Monday, July 19, 2010

Government helps fund anti-government campaigns

Columnist Don Cayo is one of the Vancouver Sun's advocates for big business. In the nineties, he ran the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a corporate-funded charity operating as a think-tank based in Halifax. Along with umpteen sister "charities" such as the Fraser Institute, Fraser Institute Foundation, Frontier Centre for Public Policy Inc. and the Canadian Constitution Foundation, it campaigns steadily for elimination of public health and other services and reductions in government spending and lower taxes, at least for higher income folks. Of course, while doing this, charitable donors supporting the voices of big business take advantage of generous tax rules that return millions of dollars in refunds. Bizarre, eh? Anti-government campaigners subsidized by government.

Think-tanks claim that markets, free of  government regulation or interference, are the most efficient managers of economic resources. However, careful reading of their polemics demonstrates the call is for free markets, not competitive markets. Competition is destructive to business interests; it drives prices down, increases quality and improves service. Consumer needs may be served but those aren't the needs of business. The purpose of business is wealth creation and happy shareholders executives, not cheerful customers.

Cayo sees good news in recent newspaper deals. Postmedia Network Inc. is the new owner of the Vancouver Sun, the Province and other former Canwest Newspapers. In addition, Black Press acquired 11 publications from Glacier Media and gained ownership of the Red Deer Express in exchange for its papers in Canmore, Alberta. The move allows Black to immediately close five of the new properties in a move to reduce competition for Black's existing properties.

Cayo quotes John Hinds, who as CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association is paid to be optimistic. Hinds says:
"Canadian newspaper markets tend to be more competitive than in the U.S., so Canadian media companies are more skilled at adjusting to change.
"The economic downturn seemed to enhance Canadian newspapers' role as a-reliable source of information. Readership is generally trending up after a period of decline."
Had I been asked, I would have said:
"Canadian markets tend to be less competitive than in the U.S. and newspapers here don't worry as much about radio and TV stations because, through concentration of control and cross-media ownership, advertising prices are kept artificially high in broadcasting. Canadian companies have been more skilled at gouging advertisers and reducing readers services so there is less need to change.
"An enhanced role for Canadian newspapers as a-reliable source of information? Oh, really?
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