Scratch Christianity, insert capitalism. What is the driving ideology – and how do ideologies conflict. Here is the basic problem with identifying with a specific ideology: you have to accept the consequences of your ideology. I have several examples, and I want to take a look at Comcast and the media empires, but I think it would be prudent to start with something just as current and easier to navigate. The Estate Tax.
The House of Representatives last week approved a compromise on the Estate Tax. This compromise is the best solution for competing ideologies that rarely find common ground. On one side, the Democrats/Liberals are promoting the common good. On the other side, the Republicans/conservatives are promoting individual freedom and lower taxes. This is a healthy debate, as a proper balance of these perspectives is helpful in a constructive society. Each party has a place in the debate.
The problem arrives when the Republicans begin to subscribe to the ideology of Christianity as a political platform. The notion is that this country was founded on Christian principles and is, therefore a Christian nation. This works well for them when they want to fight for displaying the Ten Commandments or praying in school, but it breaks down when the argument crosses paths with the right to individual wealth.
Christianity is, in essence, a social movement of justice and selflessness. Jesus said that “Blessed are the poor,” not “Blessed are those who build wealth so that they can give it to the poor.” He recognized that hording assets and money was, and is, a dangerous path that leads to selfishness, loneliness, and separation from God.
Now, you don’t have to subscribe to that theology, and not everyone does. Some believe that building wealth and retaining your assets so that your family can trust and rely on your wealth for safety and comfort is the key to happiness. That is a valid perspective. But, you can’t subscribe to both perspectives. They are different ideologies, and you can’t just use Christianity to get votes and then abandon the idea of giving up your life for others when it is no longer convenient for you. You have to suffer the consequences of your ideology, and those consequences can be quite painful.
Well, there is enough to shout about in that example, let us move on to Comcast, where there will be no religious soap box, I promise. This example of conflicting ideologies speaks to a larger problem in our socio-economic system: you can’t promote unencumbered free markets until you are on your last leg, and then expect regulations to save you. And, on the other hand (as with Comcast), you can’t holler for regulations to protect you when you want to make a gazillion dollars without competition and then expect regulators to give you a pass when you use your gazillion dollars to try to manipulate the market. (I didn’t say that there wouldn’t be an economic soap box.)
In our small home town in Northwest Missouri, there was a time when there was no cable television. I know it seems impossible, but bear with me. Some local investors approached the City Council and offered to run the cables to provide the infrastructure for the service, and in return they wanted regulations to prohibit anyone from offering a service using those cables. Sounds reasonable, no? So Cable television was born and the local cable company had no competition. There were outages and service problems, but we paid the bills anyway. There were customer service issues and the rates coninued to climb. Without the fear of losing business to competitors, local cable companies built empires that were consolodated into all kinds of media conglomerates. One of those conglomerates was Comcast.
Last week, Comcast won a bid to buy out a majority share in NBC Universal from G.E. This may seem like a natural progression of the conglomeration, but there is an angle that is not getting much attention. NBC owns a majority share in the web site Hulu, which offers free streaming of television shows to members of the site. Comcast has long wanted to shut down the site or make it a paid endeavor, as the cable giant is losing millions of viewers and major advertising dollars to the popular site. Comcast has made no secrets about their intention to convert Hulu into a paid membership service, and this is the problem. Technology has outpaced the cable television industry.
The investors who bult businesses on the technology of previous decades made fortunes on that technology, and they want to protect their fortunes without investing in new technology. The internet has changed everything. There is a new profit paradigm emerging online, and, as major news outlets will testify to, those profits are elusive. Google, however, does not seem to be having trouble with it. There is money to be made, but the old paradigm of charging customers for content that the seller controls is over.
Comcast, along with the rest of the cable and television industry, would rather buy out the new technology and apply the old paradigm for making money, which will in time take care of itself as the old giants are reduced to unprofitable bohemouths, or they would rather legislate the online market so that the technology is curbed long enough for them to figure out how to recoup money from their outdated systems.
The FCC will be evaluating the deal with Comcast in the coming weeks, and they will have to decide whether to allow it or not. It will likely go through, but there will be some stipulations and Comcast willh ave to abide by some rules. One of those rules is likely to involve online industry, so we will watch and see what unfolds. Legislation works well for those who need it to be profitable, but it gets in the way of those profits sometimes, and if you want the legislation today, you have to live with it tomorrow.
It is your ideology. Live with it.