People Aren’t All Bad – Cheating Case Study

In the video we featured Friday, Harvard’s Jeffery Miron says that libertarians generally distrust government attempts to force people to be better. There are lots of reasons for that, for instance institutional problems of regulatory capture, classic rent-seeking, and many, many others.

There’s also a more positive reason to be suspicious; people just aren’t as bad as we think. For instance, given the chance to cheat, most people willfully opt not to. Give it to me nasty, brutish, and short, National Post:

To test how accurate people are in predicting moral decision-making, researcher Rimma Teper and her colleagues split 67 U of T students into three groups and hooked them up to machines that would test the level of sweat on their palms, their breathing and their heart rate.

On average, people in the predictor group said they would cheat on five out of the 15 questions.

In the moral dilemma group, on average, members cheated on only one question. Their physiological responses were also higher than the dilemma group, meaning their emotions were showing through quickened breath, heartbeat and sweaty palms.

The doctors talk a little about how this indicates emotions control our actions. For instance, you guys, seriously, telling the truth is like, totally difficult, sometimes. SCIENCE.

Civilization might be one proverbial meal away from chaos, but the good news is there are a couple billion of us looking out for where that next meal will come from. Lots of government programs are solutions to vastly overstated problems. Think about that the next time someone tries to sell you on the dire consequences of inaction. Especially considering they probably aren’t predicting very well.

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