Getting Away With Murder, Sort Of

Student loan borrowers stage a rally in front of the White House to celebrate President Biden cancelling student debt. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We the 45m)


There’s a hoary old thought experiment I want to fiddle with. 

It goes something like this: Imagine if I showed you a button and said, “If you press this button I will give you $1 million, but one random person will die as a result. No one will know. You will probably never even know who it was you killed.” 

You’ll be surprised—or maybe you won’t!—by how many people say “yes” to this offer. There’s even a website dedicated to an even starker version of the question; 10 random strangers will die. As of now, nearly two-thirds of the people who took the poll say they’d press the button. In the comments, you can see the rationalizations—posing as rank utilitarianism—flow: 

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