I wonder what Google’s biggest shareholders think about the company’s decision to no longer accept advertisements for payday lenders and related services. First off, payday lenders’ ads appear to be an especially lucrative line for Google. “Keywords related to payday loans typically cost $4.91 to $12.77 per click, which is high,” the Times reports. What’s more, shareholders must be surprised to learn they own shares in a company run by people who now see themselves as armchair social engineers. What’s next on the list of products and services that Google will refuse ads from, in order to discourage consumption? Strip clubs? High-fructose jellybeans? I wonder how much more revenue the company is willing to forgo so that its executives can keep feeling morally superior. “Don’t be evil,” indeed.
Google’s decision to ban payday loan ads is ludicrous. We already have a mechanism for deciding whether a given commercial activity ought to be engaged in. It’s called the government. And on the payday loan question in particular, state governments have considered the matter and have come to various judgments. Payday loans are legal in 32 states and illegal in the rest. And don’t forget, the payday loan business exists for a reason. People really do experience near-term cash crunches from time to time; taking out a payday loan (rather than, say, purposely bouncing a check or leaving an urgent bill unpaid) is often the most cost-effective way to address them.
Here’s my suggestion to the do-gooders out in Mountain View. Remember that people are grown-ups, and capable of making their own decisions. If a given good or service is perfectly legal, let the companies that provide it advertise on your site.
What do you think? Let me know!