Weakness or Badness? … and Ben Bernanke

Last year Radio 4’s Analysis programme did an episode about social mobility.

It was an excruciating piece fronted by Jo Fidgen, who is refreshingly open about her self-interested outlook on life.

Much of the commentary within the programme focusses on the fact that – shock, horror! – if we have good social mobility, then not only do less privileged people have the chance to move up in the world, but more privileged people may move down in the world.

Fidgen’s fear of loss of unfair advantage was quite unsettling.

This month, Fidgen presented another Analysis episode. This time she discovered (and, importantly, accepted) that there is no moral justification for killing animals for meat.

But, as with her experience during the social mobility episode, acceptance of the “correct answer” had no impact on her behaviour. She ends the programme by ostentatiously (but unconvincingly) expressing how guilty she feels about eating a delicious steak.

I have much sympathy for Fidgen. She has done a good job as a reporter by telling the truth about how she accepts the answer but still won’t change her behaviour.

Ultimately, the disturbing, but unsurprising outcome of both programmes is that the analysed content is of zero value.

The arguments discussed in the 30 minute episodes are just litter on the breeze as in both cases it is revealed that the correct moral decision is too hard to stomach and so is ignored.

Ben Bernanke said something rather wonderful this week:

“… individually rational behaviour can be collectively irrational. And that’s why the regulators have to do what they can to constrain individual behaviour, so that it doesn’t lead to collectively irrational outcomes.”

If anything shows that Ben is correct, it is the inconsistency of Fidgen’s actions and understanding.


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