A lot of industries are going to look really bad if you only score one side of the ledger. Given that a huge number of people continue to smoke and enjoy it, despite knowing the negative implications for their health it seems reasonable to assume that tobacco companies supply the world with a great deal of utility, in addition to the lung cancer.

A lot of industries are going to look really bad if you only score one side of the ledger.

Absolutely. However.

Given that a huge number of people continue to smoke

While that's obviously true...

and enjoy it,

...I think that's misleading. While smokers like and presumably enjoy the relief cigarettes provide from cravings, I doubt that at reflective equilibrium they'd want to be smokers, or would approve of their smoking. When samples of smokers in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia were surveyed.pdf), about 90% agreed with the proposition that if... (read more)

6lmm6yEnjoy it? Or want it because they're addicted? What we want and what we enjoy are not guaranteed to be aligned.
6A11AF826yThis would likely be true of many other (hard) drugs if there had been a history of legally selling them instead of nipping their markets in the bud. In fact, this would probably be true of wireheading too if it was practical, and ultimately, orgasmium [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Orgasmium]. Willing to bite that bullet?

What legal ways do people make a profit that produce the largest net loss in utility?

by Punoxysm 1 min read25th Mar 201485 comments

2


This is an offshoot of a thread I made earlier, but which wasn't eliciting the sort of responses I'd hoped for.

So let me pose a clearer question with less potential to get people on watchlists.

What legal ways of making a profit are the most anti-altruistic, the most damaging to society, the opposite of effective altruism in result. 

I am using utility loosely. The answers need not be given from a utilitarian perspective at all, but instead merely deal with any means of making a profit that seems to you clearly wretched, and such that the world would be better if nobody participated in it.

I'd also like to emphasize that these things should be legal. There are some obviously wretched illegal businesses that would top the list otherwise. If something is legal but only in a particular jurisdiction, then you should only discuss it within the context of the jurisdiction where it is legal.

If it's a grey area, go for it, but extra points for society-harming enterprises definitely legal in both the letter an the spirit of the law.

This is NOT about whether the enterprise in question should be illegal, just whether it causes a net loss of utility (deal with counterfactuals however you see fit).