Revealed preference and the paradox of the radical

Many arguments often suggested in political discussion consist in equating something socially accepted with something highly censored, suggesting that there is some incoherence in accepting the former while censoring the latter.

Pretty often, these arguments take a radical form. Consider some of them “Life starts at conception, so abortion is just murder”; “Private property is sacred, so paying taxes is a form of slavery”; “The political regime of country X is only formally democratic; it is in fact no different in substance from an authoritarian police state”; “Living animals are just as entitled to dignity as human beings; therefore eating meat is a form of killing”

I claim most people making these (o similarly radical) claims either do not believe them or are really terrible persons.

Consider the case of abortion. I just google “number of abortions” and found this webpage which provides the number of abortions in real time. According to it, only this year there would have been in the USA as many as 686,578 abortions and almost 60 millions since Roe vs Wade. Now, consider that this year there had been as many as 686,578 murders of <10years old children in the US due to a certain legislation enabling it. Would all those who suggest that “life starts at conception” have a similar attitude? The attitude of pro-life people is often seen as too radical; in this light, however, it may well be seen as too candid given the amplitude of the phenomenon. A similar judgement would be valid that taxes are morally equivalent to slavery or that eating chicken is equivalent to cannibalism.

This blame of passivity is particularly funny for those who stand behind such radical claims usually see themselves as particularly pure individuals.

I’ve always felt that a key lesson from my training in economics has been to think about morals as something emerging from revealed preference and intuition, which is actually very similar in spirit to the “reflective equilibrium” idea.

Revealed preference and the paradox of the radical

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