Monday, January 28, 2008 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Tech & State of the Union address

Roy Mark, a reporter with eWeek, was kind enough to call me last week to get some comments for a story he was putting together about the upcoming State of the Union Address and where technology policy fits in.. or rather, doesn't. "When President Bush delivers his final State of the Union speech Jan. 28, don't expect to hear much, if any, discussion of technology," Roy argues in his piece. "In his previous seven addresses to the nation--adding up to almost 34,000 words--the president has never uttered the words "Internet," "broadband" or "digital." Wireless? Not a word. Spectrum? Not a single mention. Network neutrality? Forget it."

Here's a few sections from Roy's article that include my comments agreeing with his thesis:

None of this is surprising to Adam Thierer, director of the Center for Digital Media Freedom and a senior fellow at Washington's Progress & Freedom Foundation. When it comes to tech issues, "This has been an administration that has been largely missing in action," Thierer told eWEEK. "It obsesses more about analog-era issues, steel over silicon, even as the service and technology sectors are the driving factors in the new economy." [...] And, Thierer is quick to point out, there's plenty of blame to spread around in Washington for the current muddled state of technology policy on Capitol Hill. Even though Bush enjoyed the support of a Republican-controlled Congress for the first six years of his administration for his free-market, deregulatory, hands-off approach to technology, Democrats have barely moved the tech agenda forward in their first year controlling both the House and the Senate. "It's hard to find clear and principled positions [on either side of the aisle]," Thierer said. "There seems to be a tendency to curry favor with constituents rather than [pursue legislation] that can pass constitutional muster."

Thierer said he finds that tendency particularly prevalent in the Bush administration's social agenda. With generous support from Democrats, Bush has aggressively pursued a policy of "cleaning up" the Internet, where, in direct contrast to the president's hands-off economic philosophy, he supports direct government action. Bush's Department of Justice has relentlessly tracked down and prosecuted Web gambling operations, particularly after Congress approved legislation designed to keep Americans from placing online wagers, although it remains legal to buy lottery tickets and to place a bet on horse races online.

In what Thierer calls a "social and moral war" that began with online child pornography, the Bush administration has expanded that effort to all Web pornography, raising free speech and privacy issues. "A lot of time and energy has been expended on becoming a national nanny," Thierer said. While that approach is problematic, Thierer remains most concerned about the Bush administration's digital economic policies, he said: "The president does not seem to pay much attention to new economy issues. He takes a pass on a lot of those issues."

Again, Roy's entire eWeek article can be found online here.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:30 AM | Generic Rant