Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”     George Washington

May 26, 2007

Socialist Defends Venezuela Shutting Down RCTV — “Not Free Speech Issue”

by Brad Warbiany

Today is the end for Venezuelan media company RCTV. Chavez’ stated reason for shutting them down is due to the involvement of the station in the failed coup attempt of 2002. At the same time, though, the station has been a reliable opposition station ever since, and failing to renew their broadcast license now is a convenient way to get rid of their voice.

However, that’s not what makes the article I’m referencing a farce. A writer for Monthly Review, an American socialist publication since 1949, believes that this isn’t a free speech issue. His justification, of course, is laughable:

This sovereign decision of the Venezuelan government not to renew RCTV’s concession has prompted claims that freedom of speech is somehow under threat in Venezuela.

But many discussions of freedom of speech rely on a fundamentally flawed assumption: that existing media outlets in some way embody “freedom.” The debate surrounding RCTV is no exception. It is this flawed assertion that has been openly embraced by the Venezuelan opposition and equally openly challenged by those who reject efforts to paint the non-renewal of the broadcasting concession for Venezuela’s RCTV as an issue of free speech at all (see my previous comments here).

Decades spent under the hegemonic shadow of the discourse of “civil society against the state” has led us to assume that all that is not under state control is free, thereby conveniently obscuring the unfreedom of economic, specifically market forces. So for the non-renewal of RCTV to be a free speech issue at all, one would have to make the ultimately doomed argument that RCTV, under the direction of Marcel Granier and media conglomerate “1 Broadcasting Caracas” (1BC), somehow represents an expression of the people’s freedom rather than the freedom of its small group of shareholders.

You see, according to this author freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you should be free to say what you believe. It only means that you should be free to speak in support of the principles of freedom. And who’s better suited to arbitrate whether or not they’re advocating freedom that a bunch of socialists?

This is a strawman from the start. His first statement, “But many discussions of freedom of speech rely on a fundamentally flawed assumption: that existing media outlets in some way embody ‘freedom.’ “ is an outright falsehood. Speech of the wicked is no less worthy of protection than speech of the virtuous. The fundamental assumption is that if the government begins deciding what speech is and is not acceptable, it leads to a slippery slope where only government-approved messages are allowed. Defending against government’s power to shut down unpopular speech is the only way to ensure the government doesn’t have the power to shut down any other speech it doesn’t like. I think that situation is quite clear here, as Chavez is using the failed coup as an excuse to put down opposition media.

This entire premise for his article (which mostly goes on to point out that the owners of RCTV are capitalists and tied to the previous regime, and the new TVes, which will replace RCTV, is “democratic”) is based on the flawed assumption that freedom of speech should only be extended to those you agree with. I’ll freely admit that the owners of RCTV are advocating not for a free society, but a return to pre-Chavez society in which they were the rulers. That doesn’t mean that shutting them down isn’t a free speech issue. As an advocate of free speech, I know that I often have to defend the free speech rights of groups that I absolutely abhor, such as Fred Phelps and his minions, in order to ensure that my own free speech rights are protected.

Socialists believe they’re advocating for freedom. The problem is that their definition of “freedom” is largely different from everyone else’s. Their definition of freedom involves a lot more government coercion than any I’ve ever heard of. RCTV isn’t advocating for freedom, but neither is Chavez, and when Chavez pulls RCTV’s license, he is most certainly trampling on their free speech rights.

In fact, I’d go a step farther and say that when government assumes the power to only allow “licensed” broadcasters to broadcast, they’re stepping on freedom. But that’s an argument for another day.

When government broadcast licenses are revoked due to content, it’s an abrogation of free speech rights. That’s true whether the content is pro-freedom or not. I have a feeling if the US government shut down Monthly Review for advocating anti-freedom ideas such as socialism, this author would be crying about his rights as well.

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23 Comments

  1. “fundamentally flawed assumption: that existing media outlets in some way embody “freedom.””

    All media outlets embody freedom of speech. All actions embody freedom.

    Comment by Adam Ricketson — May 26, 2007 @ 8:11 pm
  2. Brad, it’s even worse: throughout last fall Chavez has been threatening the camera-crews and reporters hired by the station. One of his favorite tactics was to rile up the audience, then point out the crew-members to them, followed by an insincere comment of solidarity to the effect that “they are workers: puppets of their bosses.”

