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wreaver
05-03-2010, 03:39 AM
One of my interests is trying to understand how people think. (Not to try to persuade them. But just to understand their cognition.) And I'd like to understand progressive "liberalism" where it is motivated by happiness maximization.

In another thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=5180) @Starwatcher162536 mentioned one motivation for (some) progressive "liberals" judging the taking property from certain people (by force) to be acceptable, is a utilitarian one. Specifically, he said...

The utilitarian response is equally straightforward. The utilitarian starts with the a prior value judgment that human happiness should be maximized, and that the utility of wealth has a diminishing returns. Given those two beliefs, a highly redistributive tax schema makes sense.

To try to understand the nature of this more, I'd like to ask some hypotheticals.

(I'm actually hoping @Starwatcher162536 responds here. But others are welcome too.)


Hypothetical #1...

What if there was a drug that could make people feel complete bliss. This drug has the side-effect of reducing IQ, muscle mass, and height and increases the chance of producing a retarded child. But even if a person didn't want the cost of the side-effect before taking the drug, after taking the drug they would stop caring.

#1: Would be acceptable to force people to consume this drug?

#2: Would it be wrong not to force people to consume this drug?


Hypothetical #2...

What if there was a gene that only some people had, that made them more likely to feel happy, regardless of their environment.

Would it be acceptable to sterilize all those that don't have the gene, so that only people with the gene have children, thus increasing the population-wide happiness over time?


Hypothetical #3...

Would it be acceptable to increase the percentage of happy people by killing off a small number of unhappy people? (Assume that killing these people does not cause anyone else to become unhappy.)

Starwatcher162536
05-04-2010, 08:19 AM
I'm more of the fairness type, so I don't think I can help you out here. Anyways, I'll take the negative on all three.

Whatfur
05-04-2010, 09:53 AM
I'm more of the fairness type...

In my eyes, "fairness" is like beauty.

wreaver
05-04-2010, 11:06 AM
I'm more of the fairness type, so I don't think I can help you out here. Anyways, I'll take the negative on all three.

Actually, I do have a question about progressive "liberalism" which is motivated by fairness....

In the other thread (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=160742#post160742), you said...
The fairness people think that high taxation on the relative successful is acceptable because the aforementioned didn't really earn it anyways. It's merely an outcome of being born privileged. Most data on inter-generational economic mobility support this view.

There's a story called Harrison Bergeron, that was later made into a movie. In Harrison Bergeron the state does things to try to make everyone the same. If someone is more beautiful than the average, then (by law) they have to cover their face with a mask. If someone is stronger than the average, then (by law) they have to where weights on their body. If someone is smarter than the average, then (by law) they have to wear headgear that frequently puts out a type of noise that breaks the person's train of thought. People even have their mates chosen for them by the state, so as to try to produce average children. Their idea is that no one has characteristic more than the other. That everyone has the same beauty, the same strength, the same intelligence, etc etc.

Since most people do not earn their beauty, and they are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to people who are more beautiful to force them to hide their beauty?

Since some people, namely mesomorphs, do not earn their superior strength, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to mesomorphs, by force, so that they are not stronger than others?

Since people do not earn their intelligence, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things, by force, to dumb them down so that they are not more intelligent than others?

wreaver
05-04-2010, 11:11 AM
In my eyes, "fairness" is like beauty.

With "conservatives" and libertarians, fairness seems to be more about actions. Where with progressive "liberals" fairness seems to be more about initial conditions and final conditions.

Whatfur
05-04-2010, 11:58 AM
With "conservatives" and libertarians, fairness seems to be more about actions. Where with progressive "liberals" fairness seems to be more about initial conditions and final conditions.

Yep.

kezboard
05-04-2010, 01:21 PM
Since most people do not earn their beauty, and they are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to people who are more beautiful to force them to hide their beauty?

Since some people, namely mesomorphs, do not earn their superior strength, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to mesomorphs, by force, so that they are not stronger than others?

Since people do not earn their intelligence, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things, by force, to dumb them down so that they are not more intelligent than others?

