Ethics Quiz: Mayor Bloomberg’s Pizza Petard

"No pizza for you!"

“No pizza for you!”

I came thiiiiis close to making this an Ethics Hero post, then I realized that the story was a gag.

But fictional tales pose real ethics dilemmas: let’s see if you can resolve the one raised by this spoof.

According to the satirical  Daily Currant, Mayor Bloomberg, better known in NYC as the Nanny Mayor who has, among other measures, decreed how much sweet soda pop one is allowed to sell or purchase to consume, was having a business lunch at Collegno’s Pizzeria. When he asked for second slice of pizza, however, he was refused.

“I’m sorry sir,” the Currant quoted owner “Antonio Benito” as replying, “we can’t do that. You’ve reached your personal slice limit.” And he wasn’t kidding.

“OK, that’s funny,” the alternate universe New York Mayor remarked, “because of the soda thing … No come on. I’m not kidding. I haven’t eaten all morning, just send over another pepperoni.”

“I’m sorry sir. We’re serious,” Benito said. “We’ve decided that eating more than one piece isn’t healthy for you, and so we’re forbidding you from doing it.”

Bloomberg, in the Currant’s account, then snapped., saying:  “Look jackass. I fucking skipped breakfast this morning just so I could eat four slices of your pizza. Don’t be a schmuck, just get back to the kitchen and bring out some fucking pizza, okay.”

Benito stood fast! “I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing I can do. Maybe you could go to several restaurants and get one slice at each. At least that way you’re walking. You know, burning calories.”

Zing!

If only it were true…

But should owners of eateries withhold service according to a diner’s political views? Isn’t this petty, unprofessional, discriminatory and mean? We don’t allow restaurants to discriminate on the basis of race or religion, or sexual orientation. Is it ethical for then to discriminate because of politics? Isn’t the proper place for showing disapproval of elected officials the voting booth, and not the pizza kitchen?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day, therefore, is this:

Would it be ethical for a real life Collegno’s to enforce a pizza slice limit on Mayor Bloomberg?

I’m afraid I’d love seeing the Mayor hoisted on his very own pizza petard too much to vote against the Collegno’s scenario. I have, in the past, disapproved of establishments that penalize patrons for their political affiliations, because I think it’s a dangerous and polarizing slippery slope. This, however, would amount to a specific political statement—indeed, a protest— made to a specific governmental authority in a vivid, creative, and, yes, funny way. It’s not discrimination; it’s a well-aimed and articulate shot across an elected official’s bow. I don’t think it would be unfair to Bloomberg; I think the Mayor would do well to pay attention to what Benito would be illustrating for him. “How do you like it when someone else tells you what you are allowed to eat?”  It is a Golden Rule lesson: if it makes you so angry, Mayor, why do you think it’s okay to do the same thing to everyone else?

Good question.

Good protest.

Goood pizza!

Too bad you only get one piece, Mr. Mayor!

_______________________

Pointer: Instapundit

“Facts”: Daily Current

12 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Quizzes, U.S. Society

12 responses to “Ethics Quiz: Mayor Bloomberg’s Pizza Petard

  1. Depends.

    1 – Is Benito doing it to the Mayor because he’s the Mayor who established a ‘health’ based policy?

    Or

    2 – Has Benito been doing this to every single customer as a health based policy?

    Or

    3 – Has Benito been doing this only to a subset of his customers who support the Mayor’s ‘health’ policies as a personalized ‘punishment’ for their support of him?

    If 1, I am undecided. I could see it as a distinct political statement towards a publicly elected official that doesn’t hurt other people and would be an effort to expose the lunacy of that politician’s policies.

    If 2, then yes it seems ethical, I don’t see a problem with it. Benito is making a stupid market decision, but he is making that decision and applying it across the board.

    If 3, then no, it isn’t ethical as it discriminates a group of people for how they vote.

    • Dwayne N. Zechman

      Tex, you took the words right out of my mouth, 1-2-3.

      All I’ll add is that I’m *not* undecided about #1. The distinction is that he is using the actions of his business to protest a specific policy that directly negatively impacts his business.

      If he were denying a second slice to, for example, an outspoken advocate or opponent of some unrelated political topic (gun control, foreign policy, Congressional budget deals…take your pick), THEN he’s crossed into unethical territory.

      –Dwayne

  2. Michael R.

    What if they posted a sign that said “In our establishment, we will enforce rules of conduct on all public officials consistent with their public positions”? As such, they could refuse a second slice of pizza to the mayor, disallow admission to an anti-concealed carry politician who was carrying a concealed weapon, or ask a politician to leave for spouting profanities if they have campaigned for laws against such behavior. They also should enforce a mandatory gratuity for those who have publicly stated that such behavior is acceptable.

