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Media’s Credibility Continues To Tank

A new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows the media’s credibility is at its lowest level since the poll has been taken (1985). Skepticism about the truthfulness of the media is rampant.

The survey found that 63 percent of the respondents thought the information they get from the media was often off base. In Pew Research’s previous survey, in 2007, 53 percent of the people expressed that doubt about accuracy.

The AP points out that the poll didn’t differentiate between bloggers and broadcast and newspaper reporters. The obvious implication is that “the internet” may be a primary reason the numbers are so low. I may have missed it, but I don’t know of any bloggers who present themselves as news people. Most of blogging is commentary on the news, the newsmakers or the media and its handling of the news. While “new media” might suggest that bloggers are on a par with what is commonly referred to as the MainStream Media (MSM), it’s simply not true. Few if any bloggers claim to be “journalists” (but there are journalists who are bloggers).

AP then reports:

The Internet also has made it easier to research information and find errors in news stories, said Kathleen Carroll, the AP’s executive editor. And the Web’s discussion boards and community forums spread word of mistakes when they’re found.

Carroll hopes the increased scrutiny and accountability fostered by the Internet will lead to better journalism.

“We’re in the early stages of a changing relationship between news organizations and consumers, who are becoming much more vocal about what they like, what they don’t and what they want to know,” Carroll wrote in a statement. “It’s not always pretty or pleasant, but that engagement can and does help improve coverage.”

The “internet” isn’t some amorphous blob. The part of the “internet” which “increased scrutiny and accountability” is the blogosophere. And that underlines the way the roles have broken out in the media as a whole – something the “internet” and blogosophere now figure in prominently. The monopoly on what is news as well as how that news is reported has been irrevocably broken.

It is that which the MSM is dealing, and, in most cases, it isn’t dealing with it well.

When the price of publishing dropped to the cost the price of an internet connection fee, the monopoly was broken. No longer consigned to letters to the editor (which may never be published), the people were able to speak out in various forums, but primarily through blogs. The result has been pretty stunning. Now a much more dynamic and democratic group decides what is news and how it is covered. In many cases, the MSM has been forced to cover stories it has obviously tried to ignore.

That is most likely one of the primary reasons their credibility remains low. In 1985 about 55% believed newspapers and broadcasters generally got things right.

By 1999, the figure had fallen to 37 percent. The only time the Pew survey recorded a significant shift in the media’s favor was in November 2001, when 46 percent said they believed news stories were accurate. Dimock attributes the anomaly to the sense of goodwill that permeated the United States after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

The most recent poll found just 29 percent believed news reports had the facts straight. (Eight percent said they didn’t know.)

Similarly, only 26 percent of the respondents said the press is careful to avoid bias. The figure was 36 percent in 1985.

As has been the case for years, television remains the most popular news source. The poll found 71 percent of people depend on TV for national and international news. Some 42 percent said they relied on the Internet, 33 percent turned to newspapers and 21 percent tuned into the radio. (The figures don’t add to up 100 percent because some people cited more than one medium.)

A decade ago, only 6 percent of the survey participants said they leaned on the Web for their national and international news while 42 percent relied on newspapers. (TV also led in 1999, at 82 percent).

If you read this carefully, you realize that the credibility problem for the MSM began well before the internet, seeing a slide from 55% in ’85 to 37% in ’99. ’99 is when the internet began to be a factor. But note that even then, only 6% said they used it for their news source. In 10 years that has grown to 42%, faster than any other source.

And what has the internet and blogs been most successful at doing? Fact checking the MSM and pointing to bias. That’s one reason only 26% now believe the MSM to be unbiased in their reporting.

Obviously the media world is changing, and as AP’s Carroll says, the MSM is still trying to come to grips with the change. What seems to finally be dawning on the MSM is the “new media” isn’t going to go away. In some cases they’ve been successful in co-opting various players. But with bars to entry as low as an internet account, there are always new players who will enter the “new media” market. The MSM may as well resign themselves that fact and step up their game (maybe they need 4 levels of editors) unless they want to continue to see their credibility shredded.

~McQ

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Comments

OK folks – we’ve had numerous complaints about the comment system and it is our considered opinion that it is a problem with one of the plug-ins. So I’ve disabled the plug-in.

That means that you need to use html tags if you want bold, italic or blockquotes.

