Tag Archives: tradeoff

Douglas Hubbard

[I]n addition to the mathematical illiteracy of at least some respondents, those of us who measure such things as the value of life and health have to face a misplaced sense of righteous indignation. Some studies have shown that about 25% of people in environmental value surveys refused to answer on the grounds that “the environment has an absolute right to be protected” regardless of cost. The net effect, of course, is that those very individuals who would probably bring up the average WTP for the environment are abstaining and making the valuation smaller than it otherwise would be.

But I wonder if this sense of indignation is really a facade. Those same individuals have a choice right now to forgo any luxury, no matter how minor, to give charitable donations on behalf of protecting the environment. Right now, they could quit their jobs and work full time as volunteers for Greenpeace. And yet they do not. Their behaviors often don’t coincide with their claim of incensed morality at the very idea of the question. Some are equally resistant to the idea of placing a monetary value on a human life, but, again, they don’t give up every luxury to donate to charities related to public health.

Douglas Hubbard, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business, Hoboken, 2012, 2nd ed., p. 210

Tim Mulgan

Deflating the exclusive question “A or B?” with the inclusive answer “Let’s have both!” is apt to look like a cop-out. [M]oving from monism to pluralism invariably raises more questions than it answers.

Tim Mulgan, ‘Two Conceptions of Benevolence’, Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 26, no. 1 (Winter, 1997), p. 78

H. L. A. Hart

Surely if we have learned anything from the history of morals it is that the thing to do with a moral quandary is not to hide it. Like nettles, the occasions when life forces us to choose between the lesser of two evils must be grasped with the consciousness that they are what they are. The vice of this use of the principle that, at certain limiting points, what is utterly immoral cannot be law or lawful is that it will serve to cloak the true nature of the problems with which we are faced and will encourage the romantic optimism that all the values we cherish ultimately will fit into a single system, that no one of them has to be sacrificed or compromised to accommodate another.

H. L. A. Hart, ‘Separation of Law and Morals’, in Ronald Dworkin (ed.), The Philosophy of Law, Oxford, 1977, p. 33