The problem with “the people”


I’ve grown tired of the left’s flippant use of “the people.” New York Representative Louise Slaughter provided us with the latest example over the weekend in light of the Arizona tragedy. Arguing that conservative politics is somehow responsible for the behavior of a lunatic and that an FCC clampdown is in order, Slaughter remarked: “No one owns the airwaves…They are owned by the people.” This kind of statement not only sounds plausible at first glance, but even conservative.

But here’s how you can determine what leftists really mean when they make such grandiose statements. Just substitute GOVERNMENT for PEOPLE, and it’s easy to understand. Let’s follow her example.

If the airwaves are owned by the people, then why does she seek to restrict the rights of various individuals to speak their minds? And who would decide when someone’s speech is out of line? You guessed it–the government. The implicit assumption here is that the government is merely an extension of the people, but a cursory look at the current fiscal mess provides clear evidence to the contrary. As a force, the government moves in its own direction, sometimes with “the people” and often against them. Giving additional power to the government in hope that its application of that power will necessarily reflect the will of the people is folly. This is why the founders established a system of limited government with specific enumerated powers.

Slaughter makes another implicit assumption that is common to the left, the idea that vigorous political debate can spark uncontrollable violence. Put a different way, she assumes that many Americans just aren’t up to listening to the arguments the day and making their own decisions. Whether the issue is social security, healthcare, or regulation of the media, socialists lack confidence in each individual to make his or her own decisions. This is the ultimate justification for big government.

So what’s the best way to ensure that “the people” have their say in the battle over the airwaves? Just let them decide what to watch or listen to on their own. When some conservatives complain about the language and adult content in many of today’s sitcoms, the left tells them to change the channel. Why isn’t this advice good enough for talk radio or Fox News?

In a strict sense, “the people” really don’t own the airwaves anyway. Radio and TV frequencies merely exist; they are not owned by anyone. In a nutshell, the government’s role is simply to maintain an organized system so that multiple broadcasters down fight over the same frequencies in the same market. Arguably, even this could probably be done more effectively by the private sector.

Capitalists are free to use the airwaves to the extent that they can do so profitably. The most popular TV shows and radio personalities win, and those with smaller followings struggle to survive. Once again, capitalism serves the needs of “the people” best. Unfortunately, it doesn’t serve the needs of the left.



  1. Jerry  •  Jan 11, 2011 @4:19 PM

    What about NPR? Taxpayers are forced to pay for bad programming that can’t survive on its own. If you don’t like capitalism in media, this is the alternative!!!

  2. CHI  •  Jan 11, 2011 @4:33 PM

    Hey Jerry, what’s wrong with some equal time? That’s what you get with NPR and that’s what you’d get with the fairness doctrine. I don’t want to get rid of guys like Limbaugh, Hannity, and Levin. I just want equal time to rebut their vitriol.

  3. Jeff  •  Jan 11, 2011 @8:05 PM

    Vitriol? Why that specific provocative word and not something like opinion, comment, viewpoint?

  4. GJ  •  Jan 11, 2011 @10:53 PM

    Hey CHI, if you already get equal time with NPR then why do we need the fairness doctrine again? NPR is not really equal time because nobody chooses to listen to it. Should we force people to endure morning edition?

  5. Chris  •  Jan 12, 2011 @9:23 PM

    People listen to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Levin, Wilkow, Church, and watch Fox because they want to and there’s a market. The mainstream media historically (until now) has kind of served as the public watchdog on the government. We don’t need cheerleaders, we need accountability. The fairness doctine would do nothing but force an opposing view onto the air that nobody wants to hear. If they did, it would already be on there….duh. It’s the free market and that’s the way it works. Maybe the solution is to jam everybody into a theater and force them to watch the opposing viewpoint kind of like that famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial. That would be fair, eh? But wait, we already get that viewpoint from ABC, CNN, CBS, and especially NBC and its cable twin MSNBC, but hardly anybody watches. Go figure. I’m one of the few in America that doesn’t have cable or satellite TV, so I don’t watch any TV news at home. I’m not missing a thing.