It looks like spacing will work without html tags. If we find a plug in that works with WP or the one we disabled is updated to work with this version of WP, we’ll hook it back up

~McQ

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Style Evolves

So, based on some comments throughout the day, I’ve made a revision to the site again.  What I see on my monitor is now red, dark blue, white, and taupe.  I don’t see the “olive green” any more.  If you still see olive green on your monitor, let me know, so that I can do some re-shading.

As far as the column widths go, the main content area is 1000 pixels wide.  A variable width template doesn’t work out for everyone.  Sorry, but that was one of the complaints with the old template, so If you use a really wide screen at 1900px wide, then this is something you’re gonna just have to deal with.

For everyone else, 1000px seems like a good compromise, although I can go wider.  I just don’t want to make people who are still using 1024×768 to have to scroll horizontally to see the whole page.

Style Evolves

Don’t panic!  You’re at QandO.  The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve been a busy little beaver, and have–finally!–changed to a new template designed specifically for QandO, instead of the quick and dirty one I slapped together when we switched to WordPress.

I think you’ll find this one easier to read, and easier on the eyes.

About Our Recent Outage

We had a server problem which caused us to be down for a few hours and you to get the message “Bad Domain Name”. Naturally when something like that happens we have no way of letting you know what the problem is. The good news is, we’re back. Sorry for the inconvenience but, as we all know, life happens.

~McQ

A Word On “Manufactured Outrage”

It apparently was manufactured by lefty blog Think Progress.

Mary Katherine Ham takes a look at the “shocking, secret memo” that Think Progress “”unearthed and the DNC prominently displayed in their ad attacking those who are protesting at townhall meetings as “right-wing extremists” put up to the task by high-profile Republican groups.

As it turns out in this case “high-profile” means no one had heard of him, he is a libertarian and his “group” consists of 23 Facebookers who’ve joined his cause and 5 followers on Twitter.

When the “manufactured” outrage the Left is trying to demonize lines up so inconveniently with public polling, it’s sometimes necessary to create evidence for the “manufactured” storyline.

Enter Think Progress, which unearthed this shocking, secret memo from the leader of a small grassroots conservative organization in Connecticut, which allegedly instructs members on “infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress.”

Right Principles PAC was formed by Bob MacGuffie and four friends in 2008, and has taken in a whopping $5,017 and disbursed $1,777, according to its FEC filing.

“We’re just trying to shake this state up and make a difference up here,” MacGuffie told me during a telephone interview. He’s surprised at his elevation to national rabble-rouser by the Left.

Read all of MKH’s story about this elevation of a absolute unknown to an evil political manipulator by a blog, a national political committee and a willing network (naturally MSNBC jumped on this like a duck on a junebug).

In the meantime Jake Tapper has a report by Steven Portnoy about a townhall meeting in Mardela Springs, MD:

There were no lobbyist-funded buses in the parking lot of Mardela Middle and High School on Tuesday evening, and the hundreds of Eastern Maryland residents who packed the school’s auditorium loudly refuted the notion that their anger over the Democrats’ health care reform plans is “manufactured.”

“I went to school in this school,” a man named Bob told me. “I don’t see anyone in this room that isn’t from Mardela Springs right now.”

“We’ve been quiet too long,” said a woman named Joan.

So much for the “manufactured outrage” meme. Oh they’ll keep trying, but it appears the outrage is genuine and the only thing being manufactured is a story line by the left.

This sort of grassroots dissent obviously makes them very uncomfortable. And, of course they’re in denial right now – how could it turn around this fast to where they, who were on the offensive for at least 4 years, are suddenly on the defensive? The easiest thing to do is hand-wave the troubles away and deny their importance.

Well, they do that at their own political peril. This seems to be far more than a few angry right-wing dissidents as was evident when a registered Democrat called Steny Hoyer a liar the other day in a townhall meeting.

People are rightfully worried about the direction this current government has taken, and, apparently, they’re not going to sit quietly by as they tax and spend us into penury.

Health Care Blast From The Past – Hayek Has His Say

Here’s a post I did in January of 2007. It is very appropriate now that the health care reform business is well afoot.

So here’s ” Friedrich Hayek on Universal Health Care“, January 2, 2007:

As the 110th Congress prepares to convene and the run for the ’08 presidential nominations begins in earnest, we’re seeing far more appeals from the left, both from politicians, bloggers and opinion makers to address the supposed “health care problem”.

