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

“Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.”     Ronald Reagan

November 4, 2008

Chuck Schumer Talks Fairness Doctrine On Fox News

by Doug Mataconis

If the Democrats get the victory they seem headed toward today, there will be many things that are likely to happen that should concern libertarians.

One of those is the effort to revive the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which New York Senator Chuck Schumer talked about this morning on Fox News:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday defended the so-called Fairness Doctrine in an interview on Fox News, saying, “I think we should all be fair and balanced, don’t you?”

Schumer’s comments echo other Democrats’ views on reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which would require radio stations to balance conservative hosts with liberal ones.

Asked if he is a supporter of telling radio stations what content they should have, Schumer used the fair and balanced line, claiming that critics of the Fairness Doctrine are being inconsistent.

“The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that… But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another. That’s not consistent.”

Schumer obviously brought pornography up because was on Fox News and he wanted to tweak cosnervatives, but he makes a point, although I’m sure it’s an inadvertant one.

When it comes to issues like the Fairness Doctrine, conservatives are arguing from a position of weakness because they have already conceded the basic idea that the Federal Communications Commission, or any government entity for that matter, should have the authority to regulate content on television and radio. Once you concede that basic point, deciding what the extent of the content regulation should be is really just a matter of who wins or loses an election.

Here’s the video of Schumer’s interview:

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22 Comments

  1. So it’s pornographic to disagree with Sen. Schumer? Riiight. This is precisely why America does NOT need the Fairness Doctrine again.

    Comment by Micheal — November 4, 2008 @ 10:20 am
  2. Oh come on. Do we really not understand the difference between political debate and porn? The First Amendment was adopted specifically to protect political speech. Pornography is not speech and there is a legitimate public interest in limiting its broadcast. There is NO legitimate reason to ban political ideas with which Democrats disagree.

    Comment by Chet Lemon — November 4, 2008 @ 11:23 am
  3. There is NO legitimate reason to ban political ideas with which Democrats disagree.

    Of course. You’re missing the point about how precedents work, though.

    Pornography is censored/regulated because a supermajority of this society either actively or passively supports the censorship. With that precedent firmly ingrained, the door is open for any further censorship that a supermajority supports.

    With that in mind, there are only two intellectually honest positions: accept that you’ll get the short end of the stick sometimes or oppose all censorship.

    P.S. I love your name

    Comment by Jeff Molby — November 4, 2008 @ 12:52 pm
  4. Chuck, it POLITICAL SPEECH!

    Comment by elvisofmemphis — November 4, 2008 @ 2:54 pm
  5. Chet –

    Pornography is not speech and there is a legitimate public interest in limiting its broadcast.

    Neither is music, nor painting, nor cinema. That, however, does not give the federal government a legitimate public interest in censoring them. In the Soviet Union, instrumental music with no political message whatsoever was censored precisely because it did not contain a political message.

    The line laid down by the Constitution, which is still the binding social contract in this nation, is that the government has no interest in censoring ideas. Period. Even–no, especially–the revolting ones.

    Comment by Quincy — November 4, 2008 @ 4:10 pm
  6. …actually, social contract should read governmental contract.

    Comment by Quincy — November 4, 2008 @ 4:11 pm
  7. New contributor here, but in response to the above: do you really think our founding fathers intended the first amendment to cover pornography? The point is, absolute free speech cannot exist for a society to fully function. There has to be a reasonable limit to some extent. Pornography is very popular on the internet. I’m no prude and not in favor of any ban on porn, but do you really want to be driving down the street with your kids and see billboards featuring gratuitous sex scenes all because you think this is what our founding fathers intended when writing the first amendment? I believe their main intent was to protect political speech – the very speech that will be threatened with the incoming oppression of the Socialist super-majority. The battle lines are drawn. George Bush took this country in a Leftward direction and now Obama will take it even further. It is time to man the ramparts.

    Comment by RobbBond — November 4, 2008 @ 10:24 pm
  8. Chuck Schumer is a slimeball, just like the other Un-Fairness Doctrine advocates (such as Dick Durbin and John Kerry). It’s time to take action now to stop the Fascist Doctrine dead in its tracks.

    The only way it will return is if we do nothing to defeat it. Edmund Burke was right when he said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. The Fascist Doctrine is evil, and it will prevail if we do nothing.

    Comment by Savage — November 7, 2008 @ 2:33 pm
  9. Check out this web site:

    http://www.hypocrisycaucus.com

    It lists the House of Representatives in three separate categories:

    1) Heroes – those who voted for the one-year ban on the Un-Fairness Doctrine and signed the Discharge Petition for the permanent ban.

    2) Hypocrites – those who did the former but not the latter.

    3) Zeroes – those who did neither

    Contact the “hypocrites” and urge them to sign the Discharge Petition. So far, there are 202 signatures on the Discharge Petition. But it needs a total of 218 signature to allow for a vote on the permanent ban on the FD. So it needs only 16 more.

