Commentary

Chuck’s Bill of Wrongs

By Adam D. Thierer
This article originally appeared in The New York Post on March 12, 2003.

Although you’d be hard-pressed to find any language in the Constitution authorizing such a thing, Congress is now entertaining a “Cell Phone User Bill of Rights” that would impose a variety of new mandates on the wireless industry. Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed the measure as a way to “foster competition,” “improve disclosure” and “[make] it easier for consumers to choose plans.”

Hmmm … perhaps Sen. Schumer is not talking about the same cell phone industry that the other 137 million of us currently subscribe to in America because it is difficult to see where the crisis is here. Consumers aren’t clamoring for federal regulation, and why should they?

Today, almost all Americans have a choice of at least three cellular providers in their communities, with most having five or six to choose from. Average local monthly bills fell from an estimated $95 per month in 1988 to roughly $47 in 2002. Service options and calling plans have multiplied. And service quality is constantly improving as carriers build-out their networks. This sounds like a classic capitalist success story, not a pending consumer crisis that requires bureaucratic intervention to head off.

Moreover, this latest “Bill of Rights” proposal is another slap in the face of the Founders’ original Bill of Rights, which helped secure our genuine rights against government interference. Sen. Schumer’s proposal, by contrast, is really a Bill of Regulations that invites more government activism and intrusion. One wonders where this nonsense will end as Congress has also entertained an “Airline Passenger Bill of Rights,” a “Patients’ Bill of Rights” and a “Digital Media Bill of Rights” in recent sessions, among many others.

Why not a “Clean Gas Station Bathroom Bill of Rights” and a “Speedy Restaurant Service Bill of Rights” while we’re at it? Such proposals assume we have a God-given right to things we have no right to whatsoever. Congress should spend less time penning new Bill of Rights’ proposals and start doing more to honor and restore the Founders’ original 10.