    See the videos here: http://www.freerctv.com/

    I have no problem with voluntary socialism: if someone wants to set up a kibbutz or a Hutterite society, great. I wish them luck. It’s these coercive socialists, the ones who force people to “share” at gunpoint that piss me off.

    These bloodthirsty savages have killed tens of millions of people who dared to inconvenience their utopian plans in the past 100 years alone. I wonder how big a pile of bodies it will take before they concede and permit people the freedom to choose their own way in life.

    Comment by tarran — May 26, 2007 @ 8:13 pm
  3. Privately owned media corporations express the freedom of their owners, always the wealthy. If the voices of the wealthy dominate the airwaves, how does that express the freedom of the poor?

    How was speech free in Venezuela when the media corporations forbade “their” stations to cover the popular uprising which ended the fascist coup they openly supported and even participated in organizing?

    For you the exercise of power over society by the rich is “freedom”. Freedom for the majority, who aren’t rich capitalists, can only come at the expense of freedom for the rich, just as freeing the slaves required abolishing the freedom of the slaveowners to own slaves.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 27, 2007 @ 9:38 pm
  4. Richard Cheeseman,

    Right now all of the TV stations in Venezuela are controlled by one man: Hugo Chavez.

    He acquired his control not through hardwork, but by pointing guns at people and threatening them.

    Freedom for the majority, who aren’t rich capitalists, can only come at the expense of freedom for the rich.

    Bullshit…. Life is not a zero sum game. There is no finite number of media companies. Hell, with a camera and access to Youtube, you could start broadcasting TV shows to a nationwide audience tomorrow.

    And by the way, contrary to what socialists believe, there is no right to own slaves. There never has been, and there never will be.

    How was speech free in Venezuela when the media corporations forbade “their” stations to cover the popular uprising which ended the fascist coup they openly supported and even participated in organizing?

    So long as they were not using force to prevent other organizations from covering the counter-coup, then speech was free.

    Fredom of speech is the freedom to say, or not say anything you want. Of course, if a news organization fails to cover something, or covers it inaccurately while others provide accurate coverage, the value of its broadcasts go down and they lose their audience.

    The only way an organization can put out falsehoods indefinitely is if competitors are prevented from broadcasting the truth, something that can only be accomplished by force. The most popular way is for the oligarchs in power to force everyone to get a “license to broadcast”, something which they deny to their opponents, and then send the police to crack down on the criminal pirate broadcasters. This was done by Hugo’s political adversaries in the past, and now he is doing it. An immoral act does not become moral simply because Hugo Chavez does it.

    Anyway, I notice that Chavez hasn’t actually gotten around to seeking indictments in a court for RCTV’s involvement in the conspiracy against him. Odd that…

    Comment by tarran — May 27, 2007 @ 11:22 pm
  5. Tarran, your ignorance is showing. RCTV is by no means the last TV station controlled by the Venezuelan oligarchy as you claim. And the number of media companies actually is finite – the technology of broadcasting, including the limited number of broadcast frequencies, determines that only a few TV networks can survive economically and share the broadcast spectrum. How many TV stations can broadcast in one place at the same time Tarran? Broadcasting frequencies are NOT licensed only for bureaucratic reasons.

    Your comment that with a camera and YouTube I too could have a media company with a national audience really shows you’re not thinking: if that is enough for “freedom” then RCTV are still entirely free to express themselves without the exclusive license they used to have to a broadcast frequency. So what harm has been done?

    There is indeed no right or freedom to own slaves – now. But in the USA there was such a right/freedom once, and it was a freedom for which a lot of Americans fought and died. Of course it was not a right everybody was free to enjoy in practice. Just like a broadcasting frequency license.

    Your comment that RCTV’s suppression of the news of the uprising of the Venezuelan people against the oligarchic coup could be dealt with by the diminished perception of the value of the station’s information is just laughable. This was a corrupt elite promoting an armed coup by an anti-democratic dictatorship. It was war, not a marketing strategy. And, of course, the democratic TV stations WERE shut down by force that day.

