Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: July 14, 2010

Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-14

BP has started a pressure test to see if the leaking well is truly capped. #

The Fed has lowered its estimate of economic activity. http://usat.me?39274478 #RecoverySummer #

http://bit.ly/9ln4o4 U.S. retail sales tumbled a second straight time in June, falling more than expected. #RecoverySummer #

RT @dmataconis: Megyn Kelly-Kristen Powers. Those two don't like each other.| I'm surprised we got out of it without a C-bomb being dropped. #

I wonder what workman's comp will charge my company for this. #

The nice thing about an emergency room in a small town is that you get right in, even with a minor complaint. They gave me ice. #

Well, I managed to burn my hand at work first thing this morning, so I'm off to the hospital. Great. #

Quote of the day – "Post-racial" dumb quote edition

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ake Tapper brings us today’s QoD from none other than our "post-racial" president while being interviewed in South Africa. The quote pertains to al Qaeda’s operations in Africa and in particular the bombings in Uganda.

"What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains."

Per Tapper, White House aides explained that as “an argument that the terrorist groups are racist."  Not just generally racist, but their racism is aimed at blacks:

Explaining the president’s comment, an administration official said Mr. Obama "references the fact that both U.S. intelligence and past al Qaeda actions make clear that al Qaeda — and the groups like al Shabaab that they inspire — do not value African life. The actions of al Qaeda and the groups that it has inspired show a willingness to sacrifice innocent African life to reach their targets."

So what the hell was Iraq?  Who were the suicide bombers there?  And when the AQ operatives flew the planes into the World Trade Center, how many were “African” and how much “innocent African life” was sacrificed to reach their targets.

This is absurd.  Al Qaeda is an equal opportunity killing machine.  If they have a prejudice it is against all things western and all things non-Muslim.  Their method of operation is to use those locally they can recruit and, if necessary to import fighters.  But anywhere they’ve ever operated that haven’t given a rip about “innocent … life”.  In fact, their violence against innocents in Iraq was their undoing.

I can’t tell you how uninformed and, frankly scary it is to think our top leadership actually believes this stupidity.  Al Qaeda has a single purpose – to see their distorted, violent and totalitarian brand of Islam conquer the world.  And they will use anyone or kill anyone who will either advance that goal or stands in its way.

To pretend that they are merely another in a long line of racist groups and their racism is aimed only at Africans is to essentially say these people know nothing about the real al Qaeda, their history or their goals.  And that, folks, should scare the living hell out of you.

~McQ

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Subsidize journalism with public funds? The bad idea that won’t go away

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ver since the internet has thrown the private journalistic business model into disarray, the idea that perhaps public funding should be used to "save" private journalism has found purchase among some.

I, as you might guess, wouldn’t be one of the "some".

This time it is Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, pushing the "public/private partnership" necessary to "save" journalism. He cites the BBC and NPR as examples of the sort of partnership he’s talking about. However, he wants to expand that, obviously, across the board. His rational for such an expansion is to claim we’re essentially doing that now anyway. His examples?

Meanwhile, the broadcast news industry was deliberately designed to have private owners operating within an elaborate system of public regulation, including requirements that stations cover public issues and expand the range of voices that could be heard. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld this system in the 1969 Red Lion decision as constitutional, even though it would have been entirely possible to limit government involvement simply to auctioning off the airwaves and letting the market dictate the news. In the 1960s, our network of public broadcasting was launched with direct public grants and a mission to produce high quality journalism free of government propaganda or censorship.

The institutions of the press we have inherited are the result of a mixed system of public and private cooperation. Trusting the market alone to provide all the news coverage we need would mean venturing into the unknown—a risky proposition with a vital public institution hanging in the balance.

You have to love this convoluted thinking evident here – letting the market alone provide all the news coverage is “unknown” and “risky”.  Getting government more deeply involved in regulating and subsidizing “journalism”, however, apparently isn’t.

What Bollinger really doesn’t want, much like the priests and monks of Gutenberg’s era, is to loose their monopoly on providing the news, just as the priests didn’t want to lose their monopoly on the possession of and therefore the interpretation of the bible.  Unfortunately the printing press changed that dynamic forever.

In this era the internet has forever destroyed the journalistic business model that provided monopoly power to “journalistic” institutions by removing the barriers to entry.  For minimal cost, anyone can publish on the internet.  And the proliferation  on the internet of sources and opinions on the news – some far better than the traditional outlets provided – have decimated their advertising revenue base as readers turn from high cost alternatives to low cost ones.

Welcome to creative destruction – a lynch pin of capitalism and the engine for advancements in technology and the delivery of goods and services.  Lower cost and better delivery will usually always win out over higher cost and poorer delivery.

If you want the news as quickly as you can get it (assuming the internet didn’t exist) and your choices were newspaper, network news and cable news, which would you most likely choose?

Obviously – and the ratings and subscription info seems to support this – you’d choose cable news.  Who wants stale stories delivered the next morning via newspaper, or appointment TV, where you have to take time to sit down and watch when they decide to broadcast to catch a half hour capsule of the news?

So this revolutionary change didn’t start with the internet.  The internet has simply expanded the choices and put the “traditional” outlets in even more disarray.

It isn’t the job of government or the taxpayer to subsidize the old and discredited business models to which the Lee Bollingers of this world cling.  What Bollinger should do, instead, is join the legions of owners, publishers and other experts working hard day and night to find a viable new business model that will preserve at least part of the “traditional media”. 

But all government subsidy will do is intrude in a dynamic changing market and distort it. And journalists of the traditional media will simply become one more rent seeker among many.  We don’t need to be moving toward more crony capitalism, we need to be moving away from it as quickly as possible.

Bollinger is sure that the system he envisions could easily be kept free of government interference and journalistic integrity would be maintained. He sites various examples that he’s sure proves his point.  But that’s not the point – at least not the one that is important (even if I don’t believe his point to be true in the long run).  What is important is the government should have no role whatsoever in subsidizing a “free press”.  When it does, no matter how benign the subsidy, the word “free” disappears from “free press”.

And intellectually that’s a non-negotiable point.

~McQ

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Nanny State savings

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ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".

For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:

The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).

The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.

Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.

Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?

And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.

Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.

Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.

This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".

Is anyone yet growing tired of that?

~McQ

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