[ Question ]

Can the moral circle be expanded through economic security and/or political trust?

by Jan-WillemvanPutten1 min read13th Apr 20211 comment


Moral circle expansionEconomic growthCause prioritization

Hello all!

I just finished reading some forum posts on MCE. I was especially triggered by (the excerpt of) a valuable response by John Maxwell:

"The expanding circle is a side effect of the world growing wealthier. As lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy are met, people care more about humanitarian issues. (I'm assuming that genetic relatedness predicts where on the hierarchy another being falls.) Conquest is less common now because it's more profitable to control a multinational company than control lots of territory. Slavery is less common because unskilled laborers are less of an asset & more of a liability, and it's hard to coerce skilled labor. Violence has declined because sub-replacement fertility means we're no longer in a zero-sum competition for resources."

I also stumbled upon the Sentience Institute, which seems to focus more on moral circle expansion towards animals. However, I am mainly interested in moral circle expansion towards future humans or human-like species that enables long termist policies. Observing voting and social behaviour within western / rich societies give me the feeling that richer people with more political trust seem to care more about stuff like preventing climate change, strong measures against the current pandemic or preventing future pandemics and global peace. In other words, the working class seems to increasingly vote for (semi-)populist, climate change / COVID denying parties with a strong appetite for nationalist policies. A lot has been written about possible causes of the latter, e.g. about the role of income inequality, psychological traits and political trust.

I don't want to fall into the trap of suspicious convergence, but I wonder if effective interventions that focus on creating economic security (e.g. UBI) or restoring political trust (e.g. citizen councils) should be prioritised from a long termist perspective. I am looking for research that looks into the following three seperate hypotheses:

  1. The moral circle (especially regarding future generations) can be expanded through increasing economic security and political trust
  2. A broader electoral base / majority for long termist policies (on climate change, pandemics and global peace) is a prerequisite for actual implementation of long termist policies 
  3. There are effective interventions to increase economic security and/or political trust that could be implemented more broadly 

 Many thanks for your help!


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1 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:49 PM

I think one should distinguish between whether wealthier countries are more progressive, and whether wealthier individuals within a country are more progressive.

Wealthier countries do seem more progressive, on plausible definitions on those notions (but that leaves the issue of causality).

Whether wealthier individuals are more progressive than their compatriots is a tricky issue. One factor is education, which is associated with both wealth and progressive views. See this interesting paper by Piketty.