    And by the way, oligarchic elements in the Venezuelan judiciary deliberately thwarted attempts to bring the main coup plotters to justice. The fact that the coup’s other backers were treated leniently despite their crimes (yes, treason is a crime) in the interests of reducing social conflict is hardly something to reproach President Chavez with. The facts of RCTV’s incitement to rebellion, their support for the illegal, usurping regime of the dictator-for-a-day and their attempt to suppress news of the democratic uprising are not in dispute. It doesn’t need a court case to establish the facts – when a broadcaster does something like that it’s out in the open for everybody to see.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 28, 2007 @ 4:10 am
  6. Richard,

    While it is true that one can fight fire with fire, please do not attempt to fight what you call ignorance with more of the same.

    I refer, of course, to the following:

    There is indeed no right or freedom to own slaves – now. But in the USA there was such a right/freedom once, and it was a freedom for which a lot of Americans fought and died.

    The civil war was never about slavery. That’s what it *became* after it was long finished. It was about states rights versus federal power. Yes, slavery was an issue, but there were many more that everyone considered far more important on both sides of the war.

    If you would like, I’d be more than happy to point you to several resources that show what the war was about, and how slavery, and the freeing of slaves, was a sole political move, not one of belief, nor an issue of import to the war.

    Comment by Ted — May 28, 2007 @ 5:44 am
  7. Richard, sweetie,

    1) Name one national network that is not operating with state oversight of its programming. Just one. Take your time.

    2) The need for government regulation of the airwaves as a scarce resource is poppycock.

    3) The government has confiscated RCTV’s broadcast equipment including studios and antennae. This is theft.

    Comment by tarran — May 28, 2007 @ 1:35 pm
  8. Ted,
    I see you are one of those reconstructionist.

    Comment by VRB — May 28, 2007 @ 10:29 pm
  9. Tarran, baby,

    I see you have conceded the main points, so I’ll just mop up the rest.

    Your first comment is irrelevant.

    The article your second comment relies on simply makes a right wing case for privatizing the spectrum rather than allocating it as a publicly-owned good. There can only be a finite number of broadcast networks in any case which was the point at issue. The spectrum is a limited resource.

    Your third comment just expresses an emotional attitude on your part rather than arguing a matter of fact. Without a broadcast licence RCTV can not put to use that equipment which is however installed and working and perfectly suited for its successor channel to use. So it’s economically rational to turn it over to the new channel… although I accept that for a worshipper of private property like yourself it could be too sacred to be sacrificed to mere expediency in that way. Yes, it is confiscation but it’s not correct to call it theft when the confiscation is legal and the old channel’s owners will be financially compensated. You’re just misusing the word theft to express your disapproval.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 29, 2007 @ 12:18 am
  10. Ted, if you read what I said more carefully you’ll see I made no grandiose claim that the whole US civil war was “about” freeing the slaves. I alluded to the fact that “a lot” of those who fought (and died) in that war included support for the slaveowners’ freedom to own slaves among the reasons they fought for the Confederacy. They foresaw, correctly, that the freedom to own slaves would be threatened if the Confederacy lost.

    Obviously others who fought in the war fought for different motives. But for a lot of individuals the war was certainly (at least in part) “about” defending slaveholding.

    The question of the main causes of the war is an interesting (but different) one. I am sure you are right that freeing the slaves was not the primary war aim of the Union leadership.

    These days you don’t see all that many supporters of the freedom to own slaves, but we have an equivalent in those who support the freedom of the wealthy to rule over society through the subordination of democracy to markets and private property rights fetishized as all that is holy.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 29, 2007 @ 12:57 am
  11. VRB,

    Please elaborate.

    If you mean, I reconstruct history: no, I do not.

    If you mean, I am attempting to revive the south: Again, that is not the case. I feel that the destabilization of the slave industry was fine. While I believe that less government is better, I believe that of both state and federal governments.

    If you are wondering if I am for or against slavery, that depends: Quite a few of my friends are into BDSM, and it seems to work out just fine in those relationships. :)

    But, I find it interesting how often people who demonize slavery often do so with the wrong facts. I have no problem with demonization, mind you. Just the correctness of facts.

    There are people who seem to place slavery as a thing that americans, or white people did. They fail to own up that slavery was common in other parts of the world. They often fail to own up that many African slaves were captured and sold by other Africans. They often fail to own up to the fact that slavery existed on the African coast long before the white man came.

