A La Carte Regulation of Pay TV: Good Intentions vs. Good Economics

In his insightful works on political economy, Professor Thomas Sowell warns of the dangers of lawmakers allowing good intentions to trump good economics when crafting public policy. It is a theme which Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and others articulated before him, of course, but Sowell has more fully developed this cautionary principle in books like A Conflict of Visions and The Vision of the Anointed. Sowell teaches us that noble intentions alone do not necessarily translate into sound public policy, and cautions against the hubris that leads policymakers to believe that they can easily improve on market outcomes. Even the best-intentioned policies can spawn unintended consequences, giving rise to still more regulatory interventions as policymakers seek to rectify past mistakes.

This Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be wise to heed Sowell's advice in the ongoing debate over "a la carte" regulation of cable and satellite television networks and programming. The notion - giving consumers the right to pay for only the cable TV channels they want, without having to purchase a full bundle - is highly appealing on the surface, and well-intended advocates on both sides of the political divide, including the Consumer Federation of America's Mark Cooper and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, are no doubt acting out of the best intentions. But a closer look suggests that a la carte regulation would be a classic case of what we refer to as Sowell's Law of Wishful Thinking. Indeed, it would likely have the exact opposite effects of what its proponents intend, leaving consumers and families worse off than they are today.

A La Carte and Good Intentions (Eisenach-Thierer)

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Jeffrey
Eisenach

What's new on AEI

Defeating ISIS: AEI experts weigh-in before the president’s address on Wednesday
image Degrading, defeating, and destroying the Islamic State
image Wealth Building Home Loan: Building wealth through homeownership and retirement savings
image The $3 iPhone
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 15
    MON
  • 16
    TUE
  • 17
    WED
  • 18
    THU
  • 19
    FRI
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Constitution as political theory

Please join us for the third-annual Walter Berns Constitution Day Lecture as James Ceasar, Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, explores some of the Constitution’s most significant contributions to political theory, focusing on themes that have been largely unexamined in current scholarship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 8:10 a.m. – Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 1:30 p.m.
Third international conference on housing risk: New risk measures and their applications

We invite you to join us for this year’s international conference on housing risk — cosponsored by the Collateral Risk Network and AEI International Center on Housing Risk — which will focus on new mortgage and collateral risk measures and their applications.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, September 18, 2014 | 2:15 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on resetting America’s economic foundation

Please join us as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his five-point policy vision to reset America’s economy.

Event Registration is Closed
Friday, September 19, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Reforming Medicare: What does the public think?

Please join us as a panel of distinguished experts explore the implications of the report and the consumer role in shaping the future of Medicare.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.