A Right to Do Wrong?

The latest in my series of blog posts based on discussions with Ethics & Economics Challenge students is up at e3ne.org. It's on whether it's possible for us to have a right to do wrong in some cases, i.e., for there to be some moral obligations that it is not morally permissible to enforce. A … Continue reading A Right to Do Wrong?

Adam Smith on Beneficence & Justice

I've recently begun the Ethics & Economics Challenge program with students at Merrimack Valley High School in Concord, N.H. We've been discussing what Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments can tell us about what types of moral duties may legitimately be enforced. I'm blogging my reflections as we go. Here is a selection from the … Continue reading Adam Smith on Beneficence & Justice

Emotion, Moral Intuition, & the Social Function of Literature

I was recently with a longtime friend who revealed that he does not believe in morality. He thinks the only ultimate good is his own happiness. Now, he tries to act in a way that others see as moral because he believes that that is conducive to his own happiness, and he acknowledges having emotions … Continue reading Emotion, Moral Intuition, & the Social Function of Literature

An Effective Anti-Romney Ad?

A colleague of mine pointed me to this anti-Romney ad, adding that he thought it was "effective" because of its focus on one compelling story. Have a watch: I did not find it effective. It does focus on one story, and it does make it sound like this person was made worse off by Romney. … Continue reading An Effective Anti-Romney Ad?

Adam Smith and “Adam Smith”

I'm sorry, but what does Michael Boskin's WSJ op-ed entitled "Obama and 'The Wealth of Nations'" have to do with Adam Smith? The first sentence of the op-ed is "President Obama should put Adam Smith's 'The Wealth of Nations' at the top of his summer reading list." Perhaps he should---but then again, lots of people … Continue reading Adam Smith and “Adam Smith”

“Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi have a thought-provoking piece entitled, "A Bleeding Heart History of Libertarianism," in the latest Cato Unbound. They criticize postwar libertarians (specifically mentioning Mises, Rand, and Rothbard) for seeing property rights as absolute and, in their view, regarding the welfare of the working poor as irrelevant to moral justifications for capitalism: … Continue reading “Neoclassical Liberalism,” Property Rights, and Capitalism

Honesty as a Weapon

One reason I support the "virtue" approach to morality is that, attractive as some moral rules are in the abstract, there are almost always cases in which good judgment requires either appropriate interpretation or even suspension of them. Take the moral rule that one should always be honest. Honesty is clearly a virtue, but it … Continue reading Honesty as a Weapon