The appeals range from governmentally run universal health care to single-payer (again government) health insurance. The reasons given are also varied from the emotional “for the children” rhetoric favored by some to the technical “it would be more efficient and less costly” sobriquet.

Reading through Friedrich Hayek’s monumental “The Constitution of Liberty” again over the holidays, I revisited his discussion of the topic. And, willing to risk boring you out of you skull I thought I’d share it with you. Fair warning: Long post follows.

One of the most important thoughts he has on the subject gets to the crux of designing a system which would supposedly provide equal care to all. Health care cannot really be quantified and thereby presents peculiar problems which must be understood:

“They result from the fact that the problem of “need” cannot be treated as though it were the same for all who satisfy certain objective criteria, such as age: each case of need raises problems of urgency and importance which have to be balanced against the cost of meeting it, problems which must be decided either by the individual or for him by somebody else.”

And therein lies the great dilemma and the greatest threat to liberty. Because in a state run scheme it is the latter which will, indeed must, prevail.

He approaches the topic of health insurance and “free health care” by saying:

“But there are strong arguments against a single scheme of state insurance; and there seems to be an overwhelming case against free health service for all. From what we have seen of such schemes, it is probable that their inexpediency will become evident in the countries that have adopted them, although political circumstances make it unlikely that they can ever be abandoned, not that they have been adopted. One of the strongest arguments against them is, indeed, that their introduction is the kind of politically irrevocable measure that will have to be continued, whether it proves a mistake or not.”

That line is one of the most important points about this entire debate and one of the major reasons that many, especially among libertarians and fiscal and small government conservatives, resist the implementation of such a plan. Witness Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Once it is in place there is no turning back even if it is an outrageous mistake.

Fine, you say, but other than resisting it, to this point, because it may turn into an expensive and inefficient debacle, what can you offer to at least lend credence to an argument against such a system?

Fair question. And for that, I offer Hayek’s argument, an argument that is well reasoned, not emotional, and provides some unique insights.

He begins his critique by pointing out that the case for free health service is based on two fundamental misconceptions:

“They are, first, the belief that medical needs are usually of an objectively ascertainable character and as such that they can and ought to be fully met in every case without regard to economic considerations, and, second, that this is economically possible because an improved medical service normally results in a restoration of economic effectiveness or earning power and so pays for itself.”

But, as he argues, both miss the mark because they mistake the nature of the problem involved in decisions concerning “the preservation of health and life”:

“There is no objective standard for judging how much care and effort are required in a particular case; also, as medicine advances, it becomes more and more clear that there is no limit to the amount that might profitably be spent in order to do all that is objectively possible.”

Now make sure you’re clear on his point here. He’s not claiming it is profitable (or rational) to spend what is necessary to do all that is objectively possible. He’s arguing that if you agree that even marginal improvement, no matter how small, is “good” (“no objective standard”) then there is no limit as to how much you can spend for marginal improvement. Without an objective standard for making judgments as to how much care and effort are enough care and effort, the want is infinite.

He continues:

“Moreover, it is also not true that, in our individual valuation, all that might yet be done to secure health and life has absolute priority over other needs. As in all other decisions in which we have to deal not with certainties but with probabilities and chances. We constantly take risks and decide on the basis of economic considerations whether a particular precaution is worthwhile, i.e., by balancing the risk against other needs. Even the richest man will normally not do all that medical knowledge makes possible to preserve his health, perhaps because other concerns compete for his time and energy. Somebody must always decide whether an additional effort and additional outlay of resources are called for. The real issue is whether the individual concerned is to have a say and be able, by an additional sacrifice, to get more attention or whether this decision is to be made for him by somebody else. Though we all dislike the fact that we have to balance immaterial values like health and life against material advantages and wish that the choice were unnecessary, we all do have to make the choice because of facts we cannot alter.”

The fundamental issue he confronts here is the right of individual choice and the attack on that right which programs such as “free health care” pose. In essence individual choice is, at some point, overruled by collective choice. As Hayek implies in his discussion of “objective standards” and the real lack of them in judgments of how much care and effort are required in a particular case, those sorts of standards must be part and parcel to any “free health service”. Infinite need/want meets finite fiscal and physical resources in such a system, and consequently some method of defining the limits of “health care” within those fiscal and physical constraints must, of necessity, be made. Individual choice then is reduced to those standards and the freedom to pursue “additional sacrifice” in terms of spending more on your health is removed from your array of choices.

