'The Conversation': Recession Morals

VIDEO: Diane Sawyer and The Atlantics Megan McArdle discuss recession morality.ABCNEWS.com

Legalizing marijuana will be front and center come November when Californians head to the ballot box to vote on this initiative.

The state is currently running a deficit of $6.3 billion, and some cite the marijuana initiative as exactly the type of enterprise that would bring in the tax revenues California needs to get back in the black.

It isn't the first time a state has slid for the sake of state revenues. Many states have turned to gambling as a way to balance their budgets, and Depression historians have cited the need for new taxes as contributing to the end of Prohibition.

VIDEO: The ConversationPlay

So it got us thinking here at "World News With Diane Sawyer": What effect does a recession have on what a state, or individuals, might agree to do? Do legislators become more open to things they usually frown upon? What about people's relationships with one another? Are people suddenly more likely to help out their neighbors?

In today's Conversation, Diane Sawyer talks with Megan McArdle, a writer for the Atlantic, about how this recession and past recessions have affected Americans' morals. How does America's current moral compass compare to the moral compass we had during the Depression of the 1930s? Are states willing to look the other way if certain types of businesses bring in needed revenues? And how might morals shift when the current recession ends?

In today's "Conversation," we analyze the economics of morality.