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Pass it on to the People


Tags Media and CultureInterventionism


The ball game is a bore, so I switch to C-Span. There's a bunch of serious guys sitting behind a long, curved desk. I recognize one of them — it's Arlen Spector. He faces another bunch of guys and gals who are chatting, minutely inspecting the wood paneling of the room, fiddling with their ties. One of the guys is talking — reciting is more accurate — to the bunch of guys behind the massive curved desk. Oh, I see — it's some kind of congressional hearing. The reciter is a lawyer for the NFL and he's talking abut the new NFL network. Here's a manufacturer of a sports product who's telling his customers and these congressmen that he's opening his own store to sell the very product he sells his customers. Like GM saying they're opening their own GM-owned retail outlet. Strange, but his choice.

Between networks, Dish, cable, Comcast and the new NFL Channel, the topic is so logically opaque, so boringly dull that if Solomon himself were listening, he'd summon three or four wives to entertain him while the lawyer drones on. It is far beyond the layman's ken. But what's the Congress got to do with it? Their ken ain't no bigger than ours. What authority do they have to intervene in this quagmire of competing economic lusts? Because they assign and allocate the airways? I thought the airways belonged to He who created the world and its atmosphere. And doesn't the power of these guys behind the curved desk encourage a corruption of that power? And if these guys and gals — whom collectively we call "government" — can't keep the sewer drains on Pennsylvania Avenue open and working, why do we think they can introduce justice in this cesspool of competing interests and regulations that brings pictures to our TV screen? Where in the constitution does it say that Congress has the authority to regulate any aspect of a medium yet to be discovered? Wow, what prophetic vision that would demonstrate!

But wait. The senator from Pennsylvania, Spector, is saying something provocative. It's about an additional cost the NFL must charge for their product. Spector, that staunch shield of the people, says, "Won't they just pass those costs on to the consumer?" They always say that. The very words reverberate with loving care for the consumer. . . and total ignorance of free market mechanics. They assume that robotic consumers ignore choices, salute higher prices and open their wallet.

It's typical of Congressional responses in regard to TV, car, meds — you name it. They don't recognize a world where the consumer says, I won't pay 20 bucks more for the enhanced Comcast package or hey, I'll just stick with the network and save 80 bucks a month. Congress does not understand the concept of choice — never have, never will. Naturally, they decide, which leaves you no choice.

"Won't they just pass those costs on to the people?" Sellers of products from mops to Mercedes wish it were that easy. And when it comes to taxes, our government KNOWS it's that easy. A 300 billion dollar deficit? Just pass it on to the people.

Mark Thornton is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and the book review editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He has authored seven books and is a frequent guest on national radio shows.

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