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One of the important debates in macroeconomics is whether micro-foundations matter. For example, people like me argue that it makes no sense to talk of “GDP” as a single good with all units alike, and it certainly makes less sense to talk of “their” price. I know why we “have” to have these discussions, but it does not follow that the model is right.

I got to thinking about another issue that is analogous to this but with far more unpleasant implications. The issue is nonetheless an issue of composition. I overheard a student talking about how population was overrunning the planet. I suppose his future efforts to mitigate population growth will make him a humanitarian. Now, this final thought is not original to me, but consider if we asked the student to answer which particular people he is talking about … he’s not such a humanitarian anymore now is he. So which is the right view? You know the position I take on it.

2 Responses to “Humanitarian or Moral Beast?”

  1. Harry says:

    Humanitarian is an empty word.

    Unless we are Peter Singer, who believes rocks have equal rights with humans, any pro-human point of view will do. How cannot one be opposed to St. Theresa, or St. Francis?

    Ergo, it follows among certain folks in the academy that humanism is a value to be revered as an axiom, that man is the measure of all things, and there are no other values. Nietzche picked up on this idea, as did Hegel and Marx. But I digress.

    The Nobel Peace Prize has honored many folk for their humanitarian contributions — Willy Brandt, Russian spy; the honorable Yassir Arafat; and others who have less blood under their fingernails.

    I have no wish to be remembered as a humanitarian. If I can convince a few people that freedom is a transcendent value, I shall be happy.

    This comment does not presume my religious convictions.

  2. Michael says:

    Obviously it makes sense to save the enlightened people, and to re-educate the rest. If re-education doesn’t work, then we can let nature take it’s course through sterilizing the surplus population, unless they are too much of a threat and harsher measures are required. (What’s real scary, is that people had and do think this way.)

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