Friday, June 15, 2012

Moral Dilemmas vs Economic Dilemmas

Is it a moral dilemma or is it an economic dilemma?  Where do you draw the line?

Here's an economic dilemma...
By contrast, if a consumer wants a new TV set and a new washing machine and he can afford only one of these without drawing on his savings (which he dislikes), he is in a cross-road situation. He must deliberate until he arrives at a decision as to which course of action he prefers. Thus, while we have reason to assume that preference functions for alternative uses of private funds (including the savings alternative) have some firmness and consistency, our findings raise doubt whether the corresponding concept of a preference function for alternative fiscal policies is fruitful. - Eva Mueller, Public Attitudes Toward Fiscal Programs
Here's a moral dilemma...
The next topic is moral dilemma, as exemplified by Sartre’s story of the student  in Nazi-occupied  France who must decide between staying home with his ailing mother or leaving home to join the French resistance. How to make a consistent judgment about what to do? How can a moral code be structured so that an agent will be able to comply with it?
[...]
Or so a pluralist might argue. If we are in a dilemma, such that we are forced to act in a way that is extensionally equivalent to having no more than one unconditional commitment, we will feel a sense of loss, and  rightly so. If we insist on having  no more than one unconditional  commitment in the first place, then we pay the price up front, perhaps needlessly. - David Schmidtz, Comments on Hillel Steiner’s Essay on Rights
Here's a deconstruction...
By preferring my work, simply by giving it my time, my attention, by preferring my activity as a citizen or as a professional philosopher, writing and speaking here in a public language, French in my case, I am perhaps fulfilling my duty.  But I am sacrificing and betraying at every moment all my other obligations: my obligation to the other others whom I know or don’t know, the billions of my fellows (without mentioning the animals that are even more other others than my fellows), my fellows who are dying of starvation or sickness. I betray my fidelity or my obligations to other citizens, to those who don't speak my language and to whom I neither speak or respond, to each of those who listen or read, and to whom I neither respond nor address myself in the proper manner, that is, in a singular manner (this is for the so-called public space to which I sacrifice my so-called private space), thus also to those I love in private, my own, my family, my son, each of whom is the only son I sacrifice to the other, every one being sacrificed to every one else in this land of Moriah that is our habitat every second of every day. - Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death
Here's Homestarrunner...
Ohh, Tendafoot! Can you tell me what to do with myself? I feel like I'm at a crossroads, and there's like, a Denny's on one corner, and an IHOP on the other!  Can you give me some sound financial advice?  Tendafoot, can you help advise me on my future? 

So...it's all about the opportunity cost concept.  In a pragmatarian system taxpayers would be faced with a myriad of cross-road situations.  That's a good thing though because that's how scarce resources are efficiently allocated.  

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