Political Scientists are Concerned with Ethics

Or at the very least, University of Michigan political scientist Jenna Bednar is. Her question appeared in the NY Times Magazine’s The Ethicist column this weekend, when she asked:

Given the mounting evidence of long-term and even fatal effects of brain injuries incurred by professional football players, is it ethical for us to watch the games?

The answer is too long too summarize here (and can be read in its entirety here), but intriguingly contains a politics analogy(!) in its conclusion:

But somewhere between those extremes lies an option that has the virtue of being both ethical and simple: If you think the action on the field is unfair to players, just don’t watch. Just choose not to participate. ([Malcolm] Gladwell predicts that in 15 years or so, no reasonable person will admit to watching football.)

Turning off the TV won’t do much. Only as much, perhaps, as voting, an act which in the singular is so small, it’s almost meaningless, but which in the aggregate can change history. Your act may or may not help change football, but if you feel as your letter suggests, it will keep you from directly participating in something at odds with your own personal values.

Just another way political scientists are helping to shape important public debates!

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Joshua Tucker

Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University.