Jason (jcreed) wrote,

I like this NYT article on the so-called "moral instinct". It is deliciously cynical. Some selected quotes:
...This wave of amoralization has led [to the] lament that morality itself is under assault [... however,] In fact there seems to be a Law of Conservation of Moralization, so that as old behaviors are taken out of the moralized column, new ones are added to it...

...But whether an activity flips our mental switches to the “moral” setting isn’t just a matter of how much harm it does. We don’t show contempt to the man who fails to change the batteries in his smoke alarms or takes his family on a driving vacation, both of which multiply the risk they will die in an accident. Driving a gas-guzzling Hummer is reprehensible, but driving a gas-guzzling old Volvo is not; eating a Big Mac is unconscionable, but not imported cheese or crème brûlée. The reason for these double standards is obvious: people tend to align their moralization with their own lifestyles....

...When psychologists say “most people” they usually mean “most of the two dozen sophomores who filled out a questionnaire for beer money.”...

Also on the topic of morality and the NYT, I skimmed this article by Thomas Friedman. I've long felt unready to join in on the moral angle on aggregation of financial instruments -- surely it's a bad idea to make mistakes in judgment of how statistically independent a group of risky assets is, and to think it more safe than it really is, but the principle of getting economic effeciency out of the central limit theorem is something we all do when we buy insurance. Surely that doesn't make us (or the insurance company) culpable of, like, severing some kind of warm, old-timey personal relationship that once existed?
Tags: morality

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