Monday, February 12, 2007

morality and economics

I'm still sidelined from the main project of theorizing about my ideal world and how to get there from here, but I thought I'd share another sighting of "morality".

I just started reading Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I know, I'm a bit behind in my reading. Almost immediately, the book describes economics in contrast to morality, somewhat along the lines of 'morality explains what the world should be like, economics explains what it is like'. I can accept the definition of economics explaining the world as is -- it's a broad definition of economics, and perhaps implies that the explanation will be presented in terms of supply, demand, incentives, and marginal utility, but I can accept it. I'm not sure it's an exclusive perspective, even if it may be comprehensive. For example, sociologists may make similar claims. Or even physicists. Or, of course, mathematicians.

What I'm distilling from this line of thought, and how I make it relevant to my own pet project here, is that we can define the ideal world in terms of morals and ethics (in that we can promulgate maxims and imperatives about how individuals ought to behave), but that there are myriad perspectives from which to evaluate a reality that complies with those maxims. There will be economic, psychological, social, and political consequences. Yes, each of those perspectives may give us a view of the complete world, but it's a view that brings different aspects of it into focus.

Defining irrational bias and eliminating it is tough without any elaboration. Doing so with the knowledge that it must survive scrutiny from all these perspectives (and more?) is daunting.

Maybe I'll start in earnest tomorrow.

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