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Defining good to maximise good behaviour

We can separate the world into people who are good, and those who are not. For some people (strict utilitarians for example), everyone is not good, since the standard for good is very high – you must live for others until your own life drops to the level of utility that makes you the best person for yourself to help.

Most people do not use such a high standard, they might consider someone good if they live a normal life and occasionally give to charity.

People want others to think of them as good people, so they have an incentive to reach whatever standard is set. We can then look at this as an economics problem:

If we set the price very high (give all your income to the poor), then most people will not be willing to pay the price. If we set the price very low, we are leaving money on the table.

There is an equilibrium price where we maximise our revenue (good behaviour).

This would be impossible to calculate, but I imagine it is very likely similar to the level society currently has set it to. This does seem to be something that humans are intuitively good at, after all.

(The idea comes from Scott in this article https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/11/16/the-economic-perspective-on-moral-standards/)

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Last modified 2019-08-16 Fri 16:27. Contact max@maxjmartin.com