    I do not debate that slavery in America was harsh, that atrocities occured, ect. It was, they did, etc. I only make sure to point out the fact that slavery is not the sole province of any one people. It has been practiced by many races, and many civilizations. It is still practiced today by some people.

    I also like to take time to point out that the civil war was not about slavery.

    The civil war began, fighting wise, on April 12, 1861.

    The emancipation proclamation came nearly two years after: Jan 1, 1863.

    In a quote from the government archives:

    “…the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.”

    Anyway, Richard, if you statement was not a blanket statement, my apologies, but it seemed so to me.

    As for your statements regarding Tarrans questions/challenges, I feel number 1 is of incredible import.

    As for your response to the third, I feel you are definitely in the wrong. It is theft.

    Much like if I were to take your drivers license away, for a time – or forever, and give your car to someone else. Don’t worry. We’ll pay you what we think it is worth.

    Maybe you do not think it is a big deal. Maybe that sounds fine to you.

    How about your property? You bought your home. You sweated, bled, shed tears in making it really yours. You lived your life in it. Your children grew up in it.

    Now we can take it away. We’ll give you market price, not to worry. The smell of your porch won’t be the activator for memories out there with the wife or the kids… but hey, you got the cash – and it was for the public good. Or maybe just coporate good.

    How about this? Lets draft you. We’ll take a few years of your life, maybe even your life, but we will compensate. Is that a theft of years? Or also acceptable?

    I personally think all three are theft, in fact.

    One of the scariest phrases I have ever heard has been “For the common/public good.”

    Comment by Ted — May 29, 2007 @ 3:39 am
  12. I see you have conceded the main points, so I’ll just mop up the rest.

    Dis Manibus! I am debating the fricking black knight!

    Let’s see, You claim that Hugo Chavez does not control all the television networks, but you can’t name one. Got it. I guess you win that point.

    You claim that the government needs to dictate who can use spectrum. If that is the case, would you also claim that the government should be assigning temporary licenses to use land since it is similarly scarce? Because they are both similarly abundant. Actually, I guess Chavez, with his latest land reform system is doing just that; the people “given” the land cannot sell it, must farm it to the satisfaction of the state, and thanks to price controls cannot even control what they sell it for. I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t an Escambray Mountains revolt all over again.

    Your third comment is one of the most elegant rationalizations for rulers to plunder their subjects. Private property is no fetish but rather the basis of civilization. One only needs to look at the places where to has been abolished – China under Mao, North Korea, the Soviet Union under Stalin, Cambodia under Pol Pot, Cuba under Castro to see what happens when it is not respected. “They have no need of it”-indeed.

    I point you to Murray Rothbard’s review of Franz Oppenheimer’s The State:

    In essence, he said, there are only two ways for men to acquire wealth. The first method is by producing a good or a service and voluntarily exchanging that good for the product of somebody else. This is the method of exchange, the method of the free market; it’s creative and expands production; it is not a zero-sum game because production expands and both parties to the exchange benefit. Oppenheimer called this method the “economic means” for the acquisition of wealth.
    The second method is seizing another person’s property without his consent, i.e., by robbery, exploitation, looting. When you seize someone’s prop­erty without his consent, then you are benefiting at his expense, at the expense of the producer; here is truly a zero-sum “game”–not much of a “game,” by the way, from the point of view of the victim. Instead of expanding production, this method of robbery clearly hobbles and restricts production.So in addition to being immoral while peaceful exchange is moral, the method of robbery hobbles production because it is parasitic upon the effort of the producers.
    With brilliant astuteness, Oppenheimer called this method of obtaining wealth “the political means.” And then he went on to define the state, or government, as “the organization of the political means,” i.e., the regularization, legiti­mation, and permanent establishment of the political means for the acquisition of wealth.
    In other words, the state is organized theft, organized robbery, organized exploitation. And this essential nature of the state is high­lighted by the fact that the state ever rests upon the crucial instrument of taxation.

    If anyone is making a fetish of anything, it is you with your support for strong governments. Your implied belief that if the right people are permitted to threaten, rob and plunder with impunity, somehow society will be better off is illogical in the extreme. But hey, this time it’s going to work out differently, right?

