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"Everything was invented by the state i.e. capitalists only expand

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d'Anconia
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I have been having an argument with someone who claims that all basics in technology was created by the state and by public funding. As examples he gives the internet, computer and telecomunication (I don't know if this is true so if someone has any counter facts please let me know.) From that he infers that since the capitalists that now run companies such as microsoft could not have existed without public funding and therefore they owe the public.

How would you respond to this? I am mainly asking to learn about the subject and not so I can win an argument.

Thank you in advance!

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What is the state? What is public funding? Are those two entities, that use their mind to invent new technology? I thought an individual had to create the internet, computers and telecommunication.

Do these capitalists, who run companies such as mircosoft, owe the public or does the public owe them?

Edited by brianleepainter
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I would reply that

1) t vast majority of agriculture was first done under slavery, it does not mean slavery is necessary for agriculture to be done.

2) It is perfectly reasonable that the state developed technologies that would aid in its function. Telecommunications, the internet, and computers all have major wartime uses and secuirty uses. I really don't see a problem with the state investing money in these sorts of things as long as it gets its funding through legitimat means. That is, if the state wants a highways to transport tanks, it can raise funds to hire a company to do so. The real problem is taxation.

I really don't see a problem with the idea that some members of the state were able to invent something and put it to good use. Not everyone who is part of the stae is incompetent, If this were true the whole idea of government would be hopeless. The point should really be that the market did allow for those inventions to be taken to levels further than the state could hope to have done due to the fact that so many different organizations were allowed to earn their shot at imporving it.

I think the reason liberals think that this issue is such a a "got ya" moment for us is that Libertarians/Conservatives/"Anarchists" always spout anti-government nonsense. Usually this ends with someone calling the state the enemy of progress. That is only true in certain situations.

3) I would look up more on the invention of the internet and telecommunication. A lot of that "The government invented the internet" stuff is half-truth. IIRC, other internet protocols were being developed at the time, but lost out to the fact that the TCIP (or whatever) was being funded by the government. I really don't understand it but I am sure there is an article on it somewhere on MIses.

Edited by Hairnet
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It appears the basic premise at work here is, that without force, advances in science and technology would not happen. This is an absurdity. I only need to point to major advances in technology that did not have government sponsorship to prove that. The Wright brothers in the beginning did not use government money in their research.

It is true that a lot of research would not happen without government intervention, but this does not prove the desirability of this state of affairs. What the state of basic research would like under a free market is hard to imagine, but I do believe that the research and development done would be a lot more relevant to most peoples lives than is done now.

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In the case of the internet, the only thing the government did was create an artificial demand for a specific communication network, and then used taxes to fund the development of this network. Private organizations also played a role in funding these projects, so it was not only government. The state didn't teach early computer scientists how to apply their knowledge to the advent of the internet. The only thing the government did was fund it. This was a case where the demand of the government led to the development of a product which also ended up being demanded by the free market. But this does not in any way mean that government is necessary for sparking technological movements. To say this would be to say that only the State knows which technologies can be useful to people, and only by theft (taxation) can the development of new technologies exist. It's also simply not true that "all basics of technology" are the product of government intervention. The lunacy of that claim is self-evident because it rejects the role of consumer demand in any type of market, as well as the desire of all people to increase their values. Technology has been advancing since the dawn of civilization. Were the first stone tools, flints and farming equipment commissioned by governments? No, because technology is developed as a response to the needs of individuals based on their values. Furthermore, the rapid advancement of the internet and computer technology in the past 30 years had nothing to do with government funding. It was the result of entrepreneurs selling the product of their minds in the marketplace.

Also, if you do some research you will come across plenty of examples of government funded projects that went absolutely nowhere. The taxed money used to pay for these projects was taken away from other projects in the private market which would have been developed otherwise. Who knows how many potentially great technologies were not able to be pursued because the money needed to develop them was used for failed government projects instead. Imagine if the money that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs required to produce their original products had been taxed in order to develop some other technology that the government deemed necessary. Now think about how many potential Steve Jobs were unable to pursue their dreams because of governments taking away their capital to spend it elsewhere.

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For some more internet info, when it was beginning most internet pioneers were still in the mindset that the internet should be free of money. Free of advertisements etc. And so it went nowhere. That is until Yahoo found a way to get marketers to pay to be referenced on the internet. When private advertisers and money became viable the internet took off, and Google then came in from there with its further clever ways of targeting ads.

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