Moral Luck

on Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The following moral problem is currently listed at Wikipedia as an "unsolved" moral dilemma:

"There are two people driving cars, Driver A, and Driver B. They are alike in every way. Driver A is driving down a road, and, in a second of inattention, runs a red light as an old lady is crossing the street. Driver A slams the brakes, swerves, in short, does everything to try to avoid hitting the woman – alas, she hits the woman and kills her. Driver B, in the meantime, also runs a red light, but since no woman is crossing, he gets a traffic ticket, but nothing more.

If a bystander were asked to morally evaluate Drivers A and B, there is very good reason to expect him or her to say that Driver A is due more moral blame than Driver B. After all, his or her course of action resulted in a death, whereas the course of action taken by Driver B was quite uneventful. However, there are absolutely no differences in the controllable actions performed by Drivers A and B. The only disparity is that in the case of Driver A, an external uncontrollable event occurred, whereas it did not in the case of Driver B. The external uncontrollable event, of course, is the woman crossing the street. In other words, there is no difference at all in what the two of them could have done – however, one seems clearly more to blame than the other. How does this occur?"

I think the morality is easily resolved; this is why gambling education should be part of grade school educations.  To a gambler, the responsibility and punishment for both drivers is the same.  To gamble well, one has to make correct actions and be unattached to the consequences of the action.  If you put all your money in with Aces, it was the correct thing to do.  If you play every hand you should expect to lose.  Our legal and moral system should reflect this.  A driver that is careless is punished, drivers that are careful are not, and the results (accidents) are not relevant, only the driver's actions matter.