    Please act fast. Time is running out!

    Comment by Savage — November 7, 2008 @ 2:50 pm
  10. Actually, I see the “fairness” doctrine as being based on the same disconnect that fuels the push for universal health care.

    When one asserts a “right” to something, it’s important to understand what that thing is. These things are not simply fruit lying on unclaimed ground – they took human effort to produce. Broadcast time and health care both require the productive output of people and the use of someone’s property. Claiming a right to this output implies a right to their efforts and the use of their property, whether the producers opt to give it voluntarily or not. The freedom of speech is one thing; the medium upon which that speech is transmitted is another.

    In essence, the argument for government enforced broadcast time in the name of “fairness” is a call for the theft of property and slavery of those who produce that media. The argument for nationalized healthcare is a call for theft of property and slavery of health care providers.

    If you support these abrogations of personal sovereignty and property, be careful. Politicians might decide that society “needs” what you have next.

    Comment by Akston — November 7, 2008 @ 5:04 pm
  11. Robbbond,

    In answer to your question, I wouldn’t want to drive around with kids and see porn billboards. Then again, I don’t want to have to see Viagra ads or “Cash for Gold” commercials or the propeganda that the government is putting out to “ease” the transition to digital TV (and many, many more examples). But does that mean those should be banned? No! (Well, the digital TV ones, but that is because it is using government funds, but if some private group wanted to spend money for the same thing, then that should be allowed.)

    Remember, even if the Fairness Doctrine came back, there is an exception for news organizations. Do you really think that if porn was banned that the media wouldn’t show it as part of a news program?

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — November 7, 2008 @ 5:20 pm
  12. Akston,

    That was a very well-stated argument. I’ll be honest with you, I had never thought of it in those terms but when doing so it makes perfect sense. Thanks for the post – it’s refreshing to find something intelligent written about things in the political realm these days.

    Comment by RobbBond — November 7, 2008 @ 6:43 pm
  13. Alkston,

    Not buying your analogy to the health care issue.

    Those who push for health care reform do so because the current system often necessitates denying the very care it presumes to provide.

    In a civilized society, when someone is sick, he or she should be cared for. Capitalism doesn’t preclude this obligation.

    If you were late to work because you were busy saving a choking child, I would hope that you wouldn’t regret this infringement on your earning potential.

    Comment by Hap Holden — November 8, 2008 @ 3:13 pm
  14. Hap –

    It’s very easy to glibly say that in “a civilized society, when someone is sick, he or she should be cared for.” So, if I’m in a restaurant and my surgically-repaired knee starts acting up for the thousandth time, can I pull out a gun and walk over to the orthopedist two tables down and force him to treat you right then and there?

    Dollars to donuts, you’re going to say no. If the ailing *must* be cared for in a civilized society, then why can’t I personally use the threat of force to hold that damn doctor to his obligation?

    Think of that scenario and reconsider Akston’s analogy. He’s perfectly correct that both health care and broadcast time are the fruits of someone’s labor, so turning them into “rights” accessible to others means that someone, somewhere, is going to have to sacrifice some of his resources to fund said rights.

    Comment by Quincy — November 8, 2008 @ 3:46 pm
  15. New contributor here, but in response to the above: do you really think our founding fathers intended the first amendment to cover pornography? The point is, absolute free speech cannot exist for a society to fully function. There has to be a reasonable limit to some extent.

    Robb –

    I don’t think they intended it cover pornography explicity, since that was outside their social mores. That said, the ideas they were preaching were seen by some to much more socially destructive than anyone has ever claimed porn to be. The First Amendment was designed to shield the expression of dangerous, unpopular ideas from those who would use government to suppress it.

    The only legitimate time to violate that shield is when such would cause a clear violations of an individual’s rights. Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, for example, would cause harm to those crushed in the stampede, so it is clearly illegal. Likewise, libel and slander that causes harm to an individual is illegal.

    Pornography, when created by consenting adults, causes direct harm to no one. Inconvenience, yes, even disgust. But not harm. In the conception of the founders, direct harm was the “reasonable limit” of which you speak. See this post at QandO blog for more on this idea.

    Comment by Quincy — November 8, 2008 @ 4:06 pm
  16. If I’m in a restaurant and my surgically repaired knee acts up for the thousandth time, you can be sure I have Kaiser.

    Seriously, though, doctors should be compensated for their work and should not be held hostage by gun-toting socialists. That much we agree on. Sheesh.

    Comment by Hap Holden — November 8, 2008 @ 4:09 pm
  17. Hap -

    Come on now, you’re avoiding the real question. If things that are the fruit of individual labor are classified as rights, how much force is permissible in guaranteeing those rights, who should be allowed to use that force, and on whom should it be used?

