Something we rarely talk about in discussions of the great public policy success of our time, the mobile explosion, is how various kleptocrats rode the mobile boom. Libya’s Qaddafi’s present problems serve to bring this skeleton out of the closet:
But never underestimate the human capacity for delusion. Here’s a despot who’s managed at various times to pocket America and Europe with après-moi-le-déluge talk of the need for his rule, bought off several smaller African states, cocooned himself for more than four decades with fawning acolytes, murdered with impunity, sired with abandon, enriched himself beyond measure and — like any self-respecting modern tyrant — doled out the cell phone companies to his kids. Through all this he’s survived.
Our politicians just tax mobile operators in multiple ways. The truly despotic take the whole company. But then, does it create incentives to reduce rent extraction?
We wrote about the Revolutionary Guard owning mobile operators in Iran. I asked people in the Iranian regulatory authority about the challenges this posed to even handed regulation. They seemed for the most part unaware of the ownership of the operators. Some things, you’d rather not know.
We’d welcome comments on mobile operators owned by despots and their children.