Friday, April 27, 2012

Much harm

I have already mentioned my great appreciation for Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.  He taught us that many of our political disagreements are with people who respond to different "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind" (title of his Ch. 6). There are five (later in the book, six) of these and we respond them in different degrees.  People on the left are most sensitive to the "care-harm" and "fairness-cheating" buds, but less sensitive to the "loyalty-betrayal" "authority-subversion" and "sanctity-degradation" buds.  Move to the right of the spectrum, and people weight all of these almost equallly. 

With all that in mind, I looked at Michael Kinsley's "For whom the bridge tolls ... In Seattle, it's no longer true that, no matter how rich you are, there are some things -- like traffic congestion -- that you can't buy your way out of," in today's LA Times.

Kinsley understands the economic argument for rationing by willingness-to-pay, but prefers a world of shared misery.  Bridge tolls constitute "... another chipping away at our shared life as citizens, and another area where money makes the difference."

But in this what-to-price-what-not-to-price discussion, where do we draw the line?  And "free" access can come at a very high price; we can easily end up with very large-scale but widely shared harm if we are not very careful.