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Old 08-17-2008, 03:35 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. SaŽah
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: A clarification and a question

Originally Posted by conncarroll View Post
But I also have a question for bjkeefe: you assert that the Heritage foundation exists "to generate quasi-intellectual cover for whatever big business wants." You're hardly the first to say this. It is a very common trope on the left. But it always makes me giggle. What do you picture our process is for deciding "what big business wants." 99% of the fights in Washington are between big businesses (like net neutrality - it's Amazon, Google, and Microsoft against the cable companies). Do you imagine we hold some sort of auction, and what ever 'big business' writes the largest check, that's who we defend that day?

I'm sorry you took such humbrage at a throw-away line, when I was really interested in talking about Net Neutrality, but I suppose I'm to blame for saying it in the first place. Since you seem to care so much about this minor point, I'll give a short answer. I do hope that we can come back to a discussion of Net Neutrality (NN), though.

I'll grant that I oversimplified by saying that Heritage exists to serve the interests of big business only. I do acknowledge that they have a broader mandate to advocate for other conservative principles, some of which have nothing to do with business.

I'll also say that your "99%" line has some merit. I agree: there isn't much room at the table in D.C. for the little guy.

You also make a fair point with your counterexample of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft pushing for NN, while the big telcos want to do away with it. I do admit the reality that "big business" is not always a monolith.

To defend my admitted oversimplification a little bit ...

Do I imagine you at Heritage hold some sort of auction? No. I think of you all more as a consulting firm, launched on the strength of a few big contracts, focused on maintaining those contracts for the long term, and willing to take on new clients provided they have goals that do not conflict with those held by your existing client base.

As I understand it, Heritage was founded by Joseph Coors, Edward Noble, and Richard Mellon Scaife, tycoons all. (Extreme ideologues, too, granted.) It continues to get a lot of corporate money; e.g., from Big Oil, Big Tobacco, big insurance companies, big manufacturers, and so on. Much of the rest of its funding, from other "foundations," strikes me mostly as a dodge. When I look at the major foundational donors, it seems obvious that corporate money is just being funneled through something set up primarily for this purpose, whether for tax reasons, to cut down on having to be quite as open to shareholders about where their money is going, and so on. N.B.: I'm not saying this is entirely a bad thing.

Anyway, at base, my view of Heritage is that it likes to talk in its mission statement about limited government and all, but really, what it most seems to push for is removal of restrictions that hamper large companies from further dominating the game.

I see Heritage's anti-NN attiitude as perfectly consistent with my view that Heritage is only interested in limiting government in ways that benefit large corporations. What the big telcos would like is a way to charge more money for running the underlying infrastructure of the Internet, and having failed to make their case with previous arguments (e.g., "We need the resources to upgrade the network"), they're now pushing fear of the Fairness Doctrine (FD) as a stalking horse.

The new talking point that I've seen on your Heritage blog and elsewhere seems to be an idea that mandating NN equates to the government "dictating content." This doesn't sound like anything but a howler to me. Assuming a pro-NN law is written properly (always a risky assumption, I'll grant), the entire mandate would mean precisely the opposite -- that content could not be dictated, that every stream of bits has to be treated the same as every other. By contrast, the big telcos are the ones who want to distinguish content, whether it refers to the traffic type (video, voice, text, P2P vs. one-to-one and one-to-many, etc.) or whether it refers to the source (e.g., Disney Channel given preferential transmission over YouTube, or one VOIP provider over another).

So, to return to my original point, I'd like to hear more about the NN debate, and I'd like in particular to hear a defense of this FD worry. I will state up front that I have long thought that the Fairness Doctrine is as dead as anything can be. Apart from indulging in a fantasy of finding a club with which to smite Rush Limbaugh, even most liberals wouldn't want the FD to come back, and in any case, virtually no on the left thinks it has any chance to.

I believe the FD's "possible return" exists only as a bogeyman that is trotted out to motivate the conservative base for other reasons. Tell me why I'm wrong.

Last edited by bjkeefe; 08-17-2008 at 03:43 PM..
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