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sugarkang
07-09-2011, 07:06 PM
Peter Singer on Derek Parfit's On What Matters:


Last month, however, saw a major philosophical event: the publication of Derek Parfitís long-awaited book On What Matters. Until now, Parfit, who is Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, had written only one book, Reasons and Persons, which appeared in 1984, to great acclaim. Parfitís entirely secular arguments, and the comprehensive way in which he tackles alternative positions, have, for the first time in decades, put those who reject objectivism in ethics on the defensive.

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/singer75/English

In this era of ideological solipsism, we need Hume more than ever.

miceelf
07-09-2011, 07:31 PM
Ummmm

I could really be missing something, but objectivism has several very different meanings.

I took him to be acknowledging the validity of objectivism as in the theory that moral precepts are objective, rather than subjective, NOT objectivism as in the specific claims of Ayn Rand, which are a very small subset of objectivism in ethics/philosophy. (it's usually referred to as moral realism, to distinguish from the uniquely American usage of objectivism). I think you already know this, which is where Hume came from , but not clear how the likely intended usage in any way could be construed as "the cruelest of the cruel philosophies", unless Plato was grossly misunderstood.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objectivism

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-realism/

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 07:59 PM
Ummmm

I could really be missing something, but objectivism has several very different meanings.



Your version makes sense, actually. I suppose what threw me off is the 1 +1 = 2 thing and it reminded me of Rand's "A = A" or whatever; I don't know anything about Rand's Objectivism. I guess this requires further investigation. Though, every few years the entire world gets flipped, so I'm not surprised by anything anymore.

EDIT: Having re-read the article, I'm convinced that you're right and, therefore, amended my original post. I didn't have formal training in philosophy, so I didn't know that subjectivists and objectivists could be placed in broad camps. I just thought of Hume as a skeptic. Oh well. It's still interesting, though, because there are real questions about macro-morality (my word) and population ethics.

graz
07-09-2011, 08:06 PM
As a libertarian ...
... I don't know anything about Rand's Objectivism..

miceelf
07-09-2011, 08:14 PM
Your version makes sense, actually. I suppose what threw me off is the 1 +1 = 2 thing and it reminded me of Rand's "A = A" or whatever; I don't know anything about Rand's Objectivism. I guess this requires further investigation. Though, every few years the entire world gets flipped, so I'm not surprised by anything anymore.



Well, in your defense, Rand certainly claimed to be following that same tradition, and her specific iteration of it is probalby now the most common meaning most Americans would construe.


Who would have thought my undergrad minor in philosophy would ever come in handy for anything?

Hume was a skeptic, but I think in terms of whether reason alone could reveal the objective ethics. I think he believed that there were objective ethics.

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 08:20 PM
Who would have thought my undergrad minor in philosophy would ever come in handy for anything?

How about you put that minor in philosophy to use and argue with me in the Libertarian thread?

miceelf
07-09-2011, 10:11 PM
How about you put that minor in philosophy to use and argue with me in the Libertarian thread?

Sorry, that's poli sci.

Just kidding. I thought I had contributed to the thread. Double checking

sugarkang
07-09-2011, 11:16 PM
Sorry, that's poli sci.

Just kidding. I thought I had contributed to the thread. Double checking

I think the morality of redistribution is within the realm of philosophy. A lot of people incite anger by merely pointing to inequality. Res ipsa loquitur! So, I'd really like to know what it is about inequality that people dislike. It seems preposterous to point and say, "Greedy! Massive inequality! Unfair!" without actually getting to the core issues.

And yet, no one has challenged me on anything or made any major points. It makes me think that people are more interested in just being angry and finding people to be angry with.

I've had some good conversations with you that didn't degenerate into name calling. I'll take the evil right wing position, if you'd like. I can take either side.

badhatharry
07-10-2011, 12:01 AM
I think the morality of redistribution is within the realm of philosophy. A lot of people incite anger by merely pointing to inequality. Res ipsa loquitur! So, I'd really like to know what it is about inequality that people dislike. It seems preposterous to point and say, "Greedy! Massive inequality! Unfair!" without actually getting to the core issues.


I think it's silly to think that equality is achievable except in the eyes of the legal system. We in this country don't appreciate the equality we enjoy.


First, the inequality of personal well-being is sharply down over the past hundred years and perhaps over the past twenty years as well. Bill Gates is much, much richer than I am, yet it is not obvious that he is much happier if, indeed, he is happier at all. I have access to penicillin, air travel, good cheap food, the Internet and virtually all of the technical innovations that Gates does.