    Yep, you really showed me…

    Comment by tarran — May 29, 2007 @ 9:44 am
  13. Tarran,

    You claim that the government needs to dictate who can use spectrum. If that is the case, would you also claim that the government should be assigning temporary licenses to use land since it is similarly scarce? Because they are both similarly abundant.

    Richard is completely correct about spectrum. Unfettered use of frequencies creates chaos because of the potential to trample other signals. Many people have mobile phones, which are allowed to operate in a very specific range. Without regulation, then with enough wattage and knowledge, one could broadcast their own personal programming and render your phone – or those of emergency services – useless. It would not be in your best interest to be in an airplane that loses air-to-ground communication because some guy thought it okay to take over the 250 MHz band with re-runs of “Leave it to Beaver.”

    There does need to be an authority to regulate spectrum because it is finite.

    Comment by David T — May 29, 2007 @ 11:45 am
  14. Right, I understand your first question now Tarran. You were asking only about Venezuela and for you “state oversight of [the] programming” of a private network is the same as control by Hugo Chavez.

    I agree with you that there is no TV network in Venezuela whose programming is not under state oversight. In fact I can’t think of any TV network in the world whose programming is not under state oversight. That’s why I thought you were just on another irrelevant state-bashing kick!

    The correct interpretation of your question seemed ludicrous to me because even with state oversight TV stations are basically controlled by their owners, not the state (unless it’s an owner). Isn’t that obvious? That’s why they bothered to take over the RCTV network in the first place, even though the old coup-plotters’ RCTV was already under the very same state oversight as the new public channel, it’s only the ownership that’s different.

    There are 3 privately owned TV companies in Venezuela now. One of them, Globovision, is still actively supporting right-wing rebellion against Venezuelan democracy – all anti-government, all the time. It is certainly not controlled by Hugo Chavez. Can you name a TV station in the USA which recently promoted armed rebellion against the US government and continues to be professedly working for its downfall? Take your time.

    My claim was that because the number of broadcast TV networks is limited and when they are owned (as in Venezuela’s case) by a rancid oligarchy then freedom of expression through TV for the popular majority can only come at the expense of the former oligarchic owners. RCTV’s owners used their control of the network to express (freely) disinformation and propaganda aimed against that popular majority. They ran free non-stop ads for weeks promoting an oil industry lockout to bring down the elected government, then supported the coup regime of the right-wing dictator-for-a-day, then suppressed news of the uprising which restored democracy. Such a station can not serve freedom of expression for the Venezuelan majority unless it stops serving the freedom of expression of the tiny clique of wealthy owners who oppose them. So it IS a zero sum game, but the result is an increase in the number of people able to exercise freedom of expression because RCTV was responsive only to a tiny, right-wing clique of owners whereas the new channel is oriented to the popular majority, millions of people. So the replacement is good for freedom.

    My point about state regulation of the broadcast spectrum is that it is not just a plot, it’s one way of coping with the finite spectrum (which you said didn’t need, we could all have national media companies, etc, remember?) I agree that privatizing the spectrum would be another possible way of controlling access to this scarce resource. It hasn’t happened in Venezuela where the state does own the finite broadcast spectrum and hence was able to replace one of the necessarily limited number of networks simply by its sovereign choice not to renew RCTV’s licence, which was in effect a lease. Ending RCTV’s broadcast license was an exercise of legal, pre-existing property rights, not a violation of them. On your third point I see that for you, and Ted, the word “theft” is a religious term within your property-worshiping liturgy in which it is used to anathemize any interference in private property. All I will say is that property fetish unbelievers tend to reserve the term to refer to illegal and uncompensated compulsory transfer of property.

    I stand by the right of the majority of the people, although they own little, to exercise power over the wealthy including over their wealth. I support democracy, not just at home in my own country but for the whole world. I do indeed expect this to yield increasingly good results, as the majority of the earth’s population becomes politically dominant on a world scale for the first time. Democracy will come.

    There are about a billion hungry people on our planet and a few tens of thousands die of hunger every day. That’s because those people don’t have political power. By comparison, the modest political power of a citizen of the US empire – even a citizen with no personal property – is enough so that that citizen need not fear the deprivation in which most of the world’s people live.

