Re: Tipping Points
You're more likely to die en route to the polling location than to have your vote make any actual difference. The same also goes for the environment: My choice to drive an air-craft carrier style pickup truck is not going to harm the environment. If I were the last remaining human on earth, I could keep feeding an urban assault vehicle gasoline and it will not make a dent in the ecosystem. It's like pissing in the Pacific. It's that my actions in concert with others could make difference, which is why voting should probably be mandatory, cars should be strictly regulated (due to negative externalities), and everyone should refuse to consume animal products.
So, no, I do not deny that if "*enough*" customers ask for sausages, an additional case will be purchased. What I'm saying is that one customer will not send a market signal. Also note that this even applies to the case itself. Farmer John doesn't say "Joe's Sausages just requested an additional case, so we better up production." Not even Joe's Sausages -- the restaurant itself -- is a large enough consumer to send a market signal. Sausage production wouldn't change if Joe jr. decided to turn the family business into a parking lot.
There are more former vegetarians and vegans than vegetarians and vegans, so what I should probably do is kill myself. The effect may be small, but my (almost certain) lack of consumption could have a potentially large impact.The probability of being the person who pushes consumption over that threshold may be small, but the effect is proportionally large to make up for it.
This stuff with the nail and the horseshoe and the kingdom are the sort of rabble-rousing "noble" falsehoods that are used to motivate people. Maybe they have a place for some propaganda purpose, but the thinking is entirely fanciful.
Being Vegan because it will make a difference vs. the immorality of supporting animal exploitation industries.
Maybe that's true. In my experience, however, I would prefer to innoculate people to misguided arguments. If someone goes vegan because they feel they are saving hundreds of animals per year, then they may abandon their diet once they realize it's not actually making a difference. If people vote in the off-chance their vote can make a difference, maybe they stop voting when it's pointed out they're not making a difference. On the whole, it's probably better to tell people the truth (but maybe not).In my experience, people who limit their reasons to be vegan are at higher risk of recidivism. Polls bear this out as well.
Firing a shot in a stadium
I thought my answer very clearly implied that it's morally impermissible. As I wrote: "Of course shooting a bullet in a stadium presents a credible risk to life. Even the mere crack of a gun shot causes harm." The (real) potential for stampede was an afterthought.So you fire it off at the same time as half-time fireworks. Then is it morally permissible as long as you get lucky and hit nobody?
It's simple: I do not. If I flip a coin three times, could it land on heads every single time? Sure. If I flip a coin 100 times, could it land on heads every single time? It's possible, but not the least bit likely. I think Isaac Asimov once remarked that some events are so statistically unlikely that we might as well say they're impossible. In one of his books, Richard Dawkins points out that's it's possible a marble statue could wave its hand back n' forth. Normally the molecules are bumping into each other and cancel each other out, but they could all go in one direction, and then in another.It's very concerning to me that you seem to be rejecting the probabilistic nature of moral responsibility.
Refraining from Eating Sausages vs. Direct Action
You characterize the former as "not speculative" but "basic economics and probability," adding "[t]hese are all known factors." The latter's benefits are described as "highly speculative" and "isn't comparable to accepting established economics and probability."
This strikes me as dishonest. When you're talking about sausages, you're being highly speculative. An empirical approach is fundamentally disinterested, but you seem attached to one outcome.
Earlier you remarked, "It's always both astonishing and frustrating when I meet somebody so committed to the 'your actions don't matter' mindset." This does not necessarily describe me, however. I'm saying certain actions will not have their intended effect. I am not saying an individual is incapable of causing change.
Regarding Joe's Sausages, what if you were to engage in a little monkeywrenching? What if you stole the sausages and fed them to the homeless? Or. if that's too risky, what if you popped into the restroom and flushed sponges to cause plumbing damages? This could close the business for a few days. Maybe it causes such a headache that the family shuts down its operations.
If you were to do an honest assessment, assigning probabilities amorally, then the direct action could have a higher expected return. Your arguments remind me of followers of Ayn Rand who insist that "initiating force" goes against our self-interest because lying, cheating and stealing could lead to a bad reputation/jail time/etc. Yes, true, fair enough. In the real world, however, there are prudent predator situations where one could lie and credibly get away with it (this is also similar to Socrates' famous encounter with Thrasymachus in Book I of The Republic).
Of course, I would never put my own skin in the game. If anything, I would prefer to think that such activities are counter-productive -- precisely because they demand more in terms of self-sacrifice (and there's almost no personal material benefit).
I did not understand what you were trying to say here:
We can use all of those arguments against violent activism.
That we shouldn't do it for other reasons.
But ALSO that the net empirical effect is likely bad.
It's important to have a fallback if somebody finds your original approach to be unconvincing. There's no reason to abandon the evidence.
Likewise, it's a weaker position to argue your more controversial moral position, and then if rejected have nothing empirical to fall back on. Not everybody is going to agree that it's still wrong if it doesn't have an effect.