Monday, January 12, 2015

False or Unfalse

I am a child of my upbringing, so when I think of statements that cannot be falsified, my thoughts inevitably turn to Mr. T and his stern warnings about the perils of jibber-jabber. Indeed, I pity the fool who listens to anyone making weaselly, motivated, partisan claims about stock market movements, alleged effects of policy on quarterly growth, or spurious remarks about employment rates. In short, most of what passes for financial or economics journalism is so obviously tripe that I honestly have to wonder at the good sense of the people who consume it.

"The stock market rallied following blah blah blah from the President today" is less informative than the nether bellowing of a porcine oaf. At least in the event of a noisy fart, listeners can conclude that at one point, the issuing individual enjoyed a fine meal. With financial soothsaying, the wind and volume accompany nothing.

So here's the common-sense jurisprudence question: should market-watching geese be subject to false advertising statutes? If their inane proclamations induce individuals to trade based on naught but empty bellows, shouldn't they bear some liability? Or is the soul of commercial regulation located only in the profit center? Does it matter whether or not commercial speech is made by a third party who does not stand to profit directly?

If it does matter, what does that say about citizen jurisprudence towards third party review sites like Yelp or Zillow or whatever?

The public (and the Supreme Court) have already decided that some forms of commercial speech are not protected by the First Amendment. If deception were the only issue, most financial journalists would be liable in tort. It appears that you need to combine deception and profit-seeking to run afoul of the popular sentiment. Curious.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?