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How (un)moral is our economy? (According to Sam I risk losing some readers by this post)
Posted: 31 August 2011 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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One of my opinions about economy is that before we even begin to establish its structure we must agree upon the ontological nature of reality. As we have based our current economic system on the implicit premisse of free will without considering that this might not be a true representation of reality.


Our society has made a giant leap forward by moving from the aristocracy of birth to the meritocracy we live in today, which sadly so many people by nature of their short-sightedness perceive as the final improvement. Although this is a major amelioration it is still inherently immoral.


We got a verb in my native language that suits well here: Each bird sings as its beak is mouthed.


We are determined in every way, we are what we are because of our genes ( internal factors) and our surroundings ( external factors). It is the ‘I’ that makes the decision, but do we decide what we decide?


So if we as a society agree upon the determined nature of ourselves, our entire economic system should be revised from the bottom up as it is based on the deeply immoral idea that a person should be rewarded based on his ability to make money , which is not the merit of this person, but simply made possible by chance or fate. Hence our economy is simply the application of the right of the strongest. Which is the fundamental rule that applies to life insofar that it is an unconscious unguided process. The difference is that man IS conscious and CAN guide the course of things (to an extent), this gives us a great responsibility to act and an ethical imperative to control and limit it. The problem is that the people who have the power will very rarely, if at all, have the moral courage and strength to undermine their own power for the good of the collective.


On a side-note, our economic structure is formed in such a way that we don’t even have to make a tangible contribution to society to earn legal money (financial investors and such).


Also, communism or even socialism has such a dogmatic negative connotation in the states, instilled by the government in the minds of her people. It is true that communism as it has been executed in the past and present is almost as far from an ideal society as it can be, but the cause of this lies in a fault in its executors, and not in the ideology itself. Fascism should not per definition accompany communism.


Our economic system, and society as a whole, is inherently immoral on such a myriad of ways that it is hard to conceive that there aren’t countless of people like Sam who criticise it.


It are the people on wall street who are the real thieves, as they have by way of complex financial constructions tumbled the world in an downward spiral. By allowing more and more high-risk loans to be given and insuring themselves against it so that they make even more money when the creditor can’t pay it back. Rating-bureaus who give AAA ratings to even the highest risk loans, raising questions about their integrity. The people whom devised those mechanisms and countless others in the financial system make millions and millions while at the same time dozens of millions of people are left without a job just because of the domino effect that their actions created. Yet they aren’t reprimanded in any way, on the contrary, it are the same people who caused the financial depression who sit in the economic advisory board of Obama. Ensuring from the top that the banking system is deregulated, and aggressively putting down anyone who would suggest that it should be regulated.


Man must be controlled by law ( the state). And it is, among other things, thanks to the refusal of the government of the U.S. to regulate the banking system that we’re all in this mess. Allowing banks to speculate wildly with the money of Average Joe, putting their clients meager life savings on the line to make hundreds of millions themselves.


So I wonder who those readers whom criticise Sam’s economic ideologies would consider the biggest thief if they were fully informed? The financial investor on Wall Street that makes hundreds of millions a year on the back of Average Joe without contributing a thing to society, or the man that tries to limit their almost diabolical ruthless drive to make money and distribute their excess to the most needy.


I think\hope every rational and foremost ethical person would choose the first!

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Posted: 31 August 2011 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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“One of my opinions about economy is that before we even begin to establish its structure we must agree upon the ontological nature of reality. As we have based our current economic system on the implicit premisse of free will without considering that this might not be a true representation of reality.”

That sounds like quite a tall order. I think that those of us with a philosophical bent can get frustrated at the lack of logical consistency in human institutions. It would be nice to start from the ground up, but we are already a ship at sea and making repairs plank by plank may be the only way to save the ship.

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Posted: 31 August 2011 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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It would be nice to start from the ground up, but we are already a ship at sea and making repairs plank by plank may be the only way to save the ship.


Yes I see what you mean.

But my argumentation does pave the way and justifies an extensive application of the social distribution of wealth whereby the higher you are on the financial ladder the higher you’ll be taxed. The problem is that the powers who decide how things are run in our society are just the same people who profit most from it.


We may not be able to build an entire new ship while sailing but we can fix the biggest leaks until we find a dock and order a new ship to be built. Sadly the captain of our ship is only making sure that we just stay afloat, and while we are franticaly scooping water he’s in his cabinet drinking rum and enjoying himself.

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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… Steve Grand

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Posted: 31 August 2011 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Is it really necessary to ‘change boats’?  Capitalism isn’t necessarily corrupt when it’s used correctly.  We’ve been there before.  Even without re-regulation, there’s no reason why we ‘little guys’ can’t get together use the dirty tools of corporate law to our own advantage.  If the rules are skewed in favor of corporations instead of individual citizens, stop being an individual.  Incorporate collectively.  Find thirty or forty other people who have a common agenda (corporate mission) and scrape up the money to form a non-profit.  Pay yourselves as consultants as you grow your own food in a co-op, share housing, transportation, and child care as needed, all the while being at least as good a charity as any ‘church group’ on the block.  Start a for-profit as soon as possible, don’t forget to hire dentists, doctors, and any other in-house service providers as needed, and place both companies in a larger holding company along with other similarly missioned small corporations.  Now THAT’S a voting block.  Learn to play dirty pool, if that’s the house game.  Then watch how fast the rules get changed.

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Posted: 31 August 2011 07:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Two different conversations

1) The best economic system for human well-being, or at least some good principles to base a changing science of economics.

