academic jargon. I know that I should keep the vocabulary and
sentence structure as simple as possible in order to communicate well.
But when your idea of fun is getting into an argument with a
philosopher, you tend to have a warped view of communication. On that
note, here is a copy of an email I sent to a philosophy professor.
Background: I am constantly working to convince the philosophy people
that it is a good idea to use the framework of economic thought to
make judgments about the world.
Subject: Cost-Benefit And Moral Duty
I understand what you were saying last night about the use of
cost-benefit analysis. It does seem that using a cost-benefit
framework to guide our actions is different than using a framework of
moral duty to guide our actions. I agree that moral duty comes first,
and a system that can only justify itself using its own tools is
flawed. But the cost-benefit analysis is not a source of moral value;
it is a tool to enable you to implement your existing moral duties.
Using these analytical tools does not imply taking a utilitarian
calculus as a source of value.
I agree that we have a moral duty to preserve the health of the
planet. But we also have a moral duty to help human beings live
fulfilling lives. At some point, these moral duties conflict with
each other. Resources are scarce, and we have to choose which moral
duty to advance with them. The cost-benefit analysis allows you to
implement your moral duty to save the planet while causing the least
collateral damage to the moral duty of advancing the human quality of