Beware the Government Appointed Thinkers

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
December 10, 2006

Some politicians don't think the American people were capable of sifting through the avalanche of political ads in final weeks of the recent midterm-election campaign ' especially the negative ads. Presumably, consumer confusion leads to poor electoral decisions and the system needs to be fixed ' not surprisingly by the government.

In a series of post-election interviews, former Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. proposes that broadcasters be required to check the accuracy of political ads before they appear on the air. 'It's the only way to bring sanity and some equilibrium,' the Memphian said on CNBC.

Many in the media agree that the tone of this last election reached an all-time low.


Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln was accused of planning to force interracial marriages. One Georgia newspaper predicted that if Lincoln were elected, within ten years all white children would be the slaves of Negroes.

In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson was roundly accused of favoring the 'teaching of murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest.' Apparently he didn't just approve of all that; he wanted to teach it.

In the 1828 presidential campaign between John Quincy Adams and General Andrew Jackson, the Jackson folks nicknamed Adams 'the pimp' based on the rumor that Adams had convinced a young American woman to have an affair with a Russian informant. The Adams campaign responded by calling Jackson's mother a prostitute.

U.S. politics has always been rough. In 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks from South Carolina went onto the floor of the Senate and beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner until he was unconscious. In 1838, Stephen A. Douglas bit and severed the thumb of a debate opponent, John T. Stuart.

I don't think politics has suddenly fallen off some moral cliff.

It's a nice idea that television might broadcast only truth. It would make life a lot easier. And perhaps the grocery store should carry only healthy foods.

My kids are just six years old, and I already teach them to question everything they hear ' including at church, school, home (unless I use my official father voice) ' and especially from television. They already know that a commercial is an attempt to try to control your brain and get you hooked on something.

Is it asking too much that we expect people of voting age to view advertising with the same skepticism?

A traditional warning is 'caveat emptor,' which translated means 'buyer beware.' I prefer the Latin phrase 'confido tu incommendatus gubernatio.' Trust yourself, not the government.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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