    • Jeff Long

      Hi to all,
      I do not comment on things often and prefer to do so only when I feel I have something meaningful to say. In this case, I feel the post by Michael R. raises a sufficiently important point that I strongly feel needs further exposition.

      Michael asks whether it would be ethical for a business to have a stated policy that they will punish politicians for personal conduct that is at odds with the politician’s public positions. The short answer is a very strong no; the question itself raises the spectre of a particularly insidious line of fallacious reasoning that is, in my view at least, common enough that it deserves to be quickly swatted down wherever it appears.

      In the general case, there is nothing hypocritical or inconsistent whatsoever about an individual X (political or otherwise) who supports prohibiting behaviour Y and yet engages in behaviour Y themself. In fact, in many cases, the fact that X engages in Y can strengthen the credibility of X’s stated support of the policy banning Y. This is counter-intuitive to many people. It is perhaps best to illustrate with a concrete example.

      Michael R. mentions the issue of carrying concealed weapons, which is an issue that can work for our illustrative purposes. Let us say that I, personally, do not wish to carry a firearm. I find them bulky and inconvenient, I think they’re unsafe, I don’t want want to support the industry, or I just plain don’t like them – any one of these is a perfectly valid reason for my personal aversion. However, let us say that I know that it is both legal and common for everyone around me to carry a firearm. I feel unsafe being the only unarmed person around, and so despite my personal preference to avoid firearms, I am forced by the behaviour of those around me to also carry a firearm. But I would prefer NOT to be forced to do this, so I support legislation to prohibit everyone (including me) from carrying concealed firearms, even though at present, I carry one myself. The point isn’t whether or not you agree with my reasoning as a reluctant firearms carrier; there are many issues that illustrate the point even more strongly. The requirement is for the issue in question to have a structure similar to the famous Prisoner’s Dilemma problem from game theory, and there is no shortage of real-world problems that do.

      Other issues, however, don’t have this structure, and I think it can be useful to distinguish them. For instance, Michael R. also brings up a politician who supports a ban on public profanity. In this case, I can’t see any credible game-theoretic forces at work; other people using bad language in no way forces me to do the same. If I think public profanity is bad, I can choose, individually and unilaterally, not to engage in it.

      Note how the distinction between these two cases radically reframes any public policy debate. In the latter case (public profanity), it is a case of arguing vs. . Is the presumed reduction in general public harm worth restricting the freedom of the “ignorant foul-mouthed barbarians” who don’t personally see public profanity as a problem? In the former case (firearms), it is a case of arguing vs. . Freedom doesn’t enter the equation, because on NEITHER side of the policy is anybody free to do as they wish. The SOURCE of the lack of freedom is different – in one case, government legislation, and in the other, the forces of game theory – but the result is the same. The only thing to debate is which is the better world: one where everybody carries a concealed gun, or one where nobody does? And now we see how an individual engaging in an activity that they favor prohibiting can strengthen the case for prohibition, because it shows the individual believes the issue at hand to be of the game-theoretic vs variety, and not of the vs variety. The individual shows through their own actions that their own freedom is being co-opted (by game theory) under the present system, and thus freedom-related arguments coming from the opposing camp are rendered moot.

      To conclude:

      It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a restauranteur who supports a ban on smoking in all restaurants to allow smoking in their restaurant.

      It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a factory owner who supports stricter environmental regulations to not voluntarily meet those regulations in their own factory.

      It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a woman who objects to the systematic sexualization of women in video games to still play presently-existing video games.

      It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a politician who supports banning private schools to send their own children to a private school.

      And any policy, by a business, government or individual, that suggests that it is runs the risk of making good, clear-headed reasoning just a little more difficult and making us all just a little bit stupider. And that, to me, is unethical to the extreme.

      • Jeff Long

        I apologize – in my post I made the mistake of using angle-brackets around some text that was meant to be part of the post – obviously this was taken as formatting directives though and got eaten. These should be:

        “In the latter case (public profanity) it is a case of arguing (freedom) vs harm)”
        “In the former case (firearms), it is a case of arguing (harm) vs (harm)”
        “because it shows the individual believes the issues at hand to be of the game-theoretic (harm) vs (harm) variety, and not of the (freedom) vs (harm) variety”

        I regret there’s no edit function to fix this. My apologies again. : <

      • “Michael asks whether it would be ethical for a business to have a stated policy that they will punish politicians for personal conduct that is at odds with the politician’s public positions. The short answer is a very strong no; the question itself raises the spectre of a particularly insidious line of fallacious reasoning that is, in my view at least, common enough that it deserves to be quickly swatted down wherever it appears.”

        I think Michael was being tongue in cheek.

