Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Priceonomics discusses (HT: GeekPress) how academic economists have helped the FCC auction off licenses to the radio spectrum, in the process reminding me of Ayn Rand's 1964 article on "The Property Status of Airwaves," in which she stated:
The history of the collectivization of radio and television demonstrates, in condensed form, in a kind of microcosm, the process and the causes of capitalism's destruction. It is an eloquent illustration of the fact that capitalism is perishing by the philosophical default of its alleged defenders.I think (but do not know) that the FCC is not actually selling, so much as retaining "ownership" and licensing out portions. Nevertheless, if this isn't ownership, it is at least a step closer to that ideal. It was interesting to read of the creative way the government found to assume (or at least move closer to) its proper role in this industry.
Collectivists frequently cite the early years of radio as an example of the failure of free enterprise. In those years, when broadcasters had no property rights in radio, no legal protection or recourse, the airways were a chaotic no man's land where anyone could use any frequency he pleased and jam anyone else. Some professional broadcasters tried to divide their frequencies by private agreements, which they could not enforce on others; nor could they fight the interference of stray, maliciously mischievous amateurs. This state of affairs was used, then and now, to urge and justify government control of radio.
This is an instance of capitalism taking the blame for the evils of its enemies.
The chaos of the airways was an example, not of free enterprise, but of anarchy. It was caused, not by private property rights, but by their absence. It demonstrated why capitalism is incompatible with anarchism, why men do need a government and what is a government's proper function. What was needed was legality, not controls. (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 125)