The best trolley problem for our times!


I like this one.

Gosh. What should the person at the switch do? If you’re a Republican, you might have to think about it for a while.

Comments

  1. consciousness razor says

    It’s best to think outside the box with these things.
    (1) Pull the switch to stop the trolley.
    (2) The people are tied down, so you can easily take whatever possessions they may have.
    (3) Give that to Trolley Corp. as a reimbursement for temporarily disrupting the essential service they provide to society, which is of course running over people tied to its tracks.
    (4) Pull the switch back again to start the trolley.
    (5) After it passes, install more people on the tracks for the next time the trolley comes around.

  2. Larry says

    If you are republican and you do have to ponder a bit before taking any action, just think of those people tied to the tracks as grandparents, or old people. Since the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, considers them expendable, you should now have no problem is deciding the most prudent course of action. The pocketbooks of the shareholders will thank you.

  3. laurian says

    Fucking bingo.

    Once more, homicide in the service of self-defense is not a crime.

  4. coldhardrealist says

    No, a Republican would not have to think about it for a while. He’d speed the trolley up to full capacity.

  5. Resh Haverstahm says

    A Republican in the vicinity of public transportation? Pull the other one.

  6. lotharloo says

    The answer is obvious. You let the trolley run because the invisible hand of the market will take over and eventually another company will make another trolley that is not running over people and this trolley company will lose customers …, well except a niche customer base who like to run over people, but then, the total number of people killed will be less than the number killed by sharks or something something.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    CD #8
    Did you watch the TV series The Good Place?
    It had an episode about the trolley problem.

  8. consciousness razor says

    Reuters:

    “I don’t have a need for an equity stake,” Calhoun told Fox Business. “If they force it, we just look at all the other options and we’ve got plenty of them.”

    Boeing has sought $60 billion in U.S. government loans for itself and the aerospace industry. Congress could reach agreement on a stimulus and rescue package worth up to $2 trillion to respond to the massive economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic as soon as today.

    “There are a lot of options for us in the private markets etcetera, but the credit markets have to be open,” Calhoun told CNBC, noting that Boeing “has $15 billion in the bank.”

    U.S. lawmakers have said they could demand equity, warrants or options as a condition of government loans.

    “If they attach too many things to do it, of course you take a different course.” he told Fox Business.

    But also, they really need our money and we need to hand it over, or else “the economy” will be bad.

  9. says

    Are these the same people who were so “concerned” about death panels under Obamacare? (Yes, I know the answer: yes.)

  10. says

    Isn’t the financial advice we get is to have 3 to 6 months expenses saved up if there is a layoff? Corporations should have saved some money instead of buying back stock.

  11. zippythepinhead says

    First of all, those people are clearly trespassing on the trolley’s right-of-way. The trolley company is in no way responsible for harm or loss of life and limbs for anyone on the tracks. Second, the one time payment to the estates of the deceased, which in no way implies responsibility for this incident, is a tax write-off, so that’s a win-win. Finally, the company has transferred any employees involved to non-rope, non-track, non-Snidely Whiplash positions in the organization. Our policy regarding the hiring of stereotype villainous kidnappers is under review.

  12. numerobis says

    In fairness, we do put a price on life when it comes to various things like roadway safety improvements.

    The price is around $10 million in the US. I’m sure you could find a much lower price on life when calculating pipelines going through reservation water supplies but it still would be there.

    If we take the $10 million, then avoiding coronavirus disaster is worth tens of trillions. So, 100% of annual GDP or more.

  13. wzrd1 says

    Remind the chap at the switch that the folks tied to the track have family members who are:
    1: Quite fond of them and will consider it remiss if something bad, such as a trolley ran over them.
    2: Just bought a bunch of shiny new guns and a hundred thousand rounds of ammunition for them in the current buying panic for firearms.
    3: Joined a militia that promised that their beloved family members will be safe.
    4: Choose swiftly and wisely, ignore all of those metallic racking and clicking sounds around him or her.

