How markets allow people to violate their moral codes


41 Responses to “How markets allow people to violate their moral codes”

  1. anon0mouse says:

    I’ve heard of something like this somewhere before…hmmmm.

  2. SCK says:

    Once again, Marx IS right.

  3. Of course in the total absence of markets, everyone would happily bite the heads off all the mice just to have something to eat.

    • Jeremy Hughes says:

      Yes, I think a total absence of markets is probably the best solution here.

      • Some fraction of the people reading your comment will miss (or deliberately ignore) the intended irony of it, yet still agree with it, as they ARE anti-market fundamentalists.

        So to unpick this cobweb of sarcasm: if you are in favour of markets where they have social utility, but also restraining/replacing them in specific areas where they can’t work (e.g. healthcare, monopolies) then I agree entirely with you.

    • Captain Zero says:

      Duh.  But maybe this is just clear and dense enough that a couple Randians might choke on it a little.

  4. novium says:

    I imagine there’s some overlap with the way that people can equally accept unethical/distasteful things when they’re compartmentalized. 

  5. bolamig says:

    The root of all evil is that nobody wants a worse deal than the next person.

  6. jwbiscuits says:

     this simple experiment does little in the way to prove marxism is a credible political ideology beneficial to a society as a whole. There are so many things wrong with marxism, just as many if not more than our current form of capitalism, which is also quite flawed.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      Did I miss the part where somebody other than you mentioned Marx, much less alleged that this experiment was relevant to him?

      • Melted Crayons says:

        When you live in a polarized world any threat to your beliefs needs to be immediately addressed.

      • aikimoe says:

        SCK above?

        • MythicalMe says:

           I almost responded, then realized the thread was a joke. I’m not a marxist, but I do think that marxism was/is an interesting economic philosophy.

          However, I don’t have a problem at all with destroying mice or rats.

  7. oldtaku says:

    Is that really Markets? Yes, it is, but that seems like anything where you have more people. More people spread the blame and allow the ‘everyone else is doing it’ excuse.  Who doesn’t remember doing something in a group that they’re ashamed of now?

    I was also certainly willing to accept the deaths of lab rats in college, even though I would never deliberately just kill a pet rat.

    • Precisely, and also I (like anyone) would wish that every cockroach could have his own butler, jacuzzi, 24-hour gym and personal trainer, yacht, etc, so long as no one else was disadvantaged by this.

      In reality we have to allocate limited resources, which is the sole point of economics.

      Would you kill a mouse if it was the only creature in the world and it cost you nothing to keep it alive? Of course not.

      Would you kill a mouse if by doing so you could extend your daughter’s life by one second? You’d grab a mallet…

  8. vonbobo says:

    The interesting thing is that a Walton family member likely wouldn’t kill a mouse for $5, but they will happily live off the backs of modern day human slaves.

  9. Sean Breakey says:

    If by Allow you mean Force.

  10. Napalm Dog says:

    It’s a universal street, going both ways. Consider this responding post from a BB in regards to a titanium bicycle fork made in China known for catastrophic failures.

    “I had one once, rode it once and it flexed so much it scared the hell out of me and I sold it on ebay right away. Buyer beware on this fork

    Dangerous fork, right? But hey, expensive as hell too! Buyer beware, but I doubt he wrote that in the Ebay description…

  11. Hug H says:

    I was a Undergraduate Philosophy Major with a concentration in Ethics and Logic. Began a business career shortly after College (now 30 yrs in) and was immediately struck by the tension between between organizational goals and individual ethics. If business people are honest with themselves they will admit that this crops up all the time. Sadly very few are honest with themselves- even fewer are brave enough to do anything about it. I also would argue that the gap between individual moral standards and business goals/outcomes has significantly worsened over the last 3 decades.

  12. It sounds like people don’t value the lives of mice very much. Queue jokes about performing fellatio for money. Sounds like a victory for the ethics of utilitarianism over slaughtering mice… What are you gonna do? Send thugs to bully people and take them away from their families when they choose an outcome some slight majority of people don’t like? 

