I’d mentioned this back before I went to Belize, so it’s high time I get it out of my head. I was sitting in traffic on 95 a while back, and pondering the classic entrance ramp scenario — some nut in his SUV cruising along in the right lane at 45 mph, slamming on his brakes and wedging into the pattern so he’ll be at the front most possible entry point when traffic starts moving again. Why do people do this? It’s pretty obvious, in that it accelerates their departure, at the expense of everybody behind them. People are selfish creatures. The driver of this SUV sees almost no risk — what could happen? Nothing he is doing would probably pass as illegal. The folks in the other cars aren’t going to get out of their cars and beat him to a bloody pulp. The other cars aren’t moving, so there’s not likely to be an accident. There’s only upside, if any sense of morality is thrown out the window.
What this bunch of babbling led me to is the idea of shaping morality itself by market behavior. Every decision’s morality is then defined by the appropriate risk/reward in the current market. So, the decision to speed is considered as a market play in the risk of accident or speeding tickets versus the reward of earlier arrival or enjoyment of a vehicle at elevated driving speeds.
Where this gets weird is that tickets are contested. People take a risk, and then rather than taking the explicit downside of taking that risk and getting caught, they first settle for an implicit downside (tickets are almost always for less than the actual offense). Then, they go to court and argue the cost/points to the point where it becomes a large lump sump charitable contribution that benefits their taxes and never reaches their insurance company. There is an expectation that people will do this, but it’s easier to do this sort of thing when wealthy and/or in a flexible job situation. So now we’ve got a synthetic market in decreased risk (with a small increase in red tape) after a certain income class breaking in to my whole market morality behavior theory — markets cannot shape the morality of those with a lot of money, and therefore there exists no argument for some rich puke in his SUV to do anything but speed like there’s no tomorrow. The only risk they really run is that they’re driving a vehicle above speeds at which that class of vehicle is safe, and if they had half a brain, they wouldn’t have made the decision to buy a vehicle and drive those speeds in the first place.
That said, I can’t seem to determine from this what my conclusion is (what I’d hope that I’d figure out when I went to Belize). I’m not even sure that whole narrative even fits together. I have nagging phrases like “outperform the market to define morality” going through my head, but there’s some connection missing.