Even when such “objective determinably standards” are outlined, they prove not to be well considered or, as Hayek says, have any “relation to reality:”

“The conception that there is a an objectively determinable standard of medical services which can and ought to be provided for all, a conception which underlies the Beveridge scheme and the whole British National Health Service, has no relation to reality. In a field that is undergoing as rapid change as medicine is today, it can, at most, be the bad average standard of service that can be provided equally for all. But since in every progressive field what is objectively possible to provide for all depends on what has already been provided for some, the effect of making it too expensive foremost to get better than average service, must, before long, be that this average will be lower than it otherwise would be.”

Why the US continues to be the gold-standard for the most progressive and best medical care available instead of the British National Health Service is to be found in that paragraph. When their health is involved, people will rarely, if ever, chose the “bad average standard of service” over one which provides them the opportunity to access the best and most progressive. Health care, as provided by any universal scheme can, at best, only offer that “bad average standard of service”.

Hayek then addresses another part of the base misconceptions he identifies above:

“The problems raised by a free health service are made even more difficult by the fact that the progress of medicine tends to increase its efforts not mainly toward restoring working capacity but toward the alleviation of suffering and the prolongation of life; these, of course, cannot be justified on economic but only on humanitarian grounds. Yet, while the task of combating the serious diseases which befall and disable some in manhood is a relatively limited one, the task of slowing down the chronic process which must bring about the ultimate decay of us all is unlimited. The latter presents a problem which can, under no conceivable condition, be solved by an unlimited provision of medical facilities and which therefore must continue to present a painful choice between competing aims. Under a system of state medicine this choice will have to be imposed by authority upon individuals. It may seem harsh, but it is probably in the interest of all that under a free system those with full earning capacity should often be rapidly cured of temporary and not dangerous disablement at the expense of some neglect of the aged and mortally ill. Where systems of state medicine operate, we generally find that those who could be promptly restored to full activity have to wait for long periods because all the hospital facilities are taken up by the people who will never again contribute to the needs of the rest.”

Or who are presently too young to contribute.

What Hayek says, without saying it, is even in a system of “free health service”, there must and will be a system of rationing. Of course one of the main objections to our present system is we ration health care by price. But it doesn’t matter as the nature of health care, unlimited need meets limited means, requires it in every scenario imaginable short of a magic solution of some sort.

If we deal just in the economics of such a system, that which makes the most sense is to give priority of treatment to those who can recover quickly and contribute. That wouldn’t be the retired and children. Or stay at home moms. And those, usually, are the ones first identified as needing this sort of a system. But they are the very reason such systems fail to deliver on the promises made.

Hayek hints that such a system has an outside chance of working if it focuses on “restoring working capacity” and not much else. If and when it becomes focused on the “alleviation of suffering and the prolongation of life”, economic justification is impossible because the need/want for that is unlimited.

Such a system that gives priority to restoring those able to work productively would give further priority to treatment of the immediate problem and not necessarily the treatment of the chronic problem, if there is one – not if it wished to remain economically viable.

Thus far then, with such a system we’re reduced to a “bad average standard of service” which will, in some way, be rationed and in which individual choice will be abridged.

Last point, and privacy advocates should zero in on this:

“There are so many serious problems raised by the nationalization of medicine that we cannot mention even all of the more important ones. But there is one the gravity of which the public has scarcely yet perceived and which is likely to be of the greatest importance. This is the inevitable transformation of doctors, who have been members of a free profession primarily responsible to their patients, into paid servants of the state, officials who are necessarily subject instruction by authority and who must be released from the duty of secrecy so far as authority is concerned. The most dangerous aspect of the new development may well prove to be that, at a time when the increase in medical knowledge tends to confer more and more power over the minds of men to those who possess it, they should be made dependent on a unified organization under a single direction and be guided by the same reasons of state that generally govern policy. A system that gives the indispensable helper of the individual, who is at the same time an agent of the state, an insight into the other’s most intimate concerns and creates conditions in which he must reveal this knowledge to a superior and use it for the purposes determined by authority opens frightening prospects. The manner in which state medicine has been used in Russia as an instrument of industrial discipline gives us a foretaste of the uses to which such a system can be put.”

