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Every now and again there comes along a scientific study that proves beyond reasonable doubt what you instinctively know to be true: wine is good for you, exercise is dangerous, and self-righteous environmentalists are lying, cheating, thieving degenerates.
I'm exaggerating only a little. Do Green Products Make Us Better People?, a paper in the latest edition of the journal Psychological Science, argues that those who wear what the authors call the "halo of green consumerism" are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. Faced with various moral choices – whether to stick to the rules in games, for example, or to pay themselves an appropriate wage – the green participants behaved much worse in the experiments than their conventional counterparts. The short answer to the paper's question, then, is: No. Greens are mean.
The authors, two Canadian psychologists, came up with an intriguing explanation for this. "Virtuous acts," they write, "can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviour." It's the yin-yang theory of psychology, or "compensatory ethics", to give it its proper name. Buy an organic potato, then go home and beat your wife with The Guardian. Hop smugly into a green hybrid car, then use it to run over little old ladies doing their shopping.Finally, it looks like the Righteous have been well and truly sussed.
Psychological egoism is the view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so.All of the Righteous would appear to be suffering from that. Time there was some sort of payback:
We have been kind to these unkind people for far too long. Now that their halo has fallen and they can no longer boast their green credentials as a shorthand for moral superiority, it is time to fight fire with fire. How about a little compensatory ethics of our own? Double the tax on organic food as a deterrent; it is clearly a starter drug to a lifetime of amorality. Stop and search anyone in a Prius. Conduct dawn raids on north London allotments. Otherwise, one can only imagine the sort of dystopia that would ensue if these mean little green men were allowed to run amok.Doesn't go anywhere near far enough, but it's a step in the right direction. Today the "Greens" Tomorrow the Bansturbators.