Government steps in as the invisible hand fails
It's time to confront the myth of free enterprise
Would communication industry innovation have been as fast if Ma Bell hadn’t been challenged?
Photo by Bu Yousef on Visualhunt.com
There were no dials, no buttons, and certainly nothing to look at on the sturdy black phones in the little Midwestern city where I was born. If you lifted the receiver, a woman would politely ask, “Number please?” She worked for what everybody in America called, simply, the phone company. There was only one.
Dial phones and dialtones followed, and pushbutton phones in white and pink and baby blue, all manufactured, wired and installed by Ma Bell. But in the 1980s, the federal government set out to break up the monopoly that had developed after Alexander Graham Bell’s invention took hold. As a young reporter a quarter-century after I saw my first dial phone, I watched competing teams of pinstripe-suited lawyers file into a Washington courtroom one morning to argue United States vs. AT&T, the antitrust lawsuit that eventually was settled with the phone company …