The moral high ground

Economists are often seen as cold and calculating by the public. I have personally been referred to as a ‘deranged sociopath’ for a post I made on this blog. Today’s post by Eliezer at Overcoming Bias (yeah, it’s my blog of the moment) reassures me that we economists really do have the moral high ground 😉

“What!” you cry, incensed. “How can you gamble with human lives? How can you think about numbers when so much is at stake? So much for your damned logic! You’re following your rationality off a cliff!”

You know what? This isn’t about your feelings. A human life, with all its joys and all its pains, adding up over the course of decades, is worth far more than your brain’s feelings of comfort or discomfort with a plan. Does computing the expected utility feel too cold-blooded for your taste? Well, that feeling isn’t even a feather in the scales, when a life is at stake.

Altruism isn’t the warm fuzzy feeling you get from being altruistic. If you’re doing it for the spiritual benefit, that is nothing but selfishness. The primary thing is to help others, whatever the means. So shut up and multiply!

3 replies
  1. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    I agree 110% with that statement.

    I always get confused when people call us immoral for discussing the trade-offs that exist in society. To me it seems immoral to sit there and ignore them.

  2. Kimble
    Kimble says:

    When I tell people I studied economics at Uni, most of the time they ask for stock tips.

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  1. […] idea of discussing tradeoffs that occur in society. This relates to a post by James on the issue of morality. How can we sleep at night when we know that a policy we prescribe may lead to a ’soft labour […]

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