Blown To Bits

Fairness Doctrine Redux

Thursday, February 12th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

The abominably misnamed “Fairness Doctrine” seems to be gathering steam for reinstatement. I have no political axe to grind here; I’m an information free-marketeer. Can you imagine any court going along with the proposition that by government regulation, editorial opinions in newspapers have to be politically balanced? Given the First Amendment, it is hard to think of anything more un-American.

The argument goes that the airwaves are different; they are public property and there are only so many to go around. As a national resource, they should be distributed “fairly,” so that a range of views can be heard.

There are so many things wrong with this argument from a purely philosophical point of view that it’s hard to know where to begin. Should truth and falsehood be equally represented, and if not, who is to decide whether someone’s claimed truth is actually false? Do Darwin and Usher get equal time to express their views on the age of the earth?

But the fundamental problem here is that spectrum scarcity, which is the premise for its nationalization and government control, is artificial. Chapter 8 explains the reasons, but my evidence could not be simpler. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of broadcast radio stations coexist around you right now. They are called cell phones. Modern radio technology is much more efficient than that of the 1930s when the present schemes for allocating broadcast licenses were legislated.

The case for the government to dictate content of radio broadcasts is very week philosophically, but without its technological foundation, it collapses completely.

One Response to “Fairness Doctrine Redux”

  1. bil gasarch Says:

    Fox News reports that Obama opposes the
    Fairness Doctrine.