October 18, 2017

To save the newspaper industry, let’s pass a law requiring every family to buy a newspaper

The Washington Post, I suppose, is honest enough to acknowledge:

The Supreme Court has given Congress wide but not unfettered latitude in regulating interstate commerce. It barred federal efforts to promulgate laws that ban guns near schools and those addressing violence against women, ruling that these activities have nothing to do with commerce. But health insurance is a commodity, and a consumer who sits on the sidelines has a significant impact on the market. And the federal government’s interest in that market functioning efficiently to provide health-care access to all is undoubtedly a legitimate public purpose. So the case is not as clear-cut as many legal scholars have argued, but the federal government has a strong defense.

I credit the Post for acknowledging that the mandate presents real constitutional questions. Still I believe that when the issue was abortion, the Post wasn’t nearly as cavalier about legislative attempts to limit abortion. If the cause of healthcare reform were not so near and dear to the editors of the Post, I think they’d be a lot more indignant about an attempt to overstep the bounds of the constitution.  (I guess “reform” is more powerful than the constitution as the Post has also championed campaign finance “reform” even though it restricted the right to free speech.)

The “federal government’s interest” really can have nearly universal application. The Post is part of an industry that is in decline. It also represents one of the freedoms guaranteed by our bill of rights. Why don’t the Post’s editors argue that the federal government has an interest in maintaining a free press and that forcing citizens to buy a paper will save the free press? What they consider to be a “strong defense” is a bit too strong.

1 Comment

  1. Just to be clear, the expression “the press” to mean the journalists as a class only gained currency in the 1930s, the first such usages being just prior to WWI. Accordingly, “freedom of the press,” signifies not some special privileges of the journalists but the right each and every one of us has to express ourselves in print as well as in speech.

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