Some time back I had a discussion with a colleague that has stuck in my head. Nominally we were talking about the propriety of “sweatshop” factory labor in the third world. I argued that it was better than the alternative, he argued that it was morally unconscionable and shouldn’t be allowed, and I argued that leaving people to a worse alternative was even more morally unconscionable. Then he whipped out a common law analogy, which was something like this:
If you see a person drowning, it’s not acceptable to make them suck your cock in return for saving them.
And here, I guess, is where the philosophic mind and the economic mind part ways. Because while I find it easy to agree that a person who would stare at a drowning person and say, “I’ll toss you that life ring, but only if you suck my cock when you get out of the water” is a morally unconscionable person, do we really want to give that that morally unconscionable person an incentive to say, “I’d save you if I got a blow job out of it, but since the law says I can’t require that in exchange for saving you, I’ll just leave you to drown”?