## Saturday, June 19, 2021

### The Mathematics of Responsibility

I want to offer two, pair-wise comparisons for your consideration.

Suppose you are driving out-West down a road that sees little traffic. After you crest a rise you see a person who is obviously in distress. Maybe it is a car with the hood raised. Maybe you can tell by looking that it is a health-related issue. Maybe they just shot a moose and cannot get it into the back of their truck by themselves.

Next, suppose you are driving in the right lane down a seven lane, urban artery through an area rich in retail outlets and apartment buildings. Traffic opens up a little bit so you have enough extra processing ability to see a person who is in obvious distress.

Questions: Are you equally likely to render aid to either person? Are you equally likely to render the same intensity of aid, that is, would you render personal aid to one but only dial 9-1-1 for the other?

Research suggests that the motorist stranded on the desolate road is likely to receive aid before the one stranded on the busy road. The passing motorists are able to convince themselves that "somebody else" will help the one on the busy road. The researchers coined the term "Dilution of responsibility".

Second pair-wise comparison

You are on a jury. The man accused of murdering Rachel MacHoarder is a drifter who reminds you of your opportunistic cousin Big Jim. When Big Jim goes to the Men's Room while others are paying, you wait for him because he intends to steal the tips you left for the waitress. The drifter has a history of petty theft; stealing unattended smartphones and the like.

Old Mrs MacHoarder lived on Elm Street and was notable for wearing the same three outfits throughout the year. The youngest of the outfits was twenty years old.

Somehow, the drifter had heard that MacHoarder had a vast sum of cash in her house. When captured, the drifter admitted that he had only found two dollar bills and a quarter.

Versus

When captured, the drifter had \$2.2 million dollars in the back of his van.

Questions: In the first case, is your immediate reaction that the accused is a menace because he is a threat to EVERYBODY (including a threat to you) because everybody has that amount of loose change in their homes.

In the second case, did a tiny part of you think that Rachel MacHoarder was at least partially responsible for her own demise because she was stupid to have \$2.2 million in cash on her property?

The researchers have a name for that mental processing shortcut: The Heuristic of Imaginability. You can imagine the drifter as a threat in one case but not-so-much in the other.

Combining the two comparisons

Suppose a scammer figures out a way to skin every resident of Michigan for two-dollars and twenty-five cents. In total he would net about \$20 million. Not a big deal, right? Everybody can spare \$2. See...you even let me drop the quarter, the amount is so trivial.

What if a thousand other scammers used the same basic scam and also net \$2.25 per resident. In total, every resident is injured to a tune of about \$22k.

If you were to remove \$22k from every one of Michigan's 9 million residents, it would lead to the deaths of some. Some would not be able to afford their rent or house-payment. Some would not be able to afford their medicine. Some would be unable to afford their vehicles and have to trade down to rust-bucket death-traps and so on.

One way to look at the problem is to say "God chose which people died and so each scammer has a vanishingly small sliver of responsibility."

The other way to look at the problem is to say "There are a thousand-and-one scammers who murdered people (perhaps even my wife) to put two more dollars in their pocket."

The fundamental question is: Is the mathematics of responsibility the math of sugar in KOOL-AID or the math of poop in the punchbowl?

1. Morality demands responsibility...

Ignoring small crimes breeds larger crimes.

Failing to enforce punishment enables and emboldens criminals

Public officials shirking THEIR responsibility to do the job of protecting the innocent from the criminals is in itself criminal.

We are so far through the looking glass, we can divine the true intent of politicians acts and laws by sumlply applying the inverse of the title odf the law

Affordble Care Act

Patriot act, blatantly unconstitutional

Also, we are not going to vote this better.

The swamp creatures will not allow it.

You cannot storm DC, but all politics is local.

Prep accordingly.

2. I will stop and help the rural person. Even though both of us will never, ever get that moose in the truck by ourselves.

I WILL not stop for anyone in an urban area. I WILL NOT risk being shot, or having to shoot some feral who wouldn't piss on me if I were on fire.

3. As always, situation dependent... Re the drifter, there was a 'bag lady' who was around the area I worked in, in Northern Virginia. One day I was in the bank and happened to be in line behind her. She wrote out a check and gave it to the teller to deposit in another account. The manager saw me watching and after she left, told me the 'bag lady' sent a considerable sum to her daughter every month to care for a disabled child... Never underestimate a person based on their mode of dress.

4. These scenarios.....and the reactions that often occur....are just more evidence that humans as a species are emotional, irrational and for the most part NOT an intelligent species. We are CLEVER, not intelligent. There is a world of difference.

Readers who are willing to comment make this a better blog. Civil dialog is a valuable thing.