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What the Self-Esteem Movement Got Disastrously Wrong – Article by Dan Sanchez

What the Self-Esteem Movement Got Disastrously Wrong – Article by Dan Sanchez

The New Renaissance Hat
Dan Sanchez

One of Saturday Night Live’s most popular skits in the early 90s was a mock self-help show called “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley.” Smalley, played by now-Senator Al Franken, would begin each show by reciting into the mirror, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.”

This was a spoof of the “self-esteem movement,” which in the 80s had been all the rage. In that decade, self-esteem became a hot topic for motivational speakers and almost a book genre unto itself. In 1986, California even established a self-esteem “State Task Force.” But by the next decade, the movement had degenerated into an easy late-night punchline. Even today, Smalley’s simpering smile is the kind of image that the term “self-esteem” evokes for many.

Generation Barney

The self-esteem movement is also widely blamed for its influence on American schools and families. In the name of building self-esteem, teachers and parents showered children with effusive, unconditional praise. In the name of protecting self-esteem, kids were sheltered from any criticism or adverse consequences. The sugary rot spread to children’s television as well. Many of today’s young adults were raised on Barney the Dinosaur, who gushed with “feel-good” affirmations just as sappy as Smalley’s.

I am reminded of a moment from my own education career in the early 2000s. I had designed a classroom game for preschoolers, and one of my colleagues, a veteran early childhood educator, objected that my game involved competition and winners. “Your game can’t have a winner, because that means other kids will be losers,” she explained.

According to critics, this kind of mollycoddling has yielded a millennial generation full of emotionally fragile young adults who, in the workplace, expect praise and affirmation simply for showing up, and who can’t cope with (much less adapt to) constructive criticism. It is also partially blamed for the rise of politically-correct university “snowflakes” (aka “crybullies”) and their petulant demands for “safe spaces” on campus.

An Unknown Ideal

Ironically, these criticisms would be heartily endorsed by the father of the self-esteem movement. The whole thing was kicked off by an influential 1969 book titled The Psychology of Self-Esteem, written by Nathaniel Branden (1930-2014), a psychotherapist and one-time colleague and lover of Ayn Rand. It was the first of a long series of books by Branden about self-esteem, which included The Disowned Self (1971), Honoring the Self (1983), How To Raise Your Self-Esteem (1987), and The Power of Self-Esteem (1992).

In The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994), his definitive book on the subject, Branden expressed deep dissatisfaction with prevailing discussions of the concept, especially after the movement became an explosive fad in the 80s. In that period, the concept of self-esteem was distorted by what Branden called “the oversimplifications and sugar-coatings of pop psychology.” Branden declared that:

“I do not share the belief that self-esteem is a gift we have only to claim (by reciting affirmations, perhaps). On the contrary, its possession over time represents an achievement.” [Emphasis added here and below.]

As Branden understood and explained it, self-esteem was an action-oriented, tough-minded concept. If Branden had been Stuart Smalley’s therapist, he would have advised him to stop mouthing empty self-compliments into the mirror and instead to start building real self-esteem through deep reflection and concrete action.

Branden especially deplored how badly education reformers were getting self-esteem wrong. He wrote:

“We do not serve the healthy development of young people when we convey that self-esteem may be achieved by reciting “I am special” every day, or by stroking one’s own face while saying ‘I love me’…”

He elaborated that:

“I have stressed that ‘feel good’ notions are harmful rather than helpful. Yet if one examines the proposals offered to teachers on how to raise students’ self-esteem, many are the kind of trivial nonsense that gives self-esteem a bad name, such as praising and applauding a child for virtually everything he or she does, dismissing the importance of objective accomplishments, handing out gold stars on every possible occasion, and propounding an ‘entitlement’ idea of self-esteem that leaves it divorced from both behavior and character. One of the consequences of this approach is to expose the whole self-esteem movement in the schools to ridicule.”

Branden further clarified:

“Therefore, let me stress once again that when I write of self-efficacy or self-respect, I do so in the context of reality, not of feelings generated out of wishes or affirmations or gold stars granted as a reward for showing up. When I talk to teachers, I talk about reality-based self-esteem. Let me say further that one of the characteristics of persons with healthy self-esteem is that they tend to assess their abilities and accomplishments realistically, neither denying nor exaggerating them.”


