Regulation and Technology

Publication Type: 
Academic Writing
Publication Date: 
January 13, 2013

This Article consists of some general observations and a few examples that illustrate them. First, technology can benefit tremendously from government involvement. Regulation may be part of that involvement, but thinking just in terms of regu‐ lation obscures some important points. When people talk about regulating technology, they usually assume technology is a private good, and the question becomes whether—and how— the government should regulate private property. This ob‐ scures the truth that technology is frequently a product of pub‐ lic and private collaboration.

The Internet is a good example. It began as a creature of gov‐ ernment‐funded research. That rudimentary network laid the groundwork for all sorts of innovation that nobody could pos‐ sibly have foreseen in the 1960s and 1970s when the govern‐ ment was funding research that eventually resulted in the de‐ velopment of the Internet. The wealth the Internet created and the innovation it helped foster were completely unforeseeable. The payoff horizon was fartoo long and uncertain to stimulate sufficient private investment, so had it not been for the gov‐ ernment’s investment, there may have been no Internet, or at least not the Internet we know.

Read the full article at Harvard's Journal of Law and Public Policy.