Were the Founding Fathers Media Socialists?
ALL
The Immigration Debate
by The Editors | April 17, 2017
Charlie Hebdo Two Years Later: Will America Continue to Protect Free Speech?
by Steve Simpson | January 07, 2017
Free Speech Is a Right, Not a Political Weapon
by Steve Simpson | December 06, 2016
One Small Step for Dictatorship: The Significance of Donald Trump’s Election
by Onkar Ghate | November 17, 2016
Overturning Citizens United Would Be a Disaster for Free Speech
by Steve Simpson | September 06, 2016
New Book: Defending Free Speech
by The Editors | July 26, 2016
Defending Free Speech
by Steve Simpson | July 02, 2016
How U.S. Attorneys General Are Like Chinese Censors
by Steve Simpson | July 01, 2016
Standing up for Free Speech
by The Editors | June 17, 2016
Is the First Amendment Enough?
by Steve Simpson | March 22, 2016
Free Speech Under Siege
by Steve Simpson | March 25, 2015
Freedom of Speech or Tyranny of Silence?
by The Editors | January 21, 2015
Free Speech and the Battle for Western Culture
by Yaron Brook | January 21, 2015
Freedom of Speech: We Will Not Cower
by Onkar Ghate | January 07, 2015
Gutting the First Amendment
by Steve Simpson | July 17, 2014
The Myth about Ayn Rand and Social Security
by Onkar Ghate | June 19, 2014
The Campaign Finance Monster That Refuses to Die
by Steve Simpson | June 11, 2014
The “End the Debt Draft” Campaign
by Don Watkins | March 18, 2014
End the debt draft
by Don Watkins | March 13, 2014
Abortion Rights Are Pro-life
by Leonard Peikoff | January 23, 2013
A Liberal Ayn Rand?
by Onkar Ghate | November 02, 2012
Ryan, Rand and Rights
by Don Watkins | August 17, 2012
Repairing Lochner’s Reputation: An Adventure In Historical Revisionism
by Tom Bowden | Fall 2011
Why Should Business Leaders Care about Intellectual Property? — Ayn Rand’s Radical Argument
by Adam Mossoff | November 30, 2010
Elena Kagan: Could She Defend the Constitution’s Purpose?
by Tom Bowden | July 20, 2010
Capitalism: Who Needs It — Ayn Rand and the American System
by Yaron Brook | June 09, 2010
Were the Founding Fathers Media Socialists?
by Don Watkins | March 01, 2010
Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution
by Tom Bowden | Summer 2009
Nationalization Is Theft
by Tom Bowden | November 07, 2008
Supreme Disappointments
by Tom Bowden | November 03, 2008
Deep-Six the Law of the Sea
by Tom Bowden | November 20, 2007
After Ten Years, States Still Resist Assisted Suicide
by Tom Bowden | November 02, 2007
No Right to “Free” Health Care
by Onkar Ghate | June 11, 2007
The Rise and Fall of Property Rights in America
by Adam Mossoff | May 16, 2007
Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons, a Panel Discussion
by Yaron Brook | April 11, 2006
The Fear to Speak Comes to America’s Shores
by Onkar Ghate | April 04, 2006
The Twilight of Freedom of Speech
by Onkar Ghate | February 21, 2006
The Cartoon Jihad: Free Speech in the Balance
by Christian Beenfeldt | February 10, 2006
The Faith-Based Attack on Rational Government
by Tom Bowden | June 27, 2005
Supreme Court Should Uphold Rights, Not Majority Sentiment in Ten Commandments Cases
by Tom Bowden | February 23, 2005
Campaign Finance Reform Attacks Victims of Corruption
by Onkar Ghate | December 26, 2003
Thought Control
by Onkar Ghate | April 22, 2003
A Supreme Court Overview
by Tom Bowden | January 01, 2000
Blacklists Are Not Censorship
by Tom Bowden | March 23, 1999
Health Care is Not a Right
by Leonard Peikoff | December 11, 1993
The Age of Mediocrity
by Ayn Rand | April 26, 1981
Censorship: Local and Express
by Ayn Rand | October 21, 1973
A Nation’s Unity
by Ayn Rand | October 22, 1972
Of Living Death
by Ayn Rand | December 08, 1968
The Wreckage of the Consensus
by Ayn Rand | April 16, 1967
Racism
by Ayn Rand | September 1963
POV: Man’s Rights; The Nature of Government
by Ayn Rand | 1963