    Seek a lower elevation, as things are likely to get very, very loud, quite abruptly as the idiot takes an excessive amount of time to consider those facts.

    Personally, I’d partially throw the switch and between trucks, switch back, derailing the trolley and making future runs impossible due to track damage.

  14. says

    I can scarcely believe what I am reading! At we all lost sight of the fact that these are human beings we are talking about here? Human beings whose organs are worth a lot of money, but only if they are intact? How much do you think those hearts, livers, eyes, would be worth if you ran over them? No self-respecting businessman would push that lever forward without first considering the monetary consequences of his thoughtless impetuosa t.

  15. nomadiq says

    I wonder if Sam Harris saw this and got an instant hand-on about how the answer isn’t obvious.

    Of course the answer is obvious

  16. GenghisFaun says

    What I don’t get is, if the Repugnantans pull the plug on seniors, aren’t they killing half their voter base?

  17. raven says

    I wonder if Sam Harris saw this…

    He didn’t.
    He would immediately correct this trolley problem.

    The people tied up on the track are all illegal immigrant Muslims from Guatemala.
    A white Nationalist Patriot has a hydrogen bomb that will blow up and kill 10 million American citizens.
    Unless the trolley runs over the illegal immigrant Muslims.
    Choice is clear, 10 million American citizens or 20 illegals, dead.

    (Sam Harris is famous for the realism in his trolley type problems.)

  18. numerobis says

    GenghisFaun: nah, only about 15% of their older supporters will outright die. Most will survive to election day and vote enthusiastically for the party that tried to kill them.

  19. says

    Change it to Climate Change, healthcare, student loan debt, or war, and apparently the Democrats wouldn’t want to pull the switch either — or, at least, if they did they wouldn‘t be in process of nominating Biden, who has said he will refuse to take any serious steps to address any of those problems because it would cost too much. (And this is during the primaries, before he takes the inevitable hard-right turn post-convention.)

    At this point, Democrats have no right to mock Republicans. Both parties want everyone under the age of 50 to die horribly in a couple of decades; what happens between now and then is largely immaterial.

  20. says

    @numerobis:

    If you want people to stop saying that both sides are terrible, then you have to actually provide a side which isn’t terrible. Joe Biden insisting that the primaries can’t be postponed because of the coronavirus and actively disseminating disinformation about it to encourage people to go out and vote makes a total mockery of his statement a week later condemning Trump. They’re funded by the same billionaires (literally — we now have the list of who donated to Biden’s PAC and it’s a bunch of Trump supporters), preferred by the same voter blocs (the old and the rich, basically), and both think that it’s fine for people to die as long as the deaths happen somewhere else or after they’re no longer alive. Fuck ’em both, and fuck anybody who says “this is good enough, everybody has to fall in line”.

  21. Stuart Smith says

    It’s weird, because we always operate like this, and suddenly people are noticing. Lives have never mattered more than corporate profits before, why would people expect it to be different this time?

  22. John Morales says

    The Vicar:

    If you want people to stop saying that both sides are terrible, then you have to actually provide a side which isn’t terrible.

    Um, either one side or the other will gain power in the next election.
    That’s about as certain as can be.

    So it comes down to the degree of terribleness, given that one must endorse one or neither.
    And, while it would be more perverse to endorse the greater over the lesser than to endorse neither, endorsing neither is still perverse.

    IOW, carry on decrying both as terrible, but it would be seemly to at least acknowledge one is less terrible. Which you hardly ever do; indeed (and worse yet) you advocate not endorsing the lesser evil.

