This is a story of two sets of parents.
Both sets of parents give their children a pill every morning. They get paid to do so – for whatever reason one might imagine. All that matters is that the parents profit by giving their children these pills and, until recently, there has been no evidence that the pills do any harm.
However, that changes. A report comes out linking the substance in the pill to a number of health hazards – including, in rare cases, death.
After reading this report, both sets of parents head down to a local research facility.
Parent Set A goes to the research institute and says, “I want a second opinion. I will pay you $10,000 to look into the matter and tell me whether there is anything to this research, or whether it is one of those scare stories I hear about from somebody with too vivid an imagination and a need to have a cause to fight for – no matter how ridiculous.”
Parent Set B goes to a research institute and says, “I want a second opinion. I will pay you $10,000 for a report that says that I can ignore what it says in the paper, that their research is flawed, and that they are nothing but a bunch of activists who need a cause to fight for, even if they have to invent one.”
The question is: How would we rank the moral character of these two sets of parents?
With the recent release of the most recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change, the American Enterprise Institute sent letters to a number of scientists offering to pay each of them $10,000 if they will write a report critical of the IPCC findings.
American Enterprise Institute has spent the last several years selling a service to companies who profited from activities that produced greenhouse gasses. The service it has provided is to cloud the public mind on the issue of global warming, to paralyze the body politic into inaction through rhetoric and deceit so that its clients can continue to harvest profits through methods harmful to the rest of the planet. Specifically, they have been buying reports on behalf of their sponsors that say that those sponsors can ignore findings that a particular additive that they are putting into our atmosphere is causing harm.
What seriously bothers me about this situation is that people do not hold organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute morally accountable for their actions.
We can read the story above about what Parent Set B does in order to ‘justify’ the fact that it is continuing to take money for feeding this additive to their children and see how utterly evil such a person is. Such a story would be front-page news, be broadcast from one end of the country to the other, the topic of conversations in almost every office building and dinner party, and written about in hundreds of blogs. These parents would be totally vilified and deservedly so.
We can read a story about the American Enterprise Institute and the companies that hire it doing the same thing on a global scale, harming not only their own children but threatening our own children and children half way around the world that none of us even know, and the story hardly makes a blip on the media and social radar.
Executives at the American Enterprise Institute and the companies that contribute to it are given a moral free pass for the most reprehensible of attitudes towards the safety and well-being of others.
I want to make it clear that this argument does not depend in any way on the merits of climate change science. Look at the initial story again – the story of the parents feeding additives to their children. Please note that I said nothing about whether the original report was sound or unsound. We do not need to know whether the original report was sound or unsound to make a moral judgment in this case. All we need to know is that Parent Set B did not care enough about the harm they could be doing to ask for a fair and impartial analysis of the evidence.
Those who work for the AEI, and those who sponsored their activities, did not care enough about the potential harm that could be done through global warming to ask for an unbiased assessment. Instead, they valued personal profit over public welfare, and were willing to see untold harms inflicted on others for the sake of money in the bank.
For years, one of the major supporters of AEI has been Exxon-Mobile. Recently, Exxon-Mobile has announced that it is no longer supporting groups such as this. Yet, this does not change the fact that they contributed to these campaigns for years, that they profited in doing so, and that so far they have shown no signs of giving back any of their malevolently acquired profits for the sake of reversing the damage they have already caused. Exxon-Mobile will pocket nearly $40 billion in profits this year alone.
Yet, the moral stain here is not only on the hands of the leaders of Exxon-Mobile and the American Enterprise Institute, but on people who give them a free moral pass when those same people would condemn and even imprison Parent Set B in the example above. Hypocrisy itself is a moral crime. There is no way we can count it as fair or just to have Parent Set B suffer the consequences of their actions while the executives of Exxon-Mobile and the American Enterprise Institute continue to stand in full sight of the public having done far worse.
The victims of their actions actually include the children, nieces, nephews, and the children of the friends of most of the employees at AEI and the companies that financed their campaigns. I wonder what it feels like to work for a company or an institute that proves that proves by actions such as this that it cares so little about the welfare of one’s children, nieces, nephews, and the like?
[Note: There is, of course, the principle that the only legitimate response to words are counter-words and private acts such as boycotts and letters of condemnation, and the only legitimate response to a political campaign in an open society is a counter-campaign advocating laws that will remedy the situation. Vigilante justice has a habit of turning peaceful societies into places like Baghdad, and is not to be tolerated.]