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25.2.02

Something Barbara said reminded me of a philosophical-type post I had wanted to do (and since I haven't done one of those in a while, here goes...)

We tend to put a lot of stock in choice. Things are bad if they're imposed on someone, but as long as they choose their situation, then they've found the best alternative. It came up a lot in Environmental Justice last year -- it sucks to have a nuclear waste disposal site in your village, but if the Goshute tribe thinks that the additional jobs are more important than the increased risk of cancer, who are we to say they're wrong? Any comparison between unlike things is inherently subjective, so it makes perfect sense that it can and should only be made by the person(s) being affected.

But then we combine that with the fact that, with a few exceptions, almost any situation is something you've chosen to be in. Even if you can't choose to leave (for example, people in jail), it was your choice (to commit the crime) that ultimately put you in that situation. You chose to accept the risks of playing paintball. You chose to work for less than minimum wage in an unsafe sweatshop instead of starving. You chose freely from the alternatives available to you, and that's all that matters.

All that's well and good. Except for the part about "the alternatives available to you." Because everyone does face only a limited set of options. Some people's options are really bad -- prostitution or starvation. Do we have any sort of a moral duty to give people a decent option? How do we define decent? Some people (probably far too many) are insatiable -- they can always think of a better option than what they have. We can't make anyone's choice for them, but are there some choices that people shouldn't have to make?

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