It’s Not About Choice Alone, but How Many Choices; or, Is There Truth in Legislation Naming?

Media Access Project’s Howard Feld give us his assessment of the so-called “Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act” recently introduced into Congress:

I’ve just read through the “Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act” (72-page pdf available here) introduced by Senator Ensign (R-NV) (and co-sponsored by Senator McCain, to my intense disappointment). In the name of deployment of broadband, consumer choice, free markets, yaddah yaddah yaddah, the bill strips the states and local governments of any consumer protection function and frees your local monopoly providers to serve you! Oh, and without the danger that your local government might decide to supply a pesky competitor. After all, we wouldn’t want you, the local citizen, to decide to foolishly waste your own tax dollars! We, the federal government, know best! Ain’t federalism grand? Except, of course, when it isn’t . . .

I love the ideology of the “Freedom of choice” as it gets trumpeted in advertising and politics, as if that were the greatest freedom a person could have. In times when the Soviet Union was alive, the meme got replayed perpetually in comparisons to the dearth of consumer choices available to Soviet citizens–no Coke or Pepsi or RC–as exemplars of our American capitalist freedoms.

But freedom of choice is not the same as freedom. Who chooses what the choices will be? Who constrains those choices, and why?

Is it freedom of choice to choose between getting kicked in the balls or kicked in the ass?

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