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
    Ryan, 20 Aug 2010 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re:

    I can only wish. I'm not sure why you think GM and Chrysler were special. Should we not have to switched to electric lighting because it put the candlemakers out of a job, or switched to cars because it put the carriage drivers and buggy whip makers and blacksmiths out of a job, etc.? But because you live now, we must prevent a temporary unemployment period for everybody in the country?

    The bailout of GM and Chrysler was incredibly unfair especially for Ford(and other car manufacturers); it was deprived of a fantastic opportunity to gain market share, which is precisely what the free market offers as an incentive to innovate and be efficient. Instead, the government warped those incentives and prevented all manner of healing from occurring, such as the restructuring of GM's contracts and replacing management with somebody better. If GM had been allowed to fail, worst case scenario is that it would have been liquidated and put to more efficient uses elsewhere, while there would have been no significant effect on unemployment beyond the immediate short term.

    And the U.S. is doing just fine with manufacturing - we've simply morphed to producing higher level items in general, such as silicon. In fact, check out how far ahead we were in 2004 in value added by manufacturing. And national security has absolutely jackshit to do with our current manufacturing capacity anyways.

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