Diverse Subjects for Sunday
May 5, 2019
Here are some interesting ethics and economics stories:
Should a woman athlete’s normal production of testosterone be held against her? Should she be forced to take unneeded (and potentially damaging) drugs in order to compete with other women with lower levels of testosterone?
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Olympic champion runner Caster Semenya cannot compete because her natural level of testosterone is too high. This is crazy. Athletes are special for a host of reasons. Singling out Semenya’s natural baseline level of testosterone as a bar to competition is appalling. It is akin to barring basketball players over 6’6” from competing because they’ve had too much growth hormone.
Collusion, price-setting, and market rigging, enforced by physical threats—it’s not your textbook free market example. The raisin growers and processers in California are a tight knit cultural group, except when they’re at each other’s throats, as indicated in this story. The same could be said, I’m sure, about many fishing markets and other markets.
It’s a shame economics students don’t learn from case studies like these what many markets are actually like. My father-in-law, who worked for several big name international corporations, always made fun of the theoretical economic view of how markets work, compared with the bared-knuckle fighting and dirty tricks that were the norm of his world.
One reason economics teachers shy away from case studies is that it is harder to induce grand theories from the heterogeneous evidence. Each case is unique, and knowing the history, culture, and individual idiosyncrasies is necessary to understanding the functioning of that market.
But shouldn’t students be aware that this is the case, rather than believing that every market works the same way, driven by MC=MR behavior, and without any additional knowledge or insider insights needed?
How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr:
How does an amoral leader co-opt and gain acceptance from moral followers around him or her? This is a chilling piece by James Comey, suggesting the psychological and spiritual road to hell, which arises from silence in the midst of lies, lies, and lies. It corrodes the will and the soul. History will not look kindly on those who maintain the silence.
This story has legs beyond the narrow politics of the times. How many corporate leaders likewise step over the ethical edge, leading collaborators along the same path? According to Business Insider, twenty percent of CEO’s are psychopaths, as measured by inability to empathize with those they have hurt, insincerity, and superficiality. The fact that so many of these people are successful enough to reach the top means that they have collaborators who have kept silent for personal gain, or because, as Comey suggests, they are psychologically co-opted.
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