We also have no idea how to correct income inequality. Most of it occurs in the financial sector and we are stck with the dilemma of trying to regulate really, really smart people who have every resource and influence available to them to get around any regulation that can be imagined.


A third view is perhaps most likely. We probably donít have any solution to the hazards created by our financial sector, not because plutocrats are preventing our political system from adopting appropriate remedies, but because we donít know what those remedies are.

source (http://www.the-american-interest.com/article-bd.cfm?piece=907)

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 12:25 AM
I think it's silly to think that equality is achievable except in the eyes of the legal system. We in this country don't appreciate the equality we enjoy.
Yes.


We also have no idea how to correct income inequality. Most of it occurs in the financial sector and we are stck with the dilemma of trying to regulate really, really smart people who have every resource and influence available to them to get around any regulation that can be imagined.
So, there are a couple things here. Before we ask if we can correct income inequality, I'd ask if we want to correct it. Surely, liberals will say they want more equality, but that's what the Nozick question is asking, right? How could you do these voluntary transactions where nobody is coerced, but we all end up less equal? Matt Yglesias in his recent talk with Julian Sanchez talked about how he wouldn't want property to be redistributed because he wouldn't know what to do with Apple Computer, Inc., even if it were handed to him. Hugo Chavez routinely just takes stuff from one company and gives it to poor people. Literally. I've seen video where he just takes some brand new tractors from a "rich company" and gives them to a peasant farm. That might feel good in a robin hood sort of way, but it completely defies efficient allocation of resources, regardless of the morality.

Then, there's the matter of burdening future generations with current debt; generally right wingers hate doing this and Matt agrees.

My guess is that Matt will be a full blown moderate in two years.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 08:15 AM
I think the morality of redistribution is within the realm of philosophy. A lot of people incite anger by merely pointing to inequality. Res ipsa loquitur! So, I'd really like to know what it is about inequality that people dislike. It seems preposterous to point and say, "Greedy! Massive inequality! Unfair!" without actually getting to the core issues.


Well, you're bringing it up here, but let me point out that the above kind of treats inequality as a dichotomy (people hate inequality), when in fact, what is perceived as a problem isn't inequality per se, but a certain level of inequality.What the threshold is where people start to get uncomfortable is going to vary, but nearly everyone in the conversation will be comfortable with small amounts of inequality (e.g. the richest person and the poorest person differ by $100) and uncomfortable with very large amounts (e.g., there is one person in America who owns everything).

miceelf
07-10-2011, 08:20 AM
Then, there's the matter of burdening future generations with current debt; generally right wingers hate doing this and Matt agrees.



Everyone hates doing this, but they have different solutions. The right tends to want to cut spending (outside of military, although some even there). The left tends to want to restore taxation toward the level it was at before the debt exploded.

At least in terms of current politicians, the left is much more flexible than the right on reducing the debt- they're willing to do a lot of spending cuts. The right has specifically said that they will not agree to ANY tax increases whatsoever.

So, in practical terms, it's hard for me to see how the right is *more* serious about debt/deficit reduction than the left.

badhatharry
07-10-2011, 10:50 AM
My guess is that Matt will be a full blown moderate in two years.

That's the trajectory...as they say, if you're a conservative in your twenties you have no heart. If you're a liberal in your forties you have no brain.

badhatharry
07-10-2011, 10:56 AM
Everyone hates doing this, but they have different solutions. The right tends to want to cut spending (outside of military, although some even there). The left tends to want to restore taxation toward the level it was at before the debt exploded.



So the rationale behind that is that the cause of the debt explosion is tax cuts. I don't think that's the case. I will be happy to raise taxes but only after the government cuts spending dramatically. Otherwise it's like a person who should lose weight saying he'll start his diet right after he eats this cake.

Starve the beast.

Starwatcher162536
07-10-2011, 12:52 PM
So the rationale behind that is that the cause of the debt explosion is tax cuts. I don't think that's the case. I will be happy to raise taxes but only after the government cuts spending dramatically. Otherwise it's like a person who should lose weight saying he'll start his diet right after he eats this cake. Starve the beast.

If you only look at the modern world (Post WWII) state spending as a share of GDP has increased but has mostly held steady for the past thirty years. The sudden contemporary spike is expected to be transient in nature. The ardor with which the popular mantra "Starve the Beast" is proclaimed seems to stem from a belief, which doesn't match the data, that the state is inexorably expanding and when extrapolating from current trends one can predict when the free market and presumably capitalism in general will be stifled out of existence, a belief which in turn originates from an overemphasis on the largely meaningless metric of absolute state spending.

http://img219.imageshack.us/img219/5316/screenhunter01jul100957.gif

Moving onto more recent times; The Pew Center reported in April 2011 the cause of a $12.7 trillion shift in the debt situation, from a 2001 CBO forecast of a cumulative $2.3 trillion surplus by 2011 versus the estimated $10.4 trillion public debt we actually face in 2011.

