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Daily Maverick Morality Politics

Media freedom is not a black-and-white issue

As submitted to The Daily Maverick

I would hope that regular readers are by now in no doubt as to my commitment to the freedom of the press, and free speech in general, and that the following therefore doesn’t give anyone the idea that I’ve been offered a government contract. As I’ve frequently argued in these pages, no idea should be granted the status of being sacred or outside of the realm of criticism. It’s a legal defense – not a principled or philosophical one – to assert that something is enshrined in the Constitution (for example). The possibility is always open for the Constitution to be wrong on some issue, or for it to provide an inefficient mechanism for safeguarding and promoting goals that we agree are desirable.

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Daily Maverick External World Morality

Corporate Social Responsibility – what’s a company to do?

As published in The Daily Maverick.

KFC’s recent advertising campaign, based around their stated concern to rid Johannesburg streets of potholes, brought to mind Milton Friedman’s claim that “the business of business is business”. Although there is some dispute whether the phrase should be attributed to him, the idea that private companies are there only to make money (within the bounds of the law) has never met with universal agreement. Critics assert that the power which companies wield obliges them to demonstrate social commitment, for example via financial contributions towards pothole-repair. These purported obligations are backed up by policy and legislation, such as triple bottom-line reporting and the three King reports.

But we should always be wary of letting convention, as well as law, dictate our perceptions of what words such as hypocrisy, right and wrong, moral and immoral mean. The fact that we may prefer the world to look a certain way, and for companies and individuals to act in accordance with those preferences, does not mean that they are obliged to do so – or that they are morally negligent when they don’t.

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External World Politics

Addicted to victimhood

Being married to someone who is obsessed with food has its upsides, in that the cooking of regular and delicious meals is something the Doctor enjoys doing (or so she claims, after years of doing so). I can apparently cook too, but this is a hypothesis that I’d rather not subject to much testing, in that I fear the loss of a potentially undeserved reputation. But it has its downsides too, in that her time spent thinking about food, and reading in the discipline of “Food Studies”, involves having to listen to and read an awful amount of utter tosh. Being a naturally inquisitive sort of fellow, I sometimes get caught in the crossfire, which led to us recently having a conversation about the evils of high-fructose corn syrup, which is apparently in everything.