Branden also criticized those who:

“…preferred to focus only on how others might wound one’s feelings of worth, not how one might inflict the wound oneself. This attitude is typical of those who believe one’s self-esteem is primarily determined by other people.”

Indeed, what most “self-esteem” advocates fail to understand is that other-reliant “self-esteem” is a contradiction in terms. Far from building self-esteem, many of the counselors, teachers, and parents of yesteryear obstructed its growth by getting kids hooked on a spiritual I.V. drip of external validation. Instead of self-esteem, this created a dependence on “other-esteem.”

It is no wonder then that today we are faced with the (often exaggerated) phenomenon of young, entitled, high-maintenance validation-junkies in the classroom and the workplace. Their self-esteem has been crippled by being, on the one hand, atrophied by the psychic crutches of arbitrary authoritarian approval, and, on the other hand, repeatedly fractured by the psychic cudgels of arbitrary authoritarian disapproval.

Almost entirely neglected has been the stable middle ground of letting children learn to spiritually stand, walk, and run on their own: to build the strength of their self-esteem through the experience of self-directed pursuits, setting their own standards, and adapting to the natural consequences of the real world.

Branden also noted that self-esteem is not promoted by:

“…identifying self-worth with membership in a particular group (“ethnic pride”) rather than with personal character. Let us remember that self-esteem pertains to that which is open to our volitional choice. It cannot properly be a function of the family we were born into, or our race, or the color of our skin, or the achievements of our ancestors. These are values people sometimes cling to in order to avoid responsibility for achieving authentic self-esteem. They are sources of pseudo self-esteem. Can one ever take legitimate pleasure in any of these values? Of course. Can they ever provide temporary support for fragile, growing egos? Probably. But they are not substitutes for consciousness, responsibility, or integrity. They are not sources of self-efficacy and self-respect. They can, however, become sources of self-delusion.”

This helps to explain the emotional fragility of young people obsessed with “identity politics,” especially the perverse pride in group victimhood that pervades the campus left. It also speaks to the agitation and resentment of today’s crop of white nationalists and other right-wing “identitarians.” As Ayn Rand wrote:

“The overwhelming majority of racists are men who have earned no sense of personal identity, who can claim no individual achievement or distinction, and who seek the illusion of a “tribal self-esteem” by alleging the inferiority of some other tribe.”

Authentic self-esteem promotes, not codependency and fragility, but independence, enterprise, resilience, adaptability, and a growth mindset: exactly the character traits that individuals, young and old, need more of in today’s economy and political climate.

It is nothing short of tragic that the confusions of the so-called self-esteem movement have turned an indispensable concept into an object of ridicule and blame. Far from being the source of our problems, self-esteem is the missing solution.

dan-sanchezDan Sanchez

Dan Sanchez is Managing Editor of His writings are collected at

This article was originally published on and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Why Free-Market Advocates Are Not Obligated to Defend the Economic Status Quo – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Why Free-Market Advocates Are Not Obligated to Defend the Economic Status Quo – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II

Many on the political left today equate advocacy of free-market capitalism with an “anything goes” support for the economic status quo. Many on the political right give credence to this perception by, indeed, seeking to defend the status quo just because it happens to be so. Yet this is neither an obligatory nor an advisable approach for characterizing a genuinely well-considered free-market outlook.

Suppose that you are a free-market advocate and also an engineer, well-versed in the principles and methods for constructing durable, safe structures. Suppose you also identify severe deficiencies in a bridge proposed to be constructed by a completely private enterprise. Mr. Stolyarov explores the implications of this dilemma and the appropriate responses in a free society.


– “Why Free-Market Advocates Are Not Obligated to Defend the Economic Status Quo” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why Free-Market Advocates Are Not Obligated to Defend the Economic Status Quo – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why Free-Market Advocates Are Not Obligated to Defend the Economic Status Quo – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II

Many on the political left today equate advocacy of free-market capitalism with an “anything goes” support for the economic status quo. Many on the political right give credence to this perception by, indeed, seeking to defend the status quo just because it happens to be so. Yet this is neither an obligatory nor an advisable approach for characterizing a genuinely well-considered free-market outlook.