The major drivers were:
Revenue declines due to the recession, separate from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 28% / Defense spending increases: 15% / Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 13% / Increases in net interest: 11% / Other non-defense spending: 10% /Other tax cuts: 8% / Obama Stimulus: 6% / Medicare Part D: 2% / Other reasons: 7%

It's pretty hard to make a case that the state needs to make "drastic" cuts in spending before one can discuss moving the top marginal tax rate from 36% to 39% outside just admitting small government and low taxes is just one's personal preference.

eeeeeeeli
07-10-2011, 01:28 PM
I think the morality of redistribution is within the realm of philosophy. A lot of people incite anger by merely pointing to inequality. Res ipsa loquitur! So, I'd really like to know what it is about inequality that people dislike. It seems preposterous to point and say, "Greedy! Massive inequality! Unfair!" without actually getting to the core issues.
Well, as you've probably gleaned fro my posts, I'm most concerned with human liberty [edit: as I would frame it], specifically in the form of human and social capital. I think it is this dynamic that is truly at the core of inequality, and so that's what bothers me about it.

I think it's true that we don't (I don't!) have a very good grasp of how we might structure capitalism so that it truly reduces inequality. But at this point, thinking in bigger terms seems so far from political reality, that I'm more concerned with plenty of small-bore issues, such as keeping libraries open, roads paved, the sick cared for, etc.

But yeah, for me the source, as well as the solution lies in addressing all forms of capital inequality. The wealthy had more to begin with, so it is fair to ask more of them. I think as long as we do this democratically, it is well within the constitutional, as well as moral purview of the state to "coerce" (to borrow a favorite libertarian framing) its members into abiding.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 01:51 PM
So the rationale behind that is that the cause of the debt explosion is tax cuts. I don't think that's the case.



Well, that's it. I'm convinced.

stephanie
07-10-2011, 02:05 PM
So, I'd really like to know what it is about inequality that people dislike.

It's related to why people like equality broadly defined. In other words, not strict or enforced equality, but a society where there's a large and functioning middle class, poverty is not so engrained that it gets too in the way of opportunity, and the rich aren't so rich that their lose their basic allegience to the society and the well-being of others (if only because there's a symbiotic relationship) or equality under the law. Many of these kinds of things are talked about positively by Tocqueville. You could also look at Mickey Kaus' ideas about social inequality.

My views on these things primarily have to do with political concerns, not philosophical ones, though I do generally think Rawls makes sense.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 04:41 PM
Well, as you've probably gleaned fro my posts, I'm most concerned with human liberty [edit: as I would frame it], specifically in the form of human and social capital. I think it is this dynamic that is truly at the core of inequality, and so that's what bothers me about it.
I'm having a discussion with miceelf about it. It's in the libertarian thread, so please feel free to add points. Right now the debate is this:
increase income equality by redistributing their money vs. let the rich do what they want with their money to create the things that rich people create.

graz
07-10-2011, 05:44 PM
... let the rich do what they want with their money to create the things that rich people create.

And what they create or exploit are financial instruments for maximizing increases of capital gains that are taxed at the lower rate. Priceless ... no, profit.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 05:53 PM
And what they create or exploit are financial instruments for maximizing increases of capital gains that are taxed at the lower rate. Priceless ... no, profit.

Imagine two Warren Buffetts in the year 1960. They both start out with $1,000,000.
Buffett A: taxed at 50% per year
Buffett B: taxed at 0% per year

Fast forward to the year 2010, both Buffetts announce that they will give away most of their money to philanthropy (Bill Gates Foundation). Which Buffett has done more to help the poor?

graz
07-10-2011, 05:56 PM
Imagine two Warren Buffetts in the year 1960. They both start out with $1,000,000.
Buffett A: taxed at 50% per year
Buffett B: taxed at 0% per year

Fast forward to the year 2010, both Buffetts announce that they will give away most of their money to philanthropy (Bill Gates Foundation). Which Buffett has done more to help the poor?

I don't like thought experiments, they don't comport with my ideological preferences.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 06:01 PM
I don't like thought experiments, they don't comport with my ideological preferences.

