Monday, April 27, 2009

No Phoenixes Here

Senator John Kerry is planning on holding Senate meetings on April 30th to consider possibly extending aid to the troubled newspaper industry.

To my friends I had been speaking as to why it would be atrociously silly to try and bail out the newspaper industry, using an analogy, but I never expected the politicians to seriously consider it! I will reserve the analogy for the end of this post.

John Kerry, of course, makes the same weak arguments in regards to extending aid:
"America's newspapers are struggling to survive and while there will be serious consequences in terms of the lives and financial security of the employees involved, including hundreds at the Globe, there will also be serious consequences for our democracy where diversity of opinion and strong debate are paramount," Kerry wrote in his letter, addressed to "the Boston Globe family".
His argument consists of two points: that 1) serious economic consequences and 2) public debate losing diversity in opinion will be the result of the newspaper industry being left to suffer or fail.

In both his points, he fails to realize that demand for news sources is not disappearing, but rather shifting. People are reading fewer newspapers, but more and more of other news sources (Internet and television). Information dissemination to the public is only changing form, not amount. Economically, while certain companies may be laying off their staff, other companies are hiring because of the increased demand of their particular product/service, so the economy will not be harmed unless there is governmental interference. Debate-wise, things will only become more efficient. The only group that would be harmed by the newspaper industry failing is those who refuse/are unable to resort to the television or Internet, and even then the harm would still be minimal considering many restaurants offer televisions (mostly on news or sports stations) and countless libraries offer free Internet access.

Another thing Mr. Kerry fails to realize is that extending aid to the newspaper industry would actually achieve what he asserts to be preventing. He would achieve economic harm by giving out capital because that would deprive another company of capital (remember we are speaking of tax dollars, and it does not matter whether it is directly taxed via taxes or indirectly taxed via printing money); he would achieve lack of diversity in debate by making newspapers less apt to criticize politics considering political leaders are their investors. (One piece of legislation actively seeks to infringe on freedom of speech by prohibiting political endorsements, which, of course, logically means political un-endorsement is prohibited as a corollary. To clarify, the reason why un-endorsement would be prohibited is because by asserting what one stands against clues others into what one stands for, a sort of process of elimination. Therefore, the alternatives of criticism and endorsement are both forbidden.)

Finally, let us not forget, bailing out the newspaper industries would be futile. The analogy I use to illustrate this is that of comparing this to the hypothetical bailing out of the now extinct cassette tape. It is obvious why cassette tapes would be doomed to extinction regardless of how large of a subsidy the companies received: people would simply not buy them. Compact Disks are what are in demand. The same applies to newspapers: no sense in bailing them out when the consumer base is demanding televised and Internet sources. What does Mr. Kerry expect? A Phoenix rising out of its (newspaper) ashes?

The truth of the matter is that we cannot afford to *keep* the newspaper industry. If we want economic progress and higher efficiency, we must let devalued and inefficient industries fail.

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