Entertainment Protectionism Doesn't Create Jobs, It Destroys Them
from the welcome-to-econ-101 dept
Reader Darren sent in a link to an “opinion” piece in the UK’s Independent by Stephen Garrett, a managing director of a TV production house that apparently makes some popular UK TV shows (he names Spooks, with which I am personally unfamiliar). The article is basically no different than any of the thousands of poorly thought out and badly argued demands from entertainment industry execs for government protectionism in the face of the giant “internet threat.” Garrett goes through all of these mistakes pretty early on: comparing file sharing to the theft of physical property, twisting basic logic around to suggest that ISPs bear the responsibility of stopping file sharing (rather than, say, the entertainment companies learning to adjust their business model in the face of a changing marketplace), and playing the old and easily debunked ripple effects card in discussing the “damages” done.
But rather than going through those same old tired arguments again, this seemed like a good opportunity to take on a later argument he makes, which I’ve heard from others as well:
At a time of economic downturn, saving jobs and securing economic activity is more important than ever. Investment in new forms of bringing entertainment to the public depends on legitimate sales of material, whilst lost opportunities of innovation is the tab picked up by those who do pay for content for those who refuse to do so.
This, like Garrett’s earlier points, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of economics. Saving jobs and securing activity is not more important than ever if those jobs and that economic activity are inefficient, unnecessary or hinder other important economic activity from taking place. Historically, almost every example of government protectionism has been to protect exactly those types of jobs and economic activity, and the end result is disastrous. Rather than adapting to changes in the market, the protected industry holds onto the past, while those industries in other countries adapt, evolve and improve. In the end, the “protected” industry simply can’t compete, the jobs are lost anyway, and it’s much more difficult for the new industry in those countries to grow and catch up to foreign competitors.
Garrett’s suggestion of special protectionism in the entertainment industry in the UK is exactly the wrong solution for the industry and would lead to many more problems down the road. I would hope that people in the government in charge of deciding this stuff would understand this — but so far, the UK’s Culture Secretary has shown himself to have difficulty grasping some basic economic realities, so don’t be surprised to see him buy into this sort of argument.