Tag Archives: moral luck
Have A Happy Thanksgiving Everyone, And Don’t Forget To Review The Ethics Alarms Complete “It’s A Wonderful Life” Ethics Guide Before The Annual TV Screening!
Ethics Alarms Chief Ethics Scout Fred found this one. Tesla was alerted to one seat belt failure in its Model S, and recalled them all. This involved a huge cost, of course, and that cost will be eventually passed on to consumers and investors. Fred asks,
“Abundance of caution” is the phrase they used, one I gather is familiar to lawyers. Could they have justified some other response that was less catastrophically expensive? Would they have had a fiduciary duty to do so? Or would that duty lie in maintaining the brand image of meticulous quality at almost any short-term cost, building a reputation that could command premium prices for decades to come?
Today got an e-mail from an Ethics Alarms participant who hasn’t been by in a while. He commented that he was finding the blog too depressing. Almost immediately after that, another reader sent me this story.
In Iowa, Davis County High School runner Zach Hougland had already won his race, thereby becoming district cross country champion, his school’s first. As he was taking congratulations from his coach and track team mates, he saw another school’s runner stumble and fall, then remain motionless. Hougland rushed back on the track, scooped him up and tried to help him to the finish line. He said, “It was about 15 meters from the finish line. I did it for seven meters, so he had about eight left. I knew I couldn’t help him finish so I just gave him a push and told him ‘You can do it!'” Continue reading
Dwight D. Eisenhower lied in a signed pledge in order to play football as a West Point student. Had the false assertion been discovered, the Allied Forces would have had a different commander, and the Cold War would have been fought on the U.S. side by a …Adlai Stevenson, if not Herman Goering. Ike never mentioned his ethical and very uncharacteristic breach of military conduct in his memoirs, but the incident seems to have haunted him all his life.
President Eisenhower played the outfield for Class D Junction City, a professional minor league team, in 1911. Ike used a false name—“Wilson”— to maintain eligibility for collegiate athletics. He was 20 years old and hit .355, but he wasn’t aiming for the big leagues. “I wanted to go to college that fall and we didn’t have much money,” General Eisenhower told the Associated Press in 1945. “I took any job that offered me more money, because I needed money.”
When Eisenhower joined the Army’s football program at West Point, he had to sign a form saying he was never compensated for playing a professional sport. The assumption is that Ike signed, but the document has never been found. Had his lie been discovered whgile he was at West Point, he would have been kicked out of the Academy. Had the falsely signed document surfaced while he was President, it would have been a serious embarrassment for both Ike and the military.
My guess is that it was “lost.” Continue reading
Once upon a time, a fat, spectacled, pleasant amateur song parodist sold millions of records with what middle-aged college grads thought were witty musical critiques of Sixties life and culture. His name was Allan Sherman, and one of those witty songs was this:
Therein lies some useful lessons which we all should absorb:
1. What seems like a valid opinion today might well seem incredibly stupid to virtually everybody later.
2. Venturing outside your expertise is always risky.
3. Everything seems obvious in hindsight. In most cases, it was anything but.
4. Yesterday’s wit is tomorrow’s ignorance.
5. Whether your opinion is going to make you look like a prophet or a fool is often nothing but moral luck.
6. Criticizing someone for views proven invalid by subsequent developments no one could have foreseen is consequentialism, and unfair.
7. People will do it anyway.
8. We are all Allan Sherman. We just don’t know how.
It’s hard to imagine now that John, Paul, George and Ringo are icons and deserving ones, but back in 1964 it was considered wise and clever to make fun of their hair, their fans and pronounce them untalented hacks. At the beginning of the British invasion, many sophisticates regarded the Beatles as indistinguishable from the legendary Dave Clark Five, and a passing fancy no more significant that the hula hoop.
Mock them now at your peril. Your time will come…in fact, it probably already has.