You don't like math and you don't like to think, is what you mean.

graz
07-10-2011, 06:03 PM
You don't like math and you don't like to think, is what you mean.

Math is like poetry, thinking is a consummate pleasure. Debunking your fraudulent ethos as thinking on the fly ... priceless.

miceelf
07-10-2011, 07:04 PM
Fast forward to the year 2010, both Buffetts announce that they will give away most of their money to philanthropy (Bill Gates Foundation). Which Buffett has done more to help the poor?

What proportion of people at Buffet's income level do this? Most people at that level aren't even hiring people let alone giving money away.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 07:24 PM
What proportion of people at Buffet's income level do this? Most people at that level aren't even hiring people let alone giving money away.

Agreed. However, let me just remind you that I'm on the redistribution side of the argument, personally. So, assuming you've accepted the Two Buffetts argument, now imagine two Apple corporations. Let's say that Apple spends absolutely none of its money for philanthropy, ever.

The year is 2002. Apple is starting to rebuild itself after a lost decade of mismanagement. It's got some moderate success with the iPod and iMacs. The company is mildly profitable. A minor segment of the population is really, really excited about their products, but the remaining 95% of America doesn't care. Apple wants to place a huge investment into MacBook production, costing billions. It's a huge gamble without a guaranteed payoff.

Apple, Inc A: tax rate 0%
Apple, Inc B: tax rate 50%

Result?

miceelf
07-10-2011, 09:16 PM
Apple, Inc A: tax rate 0%
Apple, Inc B: tax rate 50%

Result?

Yes, as I think we are clear if you limit your examples to post facto knowledge of cases where the money is spent in a generous way. We both know this happens in a minority of cases. We also know that in the current situation, most companies are simply divulging their record profits to their shareholders and executives, who are stocking it away. The profits don't sit in the company coffers waiting to be spent on some new life-improving and/or job creating thing.

Whatever the rate on Apple is going to be is going to be the same on a similarly sized company.

So, the real quesiton isn't Apple A vs. Apple B, but all companies in America of a certain size under scenario a vs. b. This is going to have a less salutory effect of lower taxes than the specific examples you cited.

sugarkang
07-10-2011, 10:27 PM
Yes, as I think we are clear if you limit your examples to post facto knowledge of cases where the money is spent in a generous way. We both know this happens in a minority of cases. We also know that in the current situation, most companies are simply divulging their record profits to their shareholders and executives, who are stocking it away. The profits don't sit in the company coffers waiting to be spent on some new life-improving and/or job creating thing.


Wait, I don't think we're clear on premises here. Before we go further, let me make sure. I'm saying Apple A has more money to invest into R&D for the MacBook to be a success. Apple B has less money to invest.

Regarding shareholders, anyone is free to invest in Apple stock. In fact, most 401K programs are built on stock portfolios. So corporate wealth is directly translated into wealth for stockholders. A lot of those shareholders are grandma and grandpa pensions.

chiwhisoxx
07-10-2011, 11:05 PM
It's related to why people like equality broadly defined. In other words, not strict or enforced equality, but a society where there's a large and functioning middle class, poverty is not so engrained that it gets too in the way of opportunity, and the rich aren't so rich that their lose their basic allegience to the society and the well-being of others (if only because there's a symbiotic relationship) or equality under the law. Many of these kinds of things are talked about positively by Tocqueville. You could also look at Mickey Kaus' ideas about social inequality.

My views on these things primarily have to do with political concerns, not philosophical ones, though I do generally think Rawls makes sense.

if you think rawls makes sense here, then that doesn't work very well with being concerned about inequality in and of itself. the difference principle has no problem with inequality, so long as the worst off in society are as well off as theoretically possible. so while a rawlsian scenario would probably involve less inequality than a lot of others, there's no problem with inequality in the abstract. this is where someone like kaus is significantly at odds with someone like rawls. rawls is mostly focused on the material, without having a problem with inequality perse. mickey focuses less on the material, as he realizes some amount of inequality is probably inevitable. but he is concerned with the social inequalities that arise from larger gaps in wealth.

stephanie
07-11-2011, 02:57 PM
if you think rawls makes sense here, then that doesn't work very well with being concerned about inequality in and of itself.

Yes. And like I said, my concern about inequality in a broad political sense is based on political considerations, which were explained.

