Via Scott Alexander (aka yvain), Jai Dyhani discusses what he calls “The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics“, something I’ve been fuzzily groping at and griping about for years. It most obviously seem strange beginning with a consequentialist view of the act/omission bias, but I’m not aware of any explicit moral theory under which it makes sense. Since, as I said, Jai puts it better than I could, I’ll just give his summary here:

“The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics says that when you observe or interact with a problem in any way, you can be blamed for it. At the very least, you are to blame for not doing more. Even if you don’t make the problem worse, even if you make it slightly better, the ethical burden of the problem falls on you as soon as you observe it.”

An obvious example of how that could be politically relevant is EITC vs the minimum wage. But for me I’ll always remember when I got in a huge argument with a family member over employment law. My main issue was a sort of reciprocity, since I don’t see the relevant symmetry being broken where others do. But I also knew in my gut that I’d never hired anyone and while it would be easy to lay judgment on employers, I was no less guilty of not hiring people.

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