Robert Reich writes—To serve society:

It's worth pondering that the 19 firefighters who died Sunday battling a huge wildfire near Prescott, Arizona, presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest. Like the first-responders to 9/11 and other emergencies, and members of the armed forces, they put themselves in harm's way (or chose a job that did so) because they wanted to serve.

Economics, and much of public policy and political strategy, assume that people are motivated by self-interest, that the definition of acting rationally is to maximize what you want for yourself, and that other values – service, duty, allegiance to others, morality, and shared ideals – are either irrelevant or negligible.

Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party, popularized this view of human nature. In her world, selfishness is the only honest and justifiable motive. By looking out for Number One, we accomplish everything that's necessary. Economist Milton Friedman extended the logic: The magic of the marketplace can be relied on to allocate resources to their highest and best uses. Anything "public" is suspect.

 The titans of Wall Street and the CEOs of our major corporations have put this narrow principle into everyday practice. In their view, the aggregation of great wealth and maximization of profit is the only justifiable motive. Greed is good. Eight-figure compensation packages are their due. People are paid according to their economic worth.  

 This crimped perspective misses what's most important. Shared values are the essence of a society. They fuel not only acts of valor, such as those of these 19 young firefighters, but they also motivate people to become teachers and social workers, police officers and soldiers, librarians and city councilors.

And they generate social movements – abolition, women's suffrage, civil rights, environmental protection.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2010The real scandal about the scandal that never was:

It was the scandal that never was, which was the true scandal. It was one of the most shameful episodes in the annals of climate change denialism, and given the desperate efforts of the corporate interests that profit so mightily off such staggering irresponsibility, that's no mean feat. But so many traditional media outlets have become little more than propaganda arms of their corporate owners that their obscuring, obfuscating and sometimes just plain lying about the scientific facts is just more of the same. It's only the most dangerous crisis humanity has ever faced, but to them that's less important than their rapacious greed. It's time for a bloggers' ethics conference. 

The real story was that thieves hacked the private emails of respected climate scientists. That's a crime. That should have been at least part of the focus of the reporting: a false scandal was being concocted by people who were, at face value, criminals. But the larger part of the story was that it was a deliberate effort to distort and distract from the scientific facts. That, too, should have been at least part of the reporting. Instead, so many major media outlets played along, ignoring the criminality, and propagating the distortions and lies exactly as the criminals wanted. Even though the distortions and lies were easily debunked. All it took was intelligence and integrity, rarely found in the major media, although they could be found, elsewhere.