Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Economists are Paid a LOT more than Philosophers

David Deerson sends this link. I laughed. An excerpt, though you need to look at the whole thing. Heh.

It's funny 'cause it's true.

UPDATE: Wow! My philosopher friend Kevin Vallier thinks that this cartoon, above, is making fun of ECONOMISTS! And I have to admit he may be right! To me, this cartoon illustrates why philosophers are useless low-paid parasites, and economists are collossi, bestride the world of academics! Okay, THAT's not right. But seriously, who is this cartoon mocking? To me, it is clearly mocking the philosopher. Since economists can actually answer the ridiculous koans that philosophers think are impossibly deep and unanswerable, the economists don't get to play!

Kevin's response: I think the critique of the economist is that he [the economist] is exceedingly perverse because his model of moral decision-making ignores a whole host of important considerations that any normally functioning human being recognizes. Now, I think the normally functioning human needs a good dose of economic thinking, but I do think that the sort of instrumental, consequentialist reasoning of most economists is woefully inadequate as a complete model of moral reasoning. I *think* lots of economists believe this too, even if they often ignore it, at least stereotypically.

Wow! that is 100% different from my reading of that cartoon. The fact is that an old woman is worth only a small fraction of the Mona Lisa. And I can prove it: the society spends a LOT of money to protect the Mona Lisa, with security and climate control. The old woman has to pay for her own locks on her door, and her own HVAC.


Tom said...

Good cartoon -- and I get it -- but... economists might want to invent a way to measure the cost of public opprobrium, should anyone find out that I saved a painting instead of a woman. It might easily exceed the reward for saving the painting.

That being said, we're still making an economic decision: $woman or $painting -- how long to I have to make a decision?

Anonymous said...

I thought that the economist in the cartoon kind of missed the point. I don't think there is an iron rule that says that we have to act according to market valuations. If value is subjective, then there is nothing that prevents an individual from saying that, although the market value of an elderly woman is lower than that of the Mona Lisa, he still personally values the elderly woman more.

I.e. the economist is talking about what is (the Mona Lisa is worth more than an elderly woman), while the philosopher is trying to get at what ought to be, especially in the later panels.

Ryan said...

This conflates economic value with cosmic value. They aren't necessarily the same thing.

And since when were you so interested in defending wealth maximization principles which presume some background framework of interpersonal utility comparisons?

Anonymous said...

This is great and actually funny to me because about a year ago I asked the same question with respect to sacrificing a human life to save the Sistine Chapel. I actually took what you might call the "easy way out" by saying that there were people willing to die to save this great monument of human history and positing that one of them was the life sacrificed (willingly).

Nonetheless I stand by my position. If the value of any single human life is infinite then society can't function and all humans will go extinct. No matter how well-intentioned, the philosopher in this comic strip (and real people like him) are an existential threat to the human race and should be treated as such.

Anonymous said...

Putting a monetary value to human life is great decision-making aid in areas of life, where people die anyway: war, terminal disease, accidents, crime, dangerous hobbies, etc.

Elsewhere, just say no to killing or letting people die out of criminal neglect.

If a granny carries 10 million dollars, it is not acceptable to rob and kill him, or drive him in the wilderness to be killed by the elements, even if you would benefit 10 million dollars, just because in your opinion the value of the granny's life is less than 10 million dollars.

If someone used Mona Lisa or Sistine chapel as an excuse to let me die, I'd vouch for burning the painting and bulldozing the building pre-emptively. They have no value to "dead me", nor for living me either.

Joseph said...

Next week, the philosopher will come up with a reason to euthanize octogenarians.

Anonymous said...

That is such an ironic misunderstanding. The misunderstanding does in fact say something terrible about economics as a whole, but we can laugh about that.