    It’s because the small ultra-wealthy minority in a few rich countries exercises political (including military and informational) power over and against the deprived majority of the world’s people that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on wars to defend or extend the property of the wealthy while the much smaller sums required to eliminate hunger, preventable disease and illiteracy are not to be found. That world of hyper-consumption and militarism alongside desperate poverty is the “civilization” of which the fetishism of private property is the “basis”.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 29, 2007 @ 12:29 pm
  15. David, read the article I linked to earlier. The “chaos” theory is not actually based on historical fact. The first time a court arbitrated a lawsuit over interference using Common Law principles, the big broadcast networks panicked, since it was now probable that they would face “ruinous competition” from indpenedent radio stations. Thus they got their pet Congressmen to pass the legistlation siezing the airwaves in the name of the Federal Govt.

    This was a case of pwerful corporations ensuring the profit that only a monopoly or an oligopoly can rake in by having government keep competitors out of the market. The chaos theory was advanced as a rationalization to defend the act, much like the United States is now said to be in Iraq to prevent terrorist networks from forming there.

    Comment by tarran — May 29, 2007 @ 12:29 pm
  16. Ted,
    American slave owners are not off the hook, and here are more of my thoughts about slavery.

    Comment by VRB — May 29, 2007 @ 12:38 pm
  17. I did read – rather scan – the article. It agrees with me that the broadcast spectrum is finite and terms it a “scarce resource.” Defining it as scarce indeed implies ‘finite’.

    The contention, then, is on who gets to allocate this resource. The author of the referred article contends that the FCC should break this resource into saleable parts and further refine those parts into TAS units that allocate time. At any rate, the FCC does allow for the sales of frequency via an auction – the highest bidder gets the right to use that frequency.

    So, while the author is interested in market forces regarding frequencies, he never contends that there should not be regulation of said frequency. Nor does he address how multiple broadcasters on the same frequency should adjudicate conflicts . He discusses spread spectrum technology, an approach the FCC initially promoted to amateur experimenters in 1980. However, spread spectrum wasn’t available prior to the the advent of technology that could take advantage of it and it was cost-prohibitive to most individuals.

    Spread spectrum works well, but it is power consumptive as the receiver needs to scan multiple frequencies and multiplex different signals instead of receiving narrow band communications. In addition, the presence of many spread-spectrum devices tends to degrade performance. That is because even though the devices can swap frequencies, all the devices within range are trying to do the same thing and collisions still occur. Thus, their still needs to be a limit on the frequency and the wattage on a given device; the first because the greater the spread, the more opportunities for collisions, and the latter because of the potential for interference on a given frequency.

    Ostensibly, you and the author believe that all devices should communicate on all frequencies with no regulation. The approach to frequencies needs to be more in line with the laws of physics than common law because the former dictate what is or isn’t possible, not the latter. Most people don’t want their wireless to drop because someone turned on the microwave oven – each uses the 2.4 Ghz band, and wireless is spread spectrum.

    The spectrum is huge, but it is finite, and who gets to do what in the spectrum is paramount. The FCC has minimized the potential for conflict. Witb narrow-band communications, the race was on for the best frequency and he who supplied the most power, won. We avoided a wild west of communications, which would have benefited no one.

    Comment by David T — May 29, 2007 @ 1:45 pm
  18. Richard, I am short on time and sleep, so I’ll be brief.

    There is no technical reason for Venezuela to shut down one channel, in order to make room for another. They have plenty of spectrum available.

    Globovision is not a nationwide network in that they only broadcast in a few cities. They can, however, be watched by anybody with a satellite dish in Venezuela. At the time I issued my challenge, I thought that they had accepted state control like Venevision. Apparently I was wrong. However, Chavez has now started threatening them, so I think I won’t be wrong for much longer.

    As to your challenge about U.S. government interference in media here in the U.S., for what its worth radio networks that were calling for armed resistance to Bill Clinton in the early 90′s did not get shut down. On the other hand a radio station in Hawaii in te 1970′s which called for the abolition of the FCC was. Of course, since I am opposed to the U.S. governments existence, I am not sure what point you are trying to make.

    You seem to worship mob rule, which you call democracy. You seem to assume that I, in opposing mob rule support oligarchies. I do not. I support the rights of the individual to his or her life and the property which he or she justly acquires.

