Government Involvement In the Free Market

It is truly astounding how things happen in our country today. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, chances are you won’t have a consistent opinion about government intervention in the lives of people.

(Before you think that this is the start of a tome on liberty versus government, it is not. It is narrowly focussed, so it will be relatively short)

A story in AllThingsD enlightens us about the upcoming intrusion of the Federal Trade Commission into the lives of bloggers, and other writers, in an effort to promulgate the news media, the professional news media, that is.

The story comes with the rather provocative title “The Federal Trade Commission’s Coming War on Bloggers”

The FTC is planning public hearings aimed at figuring out how to prop up dying newspapers. On the agenda: tax breaks for news organizations, changing copyright law, and “greater public funding of public affairs news.” This is very, very bad.

An announcement for a coming two-day FTC workshop called “From Town Crier to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” appeared on Wednesday in the Federal Register. The meetings, to be held in December, will seek to assess the “fundamental financial challenges to many news organizations” and how to address them using government policy. Here’s what the FTC will be considering:

  • “Proposals for new tax treatment for news organizations”
  • “Proposals for changes in copyright law and doctrine, including the ‘fair use’ of news stories”
  • “Proposals for an antitrust exemption applied to certain conduct of news organizations”
  • “Proposals for greater public funding of public affairs news.”

The idea of a bailout for newspapers has been gaining momentum lately, and the FTC workshop shows that it’s not going away any time soon. It’s a horribly bad idea, for reasons that have been rehearsed before: It makes an ostensibly watchdog press beholden to federal policy-makers for its continued survival; it interferes with a rapidly changing marketplace to the explicit benefit of established behemoths and disadvantage of emerging competitors; and it seeks to use the federal bureaucracy to encourage certain kinds of speech over others.

Very bad for a number of reasons. We don’t need to bail out any large constructs anymore – it seems that those things bailed out don’t seem to do much better after the bail out…that is the recent trend. Banks that received bailout money seemed to become more powerful and less willing to lend after the bailout, the polar opposite of the intent of the bailout.

Also we should consider why the large newspapers are failing. Just as the time of the town crier ended, because the newspaper could reach more people, with greater content, and greater accuracy, that is one of the reasons why many papers are failing (though I won’t argue about accuracy). The never ending news cycle, is easily handled by the internet, where newspapers are on a fixed schedule, so some news will always grow ‘stale’.

The above proposals all seem to gild the lily, as the news has unfettered freedom in most senses already. To change their framework of operation any further could be very dangerous, allowing the fourth estate to become an arm of a government that no one , from any political bent, is happy with. Why should we enhance the pain?

Would Gawker be eligible for a “new tax treatment”? Hell, we’re a news organization—we even called an FTC spokeswoman for comment on this very blog post. What about TMZ? They break news every day. Do they need a tax break? Or does Andrew Breitbart’s budding empire at BigGovernment.com, which recently broke a couple compelling stories about ACORN and the National Endowment for the Arts that certainly qualify as “public affairs news,” need any public funding? How about Politico?

This shows how difficult it is to draw a line, so why bother? Draw no line, let the efficient survive, and be done with it.

The story goes on to state that perhaps the reasoning is an attempt to free us from the results of things like Fox News, which declares that it is ‘fair and balanced’ when any person above the level of cretin absolutely knows without question it is neither.

The best antidote for things like Fox News is a healthy dose of reality, with a country of people free to criticize in spoken word and in print. Beyond that, the idea of achieving balance through a smattering of both viewpoints, and then achieving a synthesis view is one that seems to need revival.

The complete article is quite lengthy, but more than worth the read, as it might  affect our future. The government still has an ability to act these days, and usually not in ways that we are fond. Knowing up front what is on the agenda will help inform the individual’s choice to participate in the coming decision process.

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No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

yes, it was used earlier this month – but it merits repeating!

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Mad as Hell (Howard Beale-Network)

If anyone has seen the movie above (Network) you know that every so often, the news establishment is not content to simply deliver news, they must also deliver greater profits to the shareholders – which leads to the destruction of truth – why then, are there not certain fields of endeavor recognized as a calling, where those called do it for the love of it, and service to their fellow man, instead of the chasing of dollars?