Countdown to the budget deal: Get out of the magazine business

May 5, 2011

Editor’s Note: At $16.6 billion, Oklahoma government spending is at an all-time high. At $26 billion, Oklahoma’s debt load is staggering. Oklahoma voters have installed a center-right government to do something about it. As the legislative session winds down and the FY-2012 budget is finalized, policymakers should keep in mind that their constituents are not interested in “revenue enhancements.” By a 4 to 1 margin, they are interested in smaller government.

Oklahoma Today magazine, which advertises itself as “The Magazine of Oklahoma Since 1956,” is a bi-monthly, state-subsidized magazine that focuses on state culture, history and current events. A one-year subscription gets you six issues for just $24.95. (For some reason, state employees get a discounted one-year subscription for just $16.95. So public sector employees, who already earn more than their private sector counterparts, get a state-subsidized discount to purchase a state-subsidized magazine. Oy.)

As David Boaz of the Cato Institute has noted: “Discussions of policy issues should begin with first principles… there are only two basic ways to organize society: coercively, through government dictates, or voluntarily, through the myriad interactions among individuals and private associations. … The bottom line of political philosophy, and therefore of politics itself, is, ‘Who is going to make the decision about this particular aspect of your life, you or somebody else?’ Do you spend the money you earn or does some politician? In a civil society you make the choices about your life. In a political society someone else makes those choices.”

OCPA believes government has core functions, and subsidizing magazines is not one of them. Not only are public subsidies for private publications unfair, but they incentivize mediocrity. In a competitive marketplace, periodicals compete for readership on a level playing field. If readers want your content, they will pay for it, and advertisers who want your readers’ attention will pay you for space. If readers don’t want your content, you get better or you find a new line of work. The Legislature should end appropriations to Oklahoma Today magazine and focus state funds on more important matters.

Total savings annually: $257,000

By Jason Sutton