Newspaper bailout? Why not bail out candle and buggy whip manufacturers

(H/t: Pi Guy.) Prof. Stephen Bainbridge addresses the hare-brained proposal by Henry Waxman for a state bailout of the collapsing newspaper industry. “Market failure? I don’t think so.” More like Schumpeter’s “creative destruction“, I’d say — coupled with newspapers forgetting about their basic mission: bringing the news.

In Israel, leftist MK Shelly Yechimowitz (formerly a journalist at the state-run Israel Broadcasting Authority) has a similar idea.

As Glenn Reynolds has argued time and time again: the legacy media have one killer app compared to bloggers and other new media: hard news gathering. And precisely this is what gets short shrift in favor of opinionated bloviation thinly disguised as news, or just plain fluff. The NYT and Time were opinionatedly liberal publications 15 years ago as well, but at least they had some heft.

Bainbridge suggests that Waxman might have bailed out buggy-whip makers had he been around when automobiles drove them out of business. Of course, nobody satirized this sort of thinking more devastatingly than Frédéric Bastiat’s famous Candlestick Makers Petition:

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us [1].

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights, and blinds — in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

(Re)read the whole thing, then put it in your “historical library”.

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