Dilbert does morality

Scott Adams, in only a semi-tongue-in-cheek way, provides his own take on our evaluations of life-style and inequality. You will see over the fold how cuttingly close to home this is and I hope it might give you more than a moment’s pause. (To you too, John Howard in thinking that we can possibly separate out economics from the environment).

Imagine you could make fuel out of poor people. The only downside is that the poor people have to be converted to a combustible liquid in the process. Imagine that although there are many alternatives to using poor people as fuel, those alternatives cost way more. In fact, the alternatives are so much more expensive, widespread use would impact your standard of living by about twenty percent.

Obviously using humans for fuel would be wrong and you wouldn’t do it. But I’m not done confusing your moral compass.

Now let’s say the people who are used as fuel are volunteers, of a sort. For every twenty people who volunteer to become SUV fuel, only one will be randomly selected. The other nineteen get a host of benefits including pensions and paid educations. Let’s say human fuel is so economical that one human converted to fuel pays for the benefits to the other nineteen. And the one poor person fuels an entire town’s energy needs for a year.

In this scenario, you’d be powering your car with liquefied poor people, but your conscience would be cleared by the knowledge they all volunteered. It’s a free country. They took the chance of being one of the nineteen lucky ones, but it didn’t work out. Some volunteered because they thought it was their best chance for upward mobility. Some thought it was their patriotic duty. But it was their decision. No one forced them.

Let’s say the politicians argue that in the long run, this policy of using poor people for fuel will save lives. The thinking is that we’ll eventually develop other fuel sources, but for now we need the strong economy to pay for health care and a strong national defense against terrorists and whatnot. All of the volunteers are hailed as heroes.

Under those conditions would you use poor people to fuel your car?