Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine

Indiana Representative Mike Pence introduced a bill "to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from re-promulgating the Fairness Doctrine." In support of Mr. Pence's bill I encourage a YES vote to prevent re-instatement of the Fairness Doctrine. Access H.R. 226 at

The government uses the word "fairness" to mean "equal"---as in "equal treatment." However, since the Fairness Doctrine commands who shall have access to a station owner's property it violates the station owner's property rights. In forcing the owner to broadcast a view with which he disagrees it nullifies the station owner's views, violating his freedom of speech.

That's not equal treatment.

The Fairness Doctrine rests on two basic premises. The first premise is that the government owns the airwaves. But property is the result of effort exerted by an individual to discover, use and maintain a particular thing. John Locke showed the validity of this argument in Two Treatises on Government when he identified how property comes to be property.

The government did not discover the airwaves nor how to use them. It did not invent or build the equipment necessary to use them. It does not spend thought, time and money hiring the personnel and maintaining the equipment necessary to broadcast. It has merely arbitrarily asserted it owns the airwaves.

The second premise is that you must sacrifice your interests to those of others. Why? Because "you are your brothers keeper"---the "you" being anyone who produces. And the more you produce, the more you "owe" to society. This is "giving back," the neo-collectivist slogan for "from each according to his ability; to each according to his need."

No one can be expected to live his life for someone else. It's immoral to ask it. It's impossible to practice. You cannot digest another's food. You cannot take on another's disease. You cannot think another's thoughts. And why should you try? There's no virtue in it. And certainly no profit.

The Fairness Doctrine is a government edict that violates individual rights by forcing a man to provide venues through which others may express their opinions. Why? Those who don't share the station owner's views have the right to turn off his broadcast, or build their own station, or express their views in a different forum by writing letters or making speeches, etc. But for government to force a man betray his views for the sake of another's is tantamount to thought control.

If a station owner broadcasts messages that support Candidate X, it is not just that he be forced to support Candidate Y. If Candidate Y contracts with the station owner to run an ad, that's between them. But for the government to force the station owner to support a candidate he does not support---well, what would you call it? A form of censorship?

If a station owner broadcasts messages that support The Fairness Doctrine, would the government insist that the owner also air messages against The Fairness Doctrine? You can bet it would not, which indicates the root of what the Fairness Doctrine is all about: a device to push programs that the government favors.

The Fairness Doctrine places government dictates above station owners' rights, above your rights, and the rights of all American citizens---whether you own a radio and/or TV station or not---because it makes government the "ruler" not the servant of the people, which reverses the central intent of our Constitution. The government has no "duty" to force any views on anyone. It has only one job: to protect individual rights.

Those who argue that the Fairness Doctrine is in "the public interest" embrace two mistaken assumptions. The first assumption is that there's such a thing as "the public interest," as if 300 million Americans shared one point of view and one action alone would benefit everyone. The destructive consequences of Prohibition was one of the most graphically destructive examples of how false that notion is. The Hays Office was another.

The second assumption is that the government unerringly knows what is the public's best interest. But only the individual can judge his own best interest. Government bureaucrats can only say what they're interested in.

The Fairness Doctrine is not a doctrine that supports freedom or individual rights or free enterprise. The only way to deal fairly with it is to prevent its re-instatement, and to repeal it entirely.
Nota Bene: The above article was originally posted May 2, 2009. I revised it last week and re-posted it June 1, 2009.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tea Parties - America's New Direction?

On April 15, 2009 Tea Parties protesting the government's fiscal irresponsibility took place throughout the nation. A second Tea Party is being planned for July 4.

Rejecting socialism, Tea Party participants are acting fundamentally on the principle of individual rights. It is right to earn a living. It is wrong to give our earnings to those who don’t. It is right to benefit from one’s own efforts and actions. It is wrong to "bail out" companies which the government caused to fail in the first place, then make us pay for the government's mistakes.

Government-created Fannie and Freddie Mae unleashed Barney Frank's "Affordable Housing" program and pressured banks and insurance companies to give loans and coverage to those who could not afford it. Yet the government claims that capitalism has failed and more government intervention is required. But the present economic system is not capitalism and it is not free.

We live in a "mixed economy"---one with some freedom and many controls. We are still free to start a business, but not free to run it the way we see fit. Government regulations presently control every size business on every level---federal, state and city. We are still free to own some property and visit stores of our choice, but the government controls and regulates virtually every product and service we buy, including entertainment, energy, land, fuel and the air waves.

We have been misinformed about the nature of an economic system that is founded on the individual's right to his own life, to benefit from his own effort, to dispose of what he earns as he chooses. We have been misled about an economic system that despite continuous government interference has resulted in the creation of the richest nation on earth, filled with the most generous individuals on earth. It is an economic system that has been vilified, maligned, distorted and made the scapegoat of every government failure and disaster caused by government regulation since the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913. That system is capitalism.

"Capitalism," novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand wrote, "is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned."

In a completely free society, the government's role is solely to protect individual rights. It leaves men free to produce or not as they choose, to work to the best of their ability or not as they choose, to trade with others, to benefit from their own effort, to save and invest and support charities as they choose.

But over many decades government has increasingly violated our rights and eroded our freedom. Today we are seeing the culmination of that erosion in an open assault on individual freedom. Kennedy's bill, for instance, to make "volunteerism" mandatory for all Americans, from children to seniors, is as flagrant a contradiction in terms as it is a blatant attack on individual rights of life, property, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To safeguard the individual and thereby the nation, men must be left free to think and act and work without government controls and regulations. Tea Parties may be the catalyst that will help to shift our country toward a genuinely free and morally sound direction. They may be the beginning of a grass roots movement to tell government to leave us alone. Get out of our lives. Limit government. Protect individual rights. Let us implement a truly free enterprise system of economics. Let us for once practice genuine laissez-faire capitalism.

Suggested Reading:
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand, Capitalism the Unknown Ideal
Ayn Rand, Philosophy Who Needs It

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