Category Archives: Ethics

The consequences of loyalty

When rules and consequences clash, we had better weigh up carefully what matters most When a pandemic is wreaking havoc, and many hundreds of people are killed by a virus every day, it is important that the population as a … Continue reading

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Rule(r)s of our decisions

Rules may help us make better choices, but they can also restrict our freedom. That makes for complex situations In these tense coronavirus times, job losses are, sadly, not big news in general. When it concerns the Chief Medical Officer … Continue reading

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On viruses and trolleys

(featured image: NIAID CC BY and withvengeance86 CC BY) We can catch a virus on a trolley, but there is another connection – or why we sometimes must think the unthinkable The coronavirus, in the meantime rechristened COVID-19 by the … Continue reading

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The needs of the many

(featured image: Isriya Paireepairit CC BY) Rules and laws matter, and they often matter even more when we don’t like them – because they protect the needs of the many against attacks by the powerful few The works of William … Continue reading

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Unjust deserts

(featured image: Aimee Ray CC BY) Many people see meritocracy as a worthy ideal: everyone gets what they deserve. Luck can mess this up: it is, by definition, something we don’t deserve. But is it really that simple? Imagine you … Continue reading

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Matters of Life and Death

(featured image: Andrea Kirkby CC BY) Sometimes a decision of life and death is not just a metaphor. What can we learn from people who genuinely face them? In September 2007, Sampson Parker had to make a really difficult decision. … Continue reading

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A tale of bad luck and good fortune

(featured image credit: abby chicken CC BY) Wat does a harrowing story reaching the news headlines tell us about our individual and collective response to people affected by fate? Baby Pia is 9 months old. She lives in Antwerp, Belgium, … Continue reading

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A nudger’s unease

(featured image: Andrew Barclay CC BY) Should different norms apply when it is charities doing the nudging? In an old Russian fable, a frog is sitting on the bank of the river, when a scorpion approaches, asking whether the frog … Continue reading

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It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it

(featured image credit: Ron Cogswell CC BY) Can we communicate and not manipulate? I first encountered behavioural science many decades ago – long before I discovered Kahneman, Thaler, Ariely and co. Moreover, it was not even in an academic paper, … Continue reading

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The trouble with tax

(featured image credit: Archives of Ontario CC BY) Taxation affects the economy, because it affects our behaviour. Is that impossible to avoid? Taxes are generally considered to be an inevitability, as the words of Benjamin Franklin, written in 1789, remind … Continue reading

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