Suppose that you are a free-market advocate and also an engineer, well-versed in the principles and methods for constructing durable, safe structures. You hold that individuals and businesses should have the freedom to be able to build structures which would improve human well-being, in exchange for the opportunity to earn a profit (or not, if they wish to build structures for a charitable purpose). Now suppose that you are tasked with evaluating the integrity of a particular structure constructed by a private business – perhaps a bridge. This particular bridge happens to be fully privately funded – no subsidies, no exclusive rights, no barriers to competitors’ entry. The business undertaking the construction intends for the bridge to be used as part of a major new toll road that is intended to carry massive amounts of traffic.

Unfortunately, upon deploying your technical skillset and studying the bridge design carefully, you find that the bridge, while it is represented as being able to withstand one thousand cars at a time, would in fact collapse under the weight of only five hundred cars. You also find that, in your basic repertoire of engineering techniques, you have knowledge of construction techniques and superior materials which would rectify these design flaws and enable the bridge to be as safe and as durable as originally represented. The trouble is that the business owners want to hear none of it. They are attached to their original design partly out of cost considerations, but mostly because they simply cannot understand your findings or appreciate their significance, no matter how many different ways you have attempted to communicate them. The business owners have almost no engineering knowledge themselves and are generally contemptuous of overtly mathematical, “nerdy” types (like you). They are skilled salespeople who have capital from a previous venture and are eager to make additional money on a high-profile project such as this bridge. Suppose that you know that you have all of the technical knowledge of your discipline firmly on your side, but it is the owners’ money on the line, so, unconvinced by your arguments, they build the bridge according to their original specifications. They still advertise it as highly durable, but in a sufficiently nebulous way that the advertisements do not truly make any specific promises or technical claims. (This business is short on technically knowledgeable professionals, but spares no expense in hiring attorneys to litigation-proof its marketing materials.) The driving public’s impression from the marketing campaign is expected to be, “It is an incredibly sturdy, state-of-the-art, daring new bridge that you will enjoy driving on in safety and style.” The business owners contend that there is no problem. After all, were this a truly free market, the public could choose to pay to use their bridge or to find some alternative in getting from point A to point B. And competitors could build their own bridges, too, if they could buy the land, purchase the tools and materials, and hire the labor to do it.

Of course, on most days, this bridge would not collapse, since it is rare for five hundred cars to be on it simultaneously. The owners could well be reaping profits from their bridge for years and convince the lay public to drive on it with no visible ill consequences during that time. The bridge is, however, vulnerable to high winds, earthquakes, freezing damage, and gradual deterioration over time (exacerbated by substandard construction). As time passes, the risks of collapse increase. No bridge is invulnerable, but this particular bridge is about 30 years farther along the path to decay than other bridges that you know could easily have been built in its place, had the owners only listened to you. As a free-market advocate, you have some sympathies with the owners’ view that the construction of the bridge should not be forcibly prevented, as they are using their own property for their own chosen purposes, and they are not forcing anyone to use it. However, as an engineer who knows better when it comes to quality of bridge design and construction, what do you do?

This dilemma illustrates a question at the core of how free-market advocates approach the world in which they find themselves – a world, of course, which is far from free in an economic sense, but where many people still use their own property for their own purposes. There are some who will assert that the very fact of private, voluntary use of property renders such use inherently above criticism, provided it is a manifestation of free choice. (We can overlook, for the sake of this argument, the fact that, in the real world, many incentives and constraints upon human action are routinely distorted by the effects of political influences in favor of one group or set of outcomes and/or in opposition to others.) In this argument’s more typical instantiation in today’s world, some would assert that any outcome of “private enterprise” in today’s world must be acceptable for free-market advocates, since it was (ostensibly) somebody’s use of private property for a private purpose. For example, mass corporate layoffs (virtually unheard of until the 1970s), raising the price of a life-saving, long-generic drug by 5,556 percent (as pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli did with Daraprim in 2015), listening to or creating brutal “gangsta rap” (virtually unheard of until the 1990s), teaching of creationism in private schools (common throughout history, but increasingly untenable in the face of over 150 years of mounting evidence), and many other behaviors of questionable rationality and/or taste are defended as being the decisions of private entities – so what could be wrong about them?

