Thursday, December 19, 2013

America First?

. One upshot of Singer's views on alleviating hunger comes I believe, from his utilitarianism. According to Utilitarianism, we are to maximize the total balance of pleasure over pain, and in counting this, we are to consider each person's happiness as equal to everyone else's. Hence, my happiness, or that of my family, should count no more from the moral point of view than anyone else's happiness. 
Countering this is the sentiment of Marty Robbins' song "In My Own Native Land." A lot of people who read Singer's essay say that we should help America first, as Marty Robbins implies. Singer disagrees. What do you think? Is it ethical to say "America First?"

82 comments:

unkleE said...

I'm an Aussie, so how could I agree with "America First"? Which I think shows how shallow (and unchristian, which matters to me) that slogan is.

We may first try to alleviate pain and injustice in our home country because that is what we see day-to-day, but once we are aware of injustice and suffering elsewhere, I cannot see how a jingoistic slogan should lead us to ignore it.

But I also note that Singer is an Aussie too! :)

Ilíon said...

an anti-Christian fool, who can't even see it: "I'm an Aussie, so how could I agree with "America First"? Which I think shows how shallow (and unchristian, which matters to me) that slogan is."

Ilíon said...

"One upshot of Singer's views on alleviating hunger comes I believe, from his utilitarianism. According to Utilitarianism, we are to maximize the total balance of pleasure over pain, and in counting this, we are to consider each person's happiness as equal to everyone else's. Hence, my happiness, or that of my family, should count no more from the moral point of view than anyone else's happiness."

What?!? Are you just now figuring out that the (self-serving) logic by which you "liberals" justifying confiscating, under threat of violent death, an ever-increasing percentage of fruit of *my* labor, so as buy the votes of ... I mean, so as to redistribute it to "help" The Poor (tm) (minus, of course, the hefty overhead involved in paying the salaries of the army of bureaucrats who extract and redistribute that wealth) also justifies, and indeed demands, that *your* wealth be confiscated for redistibution to Our Poor Small Brown Brothers in Foreign Lands (tm)

oozzielionel said...

First, "everyone" usually is code for "nobody." If my moral standard is how it helps the whole world, this dilutes my responsibility for my family, my friends, my community.
Our moral responsibility For those interested in a Biblical example of this moral principle, see I Timothy 5:8 and Galatians 6:10.

This idea of concentric circles of moral responsibility is not inconsistent with an attitude of generosity and rejection of being self-centered. However, there is no need for a long jump from myself to the world.

Dan Gillson said...

Oozzielionel makes a good point. Most of us aren't actors on the world stage; we are confined to our peculiar, spatiotemporally fixed locality. The effects of our moral behavior don't reach "the world." They only reach as far as our network of friends, family, and associates extends. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't hope that unhappiness isn't assuaged, nor that we shouldn't try to do our part in assuaging it, especially if we have the means, merely that we should recognize the limits of our actions.

If, as an affluent society, we decide to take on The Big problems, feeling that we have a duty to do so, virtue ethics, not consequentialism nor deontology, should underwrite our notion of duties. Consequentialism and deontology, if they underwrite our notion of duties, don't provide us with the justification to enforce moral obligations. They produce moral reasons that are mute. We are thus left with enforcing moral duties without justification, which breeds Ilíon's understandable, but immoral, reaction against coercive. Virtue ethics, however, determines which duties belong to the moral individual. In virtue ethics, morality isn't separate from politics. It gives us a basis upon which we can enforce moral duties, including systems of taxes-and-redistributions.

Crude said...

What do you think? Is it ethical to say "America First?"

America First doesn't mean 'America Only'.

In fact, the one way in which America First is if not immoral then at least irresponsible is because in reality, it starts more local than that.

First God. Then myself. Then my family. My neighborhood. My city. My region. My state. My country. My regional neighbors. Etc.

I don't think unkleE's response is all that bad, though. I'd dislike the idea of 'America first, and screw everyone else' as well. I just don't think it means that, or at least that it should mean that.

Victor Reppert said...

I wanted to set the context the "America First" issue in terms of the essay by Singer.

In particular this passage by Singer is relevant:

From the moral point of view, the development of the world into a "global village" has made an important, though still unrecognized, difference to our moral situation. Expert observers and supervisors, sent out by famine relief organizations or permanently stationed in famine-prone areas, can direct our aid to a refugee in Bengal almost as effectively as we could get it to someone in our own block. There would seem, therefore, to be no possible justification for discriminating on geographical grounds.

Singer's paper seems primarily concerned with private donations rather than action on the part of government, though he does say:

I do not, of course, want to dispute the contention that governments of affluent nations should be giving many times the amount of genuine, no-strings-attached aid that they are giving now. I agree, too, that giving privately is not enough, and that we ought to be campaigning actively for entirely new standards for both public and private contributions to famine relief. Indeed, I would sympathize with someone who thought that campaigning was more important than giving oneself, although I doubt whether preaching what one does not practice would be very effective. Unfortunately, for many people the idea that "it's the government's responsibility" is a reason for not giving which does not appear to entail any political action either.

Of course, funding for increased government action would have to come from taxing the people.

Now I am going to make Ilion's point for him before he does. He's going to say that Singer's moral exhortation to private citizens to give more, on the grounds that it is their duty, is simply a stalking horse for government confiscation once it is discovered that we of the wealthier nations have not done their "duty."

But that is not what he argues for directly, of course.

Crude said...

Now I am going to make Ilion's point for him before he does. He's going to say that Singer's moral exhortation to private citizens to give more, on the grounds that it is their duty, is simply a stalking horse for government confiscation once it is discovered that we of the wealthier nations have not done their "duty."

Would Ilion say that? I won't even begin to speak for him.

But I don't have a problem with a moral exhortation to private citizens to give to charity. I don't even mind duty talk. It seems entirely Christian to urge people to give to the poor if they can afford to do so. I don't see that as a 'stalking horse', especially if delivered from a sincere Christian perspective.

If anything, it seems to me that - if the ideal moral situation is that private people should give to charity - then that's a 'stalking horse' for getting government out of more parts of the charity game. It's funny how one of the principal problems with personal giving is highlighted as this attitude that 'that's the government's job', but that's spun into a justification to have the government do more of it. I take the opposite view: that illustrates that we have to disassociate charity and duties from 'government' to 'individuals'.

im-skeptical said...

The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish. Of course, there are notable exceptions, such as Bill Gates. But your average moderately wealthy private citizen is far more concerned with extracting an ever larger slice of the pie from his fellow citizens than with helping out anyone in need. The early Christians had a very different view than that expressed bu Ilion. They actually believed in sharing what they had, not simply as a charitable act.

Crude said...

The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish.

Based on what? According to who? Where is your data on this?

And the whole point of an exhortation is to get people to do what they are not already doing. You change their minds instead of putting a gun to their head.

Gordon said...

okay I Think Singer is right on this, and I thnk this is the Christian view. Parable of the Good Samaratan anyone

Also it is irrational. there is nothing about a person born in Uganda that makes that person greater or lesser than me. I agree we should help our local communities first, but that is because we are more efficient that way

I undestrand why some Christians find some of Singer's views repulsive (e.g on euthanasia) but his views on helping the poor were just Jesus'

Crude said...

Also it is irrational. there is nothing about a person born in Uganda that makes that person greater or lesser than me.

Who says it's an issue of greater or lesser? Maybe it's one of pertinent responsibility.

I am responsible, first and foremost, for myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my city, etc. My responsibility for someone in freaking Uganda is way, way lower.

If someone in Uganda is starving, that's indicative at least superficially that someone in Uganda is not meeting their duties. *My* duty is far more remote.

im-skeptical said...

"Based on what? According to who? Where is your data on this?"

We see it every day in our experience. Republicans and conservatives hate government primarily because they hate paying taxes. They don't seem to mind receiving services from the government, but they positively hate the idea of others receiving services, especially if it involves ponying up a penny or two.

We heard the story just yesterday of a Republican congressman who voted against extension of unemployment benefits, taking the principled stand that those people need to get off the public dole and take care of their own needs. This particular congressman gets three million dollars a year in farm subsidy benefits. (Evidently because his congressional salary and other sources of income isn't enough to get by on.)

This attitude seems to be quite typical of people like Ilion, and a great many who call themselves followers of Jesus. They don't seem to realize that government provides all kinds of services that people need, not just the services that THEY need.

Ilíon said...

I pretend to be the Judge of the Quick and the Dead: "The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish. ..."

Even if this is true, Who died and made this intellectually hypocritical fool the Judge of the world? How is it any of *his* business whether or not someone else is "selfish", whaterver it is that that word is supposed to mean? Doesn't he have have enough sin on his own plate without trying to eat off someone else's plate?

We'll come back to this claim.

I pretend to be competent to slice your pie: "... Of course, there are notable exceptions, such as Bill Gates. But your average moderately wealthy private citizen is far more concerned with extracting an ever larger slice of the pie from his fellow citizens than with helping out anyone in need. ..."

Even if this were actually true -- and it isn't -- how is it the business of this self-serving greedy fool, who is not, after all, the Sovreign Judge of the world? For, after all, what he's really greedily advocating is his right to live off the efforts of others, whether or not they wish to support his worthless hide. What he's *really* trying to claim is that "your average moderately wealthy private citizen" is his slave, whose labor belongs to him and not to the laborer.

How, I wonder, did "your average moderately wealthy private citizen" come to be "moderately wealthy" in the first place? Did he (as a general rule) employ the Democratic Method -- that is, using the violent coercive power of The State as a means for "extracting an ever larger slice of the pie from his fellow citizens"; or did he (as a general rule) employ the Republican Method -- that is, making more pies?

And, if he employed the Republican Method, how is he *not* "helping out anyone"? Are we not all better off when there are more pies?

In the whole history of the world, how has the Democratic Method ever helped anyone other than those who send 'round the bully-boys? How is anyone better off when we not only don't have more pies, but the one pie we do have is continually further sliced? But at least we'll all be equal with our sliver of pie you can see through, right? Well, except for the guys with the knives.

I pretend to give a damn about "the early Christians" ... and about the meanings of words: "The early Christians had a very different view than that expressed bu Ilion. They actually believed in sharing what they had, not simply as a charitable act."

Really? So, were "the early Christians" voluntality sharing with one another what they had ... or were they calling on Caesar to send 'round his bully-boys with the swords to collect "contributions" for them to "redistrbute" to "the needy" -- after taking their cut off the top, of course? And, if they were voluntality sharing with one another what they had, in what possible manner was that "not simply as a charitable act".

Why, I wonder, did "the early Christians" very early on abandon that communalism mentioned in passing in Acts? Might it be that they discovered -- as has everyone since -- that it doesn't work, that all it leads to rancor ... and to the work of producing what is needful for living not getting done?

Ilíon said...

======= Remember this assertion?
I pretend to be the Judge of the Quick and the Dead: "The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish. ..."

And here you thought he was talking about being "generous" or "selfish" with one's own money -- which is to say, with one's own labor-in-time (for that is what money represents). But, how did that actually cash out?

I pretend to be SuperMoral: "Republicans and conservatives hate government primarily because they hate paying taxes. They don't seem to mind receiving services from the government, but they positively hate the idea of others receiving services, especially if it involves ponying up a penny or two.
...
This attitude seems to be quite typical of people like Ilion, and a great many who call themselves followers of Jesus. They don't seem to realize that government provides all kinds of services that people need, not just the services that THEY need.
"

Ah! As usual with this sort, what he was *really* talking about was his desire to be "generous" with someone else's money, with someone else's *life*. Specifically, yours: he is to be the recipient, you the donor. Not, mind you, that you will be allowed to be a voluntary donor, for that has the flaw that you may not volunteer!

