Archive for July, 2012

Media Bias And Declining Audiences

Dave Killion — July 9, 2012

One hears quite frequently about the decline of mainstream media, as TV audiences shrink and subscribers abandon print media in droves. Obviously, the internet is to blame… or is it?

“In 2011, the only national newspaper that increased its circulation was the Wall Street Journal, a resolute opponent of state intervention in the economy. The WSJmay not be every libertarian’s cup of tea, but we have to give them this: they are, with Investor’s Business Daily, one of the few national conservative dailies left in the country.

Similarly, Fox News has a notable anti-liberal slant, and gathers almost four times as many watchers as the combined CNN, MSNBC, and HLN (5.7 million vs. 1.5). Are we seeing a pattern here?

I have had leftist acquaintances insist that there is no liberal bias in the media. Well, I am a libertarian, and therefore vulnerable only to libertarian confirmation bias. Being impervious to leftist or rightist confirmation bias, I can assure you there is most certainly a liberal bias in the media. The author makes the argument that the ‘Moneyed Media’, being largely modern-liberal, serve an audience that comprises only 15% of the population. The rest of the population is simply turning away from what it sees as a bunch of elite sycophants.

I find the argument intriguing, but the media has been slanted for an awfully long time, and audiences of all stripes stayed with it. So why would the masses start turning away after all this time? I think the internet is still the likely answer, as it has provided a means for the other 85% of the population to get its information from a slant more to our liking. If I’m wrong, then there will be more libertarian and conservative voices on TV and in newspapers and magazines arising as the market works its magic. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Our Next Title

Dave Killion — July 6, 2012

The Victoria Libertarian Book Club is finishing up our current book this Thursday, which means goodbye ‘Black Swan‘. Our next book is ‘The Market for Liberty’, by Morris and Linda Tannehill. You can purchase an outrageously expensive copy from Amazon.ca, or get an inexpensive paperback or free ebook at the Mises Institute. Tough choice, I know, but don’t take too long or you might miss out on the chance to join in on the conversation.

Libertarians; Equal Opportunity Defenders

Dave Killion — July 5, 2012

Libertarians go through a lot of ink criticizing police, and not much criticizing private security guards. There’s good reason for that. When mall guards interact with mall visitors, they are keenly aware that their employers will take a dim view of aggression and discourtesy. The feedback mechanism from consumer to employer to guard is is very responsive. With publicly-employed police, there is a greater disconnect, and officers do not face the same incentives to conduct themselves well. The results are entirely predictable. Today, however, I bring to your attention the cause of an RCMP officer that definitely merits libertarian support

  “An RCMP code-of-conduct inquiry is underway into a Mountie who played a part in the investigation into serial killer Robert Pickton and appeared on a website posing in sexually explicit torture images reminiscent of the pig-farmer’s crimes.

In some of the graphic pictures obtained by The Vancouver Sun, Cpl. Jim Brown appears to wear only his regulation-issue Mountie boots and an erection as he wields a huge knife and a bound naked woman cringes in terror.”

If Cpl. Brown were a private sector worker, I would have no objection to his boss firing him for any (or no) reason what so ever. But tolerating the persecution of a public “servant” for engaging in legal and consensual adult activity while off-duty is a different matter. Before firing workers, private sector employers must consider that there are costs to doing so. This consideration encourages tolerance on the  part of the employers, and affords workers some degree of protection. Public sector employers face no such limitations, and are free to act on purely political considerations. Is the difference a big deal? Well, if the photos in question were of a private security guard, do you think we’d be reading newspaper articles about it?

Eco-capitalism

Dave Killion — July 4, 2012

In my experience, few people appreciate the role of liberty in promoting resource conservation. In a free enterprise system, competition provides a never-ending impetus for market participants to produce more goods with fewer resources. At Slate, Seth Stevenson gives us a real-life example when he seeks the answer to “Why Are Poland Spring Bottles So Crinkly?” –

“If you’ve bought a bottle of spring water recently—a little, half-liter one, the single serve kind—you may have noticed how fragile it was. Cellophane-thin walls, so easy to squish and crinkle. Tiny, fiddly caps that seem to come off without any effort. Why have these bottles become so insubstantial?

The answer: environmentally friendly operations. Or, less charitably but perhaps more accurately, operations that cut down on raw material use and, along the way, have environmentally pleasant side benefits.

Often, we think of operations management as a quest simply to cut costs, or speed up processes, in the name of ever-larger profits. And it is that. But when companies tweak their operations to save money, they often end up having a positive environmental impact as well.”

Not only are the new bottles better for the environment relative to what they used to be, they are also less resource consumptive than the pop and juice bottles with which they compete. So despite complaints that bottled water is bad for the ecology, to the extent that they motivate people to choose water instead of another beverage, they lessen the damage caused by other containers. Free enterprise is just full of win!

Happy Planet ≠ Happy People

Dave Killion — July 3, 2012

The “Happy Planet Index” was delivered up to us recently, courtesy of the New Economics Foundation. After seeing it, I strove to make up some joke about the NEF being less a think tank than a septic tank, but I decided not to disparage a thing so useful as a septic tank. What does the index purport to do? –

“The new HPI results show the extent to which 151 countries across the globe produce long, happy and sustainable lives for the people that live in them.  The overall index scores rank countries based on their efficiency, how many long and happy lives each produces per unit of environmental output.”

There are been other indices like this, such as the Human Development Index, but most of them seem to be measurements of how Swedish a country is. Sweden usually does well, and Canada, too, since Canada is pretty Swedish. The US is less Swedish, and consistently ranks lower. However, neither Sweden nor Sweden-like countries do well in the Happy Planet Index. In fact, the top rankings go to places like Cuba and Honduras. Apparently the planet hates people, and is only happy when they suffer brutally. As far as the New Economics Foundation is concerned, the sooner everyone in the world lives in banana-republic squalor, the better. I can hardly wait, and I bet the planet will be ecstatic.

Happy Canada Day

Dave Killion — July 1, 2012

As Canada Day is wrapping up, I think it is wise to reflect on what it is that makes Canada one of the best countries on the planet. The answer, in brief, is that it is one of the most libertarian places on the planet. Only five countries rank higher for economic freedom, and a review of several indexes consistently finds Canada in the top ranks for personal freedoms. And as Michael  Kelly-Gagnon of the Montreal Economic Institute writes in his chapter of Freedom Champions, freedom is Canada’s cultural foundation –

This is a little known fact, but until the 1960s, Canada as a whole had a government that was as small, and in some respects smaller, than that of the United States. Interventionist fads (such as the creation of a central bank, income tax, unemployment insurance and other welfare programs) were usually implemented ␣rst in the United States and then in Canada several years later. uebec itself had, until the 1950s, one of the least intervention- ist governments on the continent. During the Great Depression, a uebec premier criticized Roosevelt’s New Deal as ‘a Socialistic venture bordering on Communism’!”

Of course, libertarians know that Canadians are free only relative to other nations, and even so are still oppressed far beyond anything a human being should tolerate. But it is a comfort to know that in the Great White North, freedom is bred in the bone, and may yet come out in the flesh.