Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Tuesday, May 05, 2020 :::

One of the skills I'm still working on is the ability to figure out what certain audiences will find obvious.  I don't know, then, how much argumentation is in bad faith, ignoring what seem to me to be the obvious positions of people against whom the argumentation is being made; indeed, sometimes I worry that what seem to me like the obvious understanding of a viewpoint might actually be wrong after all.  I'm going to, then, note here some things that I think are obvious, and that I tend to take for granted as obvious to all discussants, though they seem to be inconsistent with the assumption that people are arguing in good faith, which is an assumption I usually prefer to grant.

  1. Everyone takes actions voluntarily that trade a risk to their own life against some other value.
  2. It is reasonable for different people to make tradeoffs between safety and other values differently.
  3. When there's a pandemic on, it is much more than usually the case that one person's actions will affect the safety of many other people in a substantial way.
    • In particular, note that if I can cut my exposure to people by 85%, while other people make choices that cause 10 times the local prevalence of the contagion, I am under a greater risk than the baseline. The assertion that people with different preferences can make different choices, which is true to any practical extent in many situations, is simply not true in this situation.
  4. It is quite reasonable (and not selfish) for someone who would prefer greater risk (in exchange for other values) to advocate for us to collectively make choices with greater risk, just as it is quite reasonable (and not selfish) for someone who would prefer less risk (at the expense of other values) to advocate for us to collectively choose a lesser level of risk.
  5. The risks and benefits will fall differently on different populations; it would be polite for people who are likely to be more exposed to risks and to accrue less in benefits, and for people who are less exposed to risks and accrue more in benefits, to make some effort to respect the different situations of others.
In some idealized world, it might be optimal for choices for higher levels of risk to come with compensation paid by the people who accrue greater benefits, are less exposed to risks, and are generally more risk-tolerant to the people who accrue fewer benefits, are more exposed to risks, and are more risk-averse, and for choices with lower levels of risk to come with transfers the other direction.  Where that is impractical, I think we should make efforts to account for everyone in our choices and to suppose, in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, to suppose that others are to some extent doing the same.

::: posted by dWj at 4:26 PM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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