Posts Tagged ‘conscience’

Is it ethical to review a friend’s book on Amazon?

September 2, 2010

If you write a review of a friend’s book on Amazon should you disclose that you’re a friend? Even though it would diminish the impact of your review?

My friend and favorite author, Leora Krygier, raised some interesting questions about the ethics of reviewing books:

“Should reviewers disclose their leanings and prejudices, and their world view? And on the other side of the coin, what about all those reviews we authors ask our friends to write on Amazon? Should ‘friend’ connections be disclosed in honest reviewing? What about blurbs that come from authors who have the same publisher? Is that a conflict of interest? And reviews for money? Do we just stack it all up to ‘it’s okay because it’s just promotion?’ or is this an ethical issue that needs addressing?”

An ethics principle that almost always works is the “clear conscience” rule: reviewers should have a clear conscience—they shouldn’t hope that their background remains hidden. If I write a review on Amazon for Leora’s book I must disclose that she’s a friend, because there’s a clear conflict here: I hope her book succeeds and I want to write an honest review. If my publisher asks me to review a colleague’s book I have a slightly different conflict: I want to stay in my publisher’s good graces ­and I want to be honest. If I’m being paid for a review I want to please my patron and I want to be honest.

I’m not saying that I can’t be honest in my reviews; in fact I did love and admire Leora’s novel (more…)


Should legislators vote their conscience? Or the way their voters want? Marjorie Margolies and Edmund Burke say “conscience”

March 19, 2010

On the eve of a historic vote in the House on health care reform Republicans aren’t conflicted. They’ll all vote ‘no.’ But on the Democratic side it’s not so easy. Some members who favor reform are in districts that poll strongly against; some members who oppose reform are in districts that poll in favor. Both groups are conflicted: vote their conscience or vote their constituents?

Marjorie Margolies argues, in an op-ed in Thursday’s Washington Post, that members should vote their conscience. She’s a voice worth paying attention to, since her vote of conscience in favor of President Clinton’s budget proposal is generally considered to have led directly to her defeat in the 1994 election. But if you think Margolies’ advice just serves her desire to get health care reform passed, consider what the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke had to say on the subject in 1774.

Burke’s Speech To The Electors Of Bristol was well known to Jefferson, Madison, and the other Founding Fathers. Many political scientists consider it one of the documents underlying our Constitution. Burke told his constituents that a representative owes them “his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”