The Society of the Owned: Moral Hazards

Terrance Heath

Part Seven of a Series

Imagine that you’ve come upon two people who have somehow fallen into a very deep hole, which neither of them can climb out of on their own. (Nor, for some reason, can they help one another climb out.) In the course of figuring out what to do, you learn how they each came to be in that hole.

One of them fell in because he either didn’t see the hole or should have seen it but wasn’t paying attention. OK, so he could have avoided falling into the hole if he’d been more careful. The other person, you find out, apparently dug the hole for the one who fell in first, and then fell in himself.

Which one do you help out of the hole? The careless one who fell in first? Or the one who dug the hole in the first place? Which one do you leave in the hole? Which one do you help out first?

Conservatism says you definitely help the guy who dug the hole in the first place climb out of it. Not only that but you give him a brand new shovel and send him on his way. Maybe you leave the other guy in the hole, and maybe you don’t. In the latter case, there are serious moral questions to consider.

Comments