Crude said...

We see it every day in our experience. Republicans and conservatives hate government primarily because they hate paying taxes.

Oh! From your knee-jerk political beliefs and sociopolitical hostility. Alright.

Not a good way to go through life, Skep. Definitely not scientific thinking. But then that stuff is only good when it can give you the results you want, eh?

Papalinton said...

"Republicans and conservatives hate government primarily because they hate paying taxes."

Absolutely spot on. It's called the 'me, me, me' principle of how they interpret individual and personal liberty and always at the expense of the community.

This latest research illustrates how they regard the world in which we ALL live and don't give a rat's arse.

im-skeptical said...

"So, were "the early Christians" voluntality sharing with one another what they had ... or were they calling on Caesar to send 'round his bully-boys with the swords to collect "contributions" for them to "redistrbute" to "the needy" -- after taking their cut off the top, of course?"

That's the difference between the way we view government. I see it as something we institute for the common benefit of all, and I support paying taxes for the benefit of all. You see it as some kind of alien beast that wants to force you into submission and separate you from your money. Government is what we make it. That's why when Republicans are in charge it really does turn into an obnoxious beast with no regard for the people. So let me propose that we just let the Democrats run things, and then we'll all be better off.

HyperEntity111 said...

If I could just chime in here:

Skep is right and Illion is wrong. One of the functions of government is to protect the vulnerable in society. People have a moral obligation to help the vulnerable (e.g. the poor) which they do not in fact meet. This moral obligation trumps your right to have lots of money. Therefore, it is absolutely just for the government to tax the well off to support the poor.

As for the Democrats... I recognise that in America the Dems are the lesser of the two evils but in Europe, Democrats would be considered right wing. (Absurdities like the Republican party are simply unthinkable). Skep, if you really want secular socialism come to Europe! We welcome fellow socialists with open arms here! Merry Christmas y'all!

Crude said...

Hyper,

Skep is right and Illion is wrong. One of the functions of government is to protect the vulnerable in society. People have a moral obligation to help the vulnerable (e.g. the poor) which they do not in fact meet. This moral obligation trumps your right to have lots of money.

By all means, let's talk about moral obligations. Where exactly are they coming from again? I would absolutely love to lecture you about what your moral obligations are. Why, maybe I can even convince the government to force you to meet them by threat of imprisonment and more, as is the standard.

And I know where the Christian's moral rights talk come from, and the Platonists', and various non-naturalists' ultimately, at least of the ones I'm aware of. Where do the materialist-atheist's come from again? Granted, last I recall that's not you. But where are your moral obligations coming from?

Because 'I feel REALLY strongly about this!' doesn't produce a moral right in and of itself.

Skep, if you really want secular socialism come to Europe! We welcome fellow socialists with open arms here!

By all means, Skep - go to Europe. I say that with sincerity. Why, it's an easy place to emigrate to! No austerity to speak of, immigrants are loved, and they adore racial diversity. Not a nationalist around either. And every nation allows unrestricted access to abortion up to the day of birth.

Skep,

That's why when Republicans are in charge it really does turn into an obnoxious beast with no regard for the people. So let me propose that we just let the Democrats run things, and then we'll all be better off.

Of course. People love Obamacare now that they actually see it in action.

I love how your demand for science and evidence goes completely out the window once it comes to your political beliefs. People who disagree with you are complete monsters who are driven purely by greed and hate. At least I can appreciate the sincere beliefs some of the saner liberally inclined people are motivated by. You live in a world where everyone who disagrees with you is as hateful as you are.

But, as usual, we see the real value you place on science, reason and evidence: absolutely none, if it doesn't point where you want it to.

Papalinton said...

" And I know where the Christian's moral rights talk come from, and the Platonists', and various non-naturalists' ultimately..."

Bit of crock, really. Crude may imagine he and christians are Platonic. But in the same manner of his unnatural world, it is simply a figment that he has arrived at through narrow-casted reading. Plato did not flesh out his forms to the extent Crude ikagines, including the form of goodness. One of the enduring features of Plato's work today is innumerable ways it has been interpreted. And this explains "... the widely diverging reconstructions of his intentions in the secondary literature from antiquity to this day." [Stanford]

Chris said...

Papalinton,

Do you think Plato was a materialist?

Crude said...

Chris,

Linton has a very nasty habit of talking with certainty and feigned authority about things he is utterly clueless about, so I wouldn't dig too deeply there.

Papalinton said...

Chris
What is your meaning of 'materialist'?

Dustin Crummett said...

Based on what? According to who? Where is your data on this?

Wealthier people (in the US, at least--I don't know about elsewhere)can routinely be counted on to give a lower percentage of their income to charity, despite, obviously, being able to give away a much percentage of their income while maintaining the standard of living of a poorer person *and* facing a lower marginal financial cost from giving a given amount due to the possibility of tax deductions. See, for instance:

http://www.cpanda.org/pdfs/gv/GV01Report.pdf (p. 17)

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/

Dustin Crummett said...

Incidentally--not that discussion with Illion has ever proven fruitful for anyone, but just for the record--as to the question how it's "any of my business whether or not someone else is selfish," presumably it's my business for the same reason it's my business if someone is stealing from someone else. The idea that hoarding vastly more resources than you need while others blamelessly lack what they need is morally equivalent to just stealing from them isn't exactly a creation of modern liberals...

http://books.google.com/books?id=1GvL3eKhoM8C&pg=PA322&lpg=PA322&dq=aquinas+property+theft&source=bl&ots=mq4yPtb4oE&sig=RK4cioD6JJLyjIfnxtu2DPDEVzQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ybG8UsaPCuHu2wX3uoHwBA&ved=0CFwQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=aquinas%20property%20theft&f=false

Papalinton said...

Chris and others
Crude has a history of psychotypal behaviour. Not only is it reflected in his attitude towards me [he is a perpetual stalker, as others have noted], but to others and not only on this site. Crude is a known and proved bigot with a compulsive, morbid and discriminatory revulsion towards gays. Pooled from a number of veritable sources one can read of his pathological behaviour here and the referred instances contained therein. There is a pattern of behaviour.

So I would probably treat his counsel with due diligence.

Chris said...

Papalinton,

I think I would turn it back on you. From your perspective, what is the common denominator of materialism/naturalism/physicalism? And do you think Plato is a representative of such a pov?

Papalinton said...

Chris
In his thinking or his living?

Crude said...

Dustin,

Wealthier people (in the US, at least--I don't know about elsewhere)can routinely be counted on to give a lower percentage of their income to charity, despite, obviously, being able to give away a much percentage of their income while maintaining the standard of living of a poorer person *and* facing a lower marginal financial cost from giving a given amount due to the possibility of tax deductions.

One problem? The uses for 'wealth' go vastly beyond 'maintaining their standard of living'. If they used all of their excess on maintaining said standard, they would in effect be transferring it to others en masse.

Other uses for wealth: investment in business. Saving against disaster. Saving on behalf of others in the family.

Likewise, your stats show: wealthy people give thousands more in charity on average. They give, in terms of household income, slightly less as a percentage than all but the poorest bracket.

Another problem? That's not what I asked for evidence of, re: Skep. Let's repeat: "The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish."

So I ask again: where is the evidence, the data, for regarding these people as being selfish? Because you can't read that off some marginal differences in aggregate charitable contributions.

The idea that hoarding vastly more resources than you need while others blamelessly lack what they need is morally equivalent to just stealing from them isn't exactly a creation of modern liberals...

By all means - open that can of worms. Let's see how much of that lack is blameless. Let's see what 'need' means.

I won't speak for Ilion. But notice the key issue here: even granting (on Christian terms, with Christian beliefs) that greed is immoral, that does not automatically get you to a justification for massive government welfare programs, aka, taking people's money by violence or threat of violence, to spend as yet more elites see fit.

To disagree with the claimed need for a massive welfare state is not to in and of itself be 'greedy' or even be evidence of greed. It is simply to disagree. I am entirely in favor of heightened social and cultural encouragement for people to take care of those in need. I am even willing to entertain welfare policies in as local as level as possible, through as direct action as there is available. I am tired of knobs like Skep deciding to call that 'greed' because I don't march to the beat of the political party that has become his religion.

Chris said...

Papalinton,

On your definition of materialism, was Plato a materialist?

Dustin Crummett said...

Other uses for wealth: investment in business. Saving against disaster. Saving on behalf of others in the family.

Poor people wouldn't also like to save against disaster? The point is that the very wealthy could afford to give many times as much, as a percentage, as much poorer people and still have many times as much money available to them, *however* they planned to use it.

Likewise, your stats show: wealthy people give thousands more in charity on average.

'So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”'

So I ask again: where is the evidence, the data, for regarding these people as being selfish? Because you can't read that off some marginal differences in aggregate charitable contributions.

http://media.wix.com/ugd/80ea24_5147244eff46919e9d911ec3e6f4958a.pdf

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/21/1118373109

By all means - open that can of worms. Let's see how much of that lack is blameless. Let's see what 'need' means.

I take your condemnation of the Western poor to be... factually ill-grounded, but here it's not even relevant. In the context of Singer's argument, we can take the people who are in need to be, say, the billion people who live on less than (adjusted for purchasing power parity!) $1.25/day, and we can take the blameless to be, say, subsistence farmers who, on an average day, very probably work harder than you have in your entire life, but who are prevented from meeting their and their families' needs due to economic and social factors beyond their control, and who the average reasonably affluent resident of a Western nation can reliably help by giving small donations to the right organizations that won't require the sacrifice on their part of anything nearly as important as the benefits they're likely to bestow.

im-skeptical said...

"By all means, Skep - go to Europe."

As it happens, I have spent some time living in Europe. Better food, better beer, better healthcare, happier people. Their more socialist governments do a generally better job than ours of serving the interests of the people. Ours is much more geared to serving the interests of the wealthy elite.

"Of course. People love Obamacare now that they actually see it in action."

The "Obamacare" we see in action now is a Republican concept of "free market" healthcare - administered by the same insurance corporations that have failed to live up to the promise of the "free market" for so long. If you want to see healthcare that works much more effectively, go to Europe. Anywhere where they don't have private insurance corporations involved, it's bound to be better than what we have. Nevertheless, with the new regulations, millions of people will have a better shot at getting coverage they need.

Crude said...

Dustin,

Poor people wouldn't also like to save against disaster?
The point is that the very wealthy could afford to give many times as much, as a percentage, as much poorer people and still have many times as much money available to them, *however* they planned to use it.


And I'm pointing out that there are various reasons for a person to keep the money they have that don't cash out to 'maintaining their lifestyle' or 'greed' - so pointing out a mediocre percentage difference in their recorded and official charitable giving does not amount to a demonstration that they're greedy, selfish people.

You need more. Far more.

'So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”'

'Verily I say unto thee - this poor widow gave 3.0% percent per annum to charities, yea, and they were officially documented. She lacks greed. The wealthy among you, who give 2.7% per annum to charities, are selfish.'

Really, don't come at me with bonkers implied readings of Biblical passages to justify your points.

http://media.wix.com/ugd/80ea24_5147244eff46919e9d911ec3e6f4958a.pdf

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/21/1118373109


There we go! Some actual evidence. Granted, it's social sciences evidence, which is pretty goddamn thin, but at least you've made an effort. This, I applaud.

