Tuesday, July 15, 2003
The Fourth Estate
posted by Joel at 9:35 PM
The Press in America is often referred to as the Fourth Estate; I have always assumed that this was in reference to the three branches of government which make up the U.S. Constitutional Government with all of its checks and balances, a free press being a crucial 4th branch.
I think this concept is quite interesting because it implies the ability to set the parameters from a controlling document, the Constitution, and allow capitalist free markets to determine the actual implementation. Ask yourself, which branches of Government are being run the most efficiently, the most competently, and which are most easily reformed when they do become something less than they were intended?
Our military, while very powerful and very impressive, is a behemoth, it is unresponsive to change except from a very few key seats of power, and it is subject to nonsensical policies created by nonsensical politicians, regardless of the public will.
Our social services are pathetic, they quite possibly are less efficient than the military (using a services rendered per dollar cost ratio), and they demean those they serve, while angering those they do not.
The executive branch is probably the most scrutinized branch in government, so it is very responsive, so much so that we get totally new policy directives every 4 to 8 years, at minimum. Even if the branch gives us good policy, it is irrelevant because it will change soon.
The judicial branch is shot thru with incompetents and people with agendas which do not conform to the Laws they are sworn to adjudicate, it is utterly unresponsive with a very difficult path to removing or reforming bad judges.
The Legislative branch is a tumultuous snake pit of writhing demagogues. The only issues they even feign to address are those that they feel will either raise their esteem in the eyes of the public, or lower their opponents esteem in the eyes of the public. The Country be damned. Although they will occasionally break from that paradigm if they see an opportunity to enrich themselves.
The Fourth Estate on the other hand is a vast network of information gathering and distribution. It is paid for on a per view basis and actually provides a tax base to support other government branches. It is not overly responsive such as the executive branch, but it is not without the ability to morph into a more efficient institution like the Judiciary.
Are there problems with the Press in America? There are deep and troubling problems with portions of the Press in America, but not with the totality of it, not by far. You can still seek, and find the objective truth; you can still find information outlets with no agenda except to provide factual data and to make logical assumptions from that data. You can find Press outlets with opposing agenda's and discern a kind of objective reality from their subjective renderings. And you can find liars and prevaricators who play to niche audiences or who go out of business altogether. You can find grand eloquence and shrill diatribes, and you need not pay a dime for any of it if it does not suit your tastes or needs. That is my kind of branch of government.