    The reason we libertarians reject the idea that health care is a right is because the answer to that question violates our fundamental beliefs in freedom. If we concede that the question is valid, we open ourselves to everything from a health care tax, which we’ve got now, to socialized medicine, to me with the gun in the restaurant holding up a poor doc.

    Comment by Quincy — November 8, 2008 @ 4:43 pm
  18. If you were late to work because you were busy saving a choking child, I would hope that you wouldn’t regret this infringement on your earning potential.

    Hap,

    I appreciate your concern for sick people and choking children. I share this myself. And while I have indeed regretted the infringement on my earning potential in past situations where I chose to render aid, I determined I’d regret inaction much more and voluntarily chose to render assistance.

    There’s an important difference in these situations as opposed to government enforced action: In each case I chose to act and contributed my own effort and property. I never enlisted a third party to extract the aid involuntarily from others in order to assuage my sensibilities.

    I do not see your effort as mine to command. I also reject any claim you make on mine unless the trade is mutually voluntary. It doesn’t matter whether I’m trained in medicine, broadcast engineering, or any other field. My life’s effort belongs to me, and I concede that yours belongs to you. I will not attempt to enslave your unwilling effort no matter how noble I feel my intentions are. I do not own you.

    Comment by Akston — November 8, 2008 @ 11:53 pm
  19. I have no trouble reconciling my belief in personal liberty with my understanding of the dangers of privatization.

    If my inalienable rights include life, what of the mechanisms that support my life? If not a right, then what? A privilege? A choice? I choose the obvious, that is to look after my health, mustn’t I accede to the current system, whatever the cost? What liberty is there in that?

    Real world solutions exist in the balance of liberty and pragmatism.

    Comment by Hap Harper — November 9, 2008 @ 9:27 pm
  20. If my inalienable rights include life, what of the mechanisms that support my life? If not a right, then what? A privilege? A choice? I choose the obvious, that is to look after my health, mustn’t I accede to the current system, whatever the cost? What liberty is there in that?

    Leaving aside that the current, flawed, expensive system of medical care in the US is a consequence of government interference in the economy, the right to life includes being the one responsible for maintaining that life. At the current time, this means acceding to the current system because the current system is a government-enforced cartel of providers and insurance companies. And you’re correct to state that there’s no liberty in that.

    However, there is even less liberty in acceding, or being forced to accede, to a true government monopoly. You talk about the dangers of privatization, yet you fail to see that it is an even greater loss of liberty to have a public provision of health care.

    Only a health care system where people directly pay for services, backed by a form of optional, individually-purchased health insurance that pay based on the onset of conditions instead of service by service, will lead to better results at less cost, as well as allowing people the liberty they deserve in caring for their own lives. (Under such a plan, if I break my arm, I’m payed $10,000 for the event. I can purchase whatever care I need with this money, encouraging me to balance quality and cost. If I’m smart, and get $10,000 worth of care for $9,000, then I’ve got $1,000 left over for other things.)

    Real world solutions exist in the balance of liberty and pragmatism.

    If you want to talk pragmatism and liberty, things like a simple negative income tax is a great start. It’s not purely libertarian, in that it is a nominal redistribution of wealth, however it is far better in terms of liberty and results than the myriad bureaucracies currently in place to provide a safety net. It also allows people to spend the money in ways that best support their lives. As an addition to this, recipients of the negative income tax payments could be enrolled in a minimal catastrophic event coverage to make sure they have access to health care. That’s pragmatism and liberty. Socialized medicine is not.

    Comment by Quincy — November 9, 2008 @ 10:28 pm
  21. There’s a difference between the liberty to freely pursue the mechanisms which support one’s life (read: the productive output of other people doing the same thing), and freedom from having to grapple with those issues. There is a difference between the freedom to trade for that which furthers my life, and freedom from having to offer values in return.

    I also choose to look after my health. I choose within the current system. I make this same choice for all aspects of my life. What I will not do is demand that you provide your life’s effort to me for less than you are willing to trade. Of course, I reserve the liberty to choose goods and services from a competing provider, if they can offer more for less. Bigger markets are my friend in that.

    Sadly, I don’t have the power to make healthcare to spring from the ground at my bidding, or put communication satellites into space through sheer force of my will. Government does not have this power either. All they can do is take those goods and services from the people who provide them and pay less than what is asked, or nothing at all. I’ll pass on that kind of help.

    Comment by Akston — November 9, 2008 @ 11:41 pm
  22. Excellent point about conceding the issue. I was sick when my very own so-called Republican congressman made a big deal about writing a letter to FCC Chairman Powell to demand action about the stupid Janet Jackson super bowl thing. I thought, you fool. You’ve just legitimized this dinosaur govt agency which should be abolished, and all to pander.

    Comment by Marty — November 14, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

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