    Democracy is anathema to freedom. Democracy is 51% deciding to plunder the other 49%. Democracy, in its purest form, is a lynch mob dragging some guy out of his home and hanging him from a lamp-post because they want to move into his house.

    I have no right to come into your home and take something that you made or traded for. If I banded together with a handful of friends, I still would have no right to do that. Even if, I convinced every person in your town, city, or country to help me take your property, I still would not have the right to do it. Oh sure, I may have the power to do it, you might not be able to stop me, but I wouldn’t have the right.

    Your charming attempts to paint the notion that people should be permitted to keep that which they have created or bartered for as some sort of cultish religion are ridiculous. You claim that the European colonials who robbed the aboriginies who fell under their power respected private property rights, when their thieving ways demonstrate the very opposite. You somehow think that Chavez and his men will justly manage property seized by the state, when by collecting so much power and wealth into their hands, they will become yet another oligarchy and perpetrate the same crimes that their predecessors did.

    In fact, they can do no other as Dr Hans Herman Hoppe explains in The Ethics and Economics of Private Property

    The proof is two-fold. On the one hand, the consequences that follow if one were to deny the validity of the institution of original appropriation and private property are spelled out: If person A were not the owner of his own body and the places and goods originally appropriated and/or produced with this body as well as of the goods voluntarily (contractually) acquired from another previous owner, then only two alternatives would exist. Either another person, B, must be recognized as the owner of A’s body as well as the places and goods appropriated, produced or acquired by A, or both persons, A and B, must be considered equal co-owners of all bodies, places and goods.

    In the first case, A would be reduced to the rank of B’s slave and object of exploitation. B would be the owner of A’s body and all places and goods appropriated, produced and acquired by A, but A in turn would not be the owner of B’s body and the places and goods appropriated, produced and acquired by B. Hence, under this ruling two categorically distinct classes of persons would be constituted – Untermenschen such as A and Uebermenschen such as B – to whom different “laws” apply. Accordingly, such ruling must be discarded as a human ethic equally applicable to everyone qua human being (rational animal). From the very outset, any such ruling is recognized as not universally acceptable and thus cannot claim to represent law. For a rule to aspire to the rank of a law – a just rule – it is necessary that such a rule apply equally and universally to everyone.

    Alternatively, in the second case of universal and equal co-ownership, the requirement of equal law for everyone would be fulfilled. However, this alternative would suffer from an even more severe deficiency, because if it were applied, all of mankind would instantly perish. (Since every human ethic must permit the survival of mankind, this alternative must also be rejected.) Every action of a person requires the use of some scarce means (at least of the person’s body and its standing room), but if all goods were co-owned by everyone, then no one, at no time and no place, would be allowed to do anything unless he had previously secured every other co-owner’s consent to do so. Yet how could anyone grant such consent were he not the exclusive owner of his own body (including his vocal chords) by which means his consent must be expressed? Indeed, he would first need another’s consent in order to be allowed to express his own, but these others could not give their consent without having first his, and so it would go on.

    Since the latter case, that of “Universal Communism” is unworkable, socialsit systems, like that advocated by Chavez, invariably amount to some elite exercising feudal power over those outside the elite. Given your opposition to the debris of Spanish colonialism, I am baffled why you support a nearly identical system being put in place of the old one.

    Comment by tarran — May 30, 2007 @ 12:07 am
  19. David,

    Try reading the article instead of scanning it. You’ve got the main thesis wrong. the FCC as decider of frequency blocks is one of the policy recommendations the author is against. Again, it lays out the history correctly. What you call chaos is actually how homesteading works, and is the most equitable way to bring previously unowned things into an economy. As to your argument that physics trumps common law: I think again you are really far off the mark.

    The common law system provided an ethical system to assign who could use what frequency where and when. In other words, it adjudicates disputes between people. I mean, one could make the case that physics trumps common law in when guns are involved since the path of a bullet is a kinematic problem.

    Comment by tarran — May 30, 2007 @ 12:24 am
  20. Tarran, when property rights are utterly sacrosanct even where the wishes and interests of the majority are opposed, that is a system that embodies the political power of the owners of property over the rest of the population. That’s why your cult of private property factually supports the oligarchies despite your will that it should instead support an individualist utopia. That’s why you have to oppose democracy – which its elitist opponents have for centuries been calling mob rule.

