National Public Radio was one step closer to being defunded yesterday. Here are two opinions on the matter by respected journalists George Will and Cokie Roberts. Though the bill has slim chances in the Senate, House passage sends an important message that some legislators are finally getting the message.
Doomsayers acts as if this were the end of…well, something important. I don’t see much evidence for that, but I do believe that it is the beginning of something important. It is the beginning of the return to limited-government principles being discussed openly in public. No matter whether the bill finally passes both chambers, the cat is out of the bag. No one can seriously dismiss the need to ask ourselves why NPR or any other journalistic outlet should be funded by taxpayers. It is no longer a given.
The Democrats, as usual, have it completely wrong. As noted in the above link, they are worried that people in rural areas won’t get “quality” programming. Presumably, horrible things will happen if farmers don’t get to listen to Click and Clack, whoever they are.
The Republicans have it almost completely wrong. They are worried that NPR unfairly represents the other side. You know, liberals. One wonders at the feathery substance of that argument. Are we to assume that it would be OK if NPR were “balanced?” If it represented conservatives?
The issue before us is not the particular point of view being represented. What a moderate would find “balanced” between liberal and conservative points of view would, from a libertarian perspective, still be biased. I have seen liberals aghast at the very notion that NPR is biased in favor of liberals and conservatives equally astonished that anyone would think it not tilted heavily in that direction.
So let us relegate that tired and weightless argument to the waste receptacle and start over. It is wrong for government to support journalism in any form whatsoever, other than staying clear of it. The Founders rightly recognized that one irreplaceable key to liberty is the ability of citizens to say what they want, through the outlet they want, when they want to say it. A government that supports any part of its citizenry in expressing that speech always tilts the platform in one direction or another, if by no other means than giving those who express themselves through private channels an unfair disadvantage.
Let NPR be funded privately. If they cannot make it in the marketplace, let them make up for their subsidy with contributions. Those who can’t bear the thought of losing public radio will have to put up or shut up. I frankly don’t care which.