Objective Value in Economics and Ethics

My co-blogger David asks an interesting question: In response to my claim that "I see no reason to conclude that in all cases and all times, the costs of predation always outweigh the benefits", David asked,

So if one was to demonstrate via economics that the costs of predation always outweigh the benefits, you would accept an objective morality?

The problem with David's question is that value is subjective. When we say the costs of something outweigh the benefits, we are either using some proxy like money--which will not convince someone who doesn't care about increasing wealth--or we are using a person's own personal values. For example, I might say to you, "You should choose investment plan X over Y because X gives you a higher return at lower risk." But if the person you are trying to convince places a lot of value on "socially responsible" investments, then he might be willing to forgo a lot of monetary value in exchange for some other kind of value.

So to say, via economics, that we could potentially demonstrate the costs of predation always outweigh the benefits, we would first need to adopt some kind of objective value methodology. I don't see how this is possible. Some people simply like to rape, kill and pillage, and value nothing more than exercising power over others. There is not much we can say or do, other than responding to them with greater physical force, that will ever convince them otherwise.

I think there is a strong connection between subjective value in economics and subjective value in ethics. If we cannot say, a priori, that all people value the same economic goods with the same ordinal rankings, how can we say, a priori, that all people value the same ethical goods with the same ordinal rankings?

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Nyet. In order to show that

Nyet. In order to show that economically the predator is worse off, the economic subjective valuation principle must be true, it is key to my reasoning. As a hint to my reasoning, I will be relying on subjective value, knowledge transfer problems, and some psychological insights from Stockholm Syndrome.

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