“Neutrality” is one of the freshest words on political agitators’ shortlists, and remains one of the more easily understandable… for now. Today, the word is frequently used in reference to “net neutrality”: government dictates on how ISPs should operate data channels.
But in the realm of politics, what would such a thing really entail?
Let’s define the word neutral, while we still can. According to Merriam-Webster, neutral means “not engaged on either side; specifically : not aligned with a political or ideological grouping.” Neutrality – not to be confused with equality – involves not aligning with, or against, any side in a conflict of interest. Yet in politics – the organized control of a group of people – it’s not only impossible to achieve, but ultimately meaningless to us.
On The Road Again.
Here’s a simple example: on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, traffic is treated unequally. For trucks, tolls correspond to number of axles, and buses are charged a high flat rate. Also, vehicles over 10,000 pounds are prohibited north of Tinton Falls. There are a few obvious reasons for these inequalities:
- Heavier vehicles emit more kinetic energy into the road, causing more wear and tear.
- The old infrastructure doesn’t handle heavier vehicles very well, anyway.
- The northern section of the Parkway is primarily a commuter route into New York. Large vehicles would back traffic up, reducing labor productivity – and inciting political pressure.
This all make sense. But let’s say that trucking managers become sick of having to exit so early… so they march into the NJTA’s Woodbridge office, demanding to have their range extended, to have their tolls lowered, to be treated equally, for two reasons:
- Even with a few more backups and extra road work, the economic benefits of trucks – which carry large amounts of cargo – justify extra maintenance costs. Encouraging truck travel, even just one exit further, could grow the state’s tax base.
- It’s unfair to be treated unequally to car drivers.
The second “reason” is an emotional front for the first. As for that one, the managers contend that millions of trucks blaze down I-78 every year, sharing the road with commuters – why should the latter get all the love on the Parkway? Why aren’t the rules more neutral?
There’s no way to figure out the “right” answers to these questions, especially concerning long-term economic impacts on individuals. The Parkway began as a scenic express route, morphing into its current condition by millions of very consciously biased, purposive choices – to get to work more quickly. It isn’t too drastic of a change, but its status as the busiest toll road in America was unforeseen by the planners. Widening projects and infrastructural updates have been enacted over time, along with restrictions on commercial vehicles – not to mention “modest” speed limit violations being largely ignored by police.
Even in a political decision as simple as constructing a highway, neutrality has turned out to have no place – or meaning.
The drive for “political neutrality” is near the heart of socialist philosophy. Socialism aims to treat society as a science experiment, in which its subjects – human minds – are closed to unforeseen changes in information. Since we humans cannot immediately “explain ourselves,” socialism has to envision the world as a completely static picture. This is the only way political “neutrality” – in fact, omnipotence over a system, and the ability to make “objective” decisions about it – can be exercised. So, socialism prescribes… by proscribing even the possibility of outside innovation, from statistical “outliers.”
This “omnipotence of planners” is socialism’s end game. As shown in Orwell’s 1984, however, it is a fantasy. Past The Party’s almost-unconscious destruction of all outside information, Big Brother is portrayed as its “neutral” outside controller – but is strongly implied to be nothing more than an image, of the collective results of The Party’s actions. Nobody acts purposively, but at the same time, nobody can exist beyond the system – proles aside.
Capitalism is the antithesis. It allows everyone to act purposively, giving outliers the chance to run free.
Slipping Through The ‘Net.
Politically, the concept of “neutrality” is deceptive. Take the issue of net neutrality, for instance – not quite Big Brother, but founded on similar principles of the planners’ detachment, and superiority.
Without the regulations in place, big data devourers, like Netflix bingers, bear the consequences of their actions. They may be charged higher fees, or experience slower download speeds, so that other ISP customers don’t need to undergo similar inconveniences. Lighter users, in other words, don’t need to subsidize heavier users. What we call bandwidth is a scarce resource, like any other commodity. This is understood not only by the big industry players, but also by smaller ISPs, both of whom have opposed the regulations. Not even the inevitable reduction of competition – from increased costs to enter the industry – is enough to convince the former.
These regulations force the same rates, for customers, regardless of individual usage. (In reality, only supply and demand can determine rates.) They also pave the way for monstrosities like SOPA, which would have had a much easier time being implemented in the midst of more FCC oversight.
Many net neutrality proponents accuse ISPs of condoning censorship. They forget that the federal government is by far the most ardent supporter of censorship, even into the recent past. ISPs, in their private, limited, and competitive services, aim to turn profits – and nothing eliminates profits quite like arbitrary restrictions.
But the overarching point is that “net neutrality” is an impossible oxymoron. Of the profit-seeking ISP managers, web-surfing consumers, and power-hungry government officials, none can avoid immediate, purposive, and consciously biased action – no matter how intelligent they are.
No Neutral Ground.
Political “neutrality” is impossible, both in definition and in action. We do not and cannot know our ultimate destinies – individually, or as a people – with certainty. The vast majority of government decisions are literally immoral, purposively acting in the absence of all necessary information: to avoid harming some in a nation, as others are boosted ahead of them. In order to cover this weakness, standards of morality are necessary. A philosophy of individual liberty is thus the most moral system, free from all arbitrary and harmful mandates.
Liam Munz writes at liammunz.com