        HYPOCRISY

        “In the general case, there is nothing hypocritical or inconsistent whatsoever about an individual X (political or otherwise) who supports prohibiting behaviour Y and yet engages in behaviour Y themself.”

        hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

        So, yes there is something hypocritical about a person who wishes to prohibit Y while engaging in Y themself.

        In fact, in many cases, the fact that X engages in Y can strengthen the credibility of X’s stated support of the policy banning Y.

        Wow.

        “Let us say that I, personally, do not wish to carry a firearm. I find them bulky and inconvenient, I think they’re unsafe, I don’t want want to support the industry, or I just plain don’t like them – any one of these is a perfectly valid reason for my personal aversion. However, let us say that I know that it is both legal and common for everyone around me to carry a firearm. I feel unsafe being the only unarmed person around, and so despite my personal preference to avoid firearms, I am forced by the behaviour of those around me to also carry a firearm.”

        None of those are valid reasons and your entire hypothetical is based on emotions and irrationality.

        ”But I would prefer NOT to be forced to do this,

        You aren’t forced in the hypothetical. You only say you are. But you aren’t.

        “so I support legislation to prohibit everyone (including me) from carrying concealed firearms, even though at present, I carry one myself. The point isn’t whether or not you agree with my reasoning as a reluctant firearms carrier; there are many issues that illustrate the point even more strongly.”

        No, you are still hypocritical in the hypothetical. You want to be able to feel safe and feel protected while prohibiting other people’s ability to feel safe and feel protected.

        You entire hypothetical example is debunked. But of course it was debunked earlier by the link to the definition of “hypocrite”.

        GAME THEORY

        I’m not going to detail your ‘exposition’ on game theory. In summary you are wrong. Law abiding citizens who carry firearms aren’t arming themselves in the public forum against other law abiding citizens who have armed themselves. Your game theory representation of that is colossally wrong because it relies on that assertion.

        “It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a restauranteur who supports a ban on smoking in all restaurants to allow smoking in their restaurant.

        Yes, it is. If they believe smoking to be bad or wrong, they would ban it in their own establishment. Of course they’d be seeking a universal ban because they would then be an exclusionist establishment competing with more open competitors. The only reason they wouldn’t ban it privately while seeking a public ban is because they know their competition would have an advantage.

        “It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a factory owner who supports stricter environmental regulations to not voluntarily meet those regulations in their own factory.”

        Yes it is.

        “It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a woman who objects to the systematic sexualization of women in video games to still play presently-existing video games.”

        Yes it is.

        “It is NOT necessarily inconsistent for a politician who supports banning private schools to send their own children to a private school.”

        Yes it is.

        And any policy, by a business, government or individual, that suggests that it is runs the risk of making good, clear-headed reasoning just a little more difficult and making us all just a little bit stupider. And that, to me, is unethical to the extreme.

        What?

        • Jeff Long

          Texagg,
          Thanks for taking the time to engage my points; I think it just goes to show how unintuitive this particularl fallacy is, which is why I felt the need to expound on it in the first place. Indeed, I don’t doubt that Michael’s suggestion was a good part tongue-in-cheek, but the sentiment behind it is worrisome to me.

          First, however, there is something on which I could perhaps have been more clear, and if this is the source of your entire objection, then I apologize. It is indeed hypocritical and inconsistent for an individual X to support banning Y and yet engage in Y anyway when the policy banning Y is *currently* in effect (and X has good reason to believe the ban is generally adhered to and well-enforced). This follows trivially from the original argument, but I realize I didn’t state it explicitly, which could potentially cause some confusion.

          The definition of hypocrisy that you post is, in fact, in perfect accordance with my original statement. If I support a policy prohibiting everyone from doing Y, I am saying that I support a world in which nobody engages in Y. I am NOT saying (necessarily, in any case) that I support a world where only *I* am prohibited from doing Y while everyone else continues to do so. Thus, in the world where Y is allowed and everyone else does it, there is no contradiction against my stated beliefs by doing Y myself. To put it another way, by my endorsement of the ban, I am saying “I am willing not to engage in Y SO LONG as everyone else also agrees not to engage in Y.” If everyone else does not agree, then there is no contradiction.

          My second paragraph above follows from this, since if I am currently living in a world where nobody does Y, doing Y myself would make the sentence “nobody does Y” false. This would be in direct contradiction to my stated belief that I support a world where nobody does Y.

          For many people (or so I think – it is always somewhat dangerous to speculate on why people think what they do), confusion arises because they view “not engaging in Y myself” as incremental progress towards “nobody engaging in Y” – therefore, if I *claim* to support a ban on Y, surely I should “lead by example” and not engage in Y. It is this line of thinking that can be an enormous fallacy (depending on the nature of the issue involved, i.e. its game-theoretic structure).