I've always thought that story was silly. It reminds me of that old chestnut about how conservatives want equality of opportunity while liberals want equality of results, which isn't true no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh repeats it. Someone interested in fairness -- whatever their political views -- would not think that it's fair to forcibly prevent someone from developing their talents. The point is not to make sure everyone is equal in social status, it's to make sure people don't suffer horribly for arbitrary deficiencies in natural ability -- that weak people aren't left to be eaten by wolves, for instance.

wreaver
05-04-2010, 01:38 PM
Since most people do not earn their beauty, and they are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to people who are more beautiful to force them to hide their beauty?

Since some people, namely mesomorphs, do not earn their superior strength, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things to mesomorphs, by force, so that they are not stronger than others?

Since people do not earn their intelligence, and are basically born with it, is it acceptable to do things, by force, to dumb them down so that they are not more intelligent than others?I've always thought that story was silly. It reminds me of that old chestnut about how conservatives want equality of opportunity while liberals want equality of results, which isn't true no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh repeats it. Someone interested in fairness -- whatever their political views -- would not think that it's fair to forcibly prevent someone from developing their talents.

Just to ask it explicitly, am I correct in assuming that #1 you are a progressive "liberal" because of notions of fairness and #2 you do not consider any of those things I listed to be acceptable?

(If you are instead of progressive "liberal" for utilitarian reasons, I'd ask you to answer the original questions I posted in this thread.)

The point is not to make sure everyone is equal in social status, it's to make sure people don't suffer horribly for arbitrary deficiencies in natural ability -- that weak people aren't left to be eaten by wolves, for instance.

The keyword of "suffer" seems to suggest that you are applying the concept of harm (and not necessarily (just) fairness).

I'm curious to understand how concepts of harm and fairness interplay with each other for progressive "liberals".

How do you decide when someone is suffering (or being harmed) or not?

Whatfur
05-04-2010, 02:07 PM
I've always thought that story was silly. It reminds me of that old chestnut about how conservatives want equality of opportunity while liberals want equality of results, which isn't true no matter how many times Rush Limbaugh repeats it. Someone interested in fairness -- whatever their political views -- would not think that it's fair to forcibly prevent someone from developing their talents. The point is not to make sure everyone is equal in social status, it's to make sure people don't suffer horribly for arbitrary deficiencies in natural ability -- that weak people aren't left to be eaten by wolves, for instance.

Oh exactly!! God knows Rush and those evil conservatives all want people to "suffer horribly" and for the weak to get "eaten by wolves".

Oh and yes oh yes, equality of social status is hugely important. You should travel to Russia and China and see how well it works there.

This was recently sent me (maybe by my Uncle Rush).

The President has recently appointed a Golf Czar and major rule changes in the game of golf will become effective 01 June 2010.

This is only a preview as the complete rule book is being rewritten as we speak.

Here are a few of the changes:

Golfers with handicaps:
- below 10 will have their green fees increased by 35%.
- between 11 and 18 will see no increase in green fees.
- above 18 will get a $25 check each time they play.

The dollar amount placed in bets will be as follows:
-for handicaps below 10, an additional $10.
-between 11 and 18, no additional amount.
-above 18, you will receive the total amount in the pot even if you do not play.

The term "gimme" will be changed to "entitlement" and will be used as follows:
-handicaps below 10, no entitlements.
-handicaps from 11 to 17, entitlements for putter length putts.
-handicaps above 18, if your ball is on green, no need to putt, just pick it up.

These entitlements are intended to bring about fairness and, most importantly, equality in scoring.

In addition, a Player will be limited to a maximum of one birdie or six pars in any given 18-hole round. Any excess must be given to those fellow players who have not yet scored a birdie or par. Only after all players have received a birdie or par from the player actually making the birdie or par,can that player begin to count his pars and birdies again.

The current USGA handicap system will be used for the above purposes, but the term 'net score' will be available only for scoring those players with handicaps of 18 and above.

This is intended to 'redistribute' the success of winning by making sure that in every competition, the above 18 handicap players will post only 'net score' against every other player's gross score.

These new Rules are intended to CHANGE the game of golf.
Golf must be about Fairness.
It should have nothing to do with Ability.

kezboard
05-04-2010, 05:52 PM
Oh exactly!! God knows Rush and those evil conservatives all want people to "suffer horribly" and for the weak to get "eaten by wolves". Oh and yes oh yes, equality of social status is hugely important. You should travel to Russia and China and see how well it works there.

