Hanson on Morality
By Bryan Caplan
[U]sually it is fine to do what you want, to get what you want.
Robin manages to make his principle seem less crazy by focusing on mundane self-regarding activities. But then he could have just as easily said, “What people do is usually fine.” The problem with both principles is that they don’t tell us anything about what isn’t fine. If there’s anything we learn from the Austrian action axiom, it’s that everybody always does what they want, to get what they want.
It turns out, then, that Robin’s entire moral theory hinges on the word “usually.” When is it not fine to do what you want, to get what you want? When you’re preventing other people from doing what they want, to get what they want. But what if you want to prevent other people from doing what they want, to get what they want? As far as I understand Robin, all he can say is, “Let’s make a deal,” “I don’t want that,” or “OK” – even in response to Hitler or Hannibal Lecter. Robin calls this “moral minimalism,” but I’m afraid his “moral minimum” turns out to be zero.