Category Archives: Applied Ethics

A thought on exploitation

I was at a friend’s talk recently, where she defended the claim that surrogacy tourism is morally permissible. She pointed to the extent to which the women involved benefit financially, to the long-term gains to their families, to the relationships they form, and so forth. Some people just felt that even if an individual woman benefits, she is still being exploited.

This struck me as implausible. I’m inclined to think that if both parties on-balance benefit, the relationship is not exploitative. I considered a counterexample: what if the surrogate mother is only paid a dollar? Does that still make it non-exploitative? And I was inclined to say that such a relationship seems exploitative, but I realized that I was smuggling in some intuitions about the statistical risks of pregnancy. Well, not every surrogate mother is the statistical average. This made me think that perhaps certain classes of relationships could be considered exploitative, but not the individual relationships themselves. Thus, perhaps relationships of surrogacy wherein the mothers are paid almost nothing, such that on average they would not on-balance benefit, would be exploitative. Individual relationships would not be exploitative, but the class of relationships would. And then, perhaps, within the total class there would be sub-classes of relationships that were not on-balance exploitative: say, very healthy (i.e. low-risk) mothers with little by way of economic resources who benefit very profoundly from the extra income.

Police weaponry

First, it seems that police are too quick to pull a gun and shoot people. Second, it seems that there are still plenty of examples where police having guns saves lives (mass shootings and the like). I have noticed that police seem to do most of their killing with a pistol, a weapon they have available at all times, no matter what. Perhaps, instead of giving cops pistols, we should only give them AR-15s. This gives them a viable (superior) option during actual gunfights, mass shootings, and so forth, but also takes away the option of impulsively shooting people or simply wandering foolishly into a situation and escalating it till they kill someone. The AR-15 is too unwieldy to carry around, but can be locked in a car until it is needed.

The culture of guns

Over the last couple of years, an increase in random mass shootings has generated strong emotions regarding the question of gun rights in America. Many Americans (and probably most of the rest of the world) believe strongly that if Americans would pass gun control laws which were a good deal more restrictive, these incidents would occur less frequently. Sometimes, though less often, it is supposed that more gun restrictions will help alleviate the sort of criminal-on-criminal violence which constitutes the majority of homicides in America. Of course, on the other side we have the arguments that strict gun control will either fail to alleviate violent crime or will actually lead to an increase in violent crime, due to a lack of guns among “good guys”. These are extremely vague characterizations, but I think they capture the outlines of what each “side” of the debate wants.

Today, I just want to talk about some of the cultural disconnects which I think we have between gun people and non-gun people.

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The drug war and indirect reparations

So, like many people, I was pretty amazed by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article in The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations. It’s powerfully and elegantly written. It seems to be well-researched. And the cumulative case that it builds, while not all that explicit, was one that I found pretty potent. Like others, however, I am skeptical of financial reparations for the many atrocities of black subjugation. (Before I continue, it should be noted that Coates isn’t really arguing for that, title notwithstanding.) In this post, I’ll briefly discuss my two objections to straightforward financial reparations, and then an idea I have which seems like an improvement.

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