Freedom of Information
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© December 2004 Tony Lawrence
Mon Dec 13 12:07:18 2004
Referencing: Internet Taxation in Germany
At the article referenced above, BDD added some comments which I
have reproduced here for easy reference:
Maybe Germans need public broadcasting to tell
them what to do and think, but we sure as hell don't. Public
broadcasting is nothing more than a source of government propaganda
akin to the radio broadcasts that emanated from Berlin in the
1930's. Most of what public broadcasting claims to provide I can
find on Discover, History Channel, BBC World News, etc., without
being forced to pay a tax to support their activities. In other
words, I don't need any bureaucrat using my money to advance his
agenda and tell me how to think and behave.
In any case, just because registration is law,
that doesn't make it right. I see no reason why any government has
to know how many radios, telephones, TV's and computers are in
one's home. Perhaps if European officials weren't so hell-bent on
poking their frigging noses into everybody's business, taxing the
daylights out of everything, and micro-managing everyone's
activities, their economies would realize the sort of impetus and
sustained growth that we are accustomed to here in North
I'm sorry if the tone of the article seems
offensive to you -- it *was* intended to be mildly so in order to
make a point. Any government that has the authority to regulate the
purchases of its citizens/subjects -- especially items like radios,
TV's, phones, etc. -- has the means to stifle communication and the
exchange of free thought. Do I think that sort of governmental
intrusion is Facist? You're damned right I do! Once it happens,
it's a relatively simple matter to shift from a representative
style of government, which many European countries have right now,
to a totalitarian regime, which many European countries have had in
the recent past. Although Denmark has not experienced that sort of
cycle in her recent history, Danes were adversely affected by the
Nazi regime almost until the conclusion of World War II.
Germany, in particular, seems to have had a long
history of oppressive government, culminating in the events of 1933
to 1945. Following the close of World War II, the USA went out of
its way (both financially and politically) to get Germany back on
its feet and on the road to a free market economy and a
representative form of government. This seemed to work as long as
Germany was split, as West Germans were fearful of the communists
and what they stood for -- as well as what they failed to
accomplish. However, following unification, it seems as though
regression to the "Heil Hitler" mentality started. Today's Germany
is headed back toward a repressive style of government -- this
Internet tax thing being just the latest of several examples of the
Europeans may think that many of we Americans are
ignoramuses who know little about European history, culture,
politics and such. There's no question that some Americans match
that description -- most of whom seem to have found employment in
the entertainment industry.
Well, this American knows a lot about what goes
on in Europe *and* the Middle East (I worked in Saudi Arabia and
Iraq in years past). I've worked with technical types from various
European states and I've seen how some had to do without some of
the resources that I had available to me as a matter of course.
Now, does that make we Americans superior in some way? No, it
doesn't. But, what it does say is that our free market system,
which is not hobbled by control freak governmental edicts, works a
lot better than most. My opinion is European countries are
over-regulated, over-taxed and economically over-extended.
If you don't agree with me, please consider the
following: how is it a single company in the USA accounts for the
lion's share of commercial aircraft sales worldwide, whereas the
resources of two entire European countries are required to design
and build one commercial airliner to compete with the 747? And why
is the leading importer of automobiles to North America is Japan,
not Germany, France, Sweden or the UK (even though cars like the
Mercedes, Volvo and Saab are technically better than their Japanese
competitors)? Could it be that the common answer is that the free
market policies and limited governmental regulation that exist in
Japan and the USA encourage the sort of investment and risk-taking
that is required to dominate a market?
These comments raise a lot of issues for me, and I'm more than a
bit conflicted on all but one.
First, funding of public broadcasting. I generally feel the same
way about that as I do about public arts funding, etc: if there
isn't enough audience to support it, let it die. Here in Boston,
the local NPR radio is pretty popular, but the WGBH TV is not, and
it's pretty easy to see why: the radio station produces interesting
material worth listening to, and the TV station generally doesn't.
On the other hand, I don't want to see radio or TV dominated
entirely by commercial interests, though as I'll get to later, I
don't think that's as important as it used to be.
With regard to the large companies that dominate markets, I
definitely do not see that as a good thing. Extreme concentration
of capital seems to lead to abuse of all kinds, and we've talked a
lot about that here: stifling of innovation, abuse of employees,
government in cahoots - it isn't pretty. More importantly, I think,
is that it's also dangerous. We see that in computers where
Microsofts dominance can put the entire internet at risk when yet
another security flaw pops up. We saw it with the flu vaccine where
having most of it made in one place caused a shortage.
Concentrating our food production to major companies like ADM could
cause horrible problems should they accidentally introduce
something dangerous or harmful. Big may make things cheaper, but
there is a higher cost that can be paid for it. On the other side
of that, how do you regulate such a thing? How do you ensure safety
and variety without draconian restrictions? I do not know.
But one thing I am not conflicted on is freedom of information.
The internet has brought an amazing new ability to disseminate far
more information to far more people than has ever been possible
before. It has also brought personal opinion to a level of
expression unparalleled since we were small bands or small
city-states. The blogs are becoming an adjunct to newspapers, radio
and TV and in some cases are even replacing these other media. In
my opinion, it is a moral imperative to encourage that worldwide.
Restrictions on communications are too easily accepted: would you
pay a license to have the right to talk to your neighbor? Of course
not. Yet Europeans apparently accept licensing and taxation of
other communication as justified. It isn't, and as BDD suggests, it
can lead to far worse.
Here in the U.S., we are not entirely free of government
interference in this area, and there are those who are trying to
increase that involvement. We cannot let that happen. Our freedoms
are never easily won, and they shouldn't be easily surrendered
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