The problem with reflexively defending any and every behavior, just because a private entity undertakes it, even in the absence of market distortions, is that it misses an essential point. The market is nothing more than the sum of the choices and actions of its participants. A market outcome is not a Panglossian “best of all possible worlds” scenario. Even in the absence of compulsion or restraint, some people will be mistaken, irrational, overconfident, immoral, confused, or all of the above. Ex ante, they may expect that the transactions and behaviors they engage in will benefit them – much like a tribal shaman might believe that his rain dance would bring forth water for the tribe’s crops – but, ex post, they may well find themselves regretting their behavior, or even if not, they may have still become materially, intellectually, or emotionally worse off from it compared to the alternatives. In addition to choice, there is also truth – which comes in the form of scientific, mathematical, historical, and philosophical principles and facts. Truth is an outcome of combining induction from the empirical facts of reality with deduction from the application of logical reasoning to known facts and incontrovertible first principles. It is entirely possible for a person – including a wealthy, powerful, influential person whose decisions affect thousands or millions of others – to completely miss what the truth is, or even to be ignorant of the correct methods of arriving at the truth. In other words, if the external reality is objective and governed by comprehensible natural laws – and if morality is also objective in the sense that some outcomes are incontrovertibly more beneficial to human well-being than others – then it must be the case that somebody who is thinking in a rational, well-informed manner can truly “know better” than a particular decision-maker who is not.

Does that mean that the market could be replaced by some “superior” system of decision-making? Ultimately, no. We have no guarantee that any substitution of decision-making for that of private actors could lead to a necessarily preferable result from those decision makers’ free choices. If Person A is irrational and mistaken, we have no guarantee that leaving Person B in charge of A’s life would not lead to even more irrational and mistaken choices, compounded by the knowledge problem that B will necessarily have in relation to A’s situation. The possibility that B could be not simply misguided but nefarious, and seek to sacrifice A’s genuine interests in favor of B’s own, is a further argument against this kind of command-and-control approach. More devastating, however, would be an outcome in which a different person, C, really is doing his best to act in a truthful, rational, and just manner, but the controller B does not see it. Or perhaps B does see it and thinks it is all well and good, but B needs to set uniform standards that would keep the lowest common denominator in check, and C’s scrupulous, innovative, and principled way of living could never be generalized to a society-wide system of controls.

But getting back to you, the engineer: How to address the dilemma that you are in? Has the “market” not “decided” that the bridge of substandard technical quality is just fine? Not so fast. We must never forget that we are the market, and that the market does not only consist of the first decisions and inclinations of some small group of wealthy, powerful, or connected individuals. Quite the contrary: We are what a truly free market consists of. A truly free market consists not only of our affirmative choices, but also of our negations and criticisms of certain other choices. It consists of our knowledge, including those situations where we truly “know better” than certain others. You, the free-market engineer, could not force the bridge owners to change their design. However, you could fully publicize its flaws in a fully free society, one characterized by robust protections of free speech and lack of a climate of frivolous litigation with regard to libel laws. If today such professional criticism is difficult, it is because many larger, politically connected enterprises will hire legions of attorneys to squelch sufficiently specific assertions in meritless litigation that is too costly for ordinary people to counter. But a truly free society would lack this obstacle and would include a legal system that is designed with speed, simplicity, affordability, and protections for peaceful natural persons in mind. A corporation would not be able to sue you for publicizing detailed criticisms of its products; the judge would be empowered to simply throw out such a lawsuit at first glance. A truly free market of goods and ideas is not an indiscriminate stew of anyone’s and everyone’s plans. Any such plans also would get tested, scrutinized, refined, and ultimately accepted or rejected by the other market participants. To the extent that one owns property that could sustain the perpetuation of a plan, one might counter even strongly held prevailing opinions – but only temporarily and only if one has other means of replenishing that property if the plan causes it to be depleted.

Moreover, in a truly free market, barriers to entry exist only on the basis of the constraints of the physical world, not on politics and special behind-the-scenes influence. Thus, competitors can always arise with a superior business model. Perhaps if you, the engineer, criticize the existing bridge sufficiently, another business enterprise will learn of its defects, purchase another piece of land, and construct a parallel, sturdier bridge that takes your suggestions into account. The misguided owners of the first bridge might eventually find themselves out of business because travelers will discover that safer, more convenient routes are available. And if the bridge ever does fail, a free-market system of civil liability will penalize those businesses who, through negligence, failed to take reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their customers. If the bridge ever becomes an imminent danger to travelers, it would be proper for public warnings to be issued and for the law-enforcement entity (be it a minarchist government or a private dispute-resolution agency) to order that traffic to the bridge be discontinued until the immediate danger is averted (perhaps through structural improvements at that time). A free market does not permit the reckless endangerment of unwitting, non-consenting others.

