Notes Toward a Heuristic of Express Lane Ethics


Over at Vox, Andrew Prokop summarizes a new poll about Americans’ ethical views. Here’s one result:

The US public is staunchly opposed to the apparently widespread problem of supermarket express lane abuse, with a clear majority saying they think multiple pieces of the same fruit should count as multiple items. Strangely, though, 20 percent of respondents apparently think there should be different rules for different shoppers.

OK, that is strange. Why should there be different rules for different shoppers? Is the idea here that we should bend the rules for the elderly or the infirm? Or for pregnant women? Or what?

As for fruit, it depends, doesn’t it? Surely a bunch of bananas still counts as one item? Or tomatoes on the vine? (Which I love because I adore the aroma of the vine.) How about two bunches of bananas? Does it make a difference if stuff is in a bag? Five apples in a plastic bag gets weighed as one item, whereas five apples rolling around in your basket have to be placed on the scale individually before the whole bunch of them gets weighed. Does that matter? Help me out here, hive mind.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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