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    The article makes the claim a couple of times that if a huge chunk of the workforce thinks something is important, then it is important. I think a lot of googlers didn’t want to work with this guy, and to them, it was important. Google had a choice to either fire one person, or risk a lot more quitting. It seems pretty rational to have fired him, regardless of whether he did something to really deserve it.

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      Hmm, without taking sides in the main discussion, I’d like to challenge your reasoning. So if a large number of googlers refused to work with, say, a trans employee, you’d support a decision to fire that person.

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        Without taking a moral position on it - it’s a rational decision to support the side that will offer you more (that’s more-or-less the definition of self-interested rationality).

        I’m not rational - I’ll sometimes do what I think is good, not what will garner me the most reward.

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          I actually think your definition here is incorrect (unless you are being colloquial). Rationality needn’t be judged by some objective measure. Rationality is merely the process by which one makes decisions as if balancing costs. That is, it is perfectly rational to choose “good” over what you think others would perceive as gathering the most reward. In other words, the very act of you doing something that you perceive as good is itself its own reward that you chose over every other possible action that you could take.

          This might sound tautological to you, but the point of rationality in the sense of self interestedness is to contrast it with a more stochastic means of decision making. In other words, the meaning of the word rational in the technical sense is pretty narrow.

          I bring this up because it’s a commonly misunderstood assumption of economic theory. If you interpret the term rational in the colloquial sense, then it’s pretty easy to cast that assumption as absurd and reject conclusions derived from it. But if you look at it in the narrow technical sense, then it’s not so easy to reject out of hand.

          More details: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_choice_theory and to a lesser extent https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumental_and_value_rationality — the criticisms in the former are worth a read, but I think are unrelated to the more simplistic misunderstanding that I’m trying to point out here.

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            Good response! Thanks for that (and the links).

            In the context of a public corporation in the US, their (legally mandated) utility function is to maximize profit.

            In that context, I say a corporation behaves rationally when they chase profit and irrationally otherwise because their existence is a legal fiction towards that purpose.

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              Sure, I actually didn’t even look at the context in this case! :-) I was responding to your comment from Lobsters comment stream. Whoops!

              In that context, I say a corporation behaves rationally when they chase profit and irrationally otherwise because their existence is a legal fiction towards that purpose.

              I think this is also not quite accurate. Technically, as far as I’m aware, there is no actual law on the books that literally says corporations must maximize profit. I think it would be more accurate to say that “firms are held accountable by their stakeholders.” (In the case of publicly traded coroporations, that would be their shareholders.) In the general sense, sure, stakeholders are going to want to get a return on their investment, and that generally comes from more profits, to a first approximation.

              But in practice, it seems quite a bit more murky than “corporations must maximize profits” would lead you to believe, even if it is a reasonable first approximation. For example, taken at face value, you might consider that such a law would preclude corporations for participating in charity or other events that have costs without direct revenue. But that’s clearly not true in practice, which means there must be more nuance. In particular, it seems reasonable to assume that corporations have wide discretion. From a calculating perspective, sponsoring charitable events, for example, might improve the company’s image, which in turn might have an indirect impact on profits by a variety of means.

              Moreover, I think tying the word “rational” to any specific legal system (“you’re irrational for breaking the law” for example) firmly puts usage into the colloquial bin. Breaking the law could be rational, for example. (cf. “Civil Disobedience”, Thoreau.)

              Some reading on the “corporations must profit” topic: https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-corporations-obligations-to-shareholders/corporations-dont-have-to-maximize-profits

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          They’re not refusing to work with him because he’s a white male or his identity, they’re refusing to work with him for his odious opinions. While you’re free to have opinions, your employer is also free to fire you for them. This is especially true when your opinions are about how your employer does business. There isn’t actually any civil rights discussion to have here unless you think that people should be unable to be fired for any and all opinions they have which is quite a far left position as the right typically prioritizes the rights of business owners over labor rights.

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            How much more specific could I be about the fact that I was challenging the reasoning, and not the details of the main issue.

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              Taking someone’s informal conversation as a logical debate to be picked apart is dishonest.

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            It’s obnoxious to claim I would support a completely different thing from what I was talking about. I am not talking about what I support or not. I am talking about rational behavior of particular agents. If someone had to kill 20 babies to survive, I would not support their decision to do it, but I can see how it’s rational to do so to survive.

            If a large number of googlers refused to work with a trans person, it’s probably not the fact that they were trans that did it.

            Organizations are formed around common values.

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          When is Google going to give up its left-wing, PC, liberal, effort to hire good programmers, when science shows that most programmers are average?