Should We Be Interested In 'Saving' Any Industry?

from the forward-or-backwards dept

We hear it all the time, whenever anyone talks about an industry being "destroyed" by new technologies: "how do we save x industry?" where "x" can stand for "recording" or "news" or "movies" or whatever. We saw it just recently when a professor wanted to "save" the newspaper industry by changing copyright law in ridiculous ways. It's also why we jokingly called our last event "Techdirt Saves* Journalism." The whole concept of "saving" an industry is so preposterous, which is why we wanted to mock it with the title of our event. I was reminded of this when reading this recap of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) event, where Dan Gillmor was quoted saying:
"I'm not even slightly interested in saving the industry."
And it got me thinking about understanding the mindset of "saving" an industry more deeply. The truth is, whenever anyone seriously (not mockingly) refers to "saving" an industry, invariably, they're really talking about saving a few legacy companies in that industry from whatever disruptive innovation is shaking things up. It's never actually about "saving an industry," because the "industry" almost never actually needs to be saved. The industry may be in the process of being changed (often radically), but that's not the same thing as needing saving.

What's telling is that, through all of this, you almost never hear start-ups talking about asking for help trying to "save the industry" that they're in. That's because they know "the industry" is just fine, and in all of the upheaval there's really tremendous opportunity. So, anytime anyone talks seriously about "saving" any particular industry, challenge them on what they really mean, and see if they're actually just talking about saving a few companies, rather than saving an actual "industry."

Filed Under: industry, progress, protectionism, saving


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  1. identicon
    Charles, 11 May 2013 @ 7:25pm

    Re: Re:

    You have forgotten to consider the effects of this policy on not just one group, but all groups. That was the classic economic fallacy pointed out by Henry Hazlitt.

    By bailing out GM and Chrysler, yes, we have retained those people their jobs. However, doing so comes at the expense of everybody else. For all the other consumers, who could have bought more products, have less money to spend, meaning employment will now be smaller in other areas of the economy than it could have been (since consumers now have less purchasing power). The number of jobs 'saved' by bailing out X are equally offset by losses in other areas of the economy.

    Many people forget to analyze the effects of an economic policy not just for one group, but for all groups. The reason for this is simple: People have a hard time considering products and services that never came to be in the first place, as a result of a new economic policy. Doing so requires a greater amount of visualization and intelligence.

    Moreover, the net effect on the overall economy is negative, since productivity has decreased and resources have been forcibly allocated to an inefficient industry.

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