Does the Ethicist Understand Market Processes?

Lynne Kiesling

Interesting little conversation going on Truth on the Market … Geoff Manne posts an excerpt from a question to NYT ethicist Randy Cohen from a boy who, seeing a perpetual line for pizza at a recurring school event, goes out and buys a pizza and offers slices to kids at the back of the line for twice the price of the “school-sanctioned” slices. Is this behavior ethical? If so, then the student’s counselor was wrong to tell him he was “taking advantage of people”.

The post and the comments are interesting. I, too, have noticed that Randy Cohen doesn’t really understand the concept of mutually beneficial exchange of value for value, which is too bad. How can you be a good ethicist if you don’t understand that? Perhaps I need to send him an Adam Smith gift basket …


8 thoughts on “Does the Ethicist Understand Market Processes?

  1. There are many things that Randy Cohen does not understand. I myself don’t understand what qualifications he has to be an “ethicist”. I don’t understand what an “ethicist” is, or even what “ethics” is. It all seems very vauge and self serving to me, sort of like morality for the godless. For, as we all know, if there is no God, anything is allowable, so why even have “ethics”.

  2. Buzzcut, you seem to be rampaging around these concepts like the proverbial bull in a china shop.

    I’ll skip the first two sentences, since I don’t know anything about Randy Cohen other than what I just read on Truth on the Market.

    If you don’t understand what “ethics” is, try typing “define: ethics” into Google’s search box. You will get a variety of explanations. Pick one that suits you.

    I think “the study of human values with the objective of determining principles for good behavior” or something like that forms a suitable definition. Morality for the godless? Well, yes, and for the “god full” too.

    To think that, “if there is no God, anything is allowable,” only reveals a lack of understanding of human values.

  3. I’ll second that. I have a hard time divining how his ethical framework is constructed. As far as I can tell it includes a bunch of the usual liberal shibboleths tacked together, but omits a rudder.

  4. I’ll second Michael in saying (as a very sympathetic atheist, and as a holder of a philosophy degree and a student of ethics) that we most certainly do not “know” that without God anything is allowable.

    We do know that without God to fall back on, it’s a lot trickier to convince people things aren’t allowable, though.

  5. Those who haven’t sampled Cohen should. I’d be interested to read a critique of the man’s work from someone who doesn’t think that ethics is bunk, especially from someone who doesn’t share Cohen’s reflexive liberalism.

    A lot of my skepticism of ethics comes as a negative reaction to Cohen. Maybe the problem is Cohen, not ethics.

  6. My daughter did something similar a few years ago, I think in 7th grade. It was toward the end of the school year, and the children were running out of paper. For some reason, my daughter always had a good supply. So naturally, the other students started asking her for pages. She finally got sick of it and started charging a quarter per sheet.

  7. My daughter did something similar a few years ago, I think in 7th grade. It was toward the end of the school year, and the children were running out of paper. For some reason, my daughter always had a good supply. So naturally, the other students started asking her for pages. She finally got sick of it and started charging a quarter per sheet.

Comments are closed.