          I was using the firearms example simply for illustration, since Michael brought it up in the same virtual breath as the public profanity example. I admitted it wasn’t the strongest example, so let’s pick something that shows the general concept even more clearly. Let us say that I live in Australia, where drivers drive on the left-hand side of the road. Australia is in a minority in this regard; a quick Wikipedia search indicates 66% of the world drives on the right. Let us say that I believe it is high-time Australia synchronized with the rest of the world, and therefore, I support a policy change that all Australian drivers should now drive on the right instead of the left. I contend that it is perfectly consistent and without logical contradiction for me to support the (currently non-existent) POLICY that everyone should drive on the right, and yet to continue to drive on the left myself until such time as my desired policy is made law. Indeed, it would be suicidal for myself and irresponsibly dangerous to other people for me to unilaterally start driving on the right. In the structure of this problem, no incremental good is achieved by a unilateral shift in behaviour on my part; in fact, I am punished severely for doing so, and no good (and likely some harm) comes to everyone else.

          In game theoretic terms, the situation I just described is more similar to a coordination game than to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but the two are closely related. The point (or one of the points) of both is that sometimes, a unilateral shift in behaviour achieves no purpose, but a COLLECTIVE shift in behaviour can do so.

          This framework applies in a relatively straight-forward manner to the four examples I listed towards the end of my post. Now, it is certainly possible to argue how *strongly* the Prisoner’s Dilemma structure fits each of these scenarios, but that is essentially irrelevant to my original point. So long as the actor(s) involved THEMSELVES believe that their situation fits the Prisoner’s Dilemma/coordination game model (which is a question that can ultimately only be answered by sound science and empirical study), then there is no inconsistency or hypocrisy (which you have defined as a contradition between an individual’s stated beliefs and their behaviour, and I agree with this) on the part of the actors. They may be INCORRECT; but they are not hypocritical.

          For instance, assume I am the factory owner who supports stronger environmental regulations than what currently exist. I believe that adhering unilaterally to stronger regulations would incur costs to me that would force me to increase the price of my products. I believe that in such a case, my customers would abandon me for the cheaper prices of my competitors and I would be forced out of business. I’d have to fire my employees and close up shop. This is disastrous for me and the people who counted on me for a job, and does nothing to address my environmental concerns, because now my competitors (who are happily polluting away) have all my business. So it is completely rational and consistent for me to not voluntarily enforce the stricter regulations at my own plant, while at the same time publicly stating my support for stronger regulations and voting in their favour.

          • Supporting a ban on a particular behavior or a possession of a particular item implies your stated belief is that it is wrong to engage in that behavior or possess that item. It then follows that if you choose to engage in that behavior, while espousing and pushing those beliefs, you are hypocritical.

            You’re driving example is a false analogy. The side of the road a nation chooses to mandate has no moral or ethical component. Other than irrelevant origin theories as to why England and its scions drive on the left, it is a wholly arbitrary system. Additionally it is not a law banning certain behavior, but a law compelling certain behavior. So no, it isn’t hypocritical to seek policy change regarding a certain behavior when one is compelled to behave that way by the government.

            Your factory example doesn’t acquit the factory owner of hypocrisy. The definition is quite clear.

  3. Jj

    This story is even better than if it were true… If he had actually denied the Mayor food because of his pettiness, he would have gotten a tremendous amount of free publicity. And discriminating against one person over a made up policy could cause some pushback.. The health, small business and zoning depts would no doubt be scrutinizing the owner’s business to ensure THEIR policies are being adhered to.

    OTOH a fake story achieves the notoriety the owner so badly wanted without having actually discriminated against anyone…

    Have to say ” Brilliant!”

  4. Other Bill

    “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Doesn’t a proprietor of a kitchen have the right to not serve someone if they’re so inclined and it’s not for a bad reason? eg. race, religion, etc? Does being a nutjob policy-wise fall into a protected category? You can only express your displeasure with an elected official every two or four years? That’s wrong. Is this the only pizza joint in NYC?

    • Bill: You’re in line with the thought I was going to express. Simply put, it’s the right of private property and the right of its proprietor to choose his own parameters of business and his clientele. Yes, Mr. Benito would be ethical in refusing service to Mayor Bloomberg- or anyone else- if he actually chose to make and enforce a rule limiting his customers to one slice of pizza per sitting… AS LONG as the policy was posted to where it would be known to prospective customers prior to their asking for service. To suddenly impose it as an individualized whim upon an unpopular politician would be unethical. HOWEVER- stupid, unethical or not- Mr. Benito would still be within his rights as the proprietor. He wouldn’t be a proprietor for long doing business like that, but it’s his business while it lasts.

  5. Jack,

    You never weighed in on your opinion to the quiz’s solution.

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