The ethics of “instant” news reporting

Instant reporting serves the business needs of news outlets — it attracts viewers — and the entertainment needs of the general public — it is titillating.

But instant reporting serves no journalistic purpose. And, therefore, journalistic purpose cannot be used as an excuse for getting the news wrong in the interest of getting it quickly.

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Cash for …

My friend and occasional correspondent, Ira Goldman, has a somewhat droll sense of humor. When President Obama and the Democratic congress created the “Cash for Clunkers” program as an “economic stimulus”, Ira sent me a series of e-mails containing a list of other, increasingly ridiculous, suggestions for “Cash for …” programs on which the government might be able to waste money.

Among his nominations was one — Cash for Hookers — that, for some (perverse?) reason sent me spiraling down a thought hole — to land with a thud at the bottom onto the following insight:

    Prostitution may be the perfect metaphor for our current insane political divisions:

      Conservatives are against it because they think sex is a sin

      Liberals are against it because they think commerce is a sin

    It’s the one thing on which everyone can agree!

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Bailing Out the Auto Industry

Am I the only one in America who has grave doubts about whether the combination of marketing vision, business acumen, strategic sense, operating experience, and hard-nosed decision making required to rejuvenate the American auto industry is really to be found in the Congress of the United States and the editorial board of The New York Times?

And…

Are we about to force Detroit, through the strictures Congress puts on the bailout funds, out of a market (larger vehicles) in which they had clear dominance and into a market (for smaller fuel-efficient vehicle) in which they have historically had a hard time competing and for which competition is likely to be even fiercer in the future?

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The Patriotism of Paying Taxes

Is it really more patriotic to turn my money over to the government or to use it to invest in a business that will employ people and produce wealth? Is it really more patriotic to turn my money over to the government or to distribute it into my community by buying goods at local businesses or paying people to perform services for me? Is it really so clear to you that the government spending my money will create a greater benefit than me spending it myself?

…an assertion that I have a “patriotic duty” to let the government choose how my money can be of most use, rather than letting me choose myself, is not obviously correct. If spending it personally, rather than letting the government spend it, produces a better effect, then it might very well be my patriotic duty to resist the government’s attempt to take it from me.

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Bailout or Rescue?

Might it not be better described as a “rescue” of the innocent bystanders rather than as a “bailout” of the miscreants? If the primary effect is not to prevent Wall Street from suffering but to prevent their suffering from spreading — to ensure that their suffering doesn’t result in a general contraction in capital available for productive enterprises and for home purchases — that doesn’t sound nearly as horrible as all the news reports make it out to be.

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No, It’s NOT Obvious

Back in August the editorial board of The Boston Globe published a diatribe about the stupidity of anyone who couldn’t see how wonderful the world would be if only we would reduce the speed limit back to 55 miles per hour.

OK, that wasn’t really what the editorial said. It was only implied. But their sanctimony annoyed me enough to prompt this response.

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Conservative in Context

I think that, 90% of the time, business (and I use the term loosely here) brings regulation upon itself by tolerating and even embracing sleazy practices. If we want less government regulation, we need a lot more ethical sense among the business community in particular and among the public generally.

…’Conservatives’ have always offered a different compact than ‘liberals’. ‘Liberals’ say:

Cede some of your political and economic liberty to us; in return we will protect you, both from bad guys and from yourselves, and grant you all the cultural liberty and irresponsibility you can stomach.

‘Conservatives’ say:

We offer you political and economic liberty, but in return you must agree to take responsibility for your own well-being and everyone else’s; and, in particular, you must agree to exercise cultural restraint, both by controlling your own base impulses and by being willing to judge others’ indulgences of theirs.

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Health Care and Profit

The self-righteousness of those who proclaim that profit is the beast eating the health-care industry and that all would be wonderful if we could just remove profit from the system is both annoying and tedious.

It’s bad enough that they ignore the fact that the potential for profit is what entices investment and is the fundamental reason that our health-care R&D pipeline is so vibrant.

But it’s truly infuriating when such fulminations come from those working within the system. So far I haven’t heard of any who connect profit with their own take-home pay or who have taken a vow of poverty to make health care more affordable.

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Airport Congestion

The problem of overcrowding at peak load times is the result of a basic philosophical premise on the part the FAA: that takeoff and landing slots are a public resource properly allocated on the basis of “fairness” or “equity” or some other moral ideal — moderated, of course, by political suasion — and in defiance of any economic consequence. The predictable result is that the benefits of such allocation accrue to the winners in the allocation lottery while the costs are socialized across the whole system.

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