Only the young and the saints are uncompromised. Everyone else has tried to do something in the world and eventually slipped up (or just been associated with someone else who slipped up).
Say that you are compromised if it is easy for someone to shame you. This takes lots of forms:
- "We are all sinners", say the Christians.
- "We are all privileged", say the identitarians.
- "We all have some self-serving motives", says everyone sensible.
- "Even just living quietly we destroy things", say the environmentalists.
- "Even our noblest actions fall horribly short of the mark", say the EAs.
But this is the normal course of a life, including highly moral lives. (Part of this normality comes from shame usually being a common sense matter - and common sense morals correlate with actual harm, but are often wrong in the precise ways this movement is devoted to countering!)
But the greater part of it being normal is that all action incurs risk, including moral risk. We do our best to avoid them (and in my experience grantmakers are vigilant about negative EV things), but you can't avoid it entirely. (Again: total inaction also does not avoid it.) Empirically, this risk level is high enough that nearly everyone eventually bites it.
- The EU is a Nobel peace prize winning organisation you might have heard of. But their Common Agricultural Policy causes billions of dollars of damage to poor-world farmers, and has been called a "crime against humanity".
- Mother Theresa's well-resourced clinics and hospices were remarkably incompetent and rarely prescribed pain medication, apparently under the belief that suffering brings us closer to God.
- Gandhi's (and Nehru's) economic policies perpetuated poverty to the tune of millions of dead children equivalents.
- The American labour hero Cesar Chavez sold out undocumented Mexicans and opposed immigration in a classic protectionist scheme.
- The Vatican.
- and so on.
Despite appearances, this isn't a tu quoque defence of FTX! The point is to set the occasionally appropriate recriminations of the last month in context. You will make mistakes, and people will rightly hold you to them. It will feel terrible. If you join a movement it will embarrass you eventually. Sorry.
(Someone could use the above argument to licence risky behaviour - "in for a penny". But of course, like anything, being compromised is a matter of degree. Higher degrees are to be avoided fervently, insofar as they are downstream of actual harm, which they probably are.)
Quite true, since we are all living now rather than say under feudalism.
Maybe this sounds like a strawman to you, but consider our disdain for Mackenzie Scott giving her wealth to poor and artsy Americans.
What's a prior then, if the incidence is 99%?
Say 70 years in which to disgrace yourself. How many actions per year? Well, one tweet can do it, so potentially thousands. Call it 300.
99% / 21000 = a 0.005% risk of compromise per-action. Clearly a very fragile estimate.
He was also very racist, but this isn't the sort of thing that can plausibly fall under understandable moral risk.
also sometimes wrongly
I await a quantification of compromise, so that we can integrate it into our pretend calculi.