Listen, clown shoes, not only did I not say that Rush believes anyone should be eaten by wolves, I never said that equality of social status was a good goal or even possible at all. Thanks for your very insightful and hilarious email forward, though. Have you ever wondered about why we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

graz
05-04-2010, 06:09 PM
Listen, clown shoes... Have you ever wondered about why we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

For those of us attuned to imagery... here's a shot of the object of your scorn:

http://z.about.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/Q/A/recall_gallagher_help.jpg
whatfur

Whatfur
05-04-2010, 07:22 PM
Listen, clown shoes, not only did I not say that Rush believes anyone should be eaten by wolves, I never said that equality of social status was a good goal or even possible at all. Thanks for your very insightful and hilarious email forward, though. Have you ever wondered about why we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

Clown shoes!!! I like it!!

You are right. You did not say Rush believes anyone should be eaten by wolves nor that equality of social status was good or even possible. Explain to me then how these things I picked on belong in a dialogue about fairness.

kezboard
05-04-2010, 07:33 PM
Just to ask it explicitly, am I correct in assuming that #1 you are a progressive "liberal" because of notions of fairness and #2 you do not consider any of those things I listed to be acceptable?

(If you are instead of progressive "liberal" for utilitarian reasons, I'd ask you to answer the original questions I posted in this thread.)

I think I get what you're asking here, but I'm not sure I'll be able to give you the answer you're looking for. It seems like you're operating from the premise that liberals prize fairness over happiness maximization, or at least want to take concrete steps towards increasing fairness in society with the idea that this will lead towards greater fairness. That's sort of a fair assumption to take from the post by Starwatcher that you linked to. He gave two plausible justifications for progressive taxation: one, that very rich people won't be too harmed if the government takes some of their money, whereas the poor would be (a utilitarian justification) and two, that it's unfair for some people to wear rags and go barefoot while others live comfortably when the difference between being in one position and being in another is just an accident of birth. But I think that's kind of beside the point. This is what you said in the same thread:

Just consider something like taxation. To a libertarian, it's extortion and theft! Libertarians who (naively) think everyone's cognition is similar to theirs, tend to think progressive "liberals" are sociopaths, because they are willing to harm anyone with money or success and don't have an empathetic response towards for them for the harm that is being done to them.

But hardly anyone actually believes this. Anyone who says that all taxation (or other forms of top-down coercion) is extortion and theft and therefore absolutely unjustified is probably taking an extreme position to make a point. Libertarians want to minimize the amount of government coercion in society, because they believe that maximizes human freedom. But it seems to me that it's not fair to suggest that's all that libertarianism is about, and besides, most libertarians aren't as eager as you suggest to throw out the whole idea of the social contract.

How do you decide when someone is suffering (or being harmed) or not?

Why, the courts and the democratic process, of course!

wreaver
05-04-2010, 09:06 PM
Just to ask it explicitly, am I correct in assuming that #1 you are a progressive "liberal" because of notions of fairness and #2 you do not consider any of those things I listed to be acceptable?

(If you are instead of progressive "liberal" for utilitarian reasons, I'd ask you to answer the original questions I posted in this thread.)I think I get what you're asking here, but I'm not sure I'll be able to give you the answer you're looking for. It seems like you're operating from the premise that liberals prize fairness over happiness maximization, or at least want to take concrete steps towards increasing fairness in society with the idea that this will lead towards greater fairness. That's sort of a fair assumption to take from the post by Starwatcher that you linked to. He gave two plausible justifications for progressive taxation: one, that very rich people won't be too harmed if the government takes some of their money, whereas the poor would be (a utilitarian justification) and two, that it's unfair for some people to wear rags and go barefoot while others live comfortably when the difference between being in one position and being in another is just an accident of birth.

I'm trying to come up with a set of rules that I could use to figure out when something is immoral or not immoral, from a progressive "liberal" point of view.

From what @Starwatcher162536 has been saying, it looks like there would have to be two different sets of rules. One for utilitarian motivated progressive "liberals". And another for moral fairness motivated progressive "liberals".

