Garett Jones  

The Mouse's Power: Popularity or Cash?

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Alex notes that once again, the Mouse appears to have won a copyright battle (he won a big one back in 1998).  

So, is this evidence that most political outcomes are driven by cash?  Is this evidence that, contrary to my claims, money drives most of U.S. politics?  

Hardly.  Disney is one of the most widely respected brands in the world, ranked around Gillette and Toyota. And the House GOP is, how shall I say it, somewhat less respected. 

When the Republican Study Committee briefly took on copyright reform, they took on some powerful organizations--but much, and I'd say most, of that power came from popularity.  After months of claims that Republicans were trying to kill Big Bird, did they want to face a wave of ads claiming that they were trying to kill the Mouse as well?  

As every high school quarterback knows, it's great to be popular.  And one of the benefits of being popular is that people will get mad at whoever you're mad at.  

It's not that I don't think money matters--I think Ike's military-industrial complex speech should be required reading in high school--but voters almost always matter more.  I think the Mouse (allegedly) won for the same reason farmers get subsidies: Farmers and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit's relative are both incredibly popular, so voters give them a blank check, rarely worrying about how it is spent.  

Voter: "Somebody's trying to hurt hardworking farmers?  That's just wrong." 

Music to a lobbyist's ears.  

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
John Thacker writes:

The author of the report is on Twitter and wants to continue to engage people on the memo and is defending it rather than (as some hyperbolic comments would have it) being disappeared like in the Cultural Revolution. Perhaps someone should interview him.

I suspect that it was withdrawn from the public site because it was an internal memo and white paper, and then opponents of changing the position on copyright were complaining that it was being treated as an official House GOP position. It was never actually adopted as a position, only proposed and discussed.

Further engagement on the issue seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

John Thacker writes:

Timothy B. Lee interviewed the author of the memo over at Ars Technica.

John Thacker writes:

A similar example: The New York Times has an article about small beachfront communities in hurricane and flood paths that continually get wrecked and rebuilt with federal money. Yet when Sen. Rand Paul was complaining during the federal Flood Insurance program renewal and trying to stop it, he was of course attacked for hating people who suffer floods. The people getting flooded far exceeded the money from the builders and insurance companies who like the federal subsidy.

[NYTimes link changed to permalink from RSS feed link.--Econlib Ed.]

Tom West writes:

An alternative explanation is that even if you are not receiving money from an industry, general principles may indicate that you shouldn't harm industry.

If the lobbyists are successful in persuading lawmakers that such copyright changes as were proposed would significantly harm the US economy, I think that would, in the eyes of most politicians, outweigh some nebulous public good.

Spooking most lawmakers is as simple as pointing out the destruction of the Hong Kong film industry and the near insignificance of the Chinese non-governmental cultural industry as examples of what a loose copyright enforcement environment looks like...

(Whether the lobbyists case is true or not is irrelevant.)

Silas Barta writes:

OT: I was excited when I saw the title, since I own the domain tyrannyofthemouse.com (only the "blog." subdomain works though) -- but it refers to the tyranny of computer mouse devices (and how you can do much better from the keyboard with tools like Pentadactyl), not Mickey.

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