  23. unclefrogy says

    @34
    you are right it is in essence how things are done.
    why now the reaction you ask?
    Most of the time the decisions the trad offs are kind of hidden, behind close doors, or long tedious debates and obtuse language written by lawyers and lobbyists.
    The trade offs are made to appear a long way off and wont include you.
    this time it is simple, it is occurring right now and no add / sales talk can cover up the truth.
    it is as if they were trying to put the pipe line through while it was spewing all over everyone and them saying not to pay attention.
    I will also say in my opinion the economy especially wall street is somewhat of a Potemkin village, they have grown corporate profits and share prices but the market has not changed much in size nor is it prospering. (by market I mean those that buy products and services)
    uncle frogy

  24. KG says

    The Vicar@31,

    apparently the Democrats wouldn’t want to pull the switch either — or, at least, if they did they wouldn‘t be in process of nominating Biden

    It’s the voters in Democratic primaries, and those who could have voted but didn’t who are doing that – and that includes poor people and young people in large numbers. I agree with you, it’s a terrible decision, but it’s simply an evasion of reality to blame it on the Democratic establishment.

    Both parties want everyone under the age of 50 to die horribly in a couple of decades; what happens between now and then is largely immaterial.

    I don’t know of any relevant expert who thinks climate change, or any of the other problems you list, is going to lead to everyone dying horribly in a couple of decades. But if they do, many – probably most – of your favourite target group will be among them. It really is about time you grew up.

  25. consciousness razor says

    KG:

    It’s the voters in Democratic primaries, and those who could have voted but didn’t who are doing that – and that includes poor people and young people in large numbers. I agree with you, it’s a terrible decision, but it’s simply an evasion of reality to blame it on the Democratic establishment.

    Voter suppression is a part of that reality. A long tradition of disregard toward people called “non-voters” or “unlikely voters,” as opposed to those labeled “likely voters,” is a part of that reality. The establishment doing everything it could to hurt Sanders and help Biden is also a part of that reality.

    When I bring up “the establishment,” I typically don’t mean only our politicians who get a (D) next to their names on a ballot. In recent years, even many who have or had an (R) next to their names are also relevant, but it’s not just them either…. There are also wealthy donors and lobbyists, members of think tanks and other political organizations, various quasi-independent “experts” and pundits and authors who make frequent appearances in all forms of mass media, and many of our so-called “journalists” on television and in print and radio and throughout the intertubes. I don’t think we should evade that aspect of reality either. They are all responsible.

    When a person is lied to, or is otherwise manipulated by others with various flavors of bullshit and deception — particularly when the latter is a large and coordinated group of high-profile, highly-regarded “leaders” of all sorts — then we shouldn’t hold that person responsible (at least not solely responsible) for making a bad decision based off of the bad information they were given.

  26. billseymour says

    We seem to have drifted from the original trolley problem (which, I agree, is exquisite) to the more general matter of Sanders supporters vs. Joey Bros.

    I certainly agree that, on matters like warmongering and support for the oligarchy, Republicans and “establishment” Democrats are largly indistinguishable; but it seems to me that the median Democrat is much better than the median Republican on what are called “social issues” (racism, sexism, etc.). On balance, that seems to me to be a reason to hold my nose and vote for Biden in November.

  27. consciousness razor says

    billyseymour:

    I certainly agree that, on matters like warmongering and support for the oligarchy, Republicans and “establishment” Democrats are largly indistinguishable; but it seems to me that the median Democrat is much better than the median Republican on what are called “social issues” (racism, sexism, etc.). On balance, that seems to me to be a reason to hold my nose and vote for Biden in November.

