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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Monday, July 14, 2008

Unowned Is Not the Same Thing as Government Owned

According to Ralph Nader (as reported at Free Republic):

You, Rush Limbaugh, are on welfare.

As you know, the public airwaves belong to the American people. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is supposed to be our trustee in managing this property. The people are the landlords and the radio and TV stations and affiliated companies are the tenants.

The problem is that since the Radio Act of 1927 these corporate tenants have been massively more powerful in Washington, DC than the tens of millions of listeners and viewers. The result has been no payment of rent by the stations for the value of their license to broadcast. You and your company are using the public's valuable property for free. This freeloading on the backs of the American people is called corporate welfare.

The fact that the airwaves were unowned (until the radio pioneers homesteaded the airwaves) did not mean it was government owned. (If the government retained legal authority to shut down stations, that means it seized partial goverment ownership; not that it is otherwise giving it away.) The fact that the airwaves are still unowned as far as the right to receive transmissions is concerned (the sense in which they are public airwaves) does not mean they are government owned.

One of the best Free Republic comments said:

Let me explain the arguement. The government owns everything, so breathing air is accepting government welfare.
There are other examples of how Nader's theory is wrong. Shakespeare's plays are in the public domain but that doesn't mean public funding has anything to do with them. (I've made this point before.)

On the other hand

The theory that “the public” is identical with “the government” might be responsible for the copyright extension nonsense. You can think of copyright as a bargain between authors and the public negotiated by the government. That means copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away the public's rights, which should be a no-no. If the public were identical to the government, then the copyright extension is a matter of the government giving away its own property, which might be okay and should not be second-guessed by the courts.

Another Nader demand

In the same rant, Ralph Nader also insisted:

It is way past due for the super-rich capitalist--Rush Limbaugh from Cape Girardeau, Missouri--to get himself off big time welfare. It is way past due for Rush Limbaugh as the Kingboy of corporatist radio to set a capitalist example for his peers and pay rent to the American people for the very lucrative use of their property.

This is, of course, an example of Rule 4 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals:
Rule 4: Make your opponent live up to his own rule book.
Of course, nowadays we wingnuts will point out that this is a matter of “the sanction of the victim.”

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