Bridging the Divide


The Department of Commerce has released a new study documenting the rapid (and predictable) shrinking of the so-called digital divide. You may remember this crisis from the glory days of the Clinton regime–the shocking discovery that somewhat expensive new toys weren't instantly snatched up by everyone. Though the gap between haves and have-nots has been treated as news, with more than 2 million new people getting online every month, it is more like history.

Computer prices now falling to within the same range as TV prices –and 98 percent of American households boast at least one boob tube. Even better: Computer use and net access continue to outpace the rate at which universal technologies such as telephones and TVs were first adopted.

Those who have made a living hyping and lamenting the digital divide ought to look for new work. Indeed, you'd think eliminating jobs that consist of pleading for others people's money to be spent on solving a problem that's already disappearing is the kind of thing in which markets ought to excel. Yet there seems to be an endless appetite for people weeping over very temporary alleged problems, while the happy story that markets are really good at giving people what they want (at least in material terms) usually gets ignored.