Nation of Beancounters

It’s funny how a man’s principles coincide with his self interest

Posted in Incentives Matter by Navin Kumar on November 6, 2012

Psychologist/behavioral economist Dan Ariely discovers something about himself:

Three days after publication of my new book , The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, I was able to find electronic copies on a few websites that specialize in illegal content…

Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the “Information wants to be free” end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience. Maybe Information finds complete freedom too threatening, I thought, and maybe it would rather be a bit more protected. It was a very clear example of how my own views of morality are biased – as are everybody’s — based on our immediate perspective.

I think we can conclude that the “he’s making money off X because his beliefs are thus” argument doesn’t apply here.

My own beliefs about piracy are as follows: piracy is theft. Good people do not steal. I am not a good person.

Does this make me more or less principled than Ariely?


(Disclaimer: this is not meant to beat on Ariely, a brilliant man. The notion that one’s beliefs legitimately change with new information and experiences is not one I’m challenging.)


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