Is america a classless society?
Posted: 23 April 2005 02:21 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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In the thread "Sam's dishonest review of Chomsky" Lawrence wrote:

I say if we are a classless society why do CEO take home hundreds of millions of dollars and illegal immigrants work twelve hour
days for 60 dollars.

  In response Uzi wrote:

I say go and get a job that pays you what a CEO makes.Nothing stopping you other than your own limited ability. A classless society does'nt mean everyone has the same house
and drives the same car,nor makes the same amount of income.


  I believe we can do one of three things with what would appear to be
Uzi's overall worldview. We can: 1)Justify it. 2)claim it is not justified.3)conclude that it does not matter.


  In order to do this, we must ask ourselves a few questions:1) Is their truly such a thing as ethics/morality/justice? 2) If there is, how do we objectively define ethics/morality/justice?

  Allow me to preface everything I am about to say with the following.
As a human being who atleast strongly believes that I make every attempt to think as rationally as possible,I do not at all believe I can
answer either the aforementioned questions with any degree of certainty.
I do however, have strong ideas as to what the answers are but it is
quite possible I could be wrong.

  As a stauch agnostic,I do not know whether the universe/"ultimate reality" etc…is wholly material or not. As for the "not", I can only endlessy speculate. Therefore, I do not know if there is such a thing
as an "objective moral law" or anything even remotely related to it like
"karma" etc…Just for the sake of argument,we will assume there is nothing ("truly" nothing,not "no-thing" that kabbalists,mystics and others
claim as their idea of the ultimate reality,the absolute or god, if you will).
In that case, "objective moral law" could only exist in a human sense and
it really would never truly be objective,someone if not many,would always
disagree with it.

  In this case all we could have is a moral code in a given society that
the members of that society GENERALLY agree. That is what we have in
this and basically any society,more or less.Remember we are asuming both a wholly material existence and therefore,no true objective moral
law. In that case, our moral law is objective only in terms of how a given
society makes it so. Therefore, there is room for those with different ideas
regarding the moral code. I consider myself one of them. I believe every
living thing is generally ruled by not only the self-preservation instinct,but
(again, keep the assumption in mind) but also a desire for what I will call
some type of "ultimate contentment" or the most contentment the entity
can possibly aquire.Many, if not most people believe greater financial wealth CAN lead to greater contentment. Therefore, many believe they have the right to obtain as much financial wealth as they can irrespective
of who or what,is harmed and/or not content with their choice.It would then be justified for those harmed/not content with their choice to try and
prevent them from making obtaining as much financial wealth as possible
at the expense of others,thus increasing the contentment of those who would be harmed/not content.

  The problem is, many would and not with reason that in terms of a utilitarian principle,such a decision by the harmed/not content would
ultimately do greater harm to the society in general and very possibly,the
people who were harmed/not content by the people attempting to aquire
as much money as possible.The burden is then placed on the harmed/not content to come up with something that acheives their first goal AND does no greater harm to the society and themselves. If this is possible, it would
simply mean the would-be rich are now harmed/less content and those who opposed them are more content.Therefore,some people would always
be dissatisfied by any society.I believe to only thing possible is to acheive
the greatest good for the greatest number. I believe the capitalist system has acheived this to certain extent. I believe it has great flaws,but I personally know of no other system that is better. Most,if not all would do
either the same or worse. That does not mean no superior system is possible. It means no superior system has been tried and I personally can not imagine one.


  I am sorry for the long post, but I hope you all will bear with me because I think I have a valid point to make.Your disageements are
ofcourse welcome and you may very well prove me wrong,even to myself.
We live in a society where luck makes it much more likely for the individual to achieve what is commonly conceived as "success".
Like most secularists,I believe a person's life is ultimately determined by
nature/nurture. We are again assuming a wholly material existence. Just because human life is ULTIMATELY determined by nature/nurture does not
mean there is not some inital free will. I can "choose" whether or not I want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. My decision most likely has it's roots in nature/nurture though.

  I believe most americans can "choose" to be wealthy or not. Their is some room for personal responsibilty in this. Two people with identical IQ
talents,physical health and enviromental circumstances can still have vastly different outcomes. I would still say the outcomes are utimately determined by biology/genetics.The bottom line is, just about anyone
can "make it". It's just far more difficult for the person who has had
nature and/or nurture or just plain "luck",against them. So how do we
justify paying one person 40 million per year and another $20,000?
Let's assume they both work hard and spend a relatively similiar amount
of time working. The person making 40 million spent four years or so at
college which they were not being paid for? Or is it because they worked their way up the ladder and was also once making $20,000? From my estimation,any way you slice it The fact is, it ultimately much easier for some people to make it than others. So what we have then is a society
where nature/nurture and sometimes luck (like winning the lottery) are
ultimately (GENERALLY speaking) responsible for everyone's outcome and
the individual's control over their outcome is ultimately and generally limited.


  Many people in america and elsewhere are fine with this. After all,assuming that existence is wholly material in both nature and
origin,  it's just the way things are. So if one person has "good
nature" and "good nurture" it can justly be called "good luck."So
I say for the people who are fine with the aforementioned circumstances
be careful of hypocrisy. How is it possible to rant and rage against the
injustices of the religious when they try to impose their worldview
and laws on you? After all,if they have had the "luck" that enabled
them to be in a position where they can impose upon your contentment,
is that not justified by the economic system you consider just fine and dandy? Mabye you don't consider it fine and dandy, but it's the best system we've got. To me, that would be a perfectly just and rational
reason for opposing any changes.But let's assume for a minute that
some better way(in utililatarian terms and in terms of enviromental
impacts) was possible.I'll bet dollars to donuts there would still be countless people in opposition to such a change.That is because
our current system of global capitalism works PERFECTLY for them,
those fortunate enough to enjoy it's greatest benefits.I hardly
believe this constitutes the greatest number of people, globally
speaking and we are still leaving aside the non-human realm
affected by global capitalism of the kind we practice. If you are
then a rich secularist who would oppose any superior, alternate system
merely because it would remove a significant portion of your
great wealth,then you are a complete hypocritic if you complain
about how the religious negatively impact you. I don't
know if anyone on this forum would qualify, but I do personally
know such creatures exist and are numerous enough.

