the pendulum to swing towards a more active role of government.

    By and large it seems to me that it’s the more active role of government that brought us all of those…

  2. Regarding who brought us:

    –Enron? The California utility regulators
    –Worldcom? The FCC
    –Tyco? The Department of Defense

    His solution? “A more active role of government.” Brilliant.

    What eventually stopped the abuses of these (only “sorta kinda”) capitalist ventures was not the government, but private investors and their agents.

    Regarding Amtrak versus the interstate highways: um, people use highways, they don’t use Amtrak. So what precisely is his point?

    I see no redeeming value or cause for optimism in this man’s candidacy.

  3. Between the University of Colorado’s Law School and Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program is the Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program I’ve snuck into a few of their lower cost seminars and the most notable (and alarming) quote was that besides a business and technology strategy, companies need a legal or regulatory strategy (telecommunications has the century legacy of the ATT monopoly). The telecommunications industry is deregulating overall, but slowly.

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