Conflicts of Interest
The skeptic is not one who doesn't believe anything without proof. He's just one who believes that people tend to act according to their own self-interests. Like the marketplace itself, this is neither good nor bad. It's just a force of nature.
Consider the following examples:
- Google CEO's Eric Schmidt said that journalists should rely on online advertising. Did Schmidt make this assessment because it's right, or because 98% of Google's income is comprised of advertising revenue, and to state otherwise would be heresy?
- College professors and administrators tout the benefits of a college degree. Perhaps they teach because they believe it's true. Maybe they believe it's true because they teach. What's clear is that without a steady stream of believers, they would have to find employment elsewhere.
- Politicians want to prove they care about you by spending money on things that you care about -- and that the other guy doesn't care as much about you because he doesn't want to spend it on those things. To maintain their position, however, they need you to forget that it's your money anyway, and their decision to take and spend your money removes your ability to choose what to do with it.
- The voters who elect them are no different, of course. They will happily cast their lot with the person or people who appears to promise the most while taking the least -- from them. That these promises must be paid for by someone else appears to be of little consequence.
- Companies want you to believe that owning their product or enjoying their service is better than the alternative, even if the alternative includes keeping your own money. Of course, their livelihoods depend on your being convinced of this.
- Companies also have a strong desire to pay you as little as they can without causing you to leave, and you have a strong incentive to get the best compensation package the market will bear.
- Unions want to convince you that market forces (including the freedom to choose where to work) are insufficient safeguards against abuse. Pay no mind to how increased union rolls fattens the pockets of the union bosses.
Powerful people can always mitigate the forces of self-interest, but it's useful to examine what their interests are before subscribing to their demands. - Cam Beck