The problem is it still gets nowhere near establishing what Skep was talking about. Comparative increases in narcissism due to perceived social class does not get you to 'The wealthy are all/mostly selfish.' especially with the implied qualification of 'And no one else typically is.'

I take your condemnation of the Western poor to be... factually ill-grounded, but here it's not even relevant.

I didn't condemn the Western poor. I said I'm more than willing to talk about who does and doesn't deserve blame in their poverty. If you take the willingness to discuss that as condemnation - and I, by the way, am not a wealthy individual - that says more about you than myself.

Are you really going to tell me it's wrong to have expectations of people who are receiving charity? That they have no duties and obligations when they receive charity?

In the context of Singer's argument,

Singer's argument fails in terms of obligation right out of the gates just due to his ultimate metaphysical commitments. But, let's go on.

but who are prevented from meeting their and their families' needs due to economic and social factors beyond their control,

I'm more than willing to grant that there are, in fact, 'blameless poor' - in the West as well as outside of it, by the way. But my obligation to them - and this is assuming a metaphysics that is capable of reasonably grounding such things to begin with - is, depending on their location, more remote. When a somalian is in dire, blameless straits due to factors beyond his control, it is not the immediate obligation of Westerners to step in - many, many others are not meeting their obligations, include many non-Westerners.

That's one of the reasons why it's a ridiculous oversimplification to suggest, in effect, that dire situations in the third world result are the fault of an inactive first world. Obligations, if they exist, exist outside of the first world as well, you know.

Crude said...

Skep,

As it happens, I have spent some time living in Europe. Better food, better beer, better healthcare, happier people. Their more socialist governments do a generally better job than ours of serving the interests of the people. Ours is much more geared to serving the interests of the wealthy elite.

"I went on vacation once. That makes me an authority on the relative superiority and inferiority of a multitude of political and social systems that span several cultures, languages and histories."

Jesus God. This is what you think meaningful evidence is?

You may want to check out what's happening in Europe, y'know, recently. Austerity is on the horizon for many countries, as well as a resurgence in anti-immigration and nationalistic feelings. The best part? The one country that is clearly thriving - Germany - is being lambasted because it is... wait for it... hoarding its wealth and refusing to go into debt in order to help other countries out.

The "Obamacare" we see in action now is a Republican concept of "free market" healthcare

Ahahahahaha. Obamacare turns out to be abysmal, it's a major socialistic enterprise dreamed up by a lockstep Democratic party... so of COURSE it was a Republican plan all along. Except it will help millions of uninsured, supposedly... and I suppose that part was the Democrat part.

You really are a religious man, Skep. You just have a shitty religion!

Papalinton said...

Chris
Did Plato live an immaterial life?

Papalinton said...

"You may want to check out what's happening in Europe, y'know, recently. Austerity is on the horizon for many countries, as well as a resurgence in anti-immigration and nationalistic feelings. The best part? The one country that is clearly thriving - Germany - is being lambasted because it is... wait for it... hoarding its wealth and refusing to go into debt in order to help other countries out."

Sounds like Fox News to me.

im-skeptical said...

"Obamacare turns out to be abysmal, it's a major socialistic enterprise dreamed up by a lockstep Democratic party"

How ignorant is that? Obamacare is not socialized (excpet for the part that works reasonably well - Medicaid). And the whole plan was conceived by Republicans as an alternative to the Democrat's universal healthcare plan. Europe has socialized healthcare, and it works far better than the profit-motivated crap we have.

Incidentally, I lived in Europe for three years, and I got to know people there fairly well.

Karl Grant said...

Crude,

You may want to check out what's happening in Europe, y'know, recently. Austerity is on the horizon for many countries, as well as a resurgence in anti-immigration and nationalistic feelings. The best part? The one country that is clearly thriving - Germany - is being lambasted because it is... wait for it... hoarding its wealth and refusing to go into debt in order to help other countries out.

Not to mention many European countries don't exactly have separation of church and state and several said countries have what is called a church tax. For example, my father is from Germany and I have family over there; I know for a fact that about 65-70% of church revenue in Germany is generated by taxes collected by the government. Refuse to pay it and the government can refuse to administer marriages and burials to you and your family. Considering how Skeppy whines about tax-exemption for churches here, I somehow doubt he would be very pleased to be in said situation. Also in Germany, those social services were not maintained by just tax revenue; up until a year or two ago they had conscription there and you either served in the military or in civil protection services (which is how my dad's cousin Kurt ended up moving limbs from amputee patients down to the incinerator).

Karl Grant said...

Obamacare is not socialized (excpet for the part that works reasonably well - Medicaid). And the whole plan was conceived by Republicans as an alternative to the Democrat's universal healthcare plan.

Oh yes, a piece of legislation that has a Democratic President's name on it, signed into law by said Democratic President, drafted by Democratic Congressmen, whose implementation was fought over tooth and nail by Republican Congressmen, the same Republican Congressmen who shut down the Government a couple of months ago in an attempt to defund said legislation (which was an action you claimed had destroyed the GOP's credibility and how Americans would just love Obamacare when it came into affect, do we need to link to your posts to remind you of what you said three months ago?) is somehow a Republican drafted legislation. News flash Skeppy, you aren't the Ministry of Truth and this is not Oceania but since you want to engage in Doublethink maybe you ought to try these slogans on for size:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Europe has socialized healthcare, and it works far better than the profit-motivated crap we have.

It only works well so long as they have a strong economy as those services are maintained by tax revenue. Which is why Germany's healthcare system is better than Latvia's despite both countries having socialized healthcare. Most European countries, such as the PIIGS, have been skirting on the edge of economic collapse for the last three years or so. Their economies go down, so do those social services; witness the riots in Greece when funding to their public health services where cut. A similar situation is playing out in Spain right now. Also, they have for-profit healthcare in Europe in addition to socialized healthcare; for example, in Italy only about half of the healthcare in the country is publicly funded; the rest is either private clinics with private insurance or charity non-profit clinics.

Incidentally, I lived in Europe for three years, and I got to know people there fairly well.

Where exactly did you live in Europe? Do you hold citizenship in a European country (there is quite a difference between that and just living there as a foreign resident)? Also, when does knowing your neighbors equal knowing anything about economics, public services, political science, etc...

Crude said...

Skep,

How ignorant is that? Obamacare is not socialized (excpet for the part that works reasonably well - Medicaid).

See, your problem is you do not understand that 'socialism' is not merely 'the government gives people money'. It's also 'government control of private businesses'. When you create a system which mandates the purchase of a product, and stipulates businesses must take on such and such clients, etc - congratulations, you're in socialism town.

Which, by the way? I'm not a fan of. Do you think that my opposition to this sort of thing is borne of my desire to make wealthy people as wealthy as possible? To always give businesses an advantages? Socialism is entirely compatible with corporate welfare, privileging businesses, and more.

Europe has socialized healthcare, and it works far better than the profit-motivated crap we have.

You, little man, are unaware of the particulars of even the programs you like.

Incidentally, I lived in Europe for three years, and I got to know people there fairly well.

Oh, I'm sorry. That makes you an expert on the comparative political and economic realities of more than a dozen nations.

Papalinton said...

-----"You, little man, are unaware of the particulars of even the programs you like."

-----"Oh, I'm sorry. That makes you an expert on the comparative political and economic realities of more than a dozen nations."

:oD

You just gotta love this guy.
'Vlad the Impaler'? Nah! 'Crude the Invalidator'.

Teh he!

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

"News flash Skeppy, you aren't the Ministry of Truth and this is not Oceania but since you want to engage in Doublethink maybe you ought to try these slogans on for size"

News flash: The major tenets of the ACA originated from Republican opposition to Democrats' efforts to to reform healthcare. It was intended specifically to keep the private corporations in the mix and avoid a socialized system. The reason Republicans are now opposed to it is because it was embraced by Obama in lieu of real healthcare reform, and that means they must now be against it.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/conservative-origins-of-obamacare/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2011/10/20/how-a-conservative-think-tank-invented-the-individual-mandate/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act

crude,

"See, your problem is you do not understand that 'socialism' is not merely 'the government gives people money'. It's also 'government control of private businesses'. When you create a system which mandates the purchase of a product, and stipulates businesses must take on such and such clients, etc - congratulations, you're in socialism town."

You obviously don't know what socialism is, so here's a primer. Hint: it's not what Fox News claims it is. People who listen to them are notoriously uninformed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism

The English and French have true socialized medicine - the providers work for the government. Obamacare is the opposite of that. Regulation of an industry and mandates to buy private insurance policies do not constitute socialism.

Karl Grant said...

News flash: The major tenets of the ACA originated from Republican opposition to Democrats' efforts to to reform healthcare. It was intended specifically to keep the private corporations in the mix and avoid a socialized system. The reason Republicans are now opposed to it is because it was embraced by Obama in lieu of real healthcare reform, and that means they must now be against it.

Still copying other people's put downs? Have you no imagination or creative thoughts of your own?

Now exactly how does the fact that Republican Congressmen came up with the concept of individual mandate two decades ago change the fact that the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in both the House and the Senate with no Republican votes (this is from your own sources, specifically the New York Times link's reference material) or that Obama signed the act containing an individual mandate into law? If the Democratic Party controlled enough votes in both Houses of Congress to fucking ramrod major legislation through without the need to wheel and deal with the Republican Congressmen they could have made the PPACA into anything they wanted. Did you even think about that or do you not want to think about that because you don't like where that train of thought leads? The only reason it contains the individual mandate is because a great number of Democrats supported the concept; Hillary Clinton has been a champion of IA since the late nineties. From the New York Times reference material that you so graciously provided:

He [Obama] stated the following in a Feb. 28, 2008 interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show about his divergent views with Hillary Clinton:

"Both of us want to provide health care to all Americans. There’s a slight difference, and her plan is a good one. But, she mandates that everybody buy health care. She’d have the government force every individual to buy insurance and I don’t have such a mandate because I don’t think the problem is that people don’t want health insurance, it’s that they can’t afford it. So, I focus more on lowering costs. This is a modest difference. But, it’s one that she’s tried to elevate, arguing that because I don’t force people to buy health care that I’m not insuring everybody.


Gee, maybe that should give you pause for thought when hoping for Hillary 2016. The fact some Republicans had similar ideas back in 1993 does not change the fact this legislation was drafted by Democratic Congressmen in 2009-2010; passed both Houses of Congress with entirely Democratic votes and zero Republican votes (and I repeat, if they could do this they could have made the bill any damn thing they wanted); and signed into a law by a Democratic President. Those are the facts from your own sources; Obamacare is a proud product of the Democratic Party.

im-skeptical said...

"Now exactly how does the fact that Republican Congressmen came up with the concept of individual mandate two decades ago change the fact that the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed in both the House and the Senate with no Republican votes"

Republicans are strange creatures that have no allegiance to their own principles when it comes to political advantage. They will do or say anything if they think it will help them to gain or hang on to political power. It is not uncommon to see them reverse their own positions, especially in the current climate. They have been steadfastly against every goal of the Obama administration, even it it is a goal that they have previously supported.

Karl Grant said...

Republicans are strange creatures that have no allegiance to their own principles when it comes to political advantage. They will do or say anything if they think it will help them to gain or hang on to political power. It is not uncommon to see them reverse their own positions, especially in the current climate. They have been steadfastly against every goal of the Obama administration, even it it is a goal that they have previously supported.