    1) Biden isn’t “the median Democrat,” so you would not be voting for “the median Democrat.” He is on the right end of the spectrum, to the extent he can even be nailed down to anything coherent (admittedly, not such a large extent as one might hope).
    2) A politician’s stated position on these “social issues” you mention is often insignificant, compared to what they actually do. All too often, what they say is just blatant pandering (whether they’re Ds or Rs).
    3) Even when it’s not pandering, it’s often ill-conceived or counterproductive. Many items are so reactionary, so narrowly tailored to the predominant narrative at a given moment, that they aren’t even intended to address the larger structural problems we actually face. (Yes, even in cases when they use “structural” language.)
    4) Biden’s record on those same issues is pretty repugnant, whether we’re talking about what he’s explicitly said publicly and publicly for nearly 50 years, or whether it’s about his actions in the legislature and the administration over the same period. If you try very hard, you might sincerely believe somebody has had a “road to Damascus” type conversion story when they were 60 or 70 years old, despite everything they did in the past, but it is still difficult to see them as anything like a credible or competent leader in regard to such matters.
    5) You didn’t say anything about how to distinguish them on economic or class issues (if, for the sake of argument, that could be done for Rs and moderate/right-wing Ds). Many if not most “social” issues do boil down to economic ones. That is how you can appropriately and constructively address them in the political sphere, which will make a big difference in an ordinary person’s life. But rather than talking coherently about class and doing something useful about it, they sometimes pretend like it’s not even a thing worth that’s worth mentioning.

  28. consciousness razor says

    lost in the edit: “what he’s explicitly said openly and publicly for nearly 50 years”

  29. billseymour says

    consciousness razor makes some good points most of which I agree with.

    As a practical matter, some time between now and November, I’m going to have to decide between Biden and “abstain”. At present, I’m leaning toward Biden, but a lot can happen between now and the election.

    Biden isn’t “the median Democrat,” …

    I think I remember an article on 538 (although I can’t find it now) that claimed that Biden’s actual legislative votes have pretty much always been the same as the vote of the median Democrat. I think they were claiming that he doesn’t really have any firm positions of his own, but rather just “goes with the flow”. At least, that was my takeaway.

    It’s certainly possible that he’ll have a rightward shift after the election. An even if he doesn’t, he’ll almost certainly gormlessly begin negotiations with something he thinks the Republicans will accept. That’s my main fear. (And, of course, Moscow Mitch won’t accept anything at all regardless of content. Much more important than electing a president is flipping the Senate. Neither of Missouri’s senators will be up for election this time, so, unfortunately, I won’t be able to help in that regard.)

  30. billseymour says

    Oh, yes; P.S.

    I vote in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, which is gerrymandered Republican; but it looks like we might have a strong Democratic challenger to oust Ann Wagner. We came close, but didn’t quite get there, in ’18.

  31. consciousness razor says

    I vote in Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, which is gerrymandered Republican; but it looks like we might have a strong Democratic challenger to oust Ann Wagner. We came close, but didn’t quite get there, in ’18.

    Well, that would be a good thing. Six out of eight US reps from MO are Republicans. Wagner, Luetkemeyer, Hartzler, Graves, Long, Smith — the whole lot needs to be tossed out. Both US Senators are Republicans, but unfortunately neither is up for election this year.

    Don’t forget the governor (Parson, after Greitens resigned) has an election this year too. Based on wiki, it looks like Nicole Galloway is a pretty good candidate for the Dems: a young woman, the state auditor, with a decent record, currently the only Dem statewide elected official in MO.

    The MO state legislature is also a Republican-dominated mess. Lots of important work to do.

  32. billseymour says

    consciousness razor seems to know quite a bit about Missouri politics. Everything he said is correct.

    … the governor (Parson, after Greitens resigned) …

    I confess to being partly responsible for Greitens. I voted in the Republican primary that year (in my district, for down-ballot races, that’s the only election that actually matters); and I voted for Greitens (in the primary, not the general) because I thought that “Rhodes scholar” meant something. (Actually, it probably does mean something, but I’ve learned not to infer from that anything about individuals.)

  33. dianne says

    An apt analogy: the first thing that’s going to happen when the switch is pulled is that the trolley will plow into a bunch of people and be derailed. There is no way to save the trolley, the choice is a ruined trolley company with or without a bunch of corpses. There is no way to stop a depression, probably world wide, at this point. The only question is how many people will die in futile attempts to stop it.

  34. billseymour says

    I like dianne’s analogy @48, but it’s incomplete. In the real world, derailments are not exceedingly rare and certainly don’t destroy railroad companies. Railroads plan for derailments and have all the necessary equipment ready to respond.