MORE FROM THE BLOG:

Government And Business in Voice for Reason
Government & BusinessIndividual Rights

Were the Founding Fathers Media Socialists?

by Don Watkins | March 01, 2010

The Federal Communications Commission’s Chief Diversity Officer, Mark Lloyd, wants government to socialize the media. In his 2006 book Prologue to a Farce, Lloyd calls for a far-reaching government program that would straitjacket private media companies and funnel tens of billions of dollars into a tax-supported “public” media — an agenda shared by many of his associates. A massive nonprofit media run by the state would better inform Americans, Lloyd claims, although, feeling generous, he allows that “there should be a place for private communications services in a republic.”

You might think this radical call for government control of the media is at odds with the First Amendment and the ideals of its authors. Not according to Lloyd and his fellow travelers, who portray their vision of a government-funded press as a continuation of the American tradition. The Founders, they say, weren’t committed to protecting a profit-seeking press from government control. Instead, their primary concern was making sure the press could effectively educate and inform Americans, and they obsessively sought to subsidize the press in order to achieve that goal.

Let’s review the facts. During the founding era, America was buzzing with newspapers — all of them privately owned and for-profit. Profit-seeking was so much a part of the American press that, as Professor Paul Starr notes, “The word ‘advertiser’ appeared in the title of 5 of 8 dailies published in 1790 and 20 of 24 dailies in 1800.” The Founders did not curtail this profit-seeking press or supplement it with a government press. Instead they created a limited, rights-protecting government that secured freedom of speech and of the press. They were keenly aware that a free country depended on the free communication of ideas; indeed, it was America’s burgeoning press that had helped transform the colonists from loyal subjects into intransigent rebels, something that would have been impossible had the British government controlled or restricted the press.

Lloyd’s plan is point for point a repudiation of the Founders’ ideals.

Lloyd advocates billions in new taxes on the private media, while the Founders reviled the 1765 Stamp Act, which sparked the chain of events climaxing in the Revolution, in large measure because it taxed the press.

Lloyd calls for “federal regulations over commercial broadcast and cable programs regarding political advertising and commentary, educational programs for children” and even “the number of commercials” they can run, while the Founders solemnly declared that “Congress shall make no law” abridging the freedom of speech.

Lloyd advocates a government-run “public” media that would force you to support through taxes ideas you may oppose, while the Founders recognized the individual’s freedom of conscience, which includes the right not to support views you object to.

The most Lloyd can dig up to substantiate his claim that a sprawling “public” press and crippling restrictions on the private press are consistent with the Founders’ ideals is an obscure 1792 act that reduced postal shipping rates for newspapers. According to Lloyd, the Founders’ “advocacy of the Postal Act of 1792 put communication service and a subsidy for political discourse at the center of our republic.”

It was not a subsidy but freedom that the Founders put at the center of our republic. Even if we grant Lloyd that the Founders supported the Postal Act because they saw a modest role for government in promoting the spread of news, an objective assessment of such support would have to conclude that it contradicts their fundamental commitment to a free press. The reporting of news must be left to the voluntary actions of private individuals — any news subsidy inevitably sets the stage for government control of the press (just observe Washington’s intrusion into the affairs of today’s bailout recipients).

At the deepest level, Lloyd’s is an act of moral embezzlement. He is using what is at most a minor inconsistency on the part of the Founders to smash their achievement and destroy America’s free press. The FCC’s adoption of his proposals would not continue the American tradition. It would end it.

About The Author

Don Watkins

Former Fellow (2006-2017), Ayn Rand Institute