Monday, May 13, 2013

Killing mice is moral

The current AAAS Science magazine reports on new research:
Interviewee – Armin Falk
So what we do in the experiment is we show that markets have a tendency to erode moral values. The way we find this out is we contrast decisions taken in what we call a non-market condition, if you like, with decisions taken in markets. In the market and the non-market condition, subjects could trade off money and life, in our case the life of mice, so these are moral consequences. And what we show is that in markets, many more mice die for a given monetary amount compared to a non-market conditions. And we show that in a causal way, markets actually lead to the erosion of moral values. ...

It is absolutely important to stress that the mice used in the experiment were so-called surplus mice. The mice would all have been killed without the experiment.
The abstract says"
We compare individual decisions to those made in a bilateral and a multilateral market. In both markets, the willingness to kill the mouse is substantially higher than in individual decisions. Furthermore, in the multilateral market, prices for life deteriorate tremendously.
So some people play a little game in which people is paid to pretend to kill mice, and that somehow shows that economic markets degrade morals?

To most people, mice are vermin to be exterminated, and killing mice is a moral thing to do. If markets help kill mice, so much the better.

It would be nice if science could somehow tell us what is moral. But this does not, and only tells us that certain transactions are more efficient with markets, and that was known for centuries.

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