    To make the analogy even more apt:  the Trolly Company has deliberately sold off all its rerailring equipment for a quick infusion of cash. (The stated reason probably had something to do with all those commies in Deep Maintenance of Way.)

  35. says

    @#35, John Morales:

    I never vote against. I only vote for. The Democrats will absolutely lose my vote with Joe Biden — I wouldn’t get out of bed for Biden, let alone out of the house and down to the polling station.

    They will pretty certainly also turn off the youth vote, since Biden’s campaign in a nutshell is “hey, old people, let’s see if we can give the finger to the young just one more time before we die”. He has no solutions to any problems, and the non-solution policies he champions — like the ACA — are being demonstrated in real time to be failures as we speak. (See PZ’s post on insurance today.) His entire career, he has backed bad policy which has made things worse — his crime bill, NAFTA, the Iraq war, the creation and expansion of ICE, just to name a few — and it is becoming impossible to ignore the fact that he hasn’t learned a damn thing; his judgement is still disastrously bad.

    And the fun thing is: Biden is being selected by the old and the rich. Those are his voting bloc. In the general election, we know who the old and the rich are going to vote for: Trump. Hands down. The only way for Democrats to win is to get out the young, and Biden is losing them by 50+ points in every primary so far; to suggest that he’ll be able to get them to turn out in the general in even the same numbers that they’re turning out in the primaries — which is already low — is madness. (And the Republicans know this, and have been financially backing him — Biden’s PAC was mostly funded by Trump-supporting Republicans.)

    (Or, if you prefer voter registration: Independents don’t like Biden any more than Trump. Democratic-leaning Independents became Independents instead of Democrats because they hate the sort of people who make up the DNC, and Joe Biden is basically a sock puppet with the DNC’s hand inside. Sanders polls a lot better with Independents — and his numbers are going up right now, because unlike Biden he’s actually trying to do something about the coronavirus crisis, while Biden is literally on TV claiming he has no coronavirus symptoms between coughs.)

  36. says

    @#43, billseymour

    I think I remember an article on 538 (although I can’t find it now) that claimed that Biden’s actual legislative votes have pretty much always been the same as the vote of the median Democrat.

    Then 538 is, at best, being disingenuous by refusing to address his influence on legislation — or are you claiming that until 2010 the median Democrat was strongly anti-abortion (Biden was one of the people insisting that the ACA had to be amended to exclude abortion, and got Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court because Thomas was, like him, anti-abortion), pro-incarceration (Biden loves to lock people up), pro-war (over two thirds of Democrats were polled as being against the Iraq war — Biden not only voted for it but as late as 2012 he was saying in public that even if he had known Bush was lying about WMDs he still would have voted for it), and anti-marijuana-legalization?

  37. KG says

    When a person is lied to, or is otherwise manipulated by others with various flavors of bullshit and deception — particularly when the latter is a large and coordinated group of high-profile, highly-regarded “leaders” of all sorts — then we shouldn’t hold that person responsible (at least not solely responsible) for making a bad decision based off of the bad information they were given. – consciousness razor@38

    Which is it you’re saying? That they are not solely responsible – well, Hitler wasn’t solely responsible for the Shoah and WW2, so that’s not saying anything very much – or that they are not responsible, which is both condescending, and completely unfair to those who have the same sources of information but manage to see through the bullshit and deception? But that is in any case not my main point, which is that the hunger to have radical change, which Sanders needed to win, simply isn’t widespread enough in the American population. Distracting from this grim truth by blaming it all on the “Democratic establishment” is just another way of hiding your head in the sand.

    The only way for Democrats to win is to get out the young, and Biden is losing them by 50+ points in every primary so far – The Vicar@50

    And Sanders is failing to bring them out in sufficient numbers to win the primaries. I wish he was, but he isn’t. There’s therefore no reason to think he could do so in the general.

