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« Richard Epstein on the Problem with Progressives | Main | "Incentives matters," says Stephen Dubner »


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The show also illustrates Hume's closely related point about the moral significance of the fact that we don't feel anyone's pain but our own -- we only know our own pain. No one else can effectively take this knowledge into consideration -- they can't know it and really can't factor it into their decisions.

A manager of a huge organization can't know what physical pain he is impossing on others -- and not knowing it or feeling it can't take it into meaningful consideration. The person with local knowledge of these physical realities is the one who deals with them -- either quitting and raising the price of the position, or finding various work around.

On short, the man in charge with local knowledge of his pin pricked finger and will
do something about it, but he has no knowledge of the thousands of pained bodies out following orders according to his plans -- and has no vital direct incentive to learn about it.

This is a lesson any enlisted man quickly learns and never forgets.


I watched the show and thought the same thing. It is a lesson I try to drive home in the managerial classes I teach - listen to your front line people they know stuff bosses will never learn!!!

The fictitious explanation for the accompanying camera crew is that the executive is being filmed as part of a documentary about entry-level workers in a particular industry

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