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  • The People’s Paper

    Posted by ken on October 14th, 2004 (All posts by )

    How does this plan grab y’all:

    We create a new Federal agency, the Federal Paper Commission. All paper in the United States will be owned by the public, and managed by the FPC in the public interest. Newspapers and magazines will apply for a paper license, and be given a renewable license to use part of the public’s paper supply, but in return will be required to use that paper in the public interest, as defined by the FPC.

    One advantage of this plan is that it will prevent the owners of newspaper and magazine enterprises from hijacking the political process by printing one-sided political propaganda – since such activities are clearly not in the public interest, a properly functioning FPC will disallow that and allow the people to vote without undue inflence by corporate interests.

    And it’s not even a violation of the First Amendment. You’re still free to speak your mind; you just can’t use the people’s paper to hijack the political process with your propaganda.

    You don’t like this idea? Well, these same rules are currently in effect with respect to the broadcast spectrum, and some of our friends on the left heartily approve and are loudly advocating that the FCC take advantage of these rules to banish political advocacy from the airwaves.

    Folks, when the First Amendment was written, the Founders didn’t insert any language forbidding Congress from nationalizing the country’s entire paper supply because such an outrageous usurpation literally didn’t occur to them. And if it had, they’d have figured that the absence of the authority to do that among Congress’s enumerated powers would prevent it.

    They wrote the First Amendment for the very purpose of preserving for all time the right of the people to freely disseminate their views and allow everyone to freely participate in the marketplace of ideas. Had they any prescience of the possibility of long-distance wireless communication and broadcast, they’d have assumed that the First Amendment would cover people’s use of the devices and the broadcast spectrum just as it covered their use of more traditional printing presses and paper.

    Instead, in a blatant end-run around the First Amendment, we got a complete nationalization of the entire broadcast spectrum, and an explicit mandate for the agency charged with managing “the public’s” airwaves to prevent exactly the sort of political advocacy that the First Amendment was intended to preserve and encourage. And Michael Powel is called “something of a tool” by our friends on the left for not being quick enough to use the usurped power of the FCC to cut off political advocacy and silence the offering of a political viewpoint. And they have the nerve to call Bush a fascist, and claim that the right is secretly plotting to destroy our democratic tradition?

    So if you don’t approve of the FCC managing the airwaves, how would you prevent interference?

    Well, deeds of ownership to small slices of a large divisible resource is not exactly cutting edge technology. You might just as well ask how we’d prevent interference in the use of land without a Federal Land Commission to manage all of US soil in the public interest. Or for that matter, how we’d prevent interference in the use of paper without the Federal Paper Commission.

     

    3 Responses to “The People’s Paper”

    1. Dave Says:

      I am guessing this post is a response to the Sinclair mess?
      While I agree with the principle behind your message, but I worry about large corporations controlling vast numbers of media outlets and expressing their political views, the “public” airwaves are fastly become private instruments for the wealthy to get there message out.
      In the end I think the internet will change it all; as long as it remains free. But what happens when your ISP begins to control the websites you can get to?

    2. Ken Says:

      “While I agree with the principle behind your message, but I worry about large corporations controlling vast numbers of media outlets and expressing their political views, the “public” airwaves are fastly become private instruments for the wealthy to get there message out.”

      Not fastly enough for my taste.

      If the whole spectrum were up for grabs, and people could buy and sell pieces of it at will, large corporations might control vast numbers of media outlets, but those stations that currently show nothing but static would carry other media outlets and we’d have a nice marketplace of ideas.

      In that scenario I’d be just as worried about “large corporations” buying up the entire spectrum as I am about “large corporations” buying up the nation’s entire paper supply.

      “In the end I think the internet will change it all; as long as it remains free. But what happens when your ISP begins to control the websites you can get to? ”

      Uh, give it the finger and switch providers. Since ISP’s (thankfully) aren’t licensed, the field’s still open to competition if ISP’s start pulling bonehead moves like censoring your internet without your consent. Not as wide open as it should be, granted, thanks to the nationalization of spectrum that could otherwise carry data and the protected monopolies of the Baby Bells, cable companies, and so forth. But it’s still in better shape than the spectrum is.

    3. john Says:

      The idea of controlling the newsprint supply has been tried before.

      “http://www.cmpc.cl/eng/our_company/history_p4.htm”