JCPA: A Good Idea, Promoting a Stupid Behavior, Rolled into an Unrelated Bill

It’s never really news that the annual “National Defense Authorization Act” is bloated . The 2023 version comes to $858 billion which, probably ten times what’s required to fund an actual “national defense” (as opposed to trying to maintain a sprawling global empire in terminal decline).

It’s also never really news that various political factions slip  non-“defense” priorities that can’t pass on their own merits into the annual NDAA, which politicians describe as a “must-pass” bill. Hawks in Congress only get their billions in corporate welfare for “defense” contractors if they support unrelated add-ons.

This year, one major inclusion — entirely unrelated to anything resembling “national defense” — is the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.” As is so often the case with legislative titles, it would accomplish exactly the opposite of encouraging competition or preserving journalism.

The core of the JCPA is an exemption to US antitrust law for news organizations. Put that way, I’m inclined to like it. Contra high school history/civics texts, antitrust law was invented by and for the benefit of large corporations, and has always functioned to reduce competition and jack up prices. But that’s another story.

The intent of the JCPA is to “allow” media organizations to get together and create “joint negotiation entities” (the kind of cartel antitrust law forbids) to “collectively bargain” with digital platforms for compensation.

Compensation for what? Promoting and giving advertising to those same media organizations and their content.

The idea is that these cartels would have the “bargaining power” to bludgeon Google News, Facebook, et al. into paying news organizations for the privilege of linking and previewing content that sends readers or viewers to that content.

Imagine, for example, that every time your favorite news aggregator told you about a story carried by the New York Times, Fox News, or the Batesville, Mississippi Panolian, that aggregator had to fork some money over to the Big and Small News Organization Trust (which, hypothetically, those three organization belonged to).

That’s like telling you that if you drive a Ford F-150, every time you cruise down the street and people see the Ford logo, especially if they ask you about it and you say “yeah, great truck, you should buy one,” you’ll have to pull out your wallet and hand a dollar to the Ford/GM/Chrysler Trust.

If the idea sounds monumentally stupid, well, it is.

For obvious reasons, companies like Facebook parent Meta are saying they may  yank news links/previews from their platforms altogether if JCPA becomes law.

I’m all for news organizations being able to hit up platforms for payment. And for those platforms being able to say “no dice — we can link for free or we won’t link at all. We’re helping you out here, take it or leave it.”

Or, to put it a different way, I’m all for “allowing” news organizations to try something stupid and find out it doesn’t work.

But Congress should vote on a “clean” bill repealing antitrust altogether instead of slipping one exemption into an unrelated piece of legislation.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Donald Trump Isn’t The Terminator — He’s Just Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Photo by S33S313. Public domain.
Photo by S33S313. Public domain.

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude,” former US president Donald Trump wrote on his pet social media platform, Truth Social, “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” In reference, of course, to his fantasy that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him.

Cue outrage from all sides, including prominent members of his own party. Throw out the Constitution? Just so some politician can get the outcome he wants? Unprecedented! Unthinkable! Out of bounds!

Well, no, not really. “Terminating” constitutional requirements when they’re inconvenient is pretty much par for the course. Not just with Trump, both now and when he actually possessed some political authority (see, for example, his unconstitutional misappropriation of funds for the “border wall”), but with presidents and Congresses going back to at least as early as 1798.

That was the year Congress passed, and president John Adams signed into law, the Alien and Sedition Acts, which clearly and unambiguously “terminated” both the First Amendment’s speech/press protections and Article I, Section 9’s prohibition on federal regulation of immigration.

Current president Joe Biden has a habit of candidly admitting the unconstitutionality of his own executive orders on, for example, the COVID-19-era “eviction moratorium” and his “student loan forgiveness” vote-buying scheme. Yeah, the courts will probably overturn it, but Constitution be damned, he’s going to do it anyway.

In between the Adams and Biden eras, we’ve seen any number of US wars waged without the required congressional declarations, constitutionally questionable kludges implemented to resolve presidential elections (Hayes versus Tilden in 1876 and Bush versus Gore in 2000), and laws passed with nary a constitutional hook to hang them upon.

The Constitution is, and always has been, a convenience to justify the  exercise of political power, and an inconvenience quickly discarded whenever it gets in the way of exercising political power. While it’s uncertain that former president George W. Bush actually called it “just a goddamned piece of paper,” his actions demonstrated that that’s how he, like his predecessors and successors, regarded it.

If there’s anything unique about Trump’s outburst, it’s the credence and publicity he’s receiving for it despite his complete lack of ability to  act on it. He’s no longer the Terminator; these days he’s just a piece of that film franchise’s forgettable roadkill. He’s saying the quiet part out loud, but if he’s the loudest, he’s also far from the first.

As American anarchist Lysander Spooner noted in 1870, “[w]hether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.”

“In either case,” Spooner continued, “it is unfit to exist.”

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Freedom Isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose

 

The editors of the Queens Chronicle admit that it “shouldn’t be surprising when” those who “seem determined to drive businesses out of” New York City “bill themselves as Democratic Socialists, but it still is” (“Another anti-biz bill to nix,” December 1).

Their shock evidently isn’t at socialists being anti-business.  The editorial posits that employers being “allowed to hire and fire whom they choose” makes “the free market better respected,” unrestricted not only by legislation — such as a proposal from the New York City Council’s Tiffany Cabán to require “just cause or a legitimate economic reason” for terminations — but organized labor negotiation.  “Unions aren’t always appropriate,” since they can keep “rubber-room teachers or excessive-force cops” on the payroll.

What should be startling is that the assumptions that workers have it better than they would in a freer market, and that their bargaining power is bad for business, have lasted so long.

The Wall Street Journal has lauded the socialist mayors of Milwaukee who “implemented a range of new programs, but paid for them largely through gains in efficiency rather than tax increases.” Other socialists went beyond such “an entrepreneurial approach to government, improving systems, cutting waste” to entrepreneurialism in the private sector. Some even did so in New York, before its markets became synonymous with the hard-charging capitalism of Wall Street and The Apprentice.

The town that elected Mike Bloomberg leader of its business nearly made free-trade populist Henry George mayor in 1886 on the United Labor Party ticket.  Brentwood, Long Island hometown of hip-hop duo EPMD of Strictly Business fame, was where Josiah Warren’s ideals of Equitable Commerce were put into practice by voluntary trading of “labor for labor.” The dominance of bookstore chains over independents once seemed so inevitable that You’ve Got Mail needed Tom Hanks’s likability to make it palatable. A decade before the first Barnes & Noble, New Yorkers had laissez-faire socialist Benjamin Tucker’s Unique Book-Shop, which boasted the “Largest Stock in the World Of Advanced Literature in English, French, German, and Italian” … all at the “Lowest Prices in the United States.”

Tucker’s little shop shouldn’t have remained an anomaly. He proposed that a free market in credit would “secure the greatest possible production of wealth and its most equitable distribution.” And dismantling the interlocking monopolies he identified would spur producers by the promise of getting well paid for serving consumers rather than the sheer dread of hearing “you’re fired!”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

  1. “Freedom isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, December 6, 2022
  2. “‘Freedom’ not just another word for job left to lose” by Joel Schlosberg, The Daily Star [Hammond, Louisiana], December 8, 2022
  3. “Freedom isn’t just another word” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], The Madill, Oklahoma Record, December 8, 2022