Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

The Hazard of Environmental Morality

| Dec. 24, 2018

One pillar of conservative policy doctrine is that moral hazards should be avoided at all costs. Criticisms of universal health care, for example, are based on the idea that shielding individuals from some of the consequences of their decisions creates an incentive for riskier behavior. Many take the argument one step further, equating moral hazard with moral failing: government policy, the argument goes, makes people too dependent on handouts and crowds out personal responsibility.

The left is not immune to such lines of argument, either. On that side, the criticism typically focuses on policies that appear to free individuals from the responsibility of doing what’s right in the name of the common good. We all know, one argument goes, that we need to change our fossil-fueled lifestyles to stop climate change. Policies that encourage biking more and driving less, for example, are moral. Those that free individuals to do what they want (especially if it runs counter to the common good) are not....

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Wagner, Gernot and Christine Merk.“The Hazard of Environmental Morality.” Foreign Policy, December 24, 2018.

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