Special Pleading Exposed: Read All About It!!

by Don Boudreaux on October 26, 2009

in Complexity & Emergence, Current Affairs, Intervention, Media

My former GMU student Alex Nowrasteh has this excellent letter published in today’s edition of the Financial Times:

From Mr Alex Nowrasteh.

Sir, Leonard Downie (“American journalism needs public support”, October 21) interestingly documented the rise of new and the demise of old journalism in a dynamic market, but then contradictorily proposes subsidies to save old journalism because it is “vital”. Traditional journalism is going bankrupt because it is not vital.

Mr Downie proposes taxing a service that Americans want, telecom usage, to subsidise a service they don’t want, traditional media. Fortunately, such weird conservative nostalgia is beyond the realm of most Americans.

Stone tablet carvers probably bemoaned the introduction of news printed on paper, but we’re all better off because our ancestors didn’t listen to them and subsidise stone carvings. Like other professions in the US that have gone by the wayside – subsistence agriculturalist, inner-city manure cleaner, or sail ship architect – we should not mourn the death of traditional journalism. Instead we should look ahead to the fantastic media opportunities awaiting the journalists and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Alex Nowrasteh,
Policy Analyst,
Competitive Enterprise Institute,
Washington, DC, US

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Anonymous October 27, 2009 at 12:51 am

Newspapers are still profitable, just not as profitable as they once were: http://online.barrons.com/article_email/SB125633654783004637-lMyQjAxMDI5NTI2NDMyMzQ2Wj.html?page=sp

Fortinbras October 27, 2009 at 12:53 am

I’m incredibly excited to see this. This is what I hope to be doing by year’s end!

louh October 27, 2009 at 2:46 am

Even with subsidies they would still fail. Have you taken a ride on Amtrak lately. Once subsidized they become the unwanted stepchild who’s birthday no one can seem to remember.

Anonymous October 27, 2009 at 2:50 am

See, for some people that isn’t a “failure.”

Curious October 27, 2009 at 3:36 am

If Don didn’t say that the author was his student, I would have guessed it was Don himself who wrote it. Short, logical, to the point – beautiful.

DG Lesvic October 27, 2009 at 7:23 am

Daniel may bring back the manure cleaners.

JohnK October 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
— Ronald Reagan

John Dewey October 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Thanks. I had forgotten that one.

John October 28, 2009 at 12:01 am

why do we have to suffer posts like this piece that have a political agenda so transparently concealed as “economics”

once freed from competition large newspapers in every American city had a monopoly that subsidized large news gathering staffs. The CEI loathed this because some of that subsidy was aimed at business and the Republicans, when in office. Thus, for it the subsidy is political. For the rest of us, it is apparent that newspapers used to provide a lots more of all kinds of information than now offered, even when one includes the Internet or new media or whatever. Fox News isn’t “news” at all and the rest are shells of there former selves.

There are fundamental economic principles that apply to the collection and sale of information (start with Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian’s Information Rules) that present a pretty good case that the new will not be better than the old. This will not bother the CEI, for it is the enemy of the flow of information. It does bother anyone who needs timely, accurate information. This doesn’t mean that a subsidy is the answer (where in the discipline in that?). But change doesn’t always mean better any more that what is generally the CEI’s position which is that change is always for the worse.

Anonymous November 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm

If information is worth having, it is worth paying for. To not understand this is to not understand the fundamentals of economics.

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