Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Guilty Pleasure:

Yes...I Have Always Enjoyed Moral Dilemmas.

Instapundit has what I think is a rather clever poll up at his site that could be a good conversation topic. He asks:

Which is worse?
a. A politician who has an affair while his wife has cancer, and lies about it.
b. A reporter or editor who covers for the politician who has an affair while his wife has cancer.
Myself? I picked 'b' without thinking twice. I admit this involved assuming there was no possible motive behind either act that could be considered morally 'acceptable'

When I did 'think twice' about it, I asked myself: What was in the nature of the two transgressions that would be the discriminator(s) of relative morality between them? Which IS the greater evil?

Well, on the one hand, 'a' involves infidelity and then compound it by being an even bigger cad by being unfaithful at a time when one should be most faithful by all standards of moral decency. On the other hand, 'b' could be seen as merely failing to perform the job that you are expected to perform by a customer (a trusting public), and some might argue that the public has very little right to expect that trust to be honored. Or, as they say, Caveat Emptor! So, on the surface, 'a' seems it should be considered much worse: 'b' seeming rather trite in comparison.

So again, why pick 'b' ?

Well. on the 'third thought', we must ask ourselves what are the consequences/impact of the transgressions? As I see it, 'a' can ruin a marriage and destroy at least one, maybe two families. Would it be true to state that 'b' can facilitate the behavior found in 'a', and thus promote opportunities for many such 'a' situations? Or would to so state be an exaggeration? I think not. Why not?

Let's ask ourselves what the reverse of the 'b' would mean. It would mean that anyone engaging in 'a' would run a much higher risk of being found out. While this (or even a herd of wild horses in some cases) would never completely stop some subset of a population from engaging in 'a' behaviors, it would serve to dampen the occurence of 'a' behaviors.

The absence of situation 'a' prevents harm to a specific group of people.
the absence of 'b' situation prevents harm to a much larger group of people.

Thus, while either is bad, 'b' is worse.

Any thoughts out there?

Forgot to mention: the poll results at the time I voted were running about 2 to 1 for 'b'.