The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture
The Internet’s Unholy Marriage to Capitalism

The Internet's Unholy Marriage to Capitalism

John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney (author of The Political Economy of Media and The Death and Life of American Journalism) have a very informative piece about how capitalism and its current monopolistic solutions to internet and www issues does so much harm to a democratic society.

I particularly like how the authors show that scarcity as a defining characteristic of "Economics" is really a defining characteristic of creating private wealth or capitalist wealth through exchange value. When we talk about an abundance of wealth, for everyone, say by having access to clean air, clean water, or a democratic internet, we really mean public wealth. See also the discussion on the Lauderdale paradox.


funny because the internet wouldn't exist if it were left up to the private sector to invent it.  It had to be subsidized with billions of public money, then handed over to corporations to exploit

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Hence the term "state-monopoly capitalism" to indicate the the close connection there and the failure of the state to represent broader, public interests under present capitalism - whatever party is in power.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

And flowed, flowered for him, fluid neon origami trick, the unfolding of distanceless home, his country, transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity. Inner eye opening to the stepped scarlet pyramid of the Eastern Seaboard Fission Authority burning beyond the green cubes of Mitsubishi Bank of America, and high and very far away he saw the spiral arms of the military systems, forever beyond his reach.

And somewhere he was laughing, in a white-painted loft, distant fingers caressing the deck, tears of release streaking his face.

—William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Foster and McChesney note a more democratic - and therefore radical - view of the technology.

See Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) and

Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (New York: The Penguin Press, 2010).


Foster&McChesney wrote:
The most striking manner in which this political power manifests itself is with regard to electromagnetic spectrum, which can be defined as “the resource on which all forms of electronic wireless communication rely—the range of frequencies usable for the transmission of information.” There is an enormous amount of unused spectrum that could be put to use—greater than the amount actually in use—but the incumbent spectrum users prefer the artificial scarcity that rewards them, and the government obliges. In 2011 AT&T alone has license to $10 billion worth of spectrum that is laying fallow, while it lobbies to have more spectrum diverted to it.

This is true about capitalism and creating conditions of false scarcity. They've done it with deregulation of electrical power gen and distribution.

And in 1996 America, some $70 billion dollars worth of digital broadcast spectrum was handed off to existing broadcasters in the states, or "private enterprise" and even "the market". This is the corporate lobby system in America, and which we have had in Ottawa since Brian Mulroney. They paid nothing for what belonged to the public, the airwaves. This was at time when certain other companies wanted to bid for and pay the public for those same broadcast rights. Unfortunately for the capitalists wanting to actually play fair, they were without deep pockets and not carrying political favour with the two big money parties in Congress. Capitalism is actually a nice word for what's been happening in the US for decades. Corrupt conservative nanny state is another, I think, more accurate term. To be even more accurate, the United States Government and its crony capitalist system is corrupt to the core. It's fascism.

Foster&McChesney wrote:
Without meaning to be pejorative or alarmist, it is difficult to avoid noting that what is emerging veers toward the classic definition of fascism as right-wing corporatism: the state and large corporate interests working hand-in-hand to promote corporate interests, and a state preoccupied with militarism, secrecy, and surveillance.28 In such an environment, political liberty, except to the extent it is trivial or unthreatening, is on softer ground.