Excuse me? That ain't just Republicans; that's crooked politicians in general. And let me guess the unspoken corollary to this statement: if Democrats change positions on an issue, like say voting for the Iraq War, it isn't because their previous support bit them in the ass or they now find it politically advantageous to do so now but because they are so wise and generous to the common man.

Bullshit.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats have decent men and women in their ranks; just as both have power-hungry unscrupulous assholes in their ranks. But you can't understand that because you are about one step removed from being a political fanatic. Plus, admitting the Democrats don't always do right or the Republicans don't always do wrong would be a little blow to your ego and admission you don't have every thing figured out. Also, if you don't think they have similar shitty asshole politicians come to power in Europe think again.

Dustin Crummett said...

The problem is it still gets nowhere near establishing what Skep was talking about. Comparative increases in narcissism due to perceived social class does not get you to 'The wealthy are all/mostly selfish.' especially with the implied qualification of 'And no one else typically is.'

I was providing evidence in favor of the statement from skep that you quoted and asked for evidence for:

The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish.

This statement is true, so far as I can tell (except, I guess, for the fact that it isn't *the one* problem): all our evidence suggests that the people who have the most give a lower proportion of their income to charity despite being able to give a much higher proportion, exhibit higher levels of narcissism and anti-social behavior, etc. Skep also said other things in the same comment which would be more difficult to support and which I think are probably false. But the statement I defended seems to be true, and is shown to be probably true (partly) by the evidence I've provided.

I didn't condemn the Western poor. I said I'm more than willing to talk about who does and doesn't deserve blame in their poverty. If you take the willingness to discuss that as condemnation - and I, by the way, am not a wealthy individual - that says more about you than myself.

In which Crude pretends not to understand conversational implicature...

Are you really going to tell me it's wrong to have expectations of people who are receiving charity? That they have no duties and obligations when they receive charity?

I'm saying that has no bearing on the kinds of charitable giving Singer is recommending.

Dustin Crummett said...

Singer's argument fails in terms of obligation right out of the gates just due to his ultimate metaphysical commitments. But, let's go on.

Singer's argument has nothing to do with his metaphysical commitments, in that it appeals only to normative, rather than metaethical, premises (that is, even if *his* metaethics fails, if some *other* metaethical view succeeds, the argument will have exactly the same force (or lack of force.))

(Though, incidentally, I'm not even sure what his metaethics is now. I think he's been gravitating towards some sort of Moorean non-naturalism in recent years.)

I'm more than willing to grant that there are, in fact, 'blameless poor' - in the West as well as outside of it, by the way. But my obligation to them - and this is assuming a metaphysics that is capable of reasonably grounding such things to begin with - is, depending on their location, more remote. When a somalian is in dire, blameless straits due to factors beyond his control, it is not the immediate obligation of Westerners to step in - many, many others are not meeting their obligations, include many non-Westerners.

That's one of the reasons why it's a ridiculous oversimplification to suggest, in effect, that dire situations in the third world result are the fault of an inactive first world. Obligations, if they exist, exist outside of the first world as well, you know.


Well, sometimes they're the result of an *active* first world--because, say, the CIA overthrew their democratically elected government... but let's set that aside.

What you say is *true*, but it's not as if there's only some set amount of blame to go around. That other people have *also* failed, and continue to fail, in their obligations doesn't absolve you of *your* obligation to help someone who's blamelessly in need and who you can help without sacrificing anything of great importance for yourself. (Admittedly, this might *complicate* matters--if, say, you think that other people who are shirking will keep shirking because they expect you to do something, and this winds up making things worse on the whole. But it doesn't seem like that's likely to happen in the cases under consideration here, or at least not to a degree that would absolve you of your obligation.)

Crude said...

Dustin,

This statement is true, so far as I can tell (except, I guess, for the fact that it isn't *the one* problem): all our evidence suggests that the people who have the most give a lower proportion of their income to charity despite being able to give a much higher proportion, exhibit higher levels of narcissism and anti-social behavior, etc.

Take a look at the statement again:

The problem with exhortation to private citizens is that for the most part, those who have the most to give tend to be the most selfish.

What the evidence suggests is that - on average, and broadly - people of higher classes give a marginally lower percentage of their income to charity. Also - again, on average - they tend to be more narcissistic than people of a lower class.

You've provided some evidence to back up a very broad version of that claim, and for that I applaud you. Seriously, I am enjoying this. But I'm pointing out the limits of your data, and the problems with your interpretation: you're using 'giving formally to charity' as the prime standard to determine selfishness, and you're equating narcissism with selfishness. The former is flawed because 'giving to charity' is only one way to express generosity - wealthy people have more routes which would need to be taken into account. The latter is flawed because 'narcissism' is entirely compatible with 'charitable giving'. Find a high profile charitable cause and you will find a den of narcissists.

That said - again - you did provide some evidence for the claim. Good job. It's not getting to where you want it to go, but it gets you in that direction, and I'll grant that straightaway.

In which Crude pretends not to understand conversational implicature...

In which Dustin feigns ignorance of a bad rhetorical tactic called out.

I'm saying that has no bearing on the kinds of charitable giving Singer is recommending.

It absolutely does, considering Singer wasn't talking just about charitable behavior in the broad sense ('We should all be giving to some charity, somehow, more than we do') but in particular senses ('These people here deserve charity from those people over there.') Once we talk particulars, duties come into play. Hell, they come in from the start, but with particulars it's emphasized.

Singer's argument has nothing to do with his metaphysical commitments, in that it appeals only to normative, rather than metaethical, premises (that is, even if *his* metaethics fails, if some *other* metaethical view succeeds, the argument will have exactly the same force (or lack of force.))

Singer's argument ultimately comes back to said metaphysical commitments. If they're lacking, the whole thing drops on the spot. I'm not a fan of what I take to be his 'normative' premises either, but as I said - on we go.

Crude said...

That other people have *also* failed, and continue to fail, in their obligations doesn't absolve you of *your* obligation to help someone who's blamelessly in need and who you can help without sacrificing anything of great importance for yourself.

It cripples Singer's argument in the way it complicates the matter.

Example: Mary is starving. John is Mary's wife. John earns money - he is not giving food to Mary. Mary's close relatives have money - they are not giving food to Mary. Mary's neighbors have money - they are not giving food to Mary. I have money. (Let's assume Mary really is blameless here, by the way. Call Mary crippled. She cannot work.)

Now, what's my responsibility here? Don't tell me it immediately follows that I owe Mary some of my money. Where's John in this? Where's Mary's relatives? Where are her neighbors? It's their responsibility first and foremost to tend to Mary.

That is something Singer ignores altogether, and it's not a small issue. My responsibility may not be to give money to Mary. It may be to persuade John, Mary's family, Mary's neighbors. Or, maybe it's to take money from John, Mary's family, and Mary's neighbors. And, let's be honest - that's getting very messy, very fast. Suddenly this is no longer the nice, neat problem of 'Mary needs money, any money, from anyone'. That's not really tackling the problem.

Singer's pretty bold when he argues that we should be giving more, and the problem is presented as one which is purely a matter of check-writing. Will he argue for good ol'-fashioned Western imperialism, for the greater good?

By the way? Loving this conversation, thank you for it. I don't care that you disagree with me strongly, or even that there's been snark. It's refreshingly intelligent.

Dustin Crummett said...

...you're using 'giving formally to charity' as the prime standard to determine selfishness, and you're equating narcissism with selfishness. The former is flawed because 'giving to charity' is only one way to express generosity - wealthy people have more routes which would need to be taken into account. The latter is flawed because 'narcissism' is entirely compatible with 'charitable giving'. Find a high profile charitable cause and you will find a den of narcissists.

You didn't read the studies I linked--wealthier people are also more likely to, say, cheat in games where a small monetary prize is on the line, even though they (obviously) need the money less. In experimental situations, they're also less generous with small sums of money they did nothing to earn:

http://media.wix.com/ugd//80ea24_f1f3156bf15b3d57922cd9f146ed5897.pdf

If *those* things aren't measures of selfishness...

But anyway, I don't want to get bogged down in an argument about the truth conditions for skep's claim. Here's what I want to defend: higher social class is correlated with lower charitable giving, lower generosity in general, higher levels of narcissism and feelings of entitlement, a higher willingness to engage in certain sorts of anti-social behavior (such as lying and cheating in order to obtain small sums of money,) and all sorts of other unsavory things referred to in the studies I've linked. Those things are all probably true, and are shown to be probably true (partly) by the evidence I've provided.

In which Dustin feigns ignorance of a bad rhetorical tactic called out.

Look, in normal English, in the context it which it was written, the following statement:

By all means - open that can of worms. Let's see how much of that lack is blameless. Let's see what 'need' means.

carries the implication that the answer to "How much of the lack is blameless?" is "not particularly much" and that the answer to "What does 'need' [scare quoted!] mean?" is "nothing particularly dire." But if that's not what you meant to imply, we can let it go.

Dustin Crummett said...

It absolutely does, considering Singer wasn't talking just about charitable behavior in the broad sense ('We should all be giving to some charity, somehow, more than we do') but in particular senses ('These people here deserve charity from those people over there.')

Sure, but in the specific contexts Singer is discussing, the people in question aren't relevantly blameworthy (they generally just haven't *had* any opportunities to improve their material situation) and there's no reason to think anything will be done with the charity other than what's intended (what, they'll sell the malaria net we give them and use the two dollars or whatever to live high on the hog? trade their fifty cents worth of vitamin supplements for a color tv?)

Singer's argument ultimately comes back to said metaphysical commitments.

Yeah, still not seeing it.

Suppose metaphysical naturalism is totally untenable. Peter Singer say, "Hey, there's a rock in the next room. Here's some photographic evidence of it. Here's a signed affidavit from the pope, certified by three different notary publics from three different states, swearing he saw it. Here's a piece of the rock I broke off, and here's documentation from the USGS verifying that this piece of rock came from the one in the next room. You can go look at the rock right now, if you'd like. Conclusion, via inference to the best explanation: there's a rock in the next room." You say, "Ah, but your metaphysical position is incompatible with their even *being* rocks, so I don't have to pay any attention to this argument!"

Or consider: you almost certainly believe some contradictory things (this might even sometimes be *rational*, for preface-paradox type reasons.) In classical logic, anything follows from a contradiction. You say, "I don't accept Singer's conclusion." I respond, "Ah, but it almost certainly is logically implied by things you already believe! Your position is incoherent, conversation over."

Well, no in each case, because we can--we *have* to--bracket these larger concerns and focus on the matter at hand. Singer's argument doesn't have any particularly interesting relation to his metaphysical views. What matters for the argument is whether, for instance, it's true that you're obligated to help an innocent person avoid a ruinous harm when you can do so without sacrificing anything of comparable importance, not anything having to do (except indirectly) with metaethics.

It cripples Singer's argument in the way it complicates the matter.

Yeah, I agree that those sorts of considerations *could* change what you should do (as, doubtlessly, would Singer,) I just think the actual empirical situation is one where they don't. I don't see that you've given any reason to think otherwise.

It's refreshingly intelligent.

Aww, thanks.

Crude said...

Dustin,

You didn't read the studies I linked--wealthier people are also more likely to, say, cheat in games where a small monetary prize is on the line, even though they (obviously) need the money less.

