Skip to content

Five Reasons Against the iPad = Five Reasons For Competitive Governance

April 19, 2010

Cory Doctorow thinks you shouldn’t buy an iPad. He gives five reasons. Many serve as good complaints against the lack of a competitive market in governance. Let’s make some analogies. Cory sez:

  • Incumbents made bad revolutionaries: “They’re apt to take all the stuff that makes their products great and try to use technology to charge you extra for it, or prohibit it altogether.” I say: Substitute “force” for “technology” in that sentence and you have the modern State. Another way of saying this is to say that current industry leaders expend a lot of effort to maintain the rents they collect on their competitive advantage. For standard reasons of political economy, this is all too true in governance. Self-interested and envious status-seekers aim to keep their winning coalition in power. Sadly, that goal does not coincide with innovating new, socially desirable national rule sets.
  • Infantalizing hardware: “There’s also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe — really believe — in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue…it seems like Apple’s model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of ‘that’s too complicated for my mom.'” I say: This is all too true in terms of today’s soft paternalism. I hear echoes of de Tocqueville’s timid flock of sheep. Take Nancy Pelosi’s remarks after the passage of the 2074 page Demo-‘Bamo-Spendo-Rama Health Bill. She compared it to a refrigerator: ”It’s like the back of the refrigerator. You see all these wires and the rest,” said Pelosi. “All you need to know is, you open the door. The light goes on. You open this door, you go through a whole different path, in terms of access to quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans.”
  • Wal-Martization of the software channel: “The iStore lock-in doesn’t make life better for Apple’s customers or Apple’s developers. As an adult, I want to be able to choose whose stuff I buy and whom I trust to evaluate that stuff. I don’t want my universe of apps constrained to the stuff that the Cupertino Politburo decides to allow for its platform.” I say: I want to choose what stuff I buy as well, even in the market for government service providers (GSPs). Like ISPs who favored walled gardens–AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy, for example–GSPs in this mold are bad too. I don’t want my universe of social apps limited to one GSP.
  • Journalism is looking for a daddy figure: “everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.” I say: I propose “Who’s your Daddy?” as the new slogan in public choice economics. This is the question every special interest group knows the answer to.
  • Gadgets come and gadgets go: “The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two.” I say: Unfortunately this last complaint doesn’t apply to current government goods and services. Bad services come in legions and almost never go. And under current conditions, don’t expect a competitor to come along and offer a better product at a lower price.

HT to Seth Roberts, who makes analogies to improving health care.


  1. February 28, 2012 7:20 am

    I used to be now there last year and also we grew to be addicted to a game show the location where the contestant were required to imagine the occupation regarding half a dozen people.

  2. Andrew permalink
    May 1, 2010 7:01 am

    Uh-huh. People are smart enough to use regular computers. Riiiight:

  3. kurt9 permalink
    April 20, 2010 10:16 pm

    I don’t buy an iPad because, quite frankly, I don’t need one. Besides, the iPad is the first generation of slates, tablets, or whatever you call these kind of computers. The first generation of any new technology always sucks (remember the very first Mac back in ’84?). I will buy a slate maybe 3 to 5 years later when they are in the 3rd generation and are really good.

  4. April 20, 2010 5:05 am

    Cupertino Politburo!!! LOL – I will be stealing that one from you Mike 🙂

    • Mabuse permalink
      April 20, 2010 7:29 am

      Actually; that was Doctorow.

      • Mike Gibson permalink*
        April 20, 2010 2:19 pm

        Yeah, sorry, didn’t format that post too well. That’s Doctorow’s wit. But hey, steal away!

      • April 23, 2010 5:50 am

        Oh I see, yes my bad on that. I shall steal from him then 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: