Re: poly: economics of morality

From: Damien R. Sullivan <>
Date: Thu Feb 05 1998 - 13:46:56 PST

On Feb 5, 12:43pm, Robin Hanson wrote:

> >if we don't like the rights recognized elsewhere in the world, this way
> >of thinking would lead us not to exhort more respect for human rights,
> >but to make the foreign economy more like our own, which should cause
> I'm not sure this argument makes sense. If their rights are well adapted
> to their environment, I'm not sure we should want them to change. If their

I was assuming that many people in the West would like rights elsewhere
to conform to Western standards. If other systems are efficient to
their environment and technology, and we still value spreading
individualism, then we should induce in them the changes that caused (or
allowed*) us to adopt individualism.

There could be non-moralist reasons for doing this: feeling we'd be better
off with more trading partners, or that integrating our economies and
cultures decreases the chances of violent conflict.

* One thing I'm not sure of is how much economic changes such as the
abolition of slavery may be due to economics calling for the changes --
"slavery is no longer profitable" -- vs. allowing them -- "it might
still be profitable to have some slavery, but we can now afford to not
have any of it, and no one wants to risk being one, so we abolish all of

Tangentially, we might expect our society to be the least fully adapted
culture in existence, due to our youth and the rapidity of change. Some
features -- markets, generally free speech -- are obviously good -- but
many details may be random or contingent, and not selected for
optimality across the board. Conversely, primitive societies would
probably have been quite efficient (given their illiteracy and lack of
science and tech) given how long they had to adapt. This is the same
view which sees bacteria as highly optimized chemical machines and
humans as a half-evolved species which is still working on walking
upright without any problems.

-xx- GSV The Low Golden Willow X-)

"For instance, suppose we apply this to nuclear weapon explosions over
inhabited cities. The Copernican principle says that we don't have a
privileged position within the interval of such usage - odds are, most
of them have already happened. And the odds that there are thousands
and thousands to come? Just astronomical. So don't worry, be happy -
no nuclear wars can ever happen, probably."
 -- Tommy the Terrorist
Received on Thu Feb 5 22:06:43 1998

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