The set of rules still eludes me though :-\

But I think that's kind of beside the point. This is what you said in the same thread:
Just consider something like taxation. To a libertarian, it's extortion and theft! Libertarians who (naively) think everyone's cognition is similar to theirs, tend to think progressive "liberals" are sociopaths, because they are willing to harm anyone with money or success and don't have an empathetic response towards for them for the harm that is being done to them.

But hardly anyone actually believes this. Anyone who says that all taxation (or other forms of top-down coercion) is extortion and theft and therefore absolutely unjustified is probably taking an extreme position to make a point.

(I don't want to make this thread about libertarians, but....)

To be specific, my observation is that there are two groups that self-identify as "libertarians".

Group #1 is what I'll call the "liberty as a goal" group. These people actually consider any and all forms of (physical) coercion to be immoral (except when used in self-defense or just retaliation). To them, taxation is in fact extortion and theft. A police arrest is an act of kidnapping. Etc. For them, the ends never justifies the means. They apply morality only to actions, and do it in a class-less way. (I.e., a person’s classification -- like being a solider, a police officer or a judge -- does not change the moral judgment of their action.) To them liberty is their goal. (And they have a very hard, precise, and immutable definition of what "liberty" means. I.e., the absence of (physical) coercion.) These people are actually not rare or extreme, in terms of libertarians. They are quite common, as people who self-identify as "libertarians" go.

Group #2 is what I'll call the "liberty as a means" group. They see a tiny tiny amount of government as a necessary evil, and will thus only accept authority (in the form of government) when they see that evil as necessary. (I.e., they accept only a tiny tiny amount of government for things they believe must be done but could not be done any other way.) What they want is to set up tiny experimental independent societies (with their own rules, norms, laws, etc) and to have these compete with each other in a Darwinian (although non-violent) way. People would then be free to move between these competing societies and in a way “vote with their feet”, and in that way, (at least partially) decide the (Darwinian) "fitness" of a competing society by which of these competing societies they decide to live in.

In some ways you can consider that the group #1 libertarians are doing things for moral reasons, and group #2 are going things for utilitarian reasons.

Utilitarian "conservatism" is some ways has some common threads with group #2 libertarians. Although they have certain other things they consider for their utilitarian desires.

Also, group #1 libertarians (i.e., "liberty as a goal" libertarians) tend to not consider group #2 "libertarians" to be "real" libertarians. (They consider them to be minarchists or classical liberals or that they are just being logically inconsistent.) But group #1 libertarians "work with them" because there are many goals they have in common.

Long story short though, there are in fact, a large number of people who self-identify as libertarians who consider taxation extortion and theft. This isn't an extreme position as far as libertarianism goes. It's actually a norm.

And when I made the statement you quoted, I implicitly was talking about group #1 libertarians.

Libertarians want to minimize the amount of government coercion in society, because they believe that maximizes human freedom.

Not exactly. Group #1 libertarians actually consider any and all coercion (except for self-defense and just retaliation) to be immoral. They are against all forms of government (because they see government being morally equivalent to a mugger, a thief, and a murderer), and want it gone. Shrinking government essentially gets them closer towards the goal of eliminating it.

For group #2 "libertarians" though, they do want to minimize government because they see government as evil, but since they see it as a necessary evil to do specific things (that they don't think can be done without government) government should never be larger than those specific things.

But it seems to me that it's not fair to suggest that's all that libertarianism is about,

I think you are correct in that some group #2 "libertarians" are OK with a small amount of tax, used for very very specific things (that they have a list for). (But remember, group #2 "libertarians" want competing societies where people could move between freely, and basically "vote with their feet". Thus some of these societies could be taxless.)

But group #1 libertarians are completely against taxation.

and besides, most libertarians aren't as eager as you suggest to throw out the whole idea of the social contract.

As far as I know, neither group #1 libertarians or group #2 "libertarians" accept any notion of a "social contract" as actual contract. Both libertarians will say that a contract must be agreed to by an individual. And since the idea of a "social contract" does not require a person to agree to it for it to apply to them, it's not a contract at all.

Note though that it is not uncommon for some group #2 "libertarians" to accept constitutionalism though if a constitution embodies those list of things they believe can't be done any other way expect with a tiny tiny government. (And constitutionalism is somewhat like a "social contract".)


