Sunday, December 14, 2014

(Related Update): In Real Life, There Are Lots of Lifeboats

Related update: I hinted at the end of the original post below that Hicks would resolve this ethical "dilemma" in his follow-up Every Joe article, and indeed he has.  Here is the conclusion to his article presented to tempt you to read the full work to see how he resolves the lifeboat issue:
We are the first few generations in history to experience plenty. Doomsterism has had a long history, and no doubt many will remain stuck in its old modes of zero-sum thinking. 
But Boomster optimism is the new realism — a realism based on the capacity of free humans beings to develop the science, technology, and wealth to solve scarce-resource problems. We are nowhere near reaching the limits of our potentia

Original post 12/8/14: Stephen Hicks's latest Every Joe article looks at the issue of scarcity using a favored tool of ethical thinkers, the lifeboat scenario.  Ten people are stranded on a lifeboat built, and provisioned, for only 4.  The questions are what happens, and does the outcome have implications for social policy in general.  Here's Hicks:
The lifeboat’s key factors are economic: the lifeboat’s supply of space, food, and water is much less than the demand for them. That is to say, scarce resources is the dominant reality.
If the lifeboat is used as a microcosm from which we can draw grand conclusions, as many ethicists and other experts want to, then the claims are, first, that we live in a world of scarce resources and, second, that our public policy decisions should be based on that fact.

There's actually a lot more depth to this issue that this post can communicate, so if you're interested in this hypothetical example, I strongly suggest you click here and read the entire article for yourself.  It's well worth the effort.  And by the way, the title of this OLS post holds a clue to the problem with the lifeboats ethics scenario when it plays a role in public policy.  Hicks, as you'll see at the end of the article, will address the point my hint raises in his follow-up article when his next Every Joe column comes out shortly.