  38. billseymour says

    The Vicar @50:

    I wouldn’t get out of bed for Biden, let alone out of the house and down to the polling station.

    If you don’t vote at all, then you’re not helping with the down-ballot races. That strikes me as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The Vicar @51:

    … are you claiming that until 2010 the median Democrat was strongly [lots of bad stuff, I agree] …

    Not the median Democratic voter, but the median Democratic congresscritter. I guess I wasn’t clear.

  39. consciousness razor says

    well, Hitler wasn’t solely responsible for the Shoah and WW2, so that’s not saying anything very much

    Hitler was the one peddling all kinds of lies in that case, and he was the one wielding tons of power over others. I’m supposed to compare that to the ordinary people voting in the Democratic primaries? LOL, no, I only know how to contrast it. And I know you’re too smart for this.

    or that they are not responsible, which is both condescending, and completely unfair to those who have the same sources of information but manage to see through the bullshit and deception?

    What’s unfair is feeding people lies. I don’t actually need to pick either “not responsible” or “not solely responsible,” and I think “both” is the right option. The fact is that many different people are in all sorts of complicated circumstances, which I know little or nothing about. And in fact, many don’t have the same access to the same information that you or I do.

    So, without condescension and without comparing random voters to Hitler (FFS), I know well enough that I’m not in a position to say what may be accurate about any given person’s epistemic state. However, I also have no doubt that they don’t all need to be in the same one. Are we on the same page about that or not?

    Distracting from this grim truth by blaming it all on the “Democratic establishment” is just another way of hiding your head in the sand.

    I didn’t “blame it all” on them. You said it was “simply an evasion of reality” to blame the establishment. Is that not a real thing now? Are they not responsible at all, in reality? Whatever it means, you were the one blaming it all on ordinary voters with that bullshit. What I haven’t done is turn it around to say that the blame only goes to the establishment. But all you’re doing here is repeating the same line that you started with, that nothing other than the voters belongs in this weird notion of “reality” that you’ve concocted.

    I just don’t get it. Is media criticism really a “distraction,” when that’s how fucking everyone gets their information? Is it really a case of me hiding my head in the sand, when I talk about the grim reality of our oligarchs having a terrifying amount of power over us? It doesn’t seem like it to me, and I don’t know how anyone could think of that as the least bit comforting.

    But that is in any case not my main point, which is that the hunger to have radical change, which Sanders needed to win, simply isn’t widespread enough in the American population.

    In case you haven’t noticed, some pretty radical (and awful) things are happening as we speak. I don’t know what you’re basing this impression on (primary results? polls?), but you shouldn’t have to talk in the past tense about it.

  40. John Morales says

    The Vicar:

    [me] while it would be more perverse to endorse the greater over the lesser than to endorse neither, endorsing neither is still perverse.

    @#35, John Morales:
    I never vote against. I only vote for. The Democrats will absolutely lose my vote with Joe Biden — I wouldn’t get out of bed for Biden, let alone out of the house and down to the polling station.

    Right — you endorse neither, thus increasing the likelihood of the worst possible outcome. Not that it matters all that much in your country; it’s not the people whose vote matters, it’s the Electoral College. So, there are only 538 electors who elected Trump, though nearly 3 million more people voted for Hillary.

    As for your muddled thinking, you should be aware the outcome in voting is the net difference in votes, meaning that each vote for either is equivalent to a negative vote for the other, and therefore not voting for whoever opposes Trump is equivalent to a net extra vote for Trump.

    (If you’re confused by the concepts at hand, I can explain further, but I think you get it — you are just perverse and advocating for the worst outcome, as you did in the last election)

  41. John Morales says

    (You’re driving a car on a narrow bridge and suddenly notice a big truck is barreling head on towards you; you can either do nothing or swerve and fall into the water. You think: I don’t want to fall into the water, so I will do nothing. Makes sense, right? No?
    Well, it does if you’re The Vicar)

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