But always, in a hypothetical free-market society or in our own, a free-market-oriented engineer – or any professional, really – should have no compunction about expressing the truth about the soundness and validity of any party’s decisions or proposals, be they private or governmental. Just as a private party may well propose building a substandard bridge, so might a government today actually develop a decent bridge, especially if the incentives of a given political system are conducive to that particular outcome. The free-market engineer should not hesitate to praise the technical design of a good bridge, no matter what its source – because truth is true, and a bridge that could support two thousand cars at a time would, indeed, support those cars no matter who constructed it (provided the methods and materials used are identical in each case). A free-market perspective is a political and economic position which is compatible with completely rigorous, objective views of matters of science, technology, mathematics, history, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, psychology, and any other conceivable discipline. Free-market advocates should respect people’s right to make choices, even when those choices are mistaken, but can maintain their own right to criticize those mistakes using as high a set of standards as they consider justified. If your values include striving for truth and justice, then those values are a part of the market as well, and you can improve market outcomes by working to instantiate those values in reality.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

The Internet Memory Hole – Article by Wendy McElroy

The New Renaissance Hat
Wendy McElroy
November 24, 2014

Imagine you are considering a candidate as a caregiver for your child. Or maybe you are vetting an applicant for a sensitive position in your company. Perhaps you’re researching a public figure for class or endorsing him in some manner. Whatever the situation, you open your browser and assess the linked information that pops up from a search. Nothing criminal or otherwise objectionable is present, so you proceed with confidence. But what if the information required for you to make a reasoned assessment had been removed by the individual himself?

Under “the right to be forgotten,” a new “human right” established in the European Union in 2012, people can legally require a search engine to delete links to their names, even if information at the linked source is true and involves a public matter such as an arrest. The Google form for requesting removal asks the legally relevant question of why the link is “irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise objectionable.” Then it is up to the search engine to determine whether to delete the link.

The law’s purpose is to prevent people from being stigmatized for life. The effect, however, is to limit freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and access to information. Each person becomes a potential censor who can rewrite history for personal advantage.

It couldn’t happen here

The process of creating such a law in the United States is already underway. American law is increasingly driven by public opinion and polls. The IT security company Software Advice recently conducted a survey that found that “sixty-one percent of Americans believe some version of the right to be forgotten is necessary,” and “thirty-nine percent want a European-style blanket right to be forgotten, without restrictions.” And politicians love to give voters what they want.

In January 2015, California will enforce the Privacy Rights for California Minors in the Digital World law. This is the first state version of a “right to be forgotten” law. It requires “the operator of an Internet Web site, online service, online application, or mobile application to permit a minor, who is a registered user … to remove, or to request and obtain removal of, content or information posted … by the minor.” (There are some exceptions.)

Meanwhile, the consumer-rights group Consumer Watchdog has floated the idea that Google should voluntarily provide Americans with the right to be forgotten. On September 30, 2014, Forbes stated, “The fight for the right to be forgotten is certainly coming to the U.S., and sooner than you may think.” For one thing, there is a continuing hue and cry about embarrassing photos of minors and celebrities being circulated.

Who and what deserves to be forgotten?

What form would the laws likely take? In the Stanford Law Review (February 13, 2012), legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen presented three categories of information that would be vulnerable if the EU rules became a model. First, material posted could be “unlinked” at the poster’s request. Second, material copied by another site could “almost certainly” be unlinked at the original poster’s request unless its retention was deemed “necessary” to “the right of freedom of expression.” Rosen explained, “Essentially, this puts the burden on” the publisher to prove that the link “is a legitimate journalistic (or literary or artistic) exercise.” Third, the commentary of one individual about another, whether truthful or not, could be vulnerable. Rosen observed that the EU includes “takedown requests for truthful information posted by others.… I can demand takedown and the burden, once again, is on the third party to prove that it falls within the exception for journalistic, artistic, or literary exception.”

