William Calley, the former lieutenant convicted of 22 counts of murder at My Lai, publicly apologized for the massacre of Vietnamese civilians on Friday. It is believed to be the first public apology he has ever made for the massacre that landed him prison time.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sabin's message is that Ted Kennedy should pass up life-prolonging treatment and go gently into that good night. The ethicist would applaud if he gave a farewell speech saying "I should die more quickly!" But Americans admire the Kennedys because they fight like hell against illness and injury.Professor Pitney raises an interesting question. Just who is to judge the value of a life? What is an extra day really worth? An extra hour?
The comparison to Buffet is nonsense. If Buffet gets his way and pays more tax, he's still a billionaire. If Kennedy pulls his own plug, he's dead.
This is the ethics of redistribution applied to life and death. This is the world of Sophie's Choices and overcrowded lifeboats. It's not the world Americans want to live in.
The question for our time is whether or not morality and markets must reach some kind of societal equilibrium for them to be most effective. Some favor regulations as a means of keeping us more honest. Others, like me, are skeptical of such regulations and argue that more often than not, they end up creating perverse incentives and distorting trust.
The latest article up on City Journal by Steven Malanga makes much this point, but looks at the importance of moral fiber in markets. (He also cites CGU Professor Paul Zak.)
Needless to say, this is not what Adam Smith had in mind. Smith laid the groundwork for the economic theories of The Wealth of Nations in his preceding book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which traces the evolution of ethics from man’s nature as a social being who feels shame if he does something that he believes a neutral observer would consider improper. Smith proposed that as societies evolve, they form institutions—courts of law, for instance—that reflect and codify these ethical perceptions of individuals, and that these institutions provide the essential backbone of any sophisticated commercial system.
Modern experiments in neuroscience have tended to confirm Smith’s notion that our virtues derive from our empathy for others, though with an important qualification: the ethics of individuals need reinforcement from social institutions and can be undermined by the wrong societal message, as neuroeconomist Paul Zak writes in Moral Markets: The Critical Role of Values in the Economy. When people find themselves bombarded by the wrong message—like the Washington Mutual employees whose supervisors constantly pushed them into riskier and riskier actions—some will resign in disgust, but others will gradually suppress what scientists call the brain’s “other-regarding” behavior and the shame that goes along with it and violate their own ethics.
... believes that Cornyn and other GOP biggies are drawn to Fiorina because, as "a telegenic self-funder," she's like an Instant Candidate - "you just add water." He also sees the influence of "consultative mercenaries" who "create their own candidates" with big checkbooks, then "turn around and work for them."