Micromanaging Car Radios
On September 15, 2023, I received an email from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. It was addressed to Lenore but I read it anyway.
Congresswoman Greene wrote:
I’m proud to co-sponsor H.R. 3413, the AM Radio for Every Vehicle Act.
AM radio keeps Americans informed and safe and is the backbone of FEMA’s National Public Warning System. Americans utilize AM radio stations to obtain trusted, accurate emergency information about how and where to evacuate, and emergency alerts relating to tornados, wildfires, floods, major accidents, and other crises. Federal, state, and local authorities rely on AM radio to broadcast local alerts about severe weather, child and elder abductions, and traffic and other emergencies to the public via the Emergency Alert Service, Amber Alerts, and Highway Advisory Radio, respectively.
When all other services are unavailable, and the power is out, a car’s AM radio is a lifeline. There is no alternative that has the reach and resiliency of AM radio stations, a service that is free to all listeners and doesn’t require a subscription, data plan, or other fees. More than 80 million Americans regularly listen to AM radio and six in 10 radio fans even cited the lack of cost as one of the top two drivers for tuning in.
91% of vehicle owners say having a radio in the dashboard is important. During times of crisis, AM radio listenership increases significantly. When Hurricane Ian hit Florida in 2022, listenership in Orlando, Miami, and Tampa spiked as much as 123%.
AM radio is one of the most dependable ways to reach individuals across the country. Every FEMA Administrator in the last 30 years has warned that removing AM radio from vehicles represents a threat to public safety.
This legislation ensuring AM radio be included in every vehicle is a common-sense policy that will serve every Northwest Georgian in rural District 14. No one should be in the dark during an emergency, and ensuring quick access to timely information from first responders can be the difference between life and death.
Dear Congresswoman Greene,
I’m a fan of many of your views on foreign policy. I don’t get, though, why you think people should be forced to buy cars with AM radios. Shouldn’t that be up to them?
David R. Henderson
Research Fellow, Hoover Institution
Go through all of her reasons and you can find many of them persuasive. But persuasive of what? She seems to be saying that she has thought of AM uses that people value but haven’t thought of themselves. Does she really think that car companies are so not motivated by profit that they would fail to provide features whose costs are below the value consumers place on them? Apparently so.
Congresswoman Greene is a “woman of system,” to the term Adam Smith used, updated for gender.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz is a man of system. He wants to mandate AM radio also, but justifies it as an issue of freedom of speech. But requiring AM radio to get free speech is like requiring that I buy a local newspaper. I get plenty of speech without it and free speech is not about requiring people to buy things that make communicating lower-cost for others.
Fortunately, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is thinking clearly about the issue.