Why the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop Offends Us -- Science of Us

Why the 9/11 Museum Gift Shop Offends Us -- Science of Us: Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has offered a useful vocabulary for understanding these issues. He distinguishes between three kinds of exchanges. First are routine trade-offs, in which one swaps one “secular” value or entity for another — by, say, paying money (the most secular good we have) for an iPad or some other commodity. Second are tragic trade-offs, in which “sacred” or irreplaceable entities are weighed against each other — national security or citizen privacy? Sophie’s older child or her younger one? Then you have taboo trade-offs, in which a secular value is paired with a sacred one. People tend to throw prostitution into this category, which is why it incites such fierce debate.

What people see in the 9/11 gift shop is a taboo trade-off. On one side of the exchange is cash, and on the other is not just a mug or a hoodie but something much larger.

These items stand in for all the suffering they commemorate. The equation is quite simple: “They’re making money off my dead son,” one man told the Washington Post.

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