Bad Day for Liberalism: August 5, 2013

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The big story on the morning of June 5 was that the New York Times Company sold the Boston Globe for a paltry $70 million. It had paid $1.1 billion in 1993, which was worth $1.76 billion in today’s money.

That afternoon, the bombshell hit: the Graham family is selling The Washington Post for a paltry $250 million to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos. Bezos has no background in running a newspaper. He just thought it would be a kick to own one. Well, I am sure it will be.

The Post has been the flagship for Beltway liberalism for two generations. It was second only to The New York Times in its influence in American journalism.

If the peripheral Boston Globe was worth $1.76 billion in 1993, and $70 million today, think of what the Post was worth in 1993.

The Grahams were presiding over a doddering patient with a catheter. They sold out just in time. By hanging on for two decades, they walked away from a fortune. They wound up selling to an billionaire who owns the largest mail-order operation in the world. He is taking on the project the way that rich men play with hobbies in their spare time.

Bezos now has two options (1) do nothing new, and serve as the captain of the Titanic; (2) change the entire operation. In either case, liberalism has suffered a major hit.

I think Bezos will play the first role. He is imitating the career of Ted Turner, who sold to AOL, and watched Time Warner shrivel. Turner thought AOL was the wave of the future. Bezos thinks his knowledge of how to run a gigantic mail-order Walmart will enable him to get the doddering patient off the catheter. He won’t.

The reporters who work for the Post are in the wrong profession. Their peers in Boston could do nothing. They sat their until most were fired, one by one. They will suffer the same fate. The industry is a buggy whip.

The industry was liberalism’s trifecta: newspapers, television networks, and the school system. Two are bleeding red ink. The third soon will be, as online education enables students to live at home, take courses online, graduate with accredited degrees, and pay $15,000 in tuition, total. A widely accepted estimate is that half of all American universities will go under over the next five decades. It won’t take anywhere near that long. The no-name private colleges will go under first, Cutbacks in tax funding will complete the procedure. Legislators will figure out that they can fire two-thirds of the faculty and replace them with online lectures and low-paid, untenured professors and graduate students to grade written exams.

All that liberalism will have left is the public school system, K-12. This dinosaur has been caught trapped in the tar pit ever since 1963, when SAT scores peaked. Online education is invading today. The American Federation of Teachers is on the defensive. In 50 years, the suburban schools will be online. Competition will demonstrate that the public school bureaucracies cannot compete.

Liberalism made entrepreneurial decisions on where the future was headed. The World Wide Web is taking the world in a different direction. It is leaving liberalism behind.

Liberals call this process of ideological decentralization “Balkanization.” I call it the break-up of a cartel that can no longer compete on the free market.

August 5, 2013 was a great day.

Continue Reading on dealbook.nytimes.com

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