Sunday, August 15, 2021

Refuting arguments no one cares about: Exploiting the "help" in the pandemic vs the wildfires

I don't think anyone actually wanted to learn about this, but it's stayed on my mind for being "an argument that's wrong and I can prove".

Background:

A while ago I made fun of a Facebook friend (call her D) for her "let them eat cake" cluelessness. This was during the 2018 (?) California wildfires when she made a big post saying how thankful she was that, in miserable air conditions, she could "still get her groceries" through delivery services. That prompted me (and, among others, another FB friend, "E") to drop our jaws and say, "Um, you don't care that you're just offloading all that suffering to poor workers that can't afford to just stay home, and will be breathing the lung-destroying air in your stead?"

(And, to be sure, there's the argument that someone total utility is increasing by virtue of how said workers still have the option to expose themselves to risks for money, and the counterargument about "well why have OSHA that workers can't opt out of ..." which is its own topic but didn't really appeal to me or E at the time.)

So far, so good.

But later, during the pandemic, it came out that E, for similar reasons, didn't feel comfortable just getting delivery so she could stay home when we were being asked/mandated to.

Those ... situations don't seem analogous at all to me, and I don't think someone should feel bad for ordering delivery during a pandemic like in an air quality emergency like wildfires. Here's why:

A) In a wildfire, you are shifting all of the hazard of the smoke onto the people who bring your deliviers.

B) But in a pandemic, moving to delivery reduces the hazard for everyone, including the delivery people.

In Kantian terms: If "everyone did it", then everyone would still benefit in case B). But in A), all the avoidance by the rich "D" personas would be matched by losses to those who still have to deliver.

To elaborate on B: the way a delivery service works, every worker involved has less Covid-spreading contact than than if everyone were shopping at a grocery store. The warehouses that set up the goods for delivery can, for their part, refactor and apply inexpensive countermeasures to reduce those worker's exposure. Furthermore, with everyone moving to delivery, you get economies of scale, allowing everyone to afford the delivery service.

So, to me, it didn't didn't seem like you were doing anyone a favor out of solidarity to keep getting your grocerys through in-person shopping.

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