On Sunday Radley Balko had a disturbing, if not surprising, note about possible regulation of cable and satellite channels. He quotes a column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
A U.S. Senate bill authorizing government censorship of cable and satellite TV channels references children 44 times and the First Amendment not at all.
His post made me think about a couple of things. First, several people whose opinions I respect (and with whom I generally agree) think that Kevin Martin will be a good FCC Chairman. I am so not convinced. I don’t see any of the comprehension or appreciation of the Hayekian/Schumpeterian dynamism in these converging industries that we saw in, say, Michael Powell. The sense in which Martin looks “free-market” to me is a much more static, caricatured conservative way, one that still allows a lot of room for mischief from dirigiste technocrats. Furthermore, Martin has repeatedly been a stoolie for the nanny indecency crowd, a position I find utterly insupportable and inconsistent with the crucial combination of individual liberty and responsibility that is the foundation of civil society. In caving to this particularly obnoxious special interest Martin is no improvement on Powell, but when you take that in combination with my skepticism about his economics, I can’t be sanguine about his chairmanship. I hope he proves me wrong.
Second, why is it so difficult for members of Congress to stand up to people who want the state to nanny everyone in accordance with their particular preferences? Is it just the money and power? I find in life there are a lot of situations in which I end up having to do stuff that I don’t want to do, but that is in the best interest of both myself and others (giving and grading exams is the example I have in mind). How can we come up with an incentive mechanism that gives members of Congress the incentive to basically say, “hey, suck it up and deal with it, we’ll all be better off if individual parents take the responsibility for … parenting their children’s viewing/listening.”
Yesterday we watched some of Gladiator, which was on TNT, and one scene in particular reminded me of this type of issue. The Derek Jacobi character, in discussing the new young Emperor, remarks that the Emperor will play to the most self-indulgent, base, and juvenile aspects of his citizens, “and they will love him for it.”
Nothing expresses my disgust better than Radley’s closing quote:
Honest to God, is there no damned part of our lives these people don’t feel they have privilege to stick their damned noses into?