Market Goods - Moral Wrongs: Do People Self - Justify Uncomfortable Normative Positions?
39 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 18, 2017
What are the types of considerations people emphasize when they are justifying normative positions that are hard to justify? What considerations would people emphasize when defending or objecting to consensual agreements formed under conditions of economic inequality?
We set up an experiment to explore the ways in which people justify normatively uncomfortable positions related to consensual agreements formed under conditions of economic inequality. We choose four types of consensual practices that are all legal and all pose normative challenges as to whether and how they should be regulated: surrogate pregnancy, income inequality between managers and employees within an organization, live-in care work and the division of household labor between spouses. The sample for the study is a large, random, representative sample of the U.S. population. Because of the large sample and the experimental design, this study offers both the internal validity that characterizes experiments conducted in controlled settings, and the external validity that characterizes studies of large random samples of the population. We find that when defending a relatively unfair agreement between parties – in which the harm to dignity is greater- participants give more weight to autonomy related considerations that support their position, and less weight to dignity related considerations compared to when defending a relatively fair agreement. The participants who object to the agreements presented to them behave differently: Participants who object to relatively fair agreements that pose a relatively small harm to dignity give less weight to dignity related arguments – that support their position – and more to autonomy related arguments, compared to the participants who object to relatively unfair practices. In other words, when defending their position – which is harder to justify – of objecting to an agreement that involves a relatively small harm to dignity, participants do not give more weight to dignity related arguments that could have strengthened their position.
Keywords: self justification, normative evaluations, contracts
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