On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on concern for future generations, privatizing prisons, buying and returning goods, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Whole Podcast: 23 March 2014

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Podcast Segments: 23 March 2014

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: My life has returned to normal – finally! I’ve been busy working on various projects for Philosophy in Action. Greg is on vacation, so he’s only here virtually. He and Tammy will return next Sunday.

Question 1: Concern for Future Generations

Question: Should I care about future generations? People often claim that we should act for the sake of future generations, particularly regarding environmental concerns. Is that rational? Why should I care what happens to people after I am dead? Why should I work for the benefit of people who cannot possibly benefit my life and who aren’t even known, let alone of value, to me?

My Answer, In Brief: The interests of future generations do not conflict with our interests. That’s because the requirements of human flourishing – particularly freedom and technology – are the same throughout time. Benefit yourself by securing those values now, and you’ll benefit future generations too – without any sacrifice by anyone.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Privatizing Prisons

Question: Is running prisons a legitimate function of government or should they be privatized? Private prisons are a billion dollar industry here in the United States, but should they be left to private companies or should the government handle them instead?

My Answer, In Brief: Privately-run prisons may be more effective and cheaper than government-run prisons – or not. Prisons aren’t inherently a function of government, although the government must oversee them and set standards, at the very least.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Buying and Returning Goods

Question: Is it wrong to buy goods with the intent to return them? A friend of mine will often buy jewelry from large department stores for events, knowing that she’ll likely return the items. (Sometimes, however, she’ll keep an item even when she thought she’d return it.) She returns the goods undamaged and soon after buying. She asked me what I thought of the morality of her actions. In my opinion, she’s acting morally because she’s not committing fraud. The stores in question have liberal return policies (“if you are unhappy for whatever reason…”). They must know that some of their customers might do what she’s doing and think that allowing it is good for business. Is that right?

My Answer, In Brief: Your friend is abusing generous return policies. She’s not acting as an honest trader, but as a devious exploiter. That embodies a wholly wrong approach to morality that I hope she rethinks her actions.

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To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Why do people differ so much in their taste in movies?
  • If a person stumbles upon data (say, logins and passwords) without hacking, it is morally and legally wrong to use that data?
  • Is it morally worse for a mother to abandon her child than for a father to do the same?
  • Why did you choose philosophy over programming?
  • Should college athletes be paid? Doesn’t the current system exploit them?
  • My mother believes she is clairvoyant, and she laughs when I try to explain away her ‘premonitions.’ How can I convince her she is not psychic?
  • My significant other is generally uninterested and/or easily frustrated by philosophy. Is there any way to help a person engage in rational inquiry? Is it necessary for a happy relationship?

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  • Start Time: 42:18
  • Duration: 17:38
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 59:57

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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