Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Utterly Wrong-Headed

Morals and Markets  

Armin Falk & Nora Szech 
 Science, 10 May 2013, Pages 707-711

Abstract: The possibility that market interaction may erode moral values is a long-standing, but controversial, hypothesis in the social sciences, ethics, and philosophy. To date, empirical evidence on decay of moral values through market interaction has been scarce. We present controlled experimental evidence on how market interaction changes how human subjects value harm and damage done to third parties. In the experiment, subjects decide between either saving the life of a mouse or receiving money. We compare individual decisions to those made in a bilateral and a multilateral market. In both markets, the willingness to kill the mouse is substantially higher than in individual decisions. Furthermore, in the multilateral market, prices for life deteriorate tremendously. In contrast, for morally neutral consumption choices, differences between institutions are small.

Even by the low and folksy standards of "Science," this is pretty lame.  Calling it a "market" simply means that responsibility is more widely shared.  Surely any collective body with large numbers would see the same result.  It's just the banality of evil problem, rediscovered and given the ideological twist that "Science" loves to give.  

1 comment:

Pelsmin said...

Don't understand why they picked a mouse as the subject. People regularly PAY money to take the life of a mouse. I just had the exterminator come by yesterday to add poison to our mouse traps. That's a valued member of the marketplace who accepts about $30/month to kill my mice.
Why didn't they make the subject a bald eagle, or a pretty meadow flower? Was the study designed to force a conclusion, or are these researchers living in vermin-free ivory towers?