I'm not really concerned about inequality "in and of itself" but due to its connection to various other issues, such as those I mentioned. I suspect that most people are not focused on inequality alone or in theory. It's kind of a false argument, IMO. Sure, absent the problems that usually go along with inequality, inequality wouldn't be a problem. That's also related to the fact that no one is saying we all need to be equal or pushing toward anything of the kind. That's the most irritating strawman in this conversation, as usually had. I mean, do you really imagine that you are engaged in an argument with people who wish to eliminate inequality, merely because they see growing inequality in a specific society to be a concern?

chiwhisoxx
07-13-2011, 03:09 PM
Yes. And like I said, my concern about inequality in a broad political sense is based on political considerations, which were explained.

I'm not really concerned about inequality "in and of itself" but due to its connection to various other issues, such as those I mentioned. I suspect that most people are not focused on inequality alone or in theory. It's kind of a false argument, IMO. Sure, absent the problems that usually go along with inequality, inequality wouldn't be a problem. That's also related to the fact that no one is saying we all need to be equal or pushing toward anything of the kind. That's the most irritating strawman in this conversation, as usually had. I mean, do you really imagine that you are engaged in an argument with people who wish to eliminate inequality, merely because they see growing inequality in a specific society to be a concern?

I think a rawlsian construct could allow for more inequality than a lot of liberals are comfortable with. I don't think a lot of people focus on inequality for inequalities sake. (although a lot of the academic criticisms of rawls from the left does focus on that) but I do think too many people tend to cite raw inequality numbers are bulletproof evidence of something; that tax cuts are bad, republicans only care about the rich, etc. I'd be really happy if we focused more on the results of inequality rather than the pure numbers. I also think liberals tend to get a bit too obsessed with people at the top, rather than focusing on the poorest in society. when we have these debates, we tend to mostly hear about CEO pay and other red herrings in that vein. so anyway, if you dislike the strawman, then it'd be nice to hear more about the actual effects of stratification.

stephanie
07-13-2011, 04:02 PM
I think a rawlsian construct could allow for more inequality than a lot of liberals are comfortable with.

In theory, yes, although if the inequality existed for the reasons it would and under the conditions it would in that theoretical world, then I personally would not be uncomfortable with that amount of inequality anymore, even if it's not what I imagine is desireable in the real world I see. I can't really speak for "liberals" more generally, although I think you are assuming a greater intolerance for inequality in theory than actually exists.

In reality, I think that Rawls in practice would mean less inequality than I'm actually comfortable with, but I'm not suggesting that we remake society along some strict philosophic lines, as I think I was pretty clear about. When I said I agreed with Rawls, I merely meant in a broad sense -- that it makes sense to think about it as what kind of social contract would you enter into if a veil of ignorance were applied and to thus separate personal characteristics such as who you are and even what you skills are from what we deserve as in the more strict "what I create is mine morally" idea.

I don't think a lot of people focus on inequality for inequalities sake.

Okay, we agree here.

...I do think too many people tend to cite raw inequality numbers are bulletproof evidence of something; that tax cuts are bad, republicans only care about the rich, etc.

I wouldn't agree that the people citing these numbers are dismissing the possible good reasons for increasing inequality. I think they've thought it through and dismissed the arguments for that for reasons that seem to me convincing. For example, typically the arguments are made in the context of recent US history, so I think some of the things you think are being ignored are just being assumed to be implicit. That's just how things are.

I'd be really happy if we focused more on the results of inequality rather than the pure numbers.

Seems like they go together. (That's also why I mentioned Kaus, who has a different take on this.)

I also think liberals tend to get a bit too obsessed with people at the top....

I don't think so, I don't see that focus, but we all see things through our filters and if something bugs you you probably notice it more. It's like how everyone has my same car.

Also, focus on CEO pay isn't just for the sake of talking about CEO pay. It's directly responsive to arguments that companies can't afford to pay others more. It's also directly responsive to the argument that an unregulated market comes to economically rational results, as there are plenty of explanations that seem to me more convincing. And to avoid misunderstanding, I'm not personally in favor of interfering with CEO pay or bothered much by it. It does seem to me to be relevant to certain discussions, though, and not because I care about inequality for inequality's sake, since I don't

miceelf
07-13-2011, 04:09 PM
I think a rawlsian construct could allow for more inequality than a lot of liberals are comfortable with. I don't think a lot of people focus on inequality for inequalities sake. (although a lot of the academic criticisms of rawls from the left does focus on that) but I do think too many people tend to cite raw inequality numbers are bulletproof evidence of something;

I think this is close, but I think what people really focus on isn't raw inequality as evidence of something, but dramatic changes in inequality as evidence of something; the implicit argument isn't that all inequality is bad, but that dramatic increases in inequality over a relatively short period of time is likely to be bad. Especially as it covaries with other negative changes (a la, say, bowling alone)