Monday , September 23 2019
Home / Tag Archives: moral reasoning

Tag Archives: moral reasoning

Morality and ECON 101

In Fall 2018, I was assigned to teach International Economic Policy (Econ 385) at George Mason University, a trade class for non-economics majors.  As a student of Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, and Don Boudreaux, I was excited to teach this class. The miracle of the market was such an eye-opener for me as a high schooler. I could not wait to share my love of economics with students! My enthusiasm was immediately dampened as I realized I faced many students whose...

Read More »

The Purpose of a Gun Is Not to Kill

If the purpose of guns were to kill, cops would not be allowed to have them because, in civilized countries contrary to James Bond movies, they don’t have a license to kill. A tool or instrument, observed Friedrich Hayek, cannot be defined outside of human purposes. For example, the definition of a hammer must include what most people want it for, that is, as the online Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us, “for pounding.” In his 1942 Economica article “Scientism and...

Read More »

Good intentions are not enough

In the past, I’ve made three arguments about utilitarianism: 1. It’s the correct moral system.2. It’s the way the world is trending.3. It’s consistent with classical liberalism. I used examples such as the prohibition on the sale of kidneys, an anti-utilitarian policy that is likely to be repealed at some point. I predict something similar will eventually happen in the sex industry, for similar reasons. The New York Review of Books has an excellent essay on the...

Read More »

Public opinion regarding cash for kidneys

In a previous post, I argued that public opinion was a slippery concept, not well measured by opinion polls. One of my examples was kidney markets: Rather than being a stable parameter, public opinion is very fragile. Polls might show that most people believe X, but as soon as the issue rises to prominence and more information comes out, their views might shift radically. I often talk to people about the importance of allowing a market for kidneys. The first reaction...

Read More »

Against political art

Tyler Cowen recently linked to a New Yorker interview of Liu Cixin, author of the acclaimed sci-fi trilogy “The Three Body Problem.” These books are of very high quality, and rely heavily on ideas from the social sciences, particularly game theory. So you’d think that if any artist would be good at politics, it would be Liu Cixin. Just the opposite is true: I decided to inch the conversation toward politics, a topic he prefers to avoid. His views turned out to be...

Read More »

War by any other means

Pierre Lemieux has an excellent post discussing President Trump’s decision to call off the military strike on Iran.  Like Pierre, I welcome this decision.  However, I’d like to point out that there is a sense in which we are already at war with Iran. Trump’s decision to place increasingly tight economic sanctions on Iran, and also to punish any third country that trades with Iran, is effectively an act of economic warfare.  It is intended to severely damage the...

Read More »

75 Minutes with Jordan Peterson

Last Thursday I drove up to San Francisco with a friend, Tom, to see Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson speak. I’ve seen some impressive interactions he’s had on YouTube. (This one is my favorite and another one, in which he lets down his hair on stage in Vancouver, is my other favorite, but I can’t find it now.) I’ve also seen friends on Facebook express strong reactions to him, some very negative, some very positive. I wanted to see for myself. The event was...

Read More »

Backlash against whom?

There’s a sense that the current wave of populism sweeping the globe is a sort of backlash against . . . something. But it is surprisingly difficult to pin down exactly what the backlash is against. What do Trump supporters oppose? One theme emphasizes issues such as the disastrous war in Iraq, or the policy of expanding trade with China, or the sort of entitlement reforms recommended by Simpson and Bowles. These are basically conservative policies, advocated by...

Read More »

Don’t use a snow shovel to sip a cup of soup

Bryan Caplan has a recent post that is critical of utilitarianism: One argument against utilitarianism is that no one actually follows it. I call this the Argument from Hypocrisy. (Bryan’s objection is almost equally true of Christianity. “Turn the other cheek”.  Seriously?) I’m not sure if utilitarians are hypocrites, and even if they are, that fact has no bearing on the question of whether utilitarianism is true (i.e. useful.) A utilitarian like me would say that...

Read More »

Bernie Sanders Discovers Value and Sanctity of Private Property

Hallelujah! “This is an event that we paid [the Bernie Sanders campaign] for. This is an event — we bought this space,” the campaign official explained when [Kaitlin] Bennett protested. “I’m going to ask you one more time,” he said before threatening to turn the matter over to security. “Can someone tell me what I did?” Bennett asked as she was being escorted out of the building. “I need to know what rules I violated.” A security guard told her that it was a private...

Read More »