Column on NYT Editorial Prejudices

NYT Editorial Prejudices
Tibor R. Machan
In its November 24 editorial, “Return of the Predators,” The New York
Times reaffirmed its utter hostility toward and prejudice against those
who work in the market place. It appears that given that in the market
people strive to profit, there is no way The Times will ever give it
credit for anything worthwhile.
This time it is “for profit loan modifiers” who are the targets of The
Times’ prejudice. Modifiers are folks who aim to make some money off
renegotiating previously made deals between homeowners and mortgage
companies. Some of this is done by non-profit agents who, of course, are
completely embraced by The Times and all those who demean the free market.
That’s because they “work for no fee.”
There are too many levels at which this disdain of market agents is
seriously flawed. For one, people who try to earn a profit from providing
their skills to clients are by no means greedy monsters, any more than The
New York Times reporter who latches on to a hot story before a competing
paper grabs it must be some kind of fiend. The profit motive doesn’t
create corruption. Moreover, non-profit seekers face their own ethical
pitfalls, such as becoming insufferable buttinskies, folks who thrive on
running other people’s lives and may even enjoy being depended upon by
others who might benefit from some help.
As public choice theorists have demonstrated, the so called public service
that motivates many who enter the non-profit market is often nothing but a
personal agenda that gives these people their own type of profit or
satisfaction. To think of these folks as if they were saints aiming to get
nothing out of what they do is delusional. Nor need there be anything
amiss with what they do to try and gain something from their non-profit
endeavors. The point is that they do try to gain something from it. The
pure altruist is rare and, frankly, no all that virtuous, given that his
or her claim to be disinterested is usually a lie.
If those at The Times, and the rest of the anti-capitalists, gave the
matter a bit more thought than they do, they might acknowledge that the
mutual-benefit arrangements that take place in market transactions are
normally completely decent ones. Just consider, The Times benefits
substantially from all its advertisers and readers, for whom it provides a
service or two, if I am not mistaken. How come its profit seeking conduct
manages to be above suspicion but not that of the for profit loan
modifier? When there is evidence of malpractice in market transactions, it
is, as in all other cases of criminal misconduct, necessary to ferret it
out, not simply assumed it to be part of such deals as The Times’
editorial writers do.
Taking it as given that when people embark upon profit making, including
in the loan-modification industry, they must be doing something shady is
like assuming that when people write for a living they must engage in
shady conduct like plagiarism or slander. But this is silly and to think
that way betrays a deep seated prejudice, not insight or wisdom. It is no
different from suspecting all the reporters at The New York Times of
professional mal-practice before any evidence of it had been uncovered.
Of course, for profit loan-modifiers are capable of malpractice, of
corruption and such, just as are journalists or doctors or teachers. We
know well enough from recent history that The New York Times had writers
who were guilty of such corruption. But this does not justify suspecting
everyone at the paper of the same.
Similarly, because some of those in the for profit lending or modifying
industry have engaged in malpractice it does not follow that most do or
will. For The Times to alleged that such people are less likely to be
honorable than are reporters as they carry on with their work is rank
injustice.
Indeed, all those who indict profit makers of being more susceptible of
corruption than non-profit professionals need to rethink their view of
human nature. By implication they are claiming that all men and women who
seek to earn a living at some type of commerce must be inclined toward
vice and crime. There is no evidence of this, certainly less than there is
for the contention that all those who seek political office and work in
government are likely to be crooks.

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