On a broader level, one of most baffling things to me has been how little people are willing to invest in their own futures. They'll spend $1,500 on an HDTV, but spend $125 for an ISBN -- when publishing their novel is presumably one of their lifelong dreams -- hell no! I can't afford it! It's so much money!
Yog's Law: The money flows toward the writer. If it doesn't, then you're pretty obviously doing it wrong. Just how many people in other lines of work are paying to do their work? Silly me, I thought that people are usually paid to do their job.
The publishing industry has existed for a long time and has found a way to enable people to pay the authors, without any of the parties along the way screwing themselves over. The reason why publishers pay for ISBNs is that they're the risk-takers, and this arrangement works for all parties involved in normal publishing.
It's silly to assume that this arrangement would be most benefical for all parties in self-publishing scenario. It's silly to assume that ISBN authorities would be somehow entitled to do this same thing with self-publishing authors. And it's silly to assume that authors should be taking the exact same risks as commercial publishers do right now. The right solution would be to offer new mutually benefical arrangements and new approaches. In short, if publishing something requires an ISBN and self-publishers need it for minimal or no cost, offer them at that price. Otherwise, it's just an artificial barrier and it's plain as day that someone's screwing over someone.