Why Morality is an Economics Issue

December 25th, 2014
in Op Ed

by Rodger Malcolm Mitchell, www.nofica.com

We've published much relating to morality. (See: "Strange science: How does one brain justify both cruelty and charity?" and many others.)

We even have been chastised for wandering outside our sphere of expertise, i.e. economics.

But, economics has an overriding social component, and what we consider to be immoral, often is justified on economic grounds. (i.e. torture "works.")

Follow up:

The difficulty economists have in making prediction, stems from that social component. Cause and effect become blurred when changing and unmeasurable human beliefs, attitudes and emotions have such great importance.

The stock market forecasters known as chartists, who are right half the time and wrong the other half, ignore the human aspect. Their predictions rely on historical numbers repeating in some predictable pattern.

It's silly, but chartists are paid for that nonsense, so who could blame them?

Are there any economists who successfully have weighed the human variables into equations?

A leader of Modern Monetary Theory, Professor Randy Wray, has a "Center for Full Employment and Price Stability." It suggests a Jobs Guarantee (JG) plan, which in my opinion, considers humans to be mere cogs in the economic machine. Work; get money; spend. Then work more.

But, just jobs are not what people want. Look in the newspapers and online, and you will see thousands - perhaps millions - of jobs. There is no shortage of jobs. Never has been. Just not the right jobs.

JG assumes, if you are unemployed, you will take a job, no matter the circumstances (any location, any conditions, any pay), and if you don't select among the jobs offered via a government functionary, you must be a slacker.

Professor Wray already has said the JG guaranteed jobs will pay less than minimum wage, so as not to compete with private industry!! Yikes!

Who needs the "government-as-slave-employer, or government-as-employment-agency"?

People go months, even years, looking for a job and not finding one - because people are not cogs. They have the above-mentioned beliefs, attitudes and emotions.

Professor Wray should change the name to a "Center for Economic Growth and Income Equality" and forget about the JG. But, he won't, because he is committed to JG, and is a human with his own beliefs, attitudes and emotions.

For him, JG is a sacred foundation for his economic beliefs. We all have sacred foundations, and that's his.

All of the above is a prelude to a discussion of the following article that appeared in the November 29, 2014 edition of NewScientist Magazine:

Most violence arises from morality, not the lack of it

WHY would anyone hurt you? Why would you hurt or kill someone else?

Contrary to popular perception, people are rarely violent simply because they lose control and fail to think about right and wrong. They rarely commit violence because they lack empathy and fail to see their victims as fully human.

And almost no one is violent because they draw sadistic pleasure from the suffering of others.

Across cultures and history, there is generally one motive for hurting or killing: people are violent because it feels like the right thing to do. They feel morally obliged to do it.

In the comment section of the previous post, you can see an example of this:

How Terrorists Justify Killing 132 Children

The Pakistan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in revenge for a ferocious army offensive - named Zarb-e-Azb - that has been underway in tribal areas since June.

"We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females," said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. "We want them to feel the pain."

You kill our children, so we kill yours, more or less.

Violence is not a breakdown of morality - it is motivated by moral emotions and judgments.

If your parents spanked you when you were a child, it was probably because they thought it was good for you. They may have hated to do it, but they did it because they felt they had to, to bring you up correctly. Their parents may have spanked or whipped them in order to raise them as God-fearing, virtuous adults.

Some violent acts are punitive - the execution of a murderer for example, or the bombing of those who bomb us. That's justice as the perpetrator perceives it.

The foundation of Western legal systems is that people are found guilty and punished for intentionally doing what they know to be wrong. But what happens when people know that what they did was right, according to their internal moral compass?

You may feel (as I do) that past President Bush and his Vice President Cheney are as guilty of crimes against humanity as were the death-camp guards from WWII, but I suspect they all felt the torture and murder of prisoners was the "right thing to do." As may have the CIA.

Cheney repeatedly says so, though it's difficult to say whether he really means it.

When non-violent African American protesters were hosed and beaten during the civil rights movement, it did not evoke guilt in the majority of white American southerners, but it did elicit the sympathy of the northern states and the international community, and as a result the American South was shamed and pressured into tolerating integration.

But what happens when an entire religion supports the torture and murder of "heretics," as has happened many times in history? Who is to cast shame?

What happens when an entire political party, the new majority party of the U.S. Congress, countenances the torture of prisoners? From where will come the pressure to change?

We have a long way to go, but we have the power to stop violence by making it immoral.

Yes, a long way to go. How many Americans believe that making someone angry, or committing a burglary, are reasonable justifications for killing someone?

'Stand your ground' laws: Two cases may suggest limits to their protections By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer MAY 1, 2014

Two recent cases in Montana and Minnesota where homeowners appeared to set traps before fatally shooting teenage intruders suggest that US society may be drawing some limits on the controversial "stand your ground" defense at the heart of major recent court cases, including the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

A jury convicted Byron Smith of Minnesota on Tuesday for premeditating the 2012 murders of two teenage cousins who broke into his home.

And Markus Kaarma of Montana is now facing homicide charges after he allegedly fired a shotgun four times through his garage door on Sunday, when a German exchange student tripped an alarm. The student, named Diren Dede, was killed.

No U.S. court would command the death penalty for burglary, but do you believe the teenage cousins and Diren Dede "had it coming"? Do you believe the death penalty is the appropriate response, if you simply feel threatened?

Is the protection of property more important than human life?

Nations think so. That is the basis for most wars - the protection of property - and wars kill people.

Wars also are the single most important historical cause in the cause-and-effect paradigm of economics.

Yes, morality is an issue for economists, and unless morality is part of the "science," it's not a science at all.

While we each have a different take on "morality," I suggest that giving the populace more reason and more opportunity for hurting people, is immoral.

By that definition, "Stand Your Ground" is immoral. Guns are immoral. Mass deportations are immoral. Bullying minorities is immoral. The death penalty is immoral. Torture is immoral. Slavery is immoral. Causing starvation is immoral. The growing Gap between the rich and the rest is immoral.

And if you look back in history, you will find that immorality is self-destructive, both for individuals and for nations. It's the "what-goes-around,-comes around" syndrome.

You can't study economics without studying morality, and you can't pontificate realistically on economics without exploring morality.

Everything in economics devolves to morality, which devolves to motive, the starting point for economics.

Mitchell's laws:

  • Those, who do not understand the differences between Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
  • The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes.
  • Liberals think the purpose of government is to protect the poor and powerless from the rich and powerful. Conservatives think the purpose of government is to protect the rich and powerful from the poor and powerless.
  • Austerity is the government's method for widening the gap between rich and poor.
  • Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
  • To survive long term, a monetarily non-sovereign government must have a positive balance of payments.
  • Everything in economics devolves to motive, and the motive is the Gap.

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