Now scoff if you wish, but that is the inherent risk any such system has because of its very nature. Such access to information is ripe for abuse, and, as Hayek notes, the fundamental change in the relationship of the doctor to the patient in this scheme makes such a risk of abuse more likely instead of less. The authority in this process is no longer the patient for whom the doctor used to work, but the entity which instructs the doctor on what he can or can’t do and pays him for the service. And the authority which makes such decisions must and will have access to all the information necessary to make them. What was once privileged information shared between doctor and patient would become shared information within the bureaucracy with possible potential abusive uses of which Hayek reminds us. Some may see those abuses as far fetched. I see their potential as a logical result of the system. One of the arguments we constantly make about corruption in the Congress is that the problem is systemic. It comes from the very nature of the institution its structure. This system is of similar construct and cannot help, at some time, becoming corrupt. Such corruption would most likely see the information within its databases used for purposes other than the treatment of patients.

An example? How hard do you suppose it would be to sort all the new mothers out of the population and offer them a choice of limited future service or complying with a government mandate that they see a doctor regularly? Some might argue that’s actually good. Ok, how about obese people? Alcoholics? Drug users?

Oh, wait, couldn’t the list of drug users be used for other purposes?

Yes. And so could a lot of other lists.

While all the lure of “free” health care sounds wonderful, especially to those who may not have access to health care at the moment, it is an emotional appeal which ignores the huge down-side such a program imposes on a society. No one argues that the system we have is perfect, and it certainly isn’t the least expensive, but, it appears it is the most responsive and provides access for most to the best and most innovative medicine available. There are some obvious things which could be done to improve it (remove health insurance from the realm of the employer, for one). But given the power of Hayek’s arguments, it should be a little more clear that putting our health care into the hands of the government is not one of them.

~McQ

Comment “Reply” Problem

It appears there is a problem with directly replying to a comment, i.e. if you left click on reply, it doesn’t thread it under the comment you are replying too.

I have no idea why. We recently upgraded to a newer version of WP and it may be a bug in that.

However, there is a workaround that Billy Hollis noted in the comment section of one of the posts. If you will left click right click [edited by Billy] on “Reply” and open a new tab, the reply you leave will be threaded with the comment.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but we do have a work around until we figure it out.

Questions and Observations #2

For new readers the title is that for which the shortened “QandO” stands. This is the second in a series of questions and observations.

  • In the “you can’t make this up” department, China will block the sale of Hummer for “environmental concerns”.  I guess that’s their nod to the rest of the world after flatly refusing cut CO2 emissions in the future.
  • Ezra Klein is suddenly for smaller government, specifically the elimination of the Agriculture Committee. Of course the only reason he’d like to see it given the deep 6 is because it has, in Klein’s opinion, badly weakened cap-and-trade by extracting “a truly mind-boggling array of tax breaks, exemptions, and straight subsidies”. I guess Klein would like to temporarily make government smaller to make it larger.
  • Yes, Michael Jackson is dead – but for heaven sake, do we have to devote every minute of the news day to running “Thriller” vid and spreading rumors about the possible cause of his death? Is this what “news” organizations have become?
  • Apparently we’re still stalking the North Korean ship enroute to either Singapore or Burma. For those who are waiting for us to confront it and board it, that’s not going to happen. The “tough” UN resolution only provides for boarding if the North Koreans agree. And, while we can demand that they then go to the nearest port for inspection, the North Koreans can refuse that as well. The plan, it seems, is to convince the refueling port the NoKos pull into to refuse to refuel the ship. Then, when the NoKo ship runs out of fuel, put it under tow and then inspect it. As I understand it – they can then inspect it legitimately. Amazing.
  • Waxman-Markey, aka cap-and-trade, survived an earlier test vote that moved the bill to the floor for a 5pm vote. As I recall the margin was 5 votes. It is a job destroyer in the middle of a recession. The Center for Data Analysis of the Heritage Foundation figures it will cost 50,000 jobs in the transportation equipment sector alone. Their data for other sectors is available here.
  • House liberals have staked out a bit of ground on the health care bill saying they will not vote for it if it doesn’t include a public option – period. That is actually good news as the public option does seem to be in trouble. Any bill showing up without it will most likely not get the 80 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to vote for it. Add in the Republicans and the Blue Dogs, and it may be in very serious trouble without just the sticker shock of 1 to 3 trillion dollars of cost.
  • Mark Sanford? He should resign. The affair is between he and his family. He should resign because he was derelict in his duty and he misappropriated government funds to pay for his trip to Argentina.  Kinda like Bill Clinton should have resigned, not for the affair, but for lying under oath to a grand jury and attempting to obstruct justice.

~McQ