I had occasion to think about the term "public service" at about 6AM this Sunday morning. As I was driving my son to a way-too-early baseball game, I flipped around the FM dial trying to find some music. There was none. All I could find were a number of really dull programs on arcane topics presumably on the air to fulfill the radio broadcaster's "public service" requirements of the FCC regulatory regime. Since almost no one gets excited about this programming except for the leftish public policy types that inhabit regulatory positions, the radio stations broadcast all this garbage on Sunday mornings when no one is listening anyway. Ironically, in the name of "public service," stations must broadcast material no one in the public actually wants to listen to.
Which leads me to coyote's definition of corporate public service: Make a product or service for which people, without use of force or fraud, are willing to pay the listed price.
Any freaking moron can (or at least should be able to) offer a product or service that people will be willing to use for free. Is this a public service? Well, maybe. If you are out there helping to feed homeless people, power to you. But is it really a public service that the Miami transit system offers free rides that it can only pay for with deficit spending? Or $1.50 bus rides that cost taxpayers $30 each to provide? And this is not to mention the free services, like public service radio broadcasts, that many people would be willing to pay not to receive.
That's why I say that any moron can give stuff away. But find me the person who can create enough value that people are willing to pay enough for his product to cover all the material, labor, and capital inputs it took to create it, with surplus left over for both buyer and seller, and that is the person performing a real public service.
And let me listen to some freaking classic rock on Sunday mornings.
People Unclear on the Concept Tuesday, June 10th, 2008
The Agitatrix and I were listening to D.C. WTOP radio this morning. WTOP is usually a straight new station, using the standard half-hour repeating headline news format.
But this morning anchor Dimitri Sotis was interviewing Sen. Byron Dorgan, who’s been demagoguing the gas price issue. I don’t know if he’s pissed because he filled up on the way into work this morning, but Sotis stepped completely out of character to fawn over Dorgan’s efforts to “do something” about high gas prices. “The government is supposed to help people,” Sotis pled. “Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
After the interview, Sotis said with exasperation of Dorgan, “Well at least he’s trying. It’s about time someone tried to do something.”
Sotis and his co-anchor then reported four straight stories of government failure, including the failure of U.S. diplomats in Pakistan to properly gage that country’s terror threat, outdated and useless computer software at the FBI, delays and cancellations in Maryland’s mass transit program that forced the state to apologize to commuters, and a story about how the Virginia Lottery has been misrepresenting its payoffs to customers.
Blows my mind how media people report on government failure after government failure after government failure, then still enthusiastically embrace the idea that the solution to every problem is more government.
My response to a blog commenter that argued that Hollywood is libertarian. That it makes anti-government movies because it follows the interests of the big money studios and investors -
"dec - Many movies are anti-government, but not really libertarian. The point pushed is more likely to be "government screwed this up", or "we have evil people in government", or "if only we could get the right people in government", or "we have to change government", more often than it is about the inherent problems of governments controlling so much of society and the economy no matter who is in power.
The actors and actresses may be "hired help", but they are high priced and influential hired help (at least the top tier is), and directors, writers, etc. also tend to have some bias to the liberal side of the spectrum. Meanwhile the studios, and other big money backers of movies tend to be more about making more money, than they are about pushing a political agenda, and to the extent they are pushing any political agenda its hardly a consistently libertarian one."