by Alice Temnick


How does the reach and memory of the Internet increase our vulnerability for digital disgrace? Do we behave differently as the scale of potential reputation damage increases? In this episode, these questions are front and center. Megan McArdle of Bloomberg View and Russ Roberts examine the phenomena of Internet “shame-storming”.

1. To what extent do you agree that the main drive to access news and social media is the desire to find a reason to be mad? Besides reduced costs of production, are there other factors that might fuel the proliferation of angry news?2. Consider McArdle’s claim about small town life, “It’s all of the bad things we hated about small-town life, and none of the good things that made small town life rewarding”. Why do great news stories or kind responses online not have the equivalent power of “cheaply-expressed outrage”?

3. Roberts suggests that the Internet increases the ease with which we can succumb to the seductive emotion of hate, deeming others as unworthy or worthless. How might mandated rules of civility, perhaps by a new online competitor, raise behavior standards toward kindness and tolerance?

4.Is McArdle’s comparison of the power some firms have in threatening one’s economic livelihood to the ultimate coercive power of the state reasonable? Why or why not?

5. Roberts reminds us of Ronald Coase on social cost – if we punish one output (behavior) we don’t just get less of it, it also lessens incentives for other behavior. In regard to Internet shaming, what other behaviors might Roberts be referring to?

Alice Temnick teaches Economics at the United Nations International School in New York City. She is an Economics examiner for the International Baccalaureate, teaches for the Foundation for Teaching Economics and Oxford Studies Courses and is a long-time participant in Liberty Fund Conferences.