Some Advice for Making Decisions

All decisions are interesting because the process of decision making is always contradictory. On one hand, making decisions can make you feel very empowered. On the other, making decisions can lead to terrible anxiety.

There are certainly an infinite number of questions that can be asked about decisions, but for now I will focus on just two, and pretend the others don’t really exist.

Question A: Is what I am about to do morally acceptable?

Question B: Is what I am about to do something I can actually get away with?

If you need this many charts, then you can’t get away with it...

Innumerable volumes have been and will be composed on morality. At this very moment, legions of little Kants are scribbling and typing away at profound treatises concerning right and wrong. This is kind of funny. A textbook example of preaching to the choir. Someone who read, writes, or even thinks about morality is already a moral person. People who really need moral lessons are the ones who will never receive them.

What if you are not a moral person, or simply don’t care about morality? Then you can ignore Question A and move on to Question B. Even if you don’t care one iota about right and wrong, before you commit to something you should still ask if it is something you can actually get away with.

How can you know whether or not you can get away with something? I don’t know, because I never do anything bad. If I ever decided to do something shady, I would ask yet another two questions.

Question C: What is the power to punish me?

Question D: Is there willingness to use that power?

sleeping cop

Pictured: An unwilling enforcer.

If there is no power to punish you, then you can do whatever you want. That doesn’t mean you should do whatever you want, but you could. If you really wanted to.

If there is power to punish you, but no willingness to use that power, then you can still do whatever you want, but it’s a bit riskier. People, especially powerful ones, are often unpredictable. Violations that are allowed to slide one day might be brutally enforced the next.

Finally, if you want to do something that can get you punished, and there is a willingness to punish you, then you probably can’t get away with that thing. You should decide to do something else.

stealing athena

“Do you think anyone will mind if I take this?”