I am not a doctrinaire libertarian. Non-doctrinaire enough, for instance, to think that the funding in the Obama stimulus package for expanding broadband Internet coverage to rural areas may be a good idea. So far, providing reasonably priced high-speed Internet to rural areas is not profitable enough to be feasible for markets, and lack of broadband Internet access is increasingly a major handicap (even in access to job opportunities, education, and consumer goods — particularly for people in isolated areas).
At the same time, this kind of statement from Barack Obama at the signing of the stimulus bill brings out the libertarian in me:
“Just as President Kennedy sparked an explosion of innovation when he set America’s sights on the Moon, I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more, spurring new discoveries and breakthroughs in science, in medicine, in energy, to make our economy stronger and our nation more secure, and our planet safer for our children,” Mr. Obama said on Tuesday.
The space program was a great achievement (though see some libertarian critiques). Still, the real impetus for innovation and new discoveries — in which the U.S. still leads the world — has always come from private industry. And that’s something one hopes the leader of the Free World would understand.