    Also, when you turn historically evolved property relations into fetishes and worship them, you obscure the blood and gore of the process of their formation. If the wealth of the owners of present-day corporations is holy, there is no need to examine the part played by (for example) slavery and colonial exploitation in the formation of that economic power. In the real world Africa’s poverty is causally linked to the wealth of Britain and USA, and the poverty of Haiti is linked to the wealth of French capital. But democratic action to redress these historic crimes and their present-day unjust consequences is a sin against Holy Property.

    Dr Hans Hoppe’s speculations don’t prove anything either, outside the formalistic, ahistorical, unsocial notions of individual and property with which he reasons. The bogus certainty of his conclusions is because he has already smuggled his beliefs into his arguments as starting points. His individuals A and B, his childish antitheses, and his scholastic ethical formulae have nothing to do with historical and social reality. You need to get a grip on what discourse remains inside the hermeneutic circles of your property-worshiping religion and what can be used for rational discussion with those who aren’t your co-religionists. It’s pointless offering theological proofs which are convincing only to the believer.

    In the end your arguments just assert the sovereignty of your particular ethical system over the real world. But in reality ethical systems arise and have their force within definite societies shaped historically and conditioned by definite material interests. That’s why your ideology has its concrete significance as an ornament on the oligarchies’ ruthless pursuit of the omnipotence of wealth in social life.

    By the way, I agree that the finiteness of the spectrum is not the only factor to have an important bearing on how many TV networks there can be. Actually economic factors are more significant in my view, and they depend on the broadcasting technology as a whole, and the place that broadcasting has in a definite economic system. Venezuela could not support 10000 broadcast networks even if there was spectral room for them all. As I said in my first post: “[T]he technology of broadcasting, including the limited number of broadcast frequencies, determines that only a few TV networks can survive economically and share the broadcast spectrum.”

    Also, I don’t know from whence you got the idea that I claimed that the European colonials respected property rights during colonization. Maybe that was just tiredness. Oh, and there is no need to be “baffled” by my support for Venezuela’s democratic revolution if you can remember that the idea that the revolutionary government is “nearly identical” to the old oligarchy is YOUR belief, not mine.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 30, 2007 @ 8:30 am
  21. Richard, everybody is a property owner, even the most impoverished soul. At a minimum they own their bodies. Respect for property is not some window dressing to justify huge estates. Rather it is the respect for the right of the the meanest person to control the hovel they constructed with their own two hands, even when the most wealthy or powerful person in the society wants the land for himself. Respect for property benefits the poor far more than the rich; the rich can generally buy security in even the most insecure society.

    As I said in the beginning of this thread, I have no problem with voluntary socialists who seek to persuade people to share with them.

    You on the other hand are a coercive socialist who wants to force other people to share at gunpoint if need be. It does not matter how you twist and turn, what ridiculous false dichotomies and rhetorical smoke screens you throw out. In the end, you want to force people at gunpoint, whether guilty or innocent of any wrongdoing, to disgorge the fruits of their labor to be distributed in according to your satisfaction. In effect you seek to exploit people just as the people you rail against did.

    At best your system creates poverty and stagnation. Far more often, it leads to the deaths of millions.

    Watching Chavez in action, and listening to his speeches, I can predict with some confidence that he will become very repressive. Your just society will turn out to be a charnel house.

    Good day, sir.

    Comment by tarran — May 30, 2007 @ 9:41 am
  22. “[E]verybody is a property owner, even the most impoverished soul.”

    Not if Hillary Clinton has her way…

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 30, 2007 @ 10:35 am
  23. Tarran, your last post, with its sincere and emotional tone, really shows how your notion of property is religious. The idea that all private property is the “fruit of the labor” of its present owner is transparently ridiculous when applied to this planet, Earth. But you don’t even notice this in your heartfelt prayer.

    If you wanted to look for coercion, the devil of your theology, in the real world it is not hard to find at the heart of the system of property relations wherein the rich minority decide that the desperate need of the majority of the world’s people matters less than their own hyper-consumption … and that’s even before you get to the hundreds of billions of dollars they spend on guns to enforce their rule.

    I agree that with your last post our debate comes to a natural end. Good day to you too… it’s been fun, thanks.

    Comment by Richard Cheeseman — May 30, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

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