Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Moral Question of Lobbying

These days it has become too easy to shove Google's face in their precept that "You can make money without doing evil;" but I think it is still worth trying to apply that precept as a moral compass when considering Google's relationship with the Federal Government. From this point of view, I find it valuable to track Lance Whitney's Politics and Law contributions to the CNET Blog Network. In light of the attempts of the Obama Administration to take a moral stance on the practice of government and then trip over itself where health care is involved, today's post from Whitney makes for interesting reading:

Faced with issues ranging from online ads to copyright laws, Google spent $950,000 lobbying Washington in the second quarter, according to a federal government database.

The amount compares with the $880,000 that Google spent on lobbying in the first quarter--and the $2.84 million it spent for all of 2008.

Among the issues that Google lobbied on: intellectual property, copyright related to the Google Book Search settlement, and privacy and competition surrounding online advertising.

I am sure there are many out there who would debate whether or not lobbying (which we can take to mean gaining influence over government policies and decisions through financial means) is evil. In the case of health care, one may make the case that it is disrupting the course of much-needed reform; but, where Google is concerned, the circumstances may have less to do with reform and more with enacting clearer legislation. Nevertheless, Google's practices seem to constitute an affirmation of the punch line of John Kirby's documentary, based on a text by Lewis Lapham, The American Ruling Class:

Why change City Hall when you can buy it?

By assenting to a system of government-by-financial-influence, Goggle is basically supporting it. We may debate whether or not this is flat-out evil; but I find it hard to call such practices "good!"

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