- Jun 3, 2009
- Reaction score
- Los Angeles, CA
- Political Leaning
The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover, 1952Herbert Hoover said:One of our troubles in getting legislation [to nationalize the airwaves] was the very success of the voluntary system we had created. Members of the Congressional committees kept saying, 'it is working well, so why bother?
Murray Rothbard, For a New Liberty: The Libertarian ManifestoAnother common objection to private property in the broadcast media is that private stations would interfere with each other's broadcasts, and that such widespread interference would virtually prevent any programs from being heard or seen. But this is as absurd an argument for nationalizing the airwaves as claiming that since people can drive their cars over other people's land this means that all cars — or land — must be nationalized. The problem, in either case, is for the courts to [p. 101] demarcate property titles carefully enough so that any invasion of another's property will be clear-cut and subject to prosecution. In the case of land titles, this process is clear enough. But the point is that the courts can apply a similar process of staking out property rights in other areas — whether it be in airwaves, in water, or in oil pools. In the case of airwaves, the task is to find the technological unit — i.e., the place of transmission, the distance of the wave, and the technological width of a clear channel — and then to allocate property rights to this particular technological unit. If radio station WXYZ, for example, is assigned a property right in broadcasting on 1500 kilocycles, plus or minus a certain width of kilocycles, for 200 miles around Detroit, then any station which subsequently beams a program into the Detroit area on this wavelength would be subject to prosecution for interference with property rights. If the courts pursue their task of demarking and defending property rights, then there is no more reason to expect continual invasions of such rights in this area than anywhere else.
Most people believe that this is precisely the reason the airwaves were nationalized; that before the Radio Act of 1927, stations interfered with each other's signals and chaos ensued, and the federal government was finally forced to step in to bring order and make a radio industry feasible at last. But this is historical legend, not fact. The actual history is precisely the opposite. For when interference on the same channel began to occur, the injured party took the airwave aggressors into court, and the courts were beginning to bring order out of the chaos by very successfully applying the common law theory of property rights — in very many ways similar to the libertarian theory — to this new technological area. In short, the courts were beginning to assign property rights in the airwaves to their "homesteading" users. It was after the federal government saw the likelihood of this new extension of private property that it rushed in to nationalize the airwaves, using alleged chaos as the excuse.
So is the FCC really necessary? Why can't the courts just handle it?