Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: 'Free' Rides Come at Great Costs

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Fourth Reading: 'Free' Rides Come at Great Costs

Article excerpt

Not long ago, I spoke to a group of journalism students at the University of Oklahoma. They were bright, engaged and asked many questions.

Overall, it was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but one thing disturbed me.

During the course of the conversation, I discovered that about half the class felt information from media sites - for example, stories from this newspaper - should be free to everyone who clicks on a link.

Granted, the Internet is home to billions and billions of pages of free information, but the work done by professionals - artists, musicians, journalists, authors, etc. - should not just be given away just because someone wants it for free. As a professional journalist, I expect to be paid for my work and that transaction can't take place unless my employer is paid for its services.

I asked the students to apply that same model to the clerk the next time they went grocery shopping, or the salesman the next time they wanted to purchase a car. Telling someone who is in the business of creating and selling a product that they should give it away isn't going to go very far.

This attitude isn't limited to just a handful of students. Across this state, Oklahomans have decided that government should function without taxes.

Sure, residents want services - good schools, smooth roads, strong bridges, police and clean water - but they don't want to pay the cost to cover them. The disconnect between what Oklahomans are willing to pay in taxes, one former state official told me, and what they expect in government services is a gulf larger than the Grand Canyon.

In short, we want government for free.

Like the students I spoke with, Oklahomans have decided that getting something for nothing is their new model for state government. For several years, I've watched state lawmakers push again and again to lower the state income tax rate. …

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