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Posted: 23 April 2005 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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The term ‘class’, as in classless society, is referring to social status, not economic status. That’s why we can refer to certain population segments into lower, middle and upper class and still call ourselves a “classless society”. Which economic class you are in depends solely on the amount of money you control and anyone can change the class they are in simply by making more money, as Uzi was pointing out (albeit crudely). No matter how poor you were or who your parents were, if you have over $1 million dollars in the bank or make six figures a year, then you are in the upper economic class. Conversely, no matter how rich you were or what your salary used to be, if you lose it all and end up working at a fast food restaurant, then you are in the lower economic class.

Social classes are a completely different animal. Individuals usually inherited from your parents (therefore unearned) and most of the time, individuals born into one social class are powerless to move into a higher social class. In European society, they still have the nobility class, the upper class of society. Some of these families are or have been paupers and can barely keep food on their plates, but they are still upper class, so they can be invited to certain parties that even the wealthiest of the non-nobility would never even be considered as a guest.

This is not to say that we don’t have exclusive cliques in American society. We have our versions of “nobility”, or at least people who seem to think of themselves that way and behave accordingly. We have people who trace their families back to the Mayflower. We have the Vanderbilts, the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, etc. who have been so rich for so long that people tend to treat them that way. But if they ever lose all their money, they’ll be back down in the muck with the rest of us.

Well that’s my perspective on the issue.

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Posted: 23 April 2005 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I would only half agree with you that america is a classless society in social terms. There are countless clubs, restaurants, neighborhoods,events,etc….ad infinitum were the poor
and even middle class are either frowned upon or
in some cases restricted insofar as the rich can
legally and even illegally, on occasion can do
so. Many places here on miami beach will
deny you access if you don’t have the right
clothes,accessories,shoes,jewlery etc…and
can’t afford the cover. Not to mention the
rich enjoy better medical care(especially
in terms of preventative medicine)legal
representation and just about everything
else. I can’t see from strictly a subjective
ethical point of view,why paris hilton or just
about any rich person deserves to live
healthier/longer and get a lesser punishment
(or no) punishment for a crime than a construction
worker or even a mentally ill person who can’t work
at all. My opinion (that’s all it is) is that this is an
extremely unjust,unfair society. Whether or not
a better one is possible or there’s an objective
moral law or nothing at all etc…are all another
matter and always debatable atleast to someone
like myself who is not a 100% material absolutist
or any sort of absolutist or “certainist” at all.

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Posted: 23 April 2005 05:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I get what you’re saying. Yes, there are priveleges that come with wealth, but none of the people who enjoy those benefits in the US are entitled to those benefits solely based on their inheriting a family name. If you don’t have money, then it doesn’t matter what your family name is, in the examples you gave. The preferential treatment those people get would go away as soon as they run out of money. Not so with ‘nobility’, i.e. social classes.

I’m just making the distinction between social class, which is based on your station at birth, something you cannot control versus economic class, which is based on how much money you have, something you do have some control over. Social class is fixed at birth, but economic status is attainable by anyone, regardless of birth.

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Posted: 24 April 2005 12:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I agree with you pretty much. The thing is, social class normally always
has it’s origins in financial wealth.

  I would also say we have some degree of true social “classism” in the
USA. America has it’s own nobility. Take Paris, “I am stupid enough to
think people are stupid enough to believe me when I say I worked hard
for my multi-millions” Hilton. Even if she was as poor as a church mouse,
she would still get some carte blanche treatment based on her name.

  The only time a prominent family name usually never gets you anywhere is when a family loses all it’s wealth. While that does
occur,it often takes a long time and it often never occurs, relatively
speaking ofcourse.If your not so rich,being related to someone
like say, Sean “puffy” Combs might get you laid,if nothing else.

  Even if your not rich and not related, but simply know and are on
reasonably good terms with some famous and/or exceptionally wealthy
person you can get alot of benefits from that. This happens quite a bit
here in Miami, I assure you. So America may be a SOCIALLY classless
society in a strictly technical sense. I would tend call it a defacto class
structured one. Kinda like Paris Hilton is a defacto hooker. Well, I guess this thread is pretty much kaput.

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Posted: 24 April 2005 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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ACK

[quote author=“Anonymous”]I agree with you pretty much. The thing is, social class normally always
has it’s origins in financial wealth.

  I would also say we have some degree of true social “classism” in the
USA. America has it’s own nobility. Take Paris, “I am stupid enough to
think people are stupid enough to believe me when I say I worked hard
for my multi-millions” Hilton. Even if she was as poor as a church mouse,
she would still get some carte blanche treatment based on her name.

  The only time a prominent family name usually never gets you anywhere is when a family loses all it’s wealth. While that does
occur,it often takes a long time and it often never occurs, relatively
speaking ofcourse.If your not so rich,being related to someone
like say, Sean “puffy” Combs might get you laid,if nothing else.

  Even if your not rich and not related, but simply know and are on
reasonably good terms with some famous and/or exceptionally wealthy
person you can get alot of benefits from that. This happens quite a bit
here in Miami, I assure you. So America may be a SOCIALLY classless
society in a strictly technical sense. I would tend call it a defacto class
structured one. Kinda like Paris Hilton is a defacto hooker. Well, I guess this thread is pretty much kaput.

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