Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Faced With Moral Hazard, Err On the Side of the Innocent

Moral hazard is the idea that, if you insure against some hazard, the insured will act in an even riskier way, knowing they are insured.  Economists usually just focus on the economic costs of changing the balance of risk.

The moral part of moral hazard, though, is that people will behave worse than they otherwise would if we, collectively, try to protect people against bad actions.

This has led some people to harden there hearts - if we have no social insurance, then everyone will behave better because they are on their own.

Yet this runs the risk of hurting people who are hurt through no fault of their own.  It is to take care of the vulnerable that we create social insurance in the first place.

So which side should we err on -- taking care of the injured innocent, or promoting the risky guilty?

Personalism - treating everyone as a worthy person - says we err on the side of protecting the innocent, even at the cost of producing some more bad behavior than we otherwise would have.

Monday, September 11, 2017

We Don't Like to Contemplate Our Vices, But Could Reap the Easiest Benefit from Doing So

It is easier to contemplate our virtuous habits than our vicious ones, because we don't want to think about the ways we are vicious.

Yet Aristotle is right that contemplation leads to the highest happiness.  I take this to mean that happiness requires the continuous feedback of contemplation of our habits, both the good habits and the bad ones.  Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project, found that she was made happier by reducing her bad habits than by increasing her good ones.

Contemplating our vices, and reducing the habitual ways in which we engage in them, are the low-hanging fruit for increasing our own happiness.  But, for the reason given above, we resist contemplating our vices.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi is Squandering Her Moral Capital by Persecuting Muslims

I have admired Aung San Suu Kyi above all current world leaders.  She earned her Nobel Peace Prize in the long democratic resistance to the military dictatorship in Burma/Myanmar.

Now, though, the government and local mobs are killing and burning out the Royhingya, a Muslim minority whom the Buddhist majority regard as foreigners and an impurity in the body politic.

In any other country, "The Lady" would be part of the opposition to this ethnic cleansing.

It is therefore very sad that she is squandering it by not stopping this evil act.