Search engines have an incentive to honor requests rather than to absorb the legal cost of fighting them. Rosen said, “The right to be forgotten could make Facebook and Google, for example, liable for up to two percent of their global income if they fail to remove photos that people post about themselves and later regret, even if the photos have been widely distributed already.” An October 12, 2014, article in the UK Daily Mail indicated the impact of compliance on the free flow of public information. The headline: “Google deletes 18,000 UK links under ‘right to be forgotten’ laws in just a month: 60% of Europe-wide requests come from fraudsters, criminals and sex offenders.”

American backlash

America protects the freedoms of speech and the press more vigorously than Europe does. Even California’s limited version of a “right to be forgotten” bill has elicited sharp criticism from civil libertarians and tech-freedom advocates. The IT site TechCrunch expressed the main practical objection: “The web is chaotic, viral, and interconnected. Either the law is completely toothless, or it sets in motion a very scary anti-information snowball.” TechCrunch also expressed the main political objection: The bill “appears to create a head-on collision between privacy law and the First Amendment.”

Conflict between untrue information and free speech need not occur. Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, explained, “Traditional law has mechanisms, like defamation and libel law, to allow a person to seek redress against someone who publishes untrue information about him.… The legal standards are long-standing and fairly clear.” Defamation and libel are controversial issues within the libertarian community, but the point here is that defense against untrue information already exists.

What of true information? Truth is a defense against being charged with defamation or libel. America tends to value freedom of expression above privacy rights. It is no coincidence that the First Amendment is first among the rights protected by the Constitution. And any “right” to delete the truth from the public sphere runs counter to the American tradition of an open public square where information is debated and weighed.

Moreover, even true information can have powerful privacy protection. For example, the Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of data that is collected via unwarranted search and seizure. The Fourteenth Amendment is deemed by the Supreme Court to offer a general protection to family information. And then there are the “protections” of patents, trade secrets, copyrighted literature, and a wide range of products that originate in the mind. Intellectual property is controversial, too. But again, the point here is that defenses already exist.

Reputation capital

Reputation capital consists of the good or bad opinions that a community holds of an individual over time. It is not always accurate, but it is what people think. The opinion is often based on past behaviors, which are sometimes viewed as an indicator of future behavior. In business endeavors, reputation capital is so valuable that aspiring employees will work for free as interns in order to accrue experience and recommendations. Businesses will take a loss to replace an item or to otherwise credit a customer in order to establish a name for fairness. Reputation is thus a path to being hired and to attracting more business. It is a nonfinancial reward for establishing the reliability and good character upon which financial remuneration often rests.

Conversely, if an employee’s bad acts are publicized, then a red flag goes up for future employers who might consider his application. If a company defrauds customers, community gossip could drive it out of business. In the case of negative reputation capital, the person or business who considers dealing with the “reputation deficient” individual is the one who benefits by realizing a risk is involved. Services, such as eBay, often build this benefit into their structure by having buyers or sellers rate individuals. By one estimate, a 1 percent negative rating can reduce the price of an eBay good by 4 percent. This system establishes a strong incentive to build positive reputation capital.

Reputation capital is particularly important because it is one of the key answers to the question, “Without government interference, how do you ensure the quality of goods and services?” In a highly competitive marketplace, reputation becomes a path to success or to failure.

Right-to-be-forgotten laws offer a second chance to an individual who has made a mistake. This is a humane option that many people may choose to extend, especially if the individual will work for less money or offer some other advantage in order to win back his reputation capital. But the association should be a choice. The humane nature of a second chance should not overwhelm the need of others for public information to assess the risks involved in dealing with someone. Indeed, this risk assessment provides the very basis of the burgeoning sharing economy.

History and culture are memory

In “The Right to Be Forgotten: An Insult to Latin American History,” Eduardo Bertoni offers a potent argument. He writes that the law’s “name itself“ is “an affront to Latin America; rather than promoting this type of erasure, we have spent the past few decades in search of the truth regarding what occurred during the dark years of the military dictatorships.” History is little more than preserved memory. Arguably, culture itself lives or dies depending on what is remembered and shared.

And yet, because the right to be forgotten has the politically seductive ring of fairness, it is becoming a popular view. Fleischer called privacy “the new black in censorship fashion.” And it may be increasingly on display in America.

Wendy McElroy ( is an author, editor of, and Research Fellow at The Independent Institute (

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.