    • wysinwyg says:

      Actually that doesn’t show the opposite at all.  That study shows that priming people raised in a capitalist society with “phrases relating to markets and trade” increases the trust of those individuals towards counterparties.

      It has everything to do with people’s perceptions of the trustworthiness of a counterparty and nothing to do with the actual ethics of people involved in market interactions.  The counterparties could unethically exploit that trust, for example, and that would support both studies simultaneously.

  13. Robert Moore says:

    The fundamental flaw in this whole study is it assumed that killing mice are some how immoral.  I’d stick a mouse on a stick and fry it over a hot fire if people actually liked eating mice.  This study doesn’t show what the title suggest.
    If you think so you should reconsider your education economics and ethics.

    • FoolishOwl says:

      You’re forgetting there was  a control group. Responses differed between the control group and the test groups.

  14. peregrinus says:

    Society as a whole shows this quite merrily.  The trick is, the more distant and obscured the unpalatable outcomes, the easier it is for people to ignore their guilt, shame or accountability.

    So fraudsters – in the UK, say, benefits cheats – suck money out of a social welfare system, probably causing school breakfast programs for hungry poor kids to be limited, but since they’re not faced with those kids, and the negative outcomes of their actions are so diffuse, they go ahead and pull as much as they can from the system.

    Same with tax cheats.  Fine, no-one wants to see money disappear, and probably few people actually believe government can spend it well, but nonetheless that’s our chosen mechanism for supporting society.

    I could easily pay 20% less tax, but I’d be uncomfortable knowing that grannies in Newcastle die in the winter because they can’t afford to heat their property.

    And we all have lovely smartphones (including me), laden with precious metals from semi-war-zones, and I bet many of our married partners have diamonds with little knowledge of their ugly source.

    We’re a fucking horrible lot, really.

  15. Why the free market did not offer more expensive option without death of the mouse?

  16. Crispiann says:

    Considering that there are so many thousands or millions of mice in the same condition, considering that there are so many of thousands or millions of bigger concerns than saving laboratory mice…I don’t see the choice as an ethical one. It is rational, based on limited resources, to deny saving the mouse.

    Consider an experiment in which one must choose whether to breed mice for cancer research (as the only option) or not. That really is the genesis of the problem, after all. Most would have little problem with pumping the mice full of cancer to save human lives – without a thought as to what happens to the mice after.

    There seems little value in saving a particular mouse simply because it is thrust before you.

    Imagine being faced with a homeless man. If you don’t give him $5, he will go hungry. Suddenly this man, like the mouse in the experiment, is your personal responsibility. Maybe you can’t afford to support feeding this man for the rest of his life. Maybe you give him $5, though you can’t afford to do that everyday. Then you are presented with the same choice tomorrow. At what point does it become unethical to deny responsibility for the actions of someone else? Saving 1 mouse and not all the rest is like feeding a man for one day and letting him starve thereafter. Not a terribly ethical action.

    It’s simply the psychology of guilt that causes people to save the mice in a 1-1 scenario. Attributing it to ethics unjustifiably flatters the subjects, and more relevantly those conducting the study.

  17. Oudeicrat Annachrista says:

    First, they failed to establish a causal connection with actual markets. They just showed some correlation with their artificial simulations and didn’t even properly explore alternative explanations (for example maybe the cause is not markets, maybe it’s people informing and communicating between each other etc). 

    Second, they didn’t prove the values were “eroded” nor “moral”, maybe they were just unrealistically overvalued at first and later when they were confronted with more information the valuations came closer to reality. (Btw this is just an example of an alternative explanation, just by proving it false one does not prove the original claim)

    Third, their statistics don’t take into account the researchers themselves. This is very similar to the myth or fallacy that markets can be “regulated” form the “outside”. In fact, there is no “outside” – even the “regulators” (qua regulators) are participants in the markets.

    (yes I’ve read the whole paper)

  18. mkanoap says:

    Since the original article is behind a paywall, could someone please summarize what this experiment consisted of?

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