Weighty topics need further analysis

Interesting juxtaposition of opinions in the June 19 Daily opinions pieces: “Complacency puts freedom at risk,” by Erik Ugland, and “Socialism is not a viable economic system,” by Brandon D. Curtis. It’s not clear whether the authors favor capitalism or socialism; whether they favor freedom of the press or control of the press; whether they favor more competition or less; and whether they look upon large corporations favorably or unfavorably.
Instead of debating various opinions offered by Ugland and Curtis, allow me to ask these authors and The Minnesota Daily readers a series of questions.
1) Regarding Ugland: Does the increasing concentration of news-media ownership with their “emphasis on profit-margins and diminution of editorial integrity” enhance or diminish freedom of the press?
2) Is it absolutely clear that the power that government officials wield is “potentially more destructive than that possessed by even the greatest titans of industry” as Ugland writes?
3) Ugland says, “… truth will inevitably emerge … when the public has access to a multitude of voices …” and, “… the government must not be allowed to determine which ideas are heard and which are not.” Further, he says “… media corporations … should be permitted to participate in the marketplace of ideas as freely as any individual.” Questions: a) Does media concentration of ownership simply “dwarf” (Ugland’s word) some individual, contrary and minority voices or actually extinguish (my word) some of “the multitude of voices” to which the public has access? b) Who is “permitted to participate in the marketplace of ideas” more freely — individuals or media conglomerates?
4) Ugland sees clearly that city councils, judges, state legislatures, government agencies and school boards practice censorship. Questions: a) Are these types of restrictions “… no less damaging to free expression” than crackdowns on the press in Russia, Yugoslavia, Peru, or Iran, as he claims? b) Do corporate media officers and boards of directors ever practice censorship?
5) “We must not allow news organizations to be manhandled by their corporate owners …” Ugland writes. Question: Who are the “we” who must not allow this? Remember that Ugland considers government to be “the greatest threat to freedom.”
6) Ugland’s last paragraph, “Only the government can censor the press. Only the government can deprive reporters … of their liberty … only the government is circumscribed by the words of the First Amendment itself? ‘Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … of the press.'” Questions: a) Has Ugland interviewed any large corporate media reporters to learn whether they experience any censorship, any infringement on their liberty, any abridgement of freedom of the press? b) Has he had such experiences?
On to Curtis, but also to Ugland:
7) Curtis believes that “… if you work for something, it should be yours,” and that, “If a person has an idea, recruits the necessary talent to implement the idea and puts up the money to bankroll it, then that person should be the benefactor of his ingenuity.” Questions: a) Should that person’s children — even if they have provided no inputs to implement the idea — also be the benefactors of his ingenuity? b) Should the entrepreneur’s estate be subject to estate taxes? c) Should the children’s inheritance be subject to inheritance taxes? d) How would you answer these same questions for a passive, silent partner who bankrolls the idea?
8) Curtis adds, “However, this does not mean successful people should hoard the spoils for themselves.” Question: Has Curtis’s entrepreneur suddenly metamorphosed from “the benefactor of his ingenuity” to a “hoarder of the spoils?”
9) Curtis also prescribes that the successful people “should split the riches with those who worked to make the plan successful.” Questions: a) Have those who worked received compensation for their labors? b) If they are to receive a further “share of the riches,” how are the shares to be determined, and who is to make such a determination? c) Can we really believe that Curtis does not favor socialism?
10) “The chief problem with modern capitalism is that it does not allow for a strong, independent entrepreneur,” writes Curtis. Question: Oh? Shall we ask Bill Gates, Henry Ford or FedEx?
11) In a socialist economy, decisions are made at the top — by presidents, managers, boards of directors and the like. In corporations, decisions are made at the top — by presidents, managers, boards of directors and the like. Several large corporations have been characterized as being larger in assets and productivity than many nations. Question: What are the similarities and dissimilarities among capitalism, socialism, megagovernment corporations and megaprivate corporations? Careful! Not only is this a difficult question but one that, if not answered judiciously and guardedly, might cost you your reporter’s job!

Peter Rosko, Ph.D. is a professor of finance at the Carlson School of Management. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]