I did read the studies you linked, and they have the problems I say. They go some small direction towards backing up the claim that 'the wealthy are selfish', but accent on the small: you're talking about some of the softest of the soft science disciplines, trying to determine psychological differences between people of wide and varied background and being. You are getting average behaviors of small samples of people using gimmicky tests in an artificial environment.

As a result? You're not getting very much evidence. You are getting some, but only some. And just to fire at this one with both barrels: would you apply the same standards you're applying to 'the wealthy', to people of a particular race? Serious question.

Those things are all probably true, and are shown to be probably true (partly) by the evidence I've provided.

And I am pointing out the problems with your evidence - the innate limitations of it, the confounding factors, and more. Welcome to the social sciences - they suck, and are only so reliable. Sad, but true. You can get some information from them, but you're trying to jump from 'Wealthier people are X% more likely to cheat at a board game' to 'Wealthier people are selfish and won't voluntarily give up their money!' The moment you add in the human factor, you're in a swamp.

But if that's not what you meant to imply, we can let it go.

The only thing implied by my words is that 'the poor' as a group are typically presented as blameless when they are not. I don't have to doubt the existence of blameless poor to acknowledge the existence of blame-worthy poor. And frankly, in terms of media and social consideration, few people are willing to talk about the duties (blameworthy or not) of the charity recipient - and I think that's necessary.

Sure, but in the specific contexts Singer is discussing, the people in question aren't relevantly blameworthy

You're focusing on the wrong half of the equation. It's not just a matter of the people being blameworthy, it's a matter of who is duty bound to help them.

Crude said...

Yeah, still not seeing it.

Is-ought talk on metaphysical naturalism is a joke, so bracketing that when talking about ethics in a 'We are morally obligated to do X' sense, makes no sense. I'm tempted to say that with the rock claim you can at least get by with it because you're just talking about material facts, but then again if MN leaves the mind inexplicable or eliminates it, it opens another problem up. That's getting way far afield, though. As I said, I can put this aside for the conversation.

I don't see that you've given any reason to think otherwise.

Singer doesn't even show awareness of what I'm talking about. His entire argument, as I saw in the linked paper, is predicated on / heavily implies the idea of everyone having an equal responsibility to everyone else - if person X is starving, it is EVERYone's responsibility, even equal responsibility, to feed person X. I think that's absurd. Various people have greater duties to person X - the onus is on them first, and if they do not meet their duties, then my duty is not directly to X. It is indirect, because my duty is to make those other people - the appropriate people - fulfill their duty to X.

Notice how Singer can go on and on talking about plights in the third world and how the first world has a duty to them. He makes it sound as if there are no wealthy or problematic people in the region - no warlords with food and money, etc.

In fact, what's really amusing? Look at the very first footnote in Singer's paper. Funny how that possibility as a solution to the problem doesn't seem to have been raised by Singer. He wants to talk exclusively in terms of diverting resources, and then, diverting them from inhabitants in the first world. I'm pointing out that the problems are far more complicated, the duties not quite so equal, and the tools to solve the problems are far more varied than Singer is willing to admit. Even when the very situation he's talking about came about in part due to an out and out military action, all Singer talks about is resource diversion. That is insane.

Aww, thanks.

Thank you for providing it.

oozzielionel said...

Galatians 6:9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Two powerful ideas: 1) Find ways to do good and never give up. 2) Let opportunity prioritize your efforts. You are not bound by geography or relationship. You are free to do good wherever and whenever you get an opportunity. Thinking about opportunity is much more freeing than talk of duty.

In today's shrinking world we have the new problem of defining opportunity. We think that we are technologically able to help nearly anybody anywhere in the world. In reality, my sphere of influence is much smaller.

So, just do it. But that takes all the fun out of the argument.

Dustin Crummett said...

...you're talking about some of the softest of the soft science disciplines, trying to determine psychological differences between people of wide and varied background and being. You are getting average behaviors of small samples of people using gimmicky tests in an artificial environment.

Actually, some of the data I've provided--about charitable giving, for instance, or about driving behaviors--are from real world situations.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, what you're doing is just expressing general skepticism about social science. Fair enough, whatever. But exactly what's at issue is a social scientific claim. We have exactly the evidence we could reasonably expect to have if the claim I've made is true. If general skepticism about social science was going to make it the case that no piece of evidence we could reasonably be expected to have was going to convince you, it would have been more sporting to make that clear when you initially asked for evidence.

...would you apply the same standards you're applying to 'the wealthy', to people of a particular race? Serious question.

I don't see why not, except that doing so isn't likely to be useful for anything--there's every reason to think that any differences in behavior, personality, etc. that correlate with race will be due to the presence of a third factor that happens currently to be correlated with both (socio-economic status, etc.) whereas there's every reason to think there's an actual (probably two-way) causal relationship between being rich and being an asshole.

but you're trying to jump from 'Wealthier people are X% more likely to cheat at a board game' to 'Wealthier people are selfish and won't voluntarily give up their money!'

What I'm trying to defend is the claim I said I was trying to defend.

And frankly, in terms of media and social consideration, few people are willing to talk about the duties (blameworthy or not) of the charity recipient

Haven't seen much Fox News, I guess? Haven't heard much talk radio, I guess?

You're focusing on the wrong half of the equation. It's not just a matter of the people being blameworthy, it's a matter of who is duty bound to help them.

That thread of quote tag was kicked off by your statement:

"Are you really going to tell me it's wrong to have expectations of people who are receiving charity? That they have no duties and obligations when they receive charity?"

which is about the recipients of charity, and which is what I claimed to be irrelevant in the present context.

Dustin Crummett said...

Is-ought talk on metaphysical naturalism is a joke, so bracketing that when talking about ethics in a 'We are morally obligated to do X' sense, makes no sense.

Two things:

--Like I said before, it's not totally clear to me that Singer is a naturalist anymore. I think he's lately begun flirting with something like Moorean non-naturalism (of the sort defended by Parfit.)

--I'm not sure I understand your claim. If it's just that there's nothing that metaphysically ground the truth of claims about obligation on metaphysical naturalism, then I don't see why that makes it impossible to bracket that worry when having a conversation about normative ethics with a naturalist.

Naturalists have provided candidates for what grounds ethical truths on a naturalist picture; you think those candidates are not only bad candidates but necessarily bad candidates--either those things necessarily fail to exist or, if they do exist, they necessarily fail to ground obligation. Let's grant that. So what? Suppose someone thinks that what grounds the truth of our claims about water isn't the presence or absence of H2O, but rather the presence or absence of a fundamental, necessarily existing element of water. That claim is necessarily false, both because water is necessarily H2O and because the necessarily existing fundamental element they imagine necessarily doesn't exist. But this (outside, maybe, laboratory settings where we're running chemical tests to determine whether a certain liquid is water, or something like that) poses *no problems whatsoever* when they make first order claims about, say, where water is, how it behaves, etc. In fact, for most of human history people didn't even have the *concepts* necessary to know what water really is, much less actual knowledge about what water really is, but if this had prevented them accurately identifying water, we wouldn't be here! In the same way, *even if* metaethical naturalism necessarily fails, there's no obvious reason why naturalists can't have perfectly sensible conversations about normative ethics, correctly identify which actions are right or wrong, etc. *Sometimes* they might make mistakes as a result of being naturalists, I suppose, just like the water elementalist might make mistakes when correctly identifying water requires running a chemical test--maybe something lacks the typical wrong features but is wrong because God forbade it just to forbid it. But this will only cause practical problems to the extent that divine commands fail to relevantly correlate with the things we typically take to be right or wrong making features, and anyway it would just cause them to make mistakes, not render their claims unintelligible.

Dustin Crummett said...

His entire argument, as I saw in the linked paper, is predicated on / heavily implies the idea of everyone having an equal responsibility to everyone else - if person X is starving, it is EVERYone's responsibility, even equal responsibility, to feed person X.

He *believes* this, but I don't think his argument requires it.

Various people have greater duties to person X - the onus is on them first, and if they do not meet their duties, then my duty is not directly to X. It is indirect, because my duty is to make those other people - the appropriate people - fulfill their duty to X.

Suppose you see a child drowning. The child's parents, glad to be rid of the brat, are sitting nearby sipping lattes. (We may suppose that their moral sensibilities have been deadened by their immense wealth, and that they are clad in formal evening attire and wearing diamond studded monocles.) You plead with them to save their child, you threaten to call the police on them, eventually you actually do so. They sit, unmoved. You realize you can save the child yourself, though doing so will ruin your pants. You should go ahead and save the kid, I think, when you realize the parents aren't going to--in fact, in a lot of places, you'll be legally required to. So this means it doesn't follow from the fact that other people with more immediate duties have failed theirs that your *only* obligation is to try to make them fulfill their duties.

He wants to talk exclusively in terms of diverting resources, and then, diverting them from inhabitants in the first world. I'm pointing out that the problems are far more complicated, the duties not quite so equal, and the tools to solve the problems are far more varied than Singer is willing to admit. Even when the very situation he's talking about came about in part due to an out and out military action, all Singer talks about is resource diversion. That is insane.

Singer has actually written in favor of humanitarian military interventions in certain circumstances elsewhere. That's just not his focus in the linked paper.

Crude said...

Dustin,

Anyway, as far as I can tell, what you're doing is just expressing general skepticism about social science.

I didn't just express general skepticism - I explained why a certain amount of skepticism is warranted, and pointed out the limitations of the data and experiment in any social science context, and particularly with quite a lot of the experiments you provided. It wasn't 'non-sporting' - for all I know there's evidence out there that doesn't suffer from the problems I mentioned. Granted, I'm skeptical of -that-, but possibly that skepticism can be overcome.

whereas there's every reason to think there's an actual (probably two-way) causal relationship between being rich and being an asshole.

What's 'every reason' again? It can't be due to the actual data and experiments you have on-hand, because that is some weak data. It seems to have a lot more to do with how willing you personally are to make some rather arbitrary exceptions or excuses when confronted with data. In fact I could probably play the 'socio-economic factor' game with the wealthy every bit as much as you could with anyone else you care to excuse from condemnation.

Haven't seen much Fox News, I guess? Haven't heard much talk radio, I guess?

Have you? Or did you really mean 'Haven't heard many popular caricatures, I guess?' My anecdotal experience is that people who say those things go out of their way to avoid listening to it, save for when their left-wing equivalent spouts a (often, farcical) criticism of it.

Which isn't my defending either. Both are biased, both have their problems, and a good portion of them function as mouthpieces for a major political party. It's just certainly no worse than most of what's out there, and far more limited in scope than said left-wing equivalents.

In the same way, *even if* metaethical naturalism necessarily fails, there's no obvious reason why naturalists can't have perfectly sensible conversations about normative ethics, correctly identify which actions are right or wrong, etc.

What you're telling me is that it's possible for a metaphysical naturalist to get a moral claim 'right' now and then for the wrong reasons, or basically, by accident. Sure, I can grant that. You could also say that a naturalist could act-as-if - in this case, as if they weren't a metaphysical naturalist - and reason in that way too. Sure. In the former case, they're just stumbling around intellectually. In the latter case, they're in a bit better shape, but at least then we're drawing the lines more clearly.

Let me know if Singer explicitly endorses a non-naturalist (even if still non-theistic) moral position. The amount of crow people will have to eat on that one will be quite a thing.

So this means it doesn't follow from the fact that other people with more immediate duties have failed theirs that your *only* obligation is to try to make them fulfill their duties.

