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Tag Archives: moral reasoning

An unsung success story

As a candidate, Donald Trump promised to ban Muslim travel to the US.  After being rebuffed by the courts, President Trump had to settle for a watered down ban on travel from a subset of Muslim countries.  Nonetheless, the US Muslim population continues to grow rapidly, and has achieved a great deal of economic success as well.  Here is The Economist: The past 20 years have mostly been golden for America’s Muslims. The community has more than doubled in size, to 3.5m....

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Capitalism has a disparate impact

Matt Yglesias has an excellent post discussing Ibram X. Kendi’s attempt to redefine the term ‘racism’ from personal animosity against another racial group to advocacy of policies that widen the gap between two racial groups: When the book was first published in 2019, that’s not how it was received. Kelefa Sanneh’s excellent review in the New Yorker heads straight for what I think is the core weirdness of Kendi’s ideas. If we accept the definition that a racist is a...

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Avoiding Biases: Lessons from Michael Huemer

The featured image of this post is a photograph I took two weeks ago less than a mile from my home in Maine. It is only illustrative but, I think, powerfully illustrative. In evaluating the truth, objectivity requires one to check one’s own biases. It is not absolutely impossible that in an advanced society with multiple independent officials and checks against election fraud (as opposed to a banana republic), the government’s party steals an election. It is not...

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Patriotism and nationalism

Back in September 2002, a little girl was born into a Canadian family with a Western dad and an East Asian mom. In November 2002, another little girl was born into a Canadian family with a Western dad and an East Asian mom. Today, those two women face off in the US Open tennis finals. Boris Johnson says he’s rooting for the player who was born in Toronto in November 2002, not the player born in Montreal in September 2002. That’s because the one born in Toronto later...

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Should policymakers maximize aggregate utility?

I favor a utilitarian approach to public policy.  One common objection to this criterion is that we cannot measure utility, and hence there is no objective way to use utility maximization as a guide to policy. I certainly agree that it is impossible to measure utility with any sort of precision, a fact that does somewhat reduce the attractiveness of utility maximization as a policy criterion.  Nonetheless, I believe utilitarianism is the least bad option, for two...

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What Is Economic Growth?

We, including many economists, sometimes forget what is economic growth in a normative sense, that is, what we should count as “good” economic growth. Economic growth does not consist in producing more of this or that good (or service). It does not even necessarily consist in producing a larger quantity of all goods. Nor does it consist in producing the largest value of goods calculated by weighing the quantities produced with any set of prices. To have any normative...

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Meaning and connotation

In response to my previous post, commenter BC asked: When you say that you don’t expect Bezos to give away almost all his wealth and that you’re “fine” with that, do you mean that you don’t expect Bezos to act morally and that you’re fine with some immorality? I responded: This is almost a textbook example of the connotation of words getting in the way of clear thinking.  “Immorality” has a literal meaning, and also a (quite different) connotation. Suppose I park...

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Two types of utilitarianism

Here’s Bryan Caplan: I say utilitarianism is utterly crazy.  After all, as Huemer previously told us: It’s worth taking a moment to appreciate how extreme the demands of utilitarianism really are. If you have a reasonably comfortable life, the utilitarian would say that you’re obligated to give away most of your money. Not so much that you would starve, of course (because if you literally starve, that’ll prevent you from giving away any more!). But you should give up...

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A Mildly Optimistic Note About America

At a time when majorities everywhere seem to believe that the market is imperfect and the government (the government each one thinks he would run, not the current one run by others) is perfect, America sometimes or perhaps often looks like a relatively enlightened spot. Compared to probably all advanced countries, a sizeable minority—if not sometimes a majority—of Americans hold opinions that are economically more realistic and more consistent with the ideal of a free...

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Strange moral calculations

The Economist has an interesting article discussing regulatory changes regarding child safety seats: During the Reagan era, only the truly wee—tots aged under three—had normally to be secured in child-safety seats. But states’ governments have, since then, gradually ramped up the requirements. Today, most places in America make children sit in safety seats until their eighth birthdays. That concern for youngsters’ safety has had the unintended consequence, Dr...

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