Journalism: The Next Individual Mandate
I’ve said several times that I understand the motivation for the individual mandate tax: It aims to solve an adverse selection problem in health insurance. If we didn’t have it, more healthy people would opt out of the system, catching a free ride on our public health. This would make it more expensive for everyone else.
Now I’m fairly certain that someone will come along and try to re-re-re-explain this to me in the comments, but whatever. Like the majority of independent voters, I think it’s time to move on.
So let’s move on… to the next great free rider problem. By which I mean newspapers.
The newspaper industry is dying. Everyone knows it. Revenues are collapsing; newspapers are closing up; soon there won’t be very many left at all.
And why? Free riders. Folks on the Internets who aren’t pulling their weight with physical paper subscriptions. Newspapers are a business in which octogenarians who spent their whole lives paying for pulp-and-ink at the doorstep are subsidizing us smartass young punks who ripoff the hard work of struggling print journalists.
To solve the problem, I propose a tax on every American. But don’t worry, you can always get a refund — by subscribing to at least one physical newspaper from a government-approved list.
It would certainly do the industry a whole lot of good. And journalism is, if anything, more important to the functioning of a republic than health care. Washington, Adams, and company had terrible health care, but an excellent newspaper system for their era. And look what they did. Surely they would support this very modest proposal…
Questions for the commenters: Is this a good idea? Is it constitutional? Why or why not?