What we take for granted

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

What we take for granted

This week, the Internet went down at NPRI’s Las Vegas office, leaving us without access to the online world for nearly two full days.

Has the Internet ever gone out at your office? If so, you know what it’s like. First, you try to go online to see if there’s a news story somewhere explaining what’s going on. When that fails, for the obvious reasons, you wander the hallways aimlessly for a half hour or so, and then finally go work from home.

But in this case, that half hour of wandering was not completely without value. It got me to thinking about my assumptions. I assume my Internet is going to work, but why should I?

The Internet doesn’t exist in nature. It didn’t even exist when I was born — the best efforts of Al Gore notwithstanding. Internet access only exists because there’s a company, building on decades of innovations, that provides access to it, and NPRI has decided that having that access would be beneficial to our organization.

But there’s more than that. Why does anyone form a company that provides Internet access to begin with?

The answer is: to make money.

To many ears, that sounds like a sinister motive. But in a free-market system, it’s actually a representation of someone’s ability to please his fellow man. Our system of government protects private property and (usually) safeguards liberty, which provides people with an incentive to make money by making the lives of others better. We at NPRI are much better off for having access to the Internet. And our service provider is making a profit because it offers a service that we find beneficial. We all win.

Think about the benefits we get from this system of free enterprise. Think about the technology, products and capabilities that are available to us that weren’t even being dreamed about 200 years ago. Whereas a couple of centuries ago, even the most affluent had to communicate with others by letter or carrier pigeon, today a majority of low-income households own cell phones.

But when leftists ask, “Why doesn’t everyone have Internet and cell phones?” they’re including a false and dangerous assumption — assuming that Internet access and cell phones just exist and could spread without any trade-offs.

The proper question is: “Why does anyone have Internet or cell phones?”

The answer is simple: individuals working in the free-enterprise system. And those entrepreneurs have produced so much value that today’s Obamaphone recipients have better communications equipment than George Washington!

Our Internet is back up and running, fortunately. And while the last couple days may have been frustrating, they did provide an opportunity for some important reflection. Not such a bad thing after all.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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