Thursday, January 31, 2008

Evil Economists and Moral Repugnance...

Wow. From a NYTimes article:

“The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people,” he said. “They work in a different moral universe. The burden of proof is on someone who wants to include” a transaction in the marketplace... - Paul Bloom, Professor of Psychology, Yale University

I ought to send this to the Weekly Standard so they can add another talking point against the evil Milton "Freedman".

Going beyond evil economists...

I suppose I operate in a different moral universe also. I do not believe that the burden of proof is on someone who wants to include a transaction in the marketplace. We're in Kip's Law territory now. By whose standard is the transaction beneficial? What burden has to be met? Who gets to decide what that burden is? In practice, this is the realm of unbridled democratic majoritarianism and the belief that judicial review should simply defer to these decisions. Not surprisingly, my moral repugnance alarm bells are ringing.

If people want to predict what's repugnant or not, then so be it. However, it is a non-sequitir. Bloom's hubris notwithstanding, moral repugnance is not a negative externality, as defined as having one's rights violated through the actions of another. The fact Person A engages in Activity B that Person C finds offensive but in no way violates his or rights does not give C the right to go to Legislator D, who, along with other like-minded legislators, passes Law E that prohibits A from engaging in B and placates C's sensibilities.

It does not logically follow that because Activity B can not be prohibited by law on the basis that such actions do not violate the rights of others, that is morally acceptable. The decision to choose to engage in Activity B or find Activity B morally taboo belongs with the individual. It is not up to us to "prove" our worth. It is up to government to prove necessity and propriety.

H/T: Greg Mankiw

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