Should we fix the problems or shoot the messenger?
If you live in West Virginia long enough, you will have noticed our native inclination to shoot the messenger. Sometimes, it seems, if it weren't for bad news, there wouldn't be any news at all. After a while, you just get tired of hearing it. But it never lets up. Eventually, it becomes a challenge to not dislike the bearers of bad tidings. We're acutely aware of this unfortunate phenomenon, because we're one of the messengers. The focus of our reporting is on the policies and practices that often generate the bad news for our state. Our motive is a worthy one, however. We draw attention to the shortcomings of our state with the hope that civic and political leaders and our fellow citizens will be outraged enough to undertake necessary reforms. This, we believe, is what motivates other critics as well. ChiefExecutive.net, for instance, releases an annual survey of more than 500 of the nation's top CEOs. In 2011, those bosses ranked West Virginia as the 42nd best state to do business in – which is to say, the ninth worst. Last year, once again, the American Tort Reform Foundation's annual report on "judicial hellholes" ranked West Virginia as having one of the five worst legal climates in the country. Although the report highlighted commendable improvements, it nevertheless emphasized that serious problems remain, owing to our state's lack of full appellate review, our lax liability rules, the exorbitant awards that our juries hand out, the ongoing invasion of out-of-state plaintiffs, the predations of our state's rogue attorney general, etc. Now comes word that a CNBC survey has ranked West Virginia 48th in a list of states with the best business climate: third worst. It's possible that West Virginians will take the results to heart and join with other concerned citizens to fix the problems, starting with the election of a new slate of state officials in the fall. Shooting the messenger will change nothing.