A Half Century Without the Fairness Doctrine

August 4, 2012

Twenty-five years ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order effectively repealing the infamous broadcast “Fairness Doctrine.” The Doctrine required that broadcast licensees had to present reasonable opportunity for the airing of contesting points of view when covering issues of public importance to their community. For nearly 40 years, it was upheld in the name of protecting the ‘public interest.’

Lost in this more positive-right view of freedom of speech often espoused by proponents of the Doctrine was the harm it had on the more negative-right view of freedom of speech. But over time the negative-right view won out. It became viewed as a restriction on free speech, creating a “chilling effect” which led broadcasters to avoid covering any controversial public issues due to the requirement to ensure all sides of the issue were covered.

To commemorate the repeal, Reason.tv has posted the following interview with Thomas Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, discussing the history and various issues with the Doctrine:

In addition, I actually wrote my master’s thesis on the subject, relating it to the two conceptions of liberty: positive and negative, as postulated by Isaiah Berlin. In addition to the “chilling effect” argument, I also argued in the thesis that the positive-right conception exemplified in the Doctrine lends itself to an uncomfortable level of paternalism on the part of government regulators and a constitutional abridgement of negative-right speech. For those with probably too much time on their hands, all 184 pages can be read here.


Words for the Weekend – 11-12-10

November 12, 2010

“It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights – the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery – hay and a barn for human cattle.”

                                                                                 — P.J. O’Rourke


‘Entitled’ Students Protest in the U.K.

November 11, 2010

More outcries from the ‘entitled’ in Europe:

This time it is students lamenting the fact that they may have to actually pay for more of their own college tuition instead of relying on the government for support. The horror!


Words for the Weekend 7-9-10

July 9, 2010

C.S. Lewis

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

                                      – C.S. Lewis


Another Link Between Economic Knowledge and Political Beliefs

June 15, 2010

At this point, readers may be familiar with a recently reported study finding that liberals and progressives were less economically “enlightened” than their conservative and libertarian counterparts. Now, another study conducted by the New York Federal Reserve found more interesting results connecting economic knowledge to political beliefs.

It seems, according to the study, that taking classes in economics also correlates with party affiliation. It found, among other things, the following:

… those who took more economics classes or who majored in economics or business were more likely to be members of the Republican party and less likely to join the Democratic party. Those findings hold even after controlling for the higher salary, higher equity in real estate holdings, and earning a graduate degree.

One question to ask would be if the political beliefs were pre-existant to the choice of classes. That might indicate that political beliefs influence choice in majors.

It would also be interesting to see a study looking at the party affiliation of political science majors. I’d imagine the results would be rather different.

* The preceding was originally posted on the Young Americans for Liberty blog.


Liberal/Progressive Ignorance of Economics

June 12, 2010

Given the economic policies supported by liberals/progressives, it would be no surprise if they were ignorant of basic economic facts. A study of 2008 Zogby survey data just recently published finds just that.

According to the study, what the researchers call “economic enlightenment” (essentially knowledge of economic facts) varied among political ideologies. The authors note the following:

Adults self-identifying “very conservative” and “libertarian” perform the best, followed closely by “conservative.” Trailing far behind are “moderate,” then with another step down to “liberal,” and a final step to “progressive,” who, on average, get wrong 5.26 questions out of eight.

Here are few examples of the statements survey respondents were asked to agree or disagree with:

Read the rest of this entry »


Obama’s Responsibility Rhetoric

June 10, 2010

Politicians are masters at saying one thing and doing another. Translation: Politicians make good hypocrites.

A pertinent example is this charge to high-school graduates from a recent speech by President Barack Obama, urging the graduates to:

 Take responsibility not just for your successes; take responsibility where you fall short as well.

Perhaps the 17- and 18-year-old graduates in the room believed the president really meant that. However, one would hope the more informed adults in the room had a collective gasp after Obama uttered those words.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=obama+kalamazoo&iid=9054824″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9054824/president-obama-attends/president-obama-attends.jpg?size=500&imageId=9054824″ width=”234″ height=”189″ /]Such comments flatly fly in the face of policies he has promoted since and prior to coming to the White House. Policies ranging from the bank bailouts to the car bailouts to the seemingly never-ending supply of unemployment benefits to Americans all highlight that Obama believes, in reality, that the government should shield businesses and individuals from the eventual results when they “fall short.” The net result of such a bailout culture is dependence on government and a greater incentive to continue activities that lead to failure — not to mention increasing government debt.

Read the rest of this entry »


Gore’s ‘Motivational’ Speech to Graduates

May 27, 2010

Here’s a clip from Americans for Prosperity highlighting the rather unmotivational parts of a recent graduation commencement speech delivered by the always cheerful (sarcasm) Al Gore:


Controlling History

May 23, 2010

Much was made in the media over the last week or so about the changes to social studies and history curriculum standards being debated by the Texas State Board of Education. The changes, which were passed Friday, will be in effect applicable to many other states’ education curriculums because of the prominent role in the school-textbook market Texas holds.

Liberals argued that the proposed changes, such as a requirement that students “identify reasons for limiting the power of government; and review the record of human rights abuses of unlimited governments such as the oppression of Christians in Sudan,” represented an attempt by the conservative members on the board to bias textbooks in favor of their ideology. Conservatives asserted that the changes would help correct the imbalance common in textbooks swayed in the past by liberal bias. You can judge for yourself by reading some of the proposed changes here.

Jack Plunkett / AP

Lost in the debate, however, is a critical examination of why such a matter is so controversial. State boards of education, particularly the one in Texas, control what issues, subjects and figures are covered and from what perspective they are presented in a host of public schools. For better or worse, the power to shape a generation of students’ knowledge of our past and perspectives on government institutions is placed in the hands of small, partisan boards. This essentially equates to government controlling the presentation of our history.

Read the rest of this entry »


Teacher Merit Pay in Florida: Were There Any Merits?

April 16, 2010

A recently vetoed bill in Florida that would have tied teacher pay to student test performance may have at first glance appeared to introduce something into the public education system that many have criticized it for lacking: an emphasis on results. However, the wisdom of such a significant change may not be so clear.

The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill that would base a large part of teacher pay on their students’ performance on standardized tests. It would also end tenure for new teachers. After much speculation, Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill Thursday.

In theory, such a move would have incentivized teachers to make sure their students are achieving academically. In reality, as with many government policies, there may also have been some unintended consequences.

Teachers and other opponents of the merit pay legislation protest in a walk from Lee Middle School to the CTA/OESPA office in Orlando on April 8, 2010. (JACOB LANGSTON, ORLANDO SENTINEL / April 8, 2010)

Since such merit pay would be based on improvement in standardized test scores, the degree to which these tests adequately reflect the knowledge that should be learned by students is of critical importance. Many in Florida have criticized the state’s chief standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), for not necessarily accurately assessing what students have learned. Critics, including teachers’ unions and students, have also argued that focus on such tests gives an incentive to teachers to teach solely to the test, de-emphasizing the students’ overall education. Under the merit-pay bill, the teachers’ pay would have been linked partly to their students’ improvement on the FCAT, further exacerbating the perceived problem with the emphasis placed on the much-maligned test.

Read the rest of this entry »