Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Moral Argument Part I- A Framework

At some point most everyone with an opinion on our current economic situation defers to a moral position. The use of the term moral is applied in many ways. One way is to see certain interventions being considered as leading to moral hazard ,sort of the "two wrongs dont make a right" morality. Another way is to see certain actions on the part of different economic actors as immoral and thusly the cause of all this, a type of "money is the root of all evil" morality. Still a third way is to view our economy as something separate from our human actions that actually has moral intuitions to it. The "market" is described as some sort of perfect vehicle for bringing our wants and needs into fruition, using our capacity and efforts as a way to determine what we deserve. When we use the market purely everything works but when we try to manipulate the market the results are never what we hope for. I dont have a catchy name for this but it assumes that a market is completely amoral and punishes all people equally, playing no favorites and that only people,usually in the form of governments, make immoral/moral decisions. Markets are pure people are not.

I'm interested in what is at the heart of these moral arguments. Finding a framework to look at validity of morality claims. I find moral arguments very persuasive because they get to, I think, the heart of what we as humans are about (social creatures trying to survive and needing people we both like and dislike in order to do so). However the use of the term moral is often times thrown out quite loosely and is frequently used as way to discourage further questioning. I've seen many people simply comment that they object to a certain considered policy or suggestion on moral grounds without any further elucidation. It is used in much the same way a person objects on religious grounds and we are not "allowed" to question their religion.

Moral arguments always mean "I dont like it". So at their core they are about human satisfaction. There may be numerous reasons why they dont like it but when morality is invoked you can be sure we are dealing with dissatisfaction about something.
So morality must be about increasing satisfaction, at some level. It may not be about immediate satisfaction. It may involve longer term satisfaction but somewhere there is satisfaction.

If its NOT about human satisfaction then I'm not sure I care about it.