Should NPR Receive Federal Funding? Maybe not.

Follow this link to NPR's Planet Money website and listen to Friday's podcast: The Friday Podcast: Economists On Federal Funding For NPR. Seriously. Go listen to it, and then come back here.

Interesting stuff, right?

There is no way that the House bill to prevent federal funding to NPR will get past the Senate, let alone the president's veto, but it is still an interesting discussion. We should be able to question, and have the chance to justify, the funding of anything with our tax dollars.

In case you didn't listen to the podcast (GO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST!) they start by defining public radio as a "public good". There are two criteria for something to be considered a public good:

  • It must be non-excludable - there is no way to stop people from using it.
  • It must be non-rivalrous - its use by one person does not prevent its simultaneous use by another person.
Other common goods include roads, national defense, police, and so many other things that we take for granted. Not all public goods, however, are actually "good". One of their guests uses the facetious example of a stink bomb as a public good. There's no way you can prevent someone from enjoying the odor, and any number of people can enjoy the odor at the same time. The decision to use tax dollars to fund public goods has to be based on what we value as a community.

Their conclusion is, well, inconclusive. On the one hand NPR could probably get along without federal funding. I know that if NPR lost funding and couldn't find it elsewhere I would do my part by increasing my monetary support of my local station, and I think there are many other listeners and underwriters who would do the same thing. Local stations in areas with smaller populations might suffer, however, and that would be a shame.

On the other hand, if federal funding remains, or, dare I say it, increases, there's no doubt that they will continue to report interesting, objective stories that you can't hear anywhere else. Like this recent report by NPR and ProPublica about the military's diagnosis, treatment, and tracking of traumatic brain injuries (or lack thereof), which has resulted in the Army reevaluating its policy and practices regarding Purple Hearts for victims of concussion injuries.

I certainly hope that NPR stays on the air. I don't know how I would get through my commute without it.

1 comment:

GED online said...

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