How do you decide when someone is suffering (or being harmed) or not?

Why, the courts and the democratic process, of course!

Would it be accurate to call this a notion of authority?

Starwatcher162536
05-04-2010, 10:05 PM
These new Rules are intended to CHANGE the game of golf.
Golf must be about Fairness.
It should have nothing to do with Ability.

Funny it should end with that, as the Raison d'ętre for many progressive policies is trying to tie together economic outcomes and innate ability. Look up the social mobility numbers for yourself and ask yourself if you believe that there are structural problems preventing people from properly utilizing their innate ability or if you believe that it just happens to work out that the people that are gifted with sought after abilities are predominately white suburb kids.

Wreaver; My idea of fairness isn't equalizing outcomes, but equalizing opportunities. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking, but in my experience the trailer park kids aren't dumber then the suburb kids. I haven't really kept in touch with either group, but I know the majority of the former are by now blue collar workers and the majority of the latter are white collar workers. This bothers me.

Moving on, I will once again take a negative on all your questions. Now a question to you; Do you believe that a person who always had two supportive parents, always went to good schools, didn't pay for college, never had to be stressed out over his/her parent's monetary situation, etc. making a 100,000 USD per annum is no less deserving of that wealth then a person who had none of those advantages but still managed to defy the odds and end up making 100,000 USD per annum?

wreaver
05-04-2010, 10:47 PM
Wreaver; My idea of fairness isn't equalizing outcomes, but equalizing opportunities. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking, but in my experience the trailer park kids aren't dumber then the suburb kids. I haven't really kept in touch with either group, but I know the majority of the former are by now blue collar workers and the majority of the latter are white collar workers. This bothers me.

Although I'll remain agnostic on the topic until I see evidence to persuade me one way or the other, it does seem plausible that there could be IQ differences between the two white groups, on a group-wide basis. I.e., the average IQ of the one white group could be significantly different than the average IQ of the other white group.

Based on the information I've seen, I do think IQ matters (for some things).

Moving on, I will once again take a negative on all your questions.

Why? (What makes it unacceptable?)

Now a question to you; Do you believe that a person who always had two supportive parents, always went to good schools, didn't pay for college, never had to be stressed out over his/her parent's monetary situation, etc. making a 100,000 USD per annum is no less deserving of that wealth then a person who had none of those advantages but still managed to defy the odds and end up making 100,000 USD per annum?

(Just to be explicit, I'll say would probably be best described as a "liberty as a goal" type libertarian, in case you were wondering.)

I'm not quite sure I understand what you are asking me here. I believe you are asking me if who I think is worthy, or maybe more worthy, of the money. Is that correct? (Or am I misunderstanding you?)

If so, then I'd say a person is worthy of it if they got it without initiating (physical) coercion (or the threat of it) against someone else to get it and did not deprive someone else of their property (i.e., steal it). (I.e., the person is worthy if there was a voluntary exchange, or there was no owner of it.)

Whatfur
05-05-2010, 06:53 AM
Funny it should end with that, as the Raison d'ętre for many progressive policies is trying to tie together economic outcomes and innate ability. Look up the social mobility numbers for yourself and ask yourself if you believe that there are structural problems preventing people from properly utilizing their innate ability or if you believe that it just happens to work out that the people that are gifted with sought after abilities are predominately white suburb kids.



You may need to describe to me the structural problems you talk about. Sounds to me that you are really describing victimhood more than the neighborhood. You escaped the trailer park, "college boy", what enabled you? Or maybe more to the point...what were these big hurdles you needed to jump placed in front of you by "the man"? Harvard may not be available to everyone, but higher education certainly is. Not to mention that society already provides 13+ years of free educational opportunities. Sorry, but maybe you need to worry less about silver spoons.

Starwatcher162536
05-06-2010, 11:23 PM
Why? (What makes it unacceptable?)

I am not sure what else to say that I have not already said, but to reiterate; I am not interested in equalizing outcomes, I just want to live in a society where innate ability's are tied to economic outcomes.


I'm not quite sure I understand what you are asking me here. I believe you are asking me if who I think is worthy, or maybe more worthy, of the money. Is that correct? (Or am I misunderstanding you?)

You understood me.