Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Moral Signaling

I disagree that as a whole we as people are becoming ones that lack morality. I was a bit sickened that this was the tone in which Ayn Rand introduced her discussion. Well sure people today walk around with a lot less clothes and say more foul things than their grandparents did at our age, I don’t believe this means that we are more or less moral than they were. It’s not like more people want to grab big sticks and hit other people in fact crime rates have been dropping steadily. If anything the biggest change is that we live in a world where individuals are more open. If someone is sleazy it is far easier to tell this as they are more open about it. This can be seen as a blessing as when people wear their morality on their shoulder this makes our life far easier by lowing transaction costs. There was an excellent economics presentation by Tyler Cohen on fashion at the conference in Vegas that Sherri, Rich, Daniel , and I attended last week. He explained that fashion is useful and that restricting what people wear would make it difficult for individuals to get signaling which they do through fashion which helps us to group people with others as well as group ourselves. This signaling is one that is very valuable and the amount of signaling that occurs through fashion is immense and lowers so many transaction costs especially in the networking fields of making friends or dating. I think that this idea of signaling can also be applied to morality and it is our benefit that we live in a world where it the moral altitudes of a person are more transparent.

Many like Rand think that the reasoning to why people are less “moral” is because we today view morality as a measure of man rather than God and what society states to be acceptable. This central “Social” theory of morality is one that is considered to be flawed as what actions are of value and reason are deemed so by the group rather than the individual. I can think of an interesting point as to why this would be a misconception this centers to be the beauty of common law in general. You have clear examples as to what is acceptable shown to you though society. This in effect makes “acceptable” behavior cheaper hence more prominent because you do have to go out into the world testing all behavior for yourself.

I do think that she makes a good point when she defines value and captures that it is something that has to be created by the living and that without life we could not have values. This is perhaps the only piece that was brought up that could be accepted by all of the theories of morality that were mentioned. I think that the Objectivist school of thought is interesting although I am unsure if deep down in my heart a as compassionate person that I could frolic and run merry down the street chanting the charms of self-interest even if I’m an economist.

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