Advertising Is A Tax

Let me pose a question to you. What is the social value of advertising? Does anyone, anyone seeing it that is, actually like or gain value from advertising?

Answer: no. This is empirically demonstrated by the prevalence of adblock among internet users. Even those that do not use adblock do not do it because they like seeing ads, they simply are not aware. When I set up adblock for my father, my mother, and my sister, did they complain that their life was now worse? No.

One of the more prevalent business models today is advertising-supported content. No longer the realm of newspapers, essentially every YouTuber you see now makes money from advertising. The only people who like seeing these ads are the businesses that buy them. How do they pay for these ads? With money. How does the money get into their pockets? From people buying their products.

If these companies did not advertise, they would spend less money per product. Hence they would charge less for their products. Every dollar that goes to advertising from a purchase is a surcharge that goes directly to supporting an institution that nobody likes.

This is essentially the function of a sales tax: to surcharge each purchase to fund the government. Sales tax is a flat tax, and hence regressive: poor people pay more of their income in sales tax than rich people. The story with advertising is even worse, since private companies do not have the power of governments to offset the regressiveness of the (easy-to-collect) sales tax via a progressive, possibly negative, income tax. Plus, society does not derive benefit from advertising, while society derives benefit from many government functions.

Advertising is also a tax on our attention. Our lives are short. They are beautiful, but they do not last long. Every wasted second, not a second ""wasted"" by leisure but a second where you are occupied by something hateful and boring, is a crime. Advertising is almost universally devoid of good taste, and disgusting to the eye and soul. Further, online advertising is the main contributor to page size bloat, and hence the main contributor to delays in page load.

In any case. The revenue of many independent artists is paid by advertising, and the very very substantial video hosting costs of Youtube are subsidised by advertising, which means it can provide its services for free. (Or more accurately, it cannot: it is simply that the 'advertising surcharge' that we all pay on everything we buy is invisible). That is wonderful, at its core: video is no longer solely the domain of the company, video is something anyone can make. Of course Youtube has been determined to ruin this, but that is neither here nor there. (Or more accurately, it is both here and there, but I am unable to provide a good account of it with the effort I want to give to this.) But does this mean advertising is the only way, for example, that platforms like Youtube can stay afloat? No. Advertising is a tax. So a publically funded organisation could provide the same service as Youtube, and do it without advertising too. This is how public television works, and public television is much much better than private television.

So am I saying what you think I am saying? Yes. Nationalise Youtube. Nationalise fucking Facebook, which is also an advertising company. Nationalise Google. Nationalise Twitter. Nationalise Reddit. These are all fucking advertising companies. Fund them with an actual tax, instead of the advertising tax. And then fucking ban advertising. It's doable, and it would radically transform the landscape of the internet for the better.

Well, it IS doable. But it won't be done. Under capitalism. And so as always, my refrain is: nothing will get better until there is no more capitalism.