It doesn't need to be my only obligation for my criticisms here to go through. What's more - this is something that Singer is leaving out pretty much completely in his paper. He jumps right to 'better redistribute wealth!' Better yet, 'better redistribute wealth, exclusively from the first world, and not willfully - let's pass laws so men with guns will imprison people if they refuse to give up what I determine their share to be'.

More in a moment.

Crude said...

He *believes* this, but I don't think his argument requires it.

And I think it does, because his reasoning jumped *right* to the first world and the collective duty of said world to dump their resources on the problem in question, despite part of the incident in question being due to a civil war. The wealthy and powerful in the region? He was effectively blind to their existence. The people responsible for the war? Likewise. Discussions about regional duty of various neighboring nations? Out the window.

Part of the problem seems to directly flow from that 'equal responsibility' view. If everyone has an equal responsibility, then you can argue you've transformed the question into one of 'Who has the most assets to part with?' But if they don't - if some people have more of a responsibility due to one relationship or another, and this goes far beyond 'being family' - then we're not dealing with a question that is necessarily best answered by shifting assets on the most remote possible estimation.

Singer has actually written in favor of humanitarian military interventions in certain circumstances elsewhere. That's just not his focus in the linked paper.

Until he starts recognizing that responsibilities are not equal, and that there are duties at all levels, it's probably not going to help him. Regardless - sure, it's 'not the focus'. That's part of the problem. He turned the question entirely into one of a very specific 'you people here should be giving more money to these people there, period' bit of reasoning, and turned a blind eyes to the various other factors - including solutions, distasteful as they may be to a point - that were relevant. Apparently the involved people in that region weren't so helpless to get themselves out of the situation they were in after all.

im-skeptical said...

"He jumps right to 'better redistribute wealth!'"

'Redistribution of wealth' - another right-wing canard. Makes them feel as if THEY are the ones who created all that wealth and the rest of the world is taking it from them (by threat of violence, as Ilion puts it). The reality is exactly the opposite.

Every time money changes hands, that's redistribution of wealth. And where does it all end up? Not in the pockets of the laborers. Not in the third-world countries exploited for their resources. No, it ends up in the pockets of the ones who complain so bitterly about redistribution of wealth. And those same people will swear that they it is their own hard work that made them wealthy. I'm all in favor of being rewarded for good ideas and diligence, but I have yet to see any millionaire work as hard as the laborers who actually produce their wealth for them and don't earn enough money to feed their families. And where would they be without the intervention of government to bring about a modicum of equity? back in the 19th century, when private charity did such a wonderful job of providing for the needs of the poor?

You need data? Just open your eyes.

Crude said...

Every time money changes hands, that's redistribution of wealth.

Thank you, Skep. Clearly I'm talking about the form of wealth redistribution that involves men with guns threatening incarceration if you don't comply. Not buying a freaking iPhone.

Dustin is actually providing a reasonable case here. He provided evidence for his claims, and clear arguments with so far a pretty reasonable approach - even if I disagree deeply with him. I'm not interested in having yet another thread devoted to your inanities. Yes, yes, I know - your religion teaches you that wealthy people are all selfish parasites and government has to take their money by force and give it to 'the deserving poor', not a single one of whom has either a duty or an obligation (much less ones they've failed to meet), and federal programs are always the best idea, and the inevitable massive failures are because of conservatives and CHRISTIANS and blah blah blah blah.

I'm not interested in your faith claims, your religion, your gods, or anything else that is precious to your cult. I am interested in reasoned arguments and evidence, not giving you yet another opportunity to babble nonsense that means little more than 'I'm a good widdle Democwat boi! See? Approve of me!' Screw your party, screw the Republicans, and screw your collective cult mentality which is part of the reason these problems are what they are.

im-skeptical said...

"I am interested in reasoned arguments and evidence"

Right.

Crude said...

Right.

Oh gosh, I can't be! Because I disagree with your cult, and that's the standard. Right? All people interested in arguments and evidence arrive at the same conclusions with the same passion and the same examples and the same hatred of the same people. Clearly. That's what free-thinking means!

I'm no great defender of the rich - or, for that matter, business. I think both of them, in a very general sense, have serious problems. The problem is I recognize things are complicated when they do in fact seem complicated. I recognize that it's ridiculous to talk about 'the rich' as if they were a monolithic group, rather than a diversity of people comprised of hard-working innovators, spendthrift inheritors, geniuses, con artists and more. Just as it's ridiculous, past a certain point, to talk about 'latinos' as if Mexicans are Argentinos are Paraguyans are Puerto Ricans.

I also think it's inane to piss and moan about the rich without acknowledging what they do - like fund that government your religion regards as embodied divinity. Or invest in technologies you end up using, or businesses that lead to jobs, including quite a few that pay more than minimum wage. Yes, there are also shitty individuals and corporations and practices - ones involved with corporate welfare, aka socialism by another name, among other things. But acknowledging all this and more would complicate matters, and if there's one thing a cultist can't stand, it's a world that doesn't have perfect, obvious clarity - especially where there really isn't any.

But by all means, go ahead and tell me more about how you have it all figured out because you spent three years in Europe doing God knows what. Meanwhile Hollande just said taxes are too high in France and need to be reduced at some point. Obviously he's a member of some crazy right-wing party.

Papalinton said...

-"Thank you, Skep. Clearly I'm talking about the form of wealth redistribution that involves men with guns threatening incarceration if you don't comply. Not buying a freaking iPhone."

-""I am interested in reasoned arguments and evidence""

Cognitive dissonance writ large all within the spread of just a few comments. This fanciful boy does mentally live in a supernatural world and over the edge of credulity.

Crude said...

What always delights me about this kind of conversation is that, for all the whiny 'Look at me I'm a good little liberal' schtick I see from the likes of Skep, they don't even make good arguments against the wealthy, or against business. There's just that simplistic cultist rage against the people their precious little religion have determined to be demons.

By the way, so long as we're knocking the rich - Richard Dawkins apparently has a net worth over over 100 million, from book sales. Is he dumping that money on the poor, by chance? Do we get to judge him as a greedy, selfish person?

Or is it only The Wrong Kind of Wealthy who earn that particular ire? Does the situation suddenly get nice and complicated when it's Dawkins' Bucks we're talking about, and that's when nuance becomes valuable?

im-skeptical said...

"By the way, so long as we're knocking the rich - Richard Dawkins apparently has a net worth over over 100 million, from book sales. Is he dumping that money on the poor, by chance? Do we get to judge him as a greedy, selfish person?"

Poor, sad little crude has had his principles attacked and now he lashes out with "reason and evidence".

First, Dawkins is a British citizen. He pays taxes at a higher rate than most Americans (certainly higher than wealthy Americans), and I have never heard him complain about how unfair it is that he should have to contribute to the welfare state.

Second, aside from taxes, he does support charitable causes: Conservation, Disaster Relief, Education, Health, Philanthropy.

Karl Grant said...

First, Dawkins is a British citizen. He pays taxes at a higher rate than most Americans (certainly higher than wealthy Americans), and I have never heard him complain about how unfair it is that he should have to contribute to the welfare state.

Excuse me, but American millionaires pay a substantially higher higher tax rate than non-American millionaires. From CNN money:

For example, using a very broad measure of income, and counting federal income and payroll taxes, the average effective federal tax rate for people making between $40,000 and $50,000 was 12% last year, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center, an independent research group.
By contrast, the rate for those making more than $1 million was 20.1%.

The difference is even starker if you strip out the payroll tax and look just at income tax liability. Those in the middle-income group had an effective rate of just 3.2%. Millionaires paid 18.9%.

In 2009, among people who paid taxes, those making between $30,000 and $50,000 paid an average tax rate of 6.4% looking at income tax liability alone, according to IRS data. Millionaires paid 24.6%.


How does Great Britian stack up. From the BBC:

The Daily Telegraph reported that a study by HM Revenue and Customs showed the very rich had reduced their average income tax rate to just 10%.

And from The Telegraph:

In the 2009-10 tax year, more than 16,000 people declared an annual income of more than £1 million to HM Revenue and Customs. This number fell to just 6,000 after Gordon Brown introduced the new 50p top rate of income tax shortly before the last general election.

The figures have been seized upon by the Conservatives to claim that increasing the highest rate of tax actually led to a loss in revenues for the Government. It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes.


Oh look, the British Government's Hit the Rich for Everything they Got tax policy actually caused them to lose a shit-ton of revenue and the British millionaires who still pay their taxes pay less on average than American millionaires. By all means, let's adopt Britain's tax policies here. We will be in good company with the Greeks in no time flat.

Second, aside from taxes, he does support charitable causes: Conservation, Disaster Relief, Education, Health, Philanthropy.

Which gets him a deduction on his taxes and therefore doesn't count, according to your standards.

im-skeptical said...

Good ol' Karl jumps into the fray wit a non sequitur: "American millionaires pay a substantially higher higher tax rate than non-American millionaires", which is not supported by the article he cites. But perhaps he was referring to the article after that that states that the very richest in Britain use tax dodges to reduce their effective rate to 10%, as compared to all millionaires in America (not just the richest tax-dodgers) whose overall rate is 20%. This is, of course an invalid comparison, but it does go to show that the wealthiest tend to be the ones who are willing to pay the least. I'm no millionaire, but my effective tax rate is considerably higher than theirs.

Many millionaires are not tax dodgers, but they do take advantage of laws that work in their favor. Mitt Romney made money by destroying American jobs ans exploiting cheap foreign labor. He used his wealth to pay lobbyists to change the tax law so that his income would be taxed at no higher than 15%. Then, while running for president, he pulled his money in from off-shore tax shelters and paid more than he actually owed to bring his rate up to a respectable 14.1% (for that one year).

Karl then goes on with another great right-wing canard: if you don't count the actual taxes that working people pay (payroll taxes), you can make the case that lower income people hardly pay anything at all. Oh, how they love to play games with the numbers. The fact is that payroll taxes account for a substantial portion of federal revenue, rivaling the amount from personal income taxes, but payroll taxes affect working people much more than the wealthy, so is stands to reason that the right-wing apologists don't like to talk about that.

"Which gets him a deduction on his taxes and therefore doesn't count, according to your standards."

I don't know how much of Dawkins' income goes toward helping others (through taxes and charity), but I suspect whatever amount it is, is is more than what people like Mitt Romney contribute.

Crude said...

Poor, sad little crude has had his principles attacked

By who? Certainly not you - you can't even comprehend what principles I have, and you don't care to inquire about them. All you know is I disagree with you, and that means I'm the enemy. That's pretty much as far as your cultist thinking allows you to go.

First, Dawkins is a British citizen. He pays taxes at a higher rate than most Americans

And there it is. The wealthy are greedy and selfish! They hoard their money rather than share!

I point out Dawkins has over a hundred million dollars in net worth - gained from book writing, as opposed to actually starting a business and employing people - and well, THAT is quite okay. It's not selfish to hoard over a hundred million dollars for yourself. Why, he pays taxes - AND he gives to charity!

In which case, I guess this guy isn't selfish either.

Thank you, Skep. Once again, you just prove exactly what I say about you and your ilk: you are cultists with a religion. You switch from condemning the wealthy wholesale to finding excuses for your wealthy bishop. You have no problem with religion, or even with gods - you just wish I was part of your religion, and worshiped YOUR god.

Not interested, preacher. I value evidence and reason far too much to join your group. ;)

Karl Grant said...

