Monday, November 11, 2013

What do these two things have in common?

Standard and Poor's defense against misleading ratings:
S&P said in its request to dismiss the case that the government can’t base its fraud claims on S&P’s assertions that its ratings were independent, objective and free of conflicts of interest because U.S. courts have found that such vague and generalized statements are the kind of “puffery” that a reasonable investor wouldn’t rely on.
So lying about the results of your financial analysis (for profit) and misleading people who rely on information is okay?  Do these people not know that accurate information is an absolute requirement for markets to work and that ends up being a classic principal agent problem? 

And then consider this case:

It was also the beginning of the end.  The Journal at first identified her as just an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War. In other op-eds, O‘Bagy herself had disclosed the dual association, but for the Journal, at the insistence of Kim Kagan, the Institute’s head, she says, she did not. Kagan disputes this account. Critics were quick to point out the Journal’s omission of O’Bagy’s task force work, charging that she was lobbying the same politicians she was meant to be briefing. O’Bagy and the task force both say she was never involved in the group’s lobbying activities. But that first opening led others to look more closely. Within days, it was revealed that Dr. O’Bagy didn’t have a PhD.
I think that these are both parts of the objectivist ideals that have penetrated American society.  It has replaced ideas like "it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game" with an ideal of winning as being a sign of moral worth. 

Objectivism definitely has a "do what you want element".  Consider:

Why do they always teach us that it's easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It's the hardest thing in the world--to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.
It is not that there is no value in this approach, but one can easily imagine how this can lead to people running roughshod over others in the climb up the slippery pole of success.  I think that this is worth giving a lot of consideration to. 

What is the role of truth, self-discipline, and good conduct in the modern world? 

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