But perhaps he was referring to the article after that that states that the very richest in Britain use tax dodges to reduce their effective rate to 10%, as compared to all millionaires in America (not just the richest tax-dodgers) whose overall rate is 20%.

No Skeppy, the BBC makes it clear the 10% average is for all millionaires, tax dodgers and non tax dodgers alike. Just the same way the IRS statistics cited in the CNN article are for all millionaires in the US, tax dodgers and non tax dodgers alike. You would know this if you actually read the articles and the reference sources they cite. Which, of course, you didn't; you never read any reference articles your opponent's cite, no matter how reliable the source.

Many millionaires are not tax dodgers, but they do take advantage of laws that work in their favor

And Dawkins doesn't? Bill Gates doesn't? Hey Skeppy, I got some swamp land I want to sell you; real cheap too.

Mitt Romney made money by destroying American jobs ans exploiting cheap foreign labor.

Which he still would have been able to do even if you got the tax system you wanted for socialized medicare in effect because combating this example requires protectionist trade policies, not medicare taxes.

He used his wealth...his rate up to a respectable 14.1% (for that one year).

Isn't it ironic how atheists and internet skeptics, who rail against anecdotal evidence all the damn time, readily resort to it when confronted with hard statistical data they dislike?

Karl then goes on with another great right-wing canard: if you don't count the actual taxes that working people pay (payroll taxes), you can make the case that lower income people hardly pay anything at all. Oh, how they love to play games with the numbers. The fact is that payroll taxes account for a substantial portion of federal revenue, rivaling the amount from personal income taxes, but payroll taxes affect working people much more than the wealthy, so is stands to reason that the right-wing apologists don't like to talk about that.

One: Right-wing Canard? I am sorry but I don't recall when fucking CNN became a Republican Party mouthpiece.

Two: The payroll tax is the second thing discussed, preceding paragraph states federal tax rate (including the damn payroll tax) for people making between $40,000 and $50,000 was 12% last year while the rate for those making more than $1 million was 20.1%. So rich people still pay more with the payroll tax included. So yeah, it was talked about; which is further proof that the horsie likes his blinders.

Three: Where exactly did I say the working classes pay hardly any taxes? Are you physically incapable of actually presenting your opponent's arguments without resorting to strawmen? Does dealing with the real world actually cause you physical pain?

I don't know how much of Dawkins' income goes toward helping others (through taxes and charity), but I suspect whatever amount it is, is is more than what people like Mitt Romney contribute.

Gee, what a text-book example of ideological bias. Well, you don't know? Well according to Forbes Magazine:

All told, we have accounted for nearly $18 million of charitable giving by Mitt Romney to date, roughly 8% of what we currently estimate his net worth to be and three times Obama’s net worth. Yet it is very likely that we are undercounting Romney’s total lifetime giving by many millions, as any exhaustive log of Romney’s pre-2010 out of pocket donations is locked away in the presidential candidate’s historical tax returns.

Now how much has Dawkins given, Skeppy? Is it more or less?

im-skeptical said...

"you can't even comprehend what principles I have, and you don't care to inquire about them. All you know is I disagree with you, and that means I'm the enemy. That's pretty much as far as your cultist thinking allows you to go."

What I know is that you have never had a reasoned discussion with me. Before we exchanged the first words, you had labeled me as one of those 'cultists'. You have made your principles and your mission perfectly clear. You have no intention of engaging in reasoned discussion with 'cultists'.

"By the way? Loving this conversation, thank you for it. I don't care that you disagree with me strongly, or even that there's been snark. It's refreshingly intelligent."

You are proclaiming to me and everyone that you CAN have reasoned discussion with people who are not on your list of 'cultists'. You make similar comments in thread after thread. The fact that you can't have a reasoned comment with me is nobody's fault but your own.

"Linton has a very nasty habit of talking with certainty and feigned authority about things he is utterly clueless about"

The fact that you never fail to make this same tired and worn link, over and over again, says much more about your petty vindictiveness than it does about Linton. You say you are interested in reasoned arguments? Then try engaging in one for a change.

Good work crude. Yet another thread derailed - turned from a discussion of why government intervention is needed into an emotion-laden referendum on the generosity of your favorite atheist punching bag, Richard Dawkins. As usual, your principles are on full display.

Dustin Crummett said...

I explained why a certain amount of skepticism is warranted, and pointed out the limitations of the data and experiment in any social science context, and particularly with quite a lot of the experiments you provided.

What I'm wanting to defend is basically just the conclusions of the studies and surveys I've cited, and I'm not aware of any reason to think these surveys and studies suffer flaws or methodological limitations beyond what's typical in social science, so even if it's born from general skepticism about social science it seems likely to imply one...

for all I know there's evidence out there that doesn't suffer from the problems I mentioned. Granted, I'm skeptical of -that-, but possibly that skepticism can be overcome.

What would evidence that would cause you to accept the claim look like? Is it evidence we could reasonably expect to have if the claim was true? (I believe, for instance, that you would accept my claim in the following situation: while you're at church an angel choir appears behind the altar and sings out, "Crude, what Dustin said in your online discussion was correct: there is a statistical correlation between wealth and the unsavory traits and behaviors he mentioned, and this is at least partly explained by the existence of a two-way causal relationship between being wealthier and possessing those traits." But that isn't evidence we could reasonably expect to have even if the claim was true.)

What's 'every reason' again?

1) We can trigger to at least some extent some of the bad behaviors and traits in question by experimentally manipulating people's subjective feelings of wealth, thus suggesting at least a wealth-->asshole causal relationship.

2) We have plausible accounts of the sorts of psychological mechanisms that might lead to these factors causally influencing one another. (For an overview, see:

http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~keltner/publications/Kraus.psychreview.2012.pdf )

3) There *aren't* any plausible accounts of what third variable might account for the correlation in the absence of a causal relationship. (As for the "socio-economic factor game," being wealthy is itself a socio-economic factor...)

Compare this to whatever putative correlation between race and certain traits and behaviors you want to point to. In *some* cases, it's pretty plausible to think there might be a causal relationship--I bet, for instance, that white people wear more sunscreen when they go to the beach, and that this is because of their skin. But I suspect that for the things you're thinking of--higher crime rates among some minority groups, for instance--we'll instead find the following things to be the case:

1) The differences can be fully explained by the relevant socio-economic factors (that is, members of other races in those circumstances display the same traits and behaviors.)

2) We have a pretty good idea of what mechanisms might lead to socio-economic factors influencing the traits and behaviors in question in the way my position requires.

3) There's no plausible candidate at all for how any intrinsically related to race could cause the relevant behaviors and traits.

Dustin Crummett said...

Have you?

Yeah, actually (on account of my more conservative family members, mostly.)

What you're telling me is that it's possible for a metaphysical naturalist to get a moral claim 'right' now and then for the wrong reasons, or basically, by accident. Sure, I can grant that. You could also say that a naturalist could act-as-if - in this case, as if they weren't a metaphysical naturalist - and reason in that way too. Sure. In the former case, they're just stumbling around intellectually. In the latter case, they're in a bit better shape, but at least then we're drawing the lines more clearly.

Only in the sense that the vast majority of people in the history of the world only correctly identified water "by accident", or acted as if whatever their view about the nature of water was was false. Even if moral realism is metaphysically incompatible with naturalism, there's no reason a naturalist can't be right about, and correctly identify, the first-order right and wrong making properties of actions (that the action will result in the needless death of an innocent person, or whatever) even if they're wrong about the nature of obligation (they think that for something to be morally forbidden is, say, for it to violate the categorical imperative, whereas it's really for it to be forbidden by God or something.) In the same way, all those people who didn't know about H2) were fine at recognizing the macro-level properties of water (wetness, clearness, etc.) even though their picture of the nature of water as necessarily false. This is why it seems wrong to say the water elementalists were only correctly identifying water "by accident"--if it was really only by accident, it would be awfully shocking that they lived as long as they did!

It doesn't need to be my only obligation for my criticisms here to go through. What's more - this is something that Singer is leaving out pretty much completely in his paper. He jumps right to 'better redistribute wealth!

Right, so there are lots of things Singer doesn't deal with in this short paper from the beginning of his career. Some of them he's talked about other places. What I'm waiting for is something beyond the *general, abstract* point that maybe sometimes I don't have a duty to directly help a person in need to the *specific* claim that this is true here. What I can do as an individual to make Somali warlords or whoever live up to their obligations is pretty limited--voting for certain political candidates, I guess, or advocating certain political causes--and anyway, it's not incompatible with my *also* helping the people who are in need. Meanwhile, it's relatively easy for me to provide very great aid to the innocent people who are in need, and without sacrificing anything of comparable importance for myself or my loved ones. So why *don't* I have an obligation to help these innocent people who are in need, even if I also have an obligation to do other things?

Crude said...

Skep,

What I know is that you have never had a reasoned discussion with me.

I agree. Someday I hope you'll be capable of discussion - but for now, you're quite ensconced in your cult, so there's little hope for you.

You are proclaiming to me and everyone that you CAN have reasoned discussion with people who are not on your list of 'cultists'.

I sure can. Because non-cultists - even atheists and naturalists, keep in mind - can sometimes argue sincerely, and intelligently. They won't necessarily do so, but at least the possibility is there. You? You're just a little ball of ineffective rage who, when confronted with an idea you don't immediately disagree with, run to google or a cultist website to paste replies you yourself barely understand, and which are usually terrible.

Demonstrably, I can have spirited but civil conversations with people I disagree with. Strangely, I have trouble talking with unintelligent ideological diehards of all stripes. I wonder why that is?

The fact that you never fail to make this same tired and worn link, over and over again, says much more about your petty vindictiveness than it does about Linton.

No, I'm pretty sure it says a lot about Linton. And it illustrates something beautifully: he doesn't understand things he attacks. He plagiarizes to make himself look like he understands things. This isn't about 'reason' for him. Not even truth. He's a sad old man obsessed with hate, and intellectually crippled besides. I bring up that link whenever he tries to talk to me, to explain to the world why I ignore him by and large. You'd think he'd get the hint.

And look at you. You went from being the one-man class-warfare machine, railing against the greed of the wealthy, to defending Dawkins - the man with over a hundred million dollars in worth from his writing shitty books. He's not greedy at all. It turns out you have no problems with extreme wealth after all. It's the people you dislike who you wish would give away their money.

And what stings the most here, Skep, is that you know I'm right. My criticisms hit too close to home. Consider improving yourself. I gave up my Cult of the Political Party ages ago. Maybe you should do the same.

Crude said...

Dustin,

What I'm wanting to defend is basically just the conclusions of the studies and surveys I've cited,

And I think the warranted conclusions of the studies, based on the data available, is vastly more limited than what you suggest they are. This is due partly to practical limits of social sciences, in principle limits - but also the scope of the study. Sorry, I don't think there's terribly much value in giving someone extra monopoly money and watching how they behave while playing a board game.

Re: your 'angel' bit, I haven't disputed some limited correlations as discovered in the study. *Causes*? That's a whole other deal, absolutely and positively rife with so many uncontrollable external and cultural factors that it makes complete sense to be skeptical and hesitant when talking about it all.

1) We can trigger to at least some extent some of the bad behaviors and traits in question by experimentally manipulating people's subjective feelings of wealth, thus suggesting at least a wealth-->asshole causal relationship.

People's reported subjective feelings of wealth, influenced by who knows how many other cultural and personal factors. Like I said: whatever cards you can play with race, I can play with wealth.

We have plausible accounts of the sorts of psychological mechanisms that might lead to these factors causally influencing one another.

We have highly speculative accounts that deal with factors that are entirely beyond our ability to appropriately isolate and sufficiently test. This doesn't mean we can't have valuable thoughts on these matters - I don't even think valuable thoughts need to be 'scientific' thoughts, by any means - but insofar as we're talking about science, research and experiments, this is something we're forced to acknowledge.

There *aren't* any plausible accounts of what third variable might account for the correlation in the absence of a causal relationship.

Sure there are, especially if you're lowering the bare of 'plausible' as much as you seem to be here. At this point, 'Plausible account' seems to be little more than 'Tell a just-so story'. That's an easy game to play.

The differences can be fully explained by the relevant socio-economic factors

As I said above, the standard here is really coming across as 'tell some just so stories'. It's easy to 'fully explain' whatever you like when your limitations are that lacking. The point of my referencing socio-economic explanations with the rich is that I don't need to arrive at your preferred explanations.

We have a pretty good idea of what mechanisms might lead to socio-economic factors influencing the traits and behaviors in question in the way my position requires.

We have more of those stories.

Yeah, actually (on account of my more conservative family members, mostly.)

Then feel free to report one you've heard yourself.

Crude said...

Even if moral realism is metaphysically incompatible with naturalism, there's no reason a naturalist can't be right about, and correctly identify, the first-order right and wrong making properties of actions

Sure there is: because naturalism can't sustain 'right or wrong' in that sense, or any relevant sense.

What I'm waiting for is something beyond the *general, abstract* point that maybe sometimes I don't have a duty to directly help a person in need to the *specific* claim that this is true here.

I think you're missing a key point I'm making here.

First, it's starting to look like you're conceding to the criticisms I'm making of Singer's article: you're saying it was early in his career, that okay he didn't even acknowledge what I was talking about but you suggest he's done it elsewhere.

Second, you're falling back to talk about how, even granting all this, you still have an obligation to help them. But if you acknowledge that other people have greater responsibilities to these people, then you've put the train off the tracks. It sounds like you're trying to argue that, while you in principle should be trying to solve these various problems that are plaguing them, it just so happens that the only thing you can reasonably do is give money - so 'give money' wins by default.

If you are in fact saying that, there's a looming problem: 'Money' can be spent in all manner of directions. The problem in many of these cases - very many, in fact - is that people in the region are not doing their duty to share their own assets. It makes more sense, on the surface, to spend money to force *them* to give their assets to who they should. Rather like how in the US, when a man is skipping out on child support payments, the first thing we do if it's possible is start garnishing his wages. We don't go 'Oh well, let's give the woman money and call it a day.'

Want me to go on?

Ilíon said...

I_pretend_to_be_civic_minded: "That's the difference between the way we view government. I see it as something we institute for the common benefit of all, and I support paying taxes for the benefit of all."

Bullshit!

I-pretend-at-so-many-things "support[s] paying taxes for the benefit of all" so long as it's some other guy paying the taxes and it's he who is the "all" benefiting from the forced extraction (under threat of death) of those monies.

Dear Reader, ask yourself this: "If 'im-skeptical' is so gung-ho about his *own* money going into the public fisc, 'for the benefit of all', how is it that he still has even two thin dimes to rub together?" Why has he not already donated every penny above what is needful for the bare necessities "for the benefit of all"? Why is it that he spends so much time trolling this blog, when he could be out working to earn even more money to donate to the tax-collector "for the benefit of all"? Why has he not sold his computer and donated the funds to Uncle Sam? After all, since "the Democrats [are] run[ning] things, ... we'll all be better off" if they have *all* his income to work with.

Much like Our Host bitching (*) a couple of years ago to the effect that of course he "supports" "the rich" being made to "pay their fair share", but he didn't see why *his* taxes should go up, or much like the Obama voters who of course "support" "affordable" "health" "care", but don't see why *they* should be the ones paying for it, I-pretend-at-so-many-things "support[s] paying taxes for the benefit of all" to the extent that he imagines that *he* is going to be a net beneficiary of someone else’s labor.

(*) I'm going to keep reminding you of this, VR, until you repudiate the hypocrisy of it.

im-skeptical said...

"much like the Obama voters who of course "support" "affordable" "health" "care", but don't see why *they* should be the ones paying for it, I-pretend-at-so-many-things "support[s] paying taxes for the benefit of all" to the extent that he imagines that *he* is going to be a net beneficiary of someone else’s labor."

Well, well. Ilion knows my motives better than I do. I suppose that he is aware that my effective tax rate is well above average, certainly higher than most millionaires, and yet I still support tax increases for various purposes, even though they don't benefit me directly (for example public schools, even though I have no child in school). I recently voted in favor of a tiered state income tax increase that would affect me more than most people, and not benefit me personally (though it would be used, in part, for such things as highway improvements.

I work for a living, and I am fortunate enough to have a job that pays fairly well, so I don't need welfare or food stamps. But I fully support those programs. I support Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and I support paying the taxes necessary to sustain those programs.

Why? Because I am a humanist, perhaps. I don't have your conservative mindset. I care about more than just myself. I want to live in a society where people care about and care for each other. I'd rather see young people go to school than go to prison.

I am no fan of "big government". There is plenty of excess, waste, abuse, and especially programs designed to enrich the rich (which dwarf welfare and other programs that support the needy). We don't need to pay for those things.

You ask, why don't I give all I have? A favorite ploy of the selfish right-wing 'keep your hands off my money' crowd. I believe the benefits and burdens of our society should be shared. Nobody should starve, and nobody should be asked to give an undue share. Of course we should be able to reap the rewards of our own work. But we should give a reasonable share. If you make millions every year and you are asked to give half of it in taxes (which id not the case in our country), you're still left with millions to get by on.

The real hypocrites are the fat-cats who want the government to lavish billions of dollars on their corporations, but are unwilling to pay either corporate or personal income taxes. The people who enjoy all the best things in life, but don't support paying a living wage to the workers who make their money for them, nor government programs that would allow them to have healthcare. These people write the laws in their own favor, and don't care what happens to the rest of us. And their little tea-bag minions are stupid enough to go along with them.

Ilíon said...

im-a-hypocritical-little-pussy: "But your average moderately wealthy private citizen is far more concerned with extracting an ever larger slice of the pie from his fellow citizens than with helping out anyone in need."


im-a-hypocritical-little-pussy: "... This attitude seems to be quite typical of people like Ilion, and a great many who call themselves followers of Jesus. They don't seem to realize that government provides all kinds of services that people need, not just the services that THEY need."


im-a-hypocritical-little-pussy ... and a damned liar: "'Redistribution of wealth' - another right-wing canard. Makes them feel as if THEY are the ones who created all that wealth and the rest of the world is taking it from them (by threat of violence, as Ilion puts it). The reality is exactly the opposite."


im-a-hypocritical-little-pussy: "Well, well. Ilion knows my motives better than I do. ..."

Whether or not I know them better than he does, I know them better than he'll openly ever admit.

Yet, he *does* admit his motives --

im-a-hypocritical-little-pussy-who-pretends-to-know-something-about-how-wealth-is-generated: "Every time money changes hands, that's redistribution of wealth. And where does it all end up? Not in the pockets of the laborers. Not in the third-world countries exploited for their resources. No, it ends up in the pockets of the ones who complain so bitterly about redistribution of wealth. And those same people will swear that they it is their own hard work that made them wealthy. I'm all in favor of being rewarded for good ideas and diligence, but I have yet to see any millionaire work as hard as the laborers who actually produce their wealth for them and don't earn enough money to feed their families. And where would they be without the intervention of government to bring about a modicum of equity? back in the 19th century, when private charity did such a wonderful job of providing for the needs of the poor?"

According to I-pretend-to-give-a-damn-about "the poor", your voluntary mutually-beneficial economic exchange with another person is morally equivalent to his hoped-for use of government goons to take wealth from you and give it to him.

Ilíon said...

some damned intellectually dishonest fool ... who is going to whine like a little girl because I'm so "harsh": "Incidentally--not that discussion with Illion has ever proven fruitful for anyone, ..."

Translation: Waaaa! It's no fair that Ilíon *never* pretends that black is white!

that damned intellectually dishonest fool: "... but just for the record--as to the question how it's "any of my business whether or not someone else is selfish," presumably it's my business for the same reason it's my business if someone is stealing from someone else. The idea that hoarding vastly more resources than you need while others blamelessly lack what they need is morally equivalent to just stealing from them isn't exactly a creation of modern liberals ..."

And just Who was it died and left this fool to be the Judge of the world? Who gave him the authority to decree that that fellow over there is "hoarding vastly more resources than [he] need[s]"? Who gave him the authority to decide what anyone else "needs"? Who gave him the authority to declare that "hoarding", or any other boo-word he wishes to use, is the appropriate descriptor if someone has more than he imagines they need?

Who gave him the authority to declare that those who "lack" are "blameless"? In my experience -- having, after all, grown up amongst "the poor" of America -- few of them are blameless for their very relative "poverty". The truth is, in America, if you're "poor", it's almost always because that's the life you've chosen.

Now, think again about what this fool said: "... but just for the record--as to the question how it's "any of my business whether or not someone else is selfish," presumably it's my business for the same reason it's my business if someone is stealing from someone else. The idea that hoarding vastly more resources than you need while others blamelessly lack what they need is morally equivalent to just stealing from them isn't exactly a creation of modern liberals ..."

Did I not *say* that leftists consider *you* to be their slaves, consider your life to be theirs to dispose of?

This fool is asserting that the person who has some wealth he wants -- 'cause he wants to "share" it with "the poor", of course -- but will not give it to him is exactly morally equivalent to that other fellow who steals wealth for someone.

Some readers can see -- are willing to see -- the moral wickedness of this, and all, leftism. To those people, there is no need to present a moral argument, for they *already* see it.

Other readers will not see the moral wickedness of leftism, generally because they imagine they'll be on the receiving end of the loot. To those people, there is no *point* in presenting a moral argument, for they *will not* see it. So, instead, let us appeal to their selfishness (which they like to pretend is "concern" for "the poor") -- *you* are "the rich" that the leftists intend to fleece in the name of "the poor"; *your* country is the country the leftists intend to loot so as to pad the Swiss bank accounts of various dictators and kleptocrats in foreign lands. Did you not pay attention to the OP and to VR's follow-up post?

im-skeptical said...

"According to I-pretend-to-give-a-damn-about "the poor", your voluntary mutually-beneficial economic exchange with another person is morally equivalent to his hoped-for use of government goons to take wealth from you and give it to him."

Because you swallow the right-wing propaganda, you don't understand the true picture of economics. Buying goods can be a "mutually-beneficial economic exchange with another person", as long as there is no unfair market manipulation and the goods aren't misrepresented to the purchaser. Very often in the absence of an adequate regulatory environment, that's not the case.

But there's also the economic exchange involving labor for pay, where "mutually-beneficial" often is not the proper term to use at all. Workers are exploited and have little or no choice in the matter - work for a pittance or starve to death. This occurs everywhere there aren't sufficient laws to protect workers from this exploitation, especially third-world countries. (In the US, the right-wing forces are working diligently to remove those laws and destroy labor unions.) Very often, the ones who do the exploiting are our own wealthy citizens - the same folks who don't pay their fair share of taxes, and who cry like babies about "government goons" confiscating their hard-earned money if anyone dares suggest that they should.