2) How to implement economic change in our current political system.

I know that these are related, but I think that number 2 is what frustrates philosophers the most.

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Posted: 31 August 2011 09:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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A note from the other side

The aim of this note is to provide a brief explanation as to why many have reacted negatively to Dr. Harris’s essay on taxation. All large groups will contain variation, but despite convenient attempts to misunderstand or misrepresent us, we are not generally racists, religious zealots, anarchist libertarians or selfish misanthropes.

More, we understand that there is a valid role for a social safety net and that a certain measure of risk sharing is a necessary part of social organization. Group action, in many cases government action, has tremendous benefits and efficiencies of planning and scale. We understand that although all citizens are in the same “ship of state”. However in this economy, some of our fellow citizens are really and truly hungry at the dockside while the affluent sail past in yachts.

However, we also understand that the engine that has been most destructive to poverty and most enhancing of human welfare is capitalism.  Capitalism is the reason why the vast majority of men and women in the western world will eat better tonight and live better tomorrow than Louis XIV of France. However, capitalism is more than just a social welfare calculation. Like our moral sense (and morality itself) it is a sociobiological product of our evolutionary history. It feels right to protect our property.  We bristle at a threat to what we believe we have worked for and earned. We do not understand why one does not feel uncomfortable at appropriating what does not belong to them.

It is understood that Dr. Harris does not believe he is anti-capitalist. Nonetheless, in advocating disproportionate taxation he is in fact attacking the right to property, an essential pillar of capitalism. Pleas of poverty are appropriate when one is discussing charity, not when one discusses the obligations and rights of legally equal citizens. This is where morality lies.

Wealth disparities can lead to social problems and inefficiencies, and a real problem is that both wealth and poverty self re-enforce. Increasing the wealth and productivity of all citizens is in the interest of all citizens. I shudder to think of how many Einsteins or Mozarts have been lost to the grinding poverty of some parts of the inner city or rural countryside.

But an ineffective advocate for a good cause makes no friends. Dr. Harris would do far better with a different approach.  Can a meritocracy survive without a large inheritance tax ? Should capital gains be taxed less than other income ? Should we unequally subsidize each other’s home purchases with tax deductions ?

Most capitalists would say no on all counts. These changes would probably gather more funds than any proposed alternative – and hopefully be put to good use, investing in our collective future, infrastructure and children. A crucial difference, though, is the method. The method does matter, not just the consequence.

Thank you for considering my words.

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Posted: 01 September 2011 03:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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rabbit - 31 August 2011 03:57 PM

Is it really necessary to ‘change boats’?  Capitalism isn’t necessarily corrupt when it’s used correctly.  We’ve been there before.  Even without re-regulation, there’s no reason why we ‘little guys’ can’t get together use the dirty tools of corporate law to our own advantage.  If the rules are skewed in favor of corporations instead of individual citizens, stop being an individual.  Incorporate collectively.  Find thirty or forty other people who have a common agenda (corporate mission) and scrape up the money to form a non-profit.  Pay yourselves as consultants as you grow your own food in a co-op, share housing, transportation, and child care as needed, all the while being at least as good a charity as any ‘church group’ on the block.  Start a for-profit as soon as possible, don’t forget to hire dentists, doctors, and any other in-house service providers as needed, and place both companies in a larger holding company along with other similarly missioned small corporations.  Now THAT’S a voting block.  Learn to play dirty pool, if that’s the house game.  Then watch how fast the rules get changed.

 

Ok, that’s an innovative way of approaching it. But your reasoning exhibits, according to me, one major problem because it requires a deep bond of trust and willingness to do something for others (thereby limiting your own possible wealth) without that law demands of you to do so. Strangely, by the very nature of capitalism, it is not difficult to unite people in a corporate group where the aim is to make huge profits for a select few members of this group and substantially and disproportionally less for the majority in this corporate pyramid. Whereas it is extremely difficult to unite people where the goal is not profit per definition but to collectively carry and spread the costs of life. When there is no cementing or binding material like for instance a ‘church group’ would have.


Maybe, by existence of forums like these and the world-wide-web, it would be not as hard to come about people with the same compassionate ideologies as it would be in ‘real life’.


But doesn’t the very fact that we have to organise ourselves on our own in such entities suggest that there is something inherently wrong with the way how our economy is structured.


I’m not saying that we should ditch capitalism right away and entirely, because that is simply not feasible at the moment. But It seems to me that we’ve stopped exploring better alternate options. The only constant in this universe is evolution. And I can’t imagine that in lets say 300 years we’re gonna have the exact same economic structure.
Evolution does work in one direction, it goes from simple protozoans to increasingly complex structures. The same holds for culture. It becomes more and more complex and interwoven. As the march of time continues we should expect more efficient, sustainable, automated and foremost just economies and cultures to be developed.


Jacque Fresco - Resource based economy


Creation of scarcity


The Venus Project

 

I would like the opinions of others on these ideologies as they provide a framework to base our economy on that is entirely different from what we know and is far more just and moral than our current economy.


Please take your time for it as it really contains some visionary ideas.

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Posted: 01 September 2011 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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timothygmd - 01 September 2011 01:34 AM

A note from the other side

The aim of this note is to provide a brief explanation as to why many have reacted negatively to Dr. Harris’s essay on taxation. All large groups will contain variation, but despite convenient attempts to misunderstand or misrepresent us, we are not generally racists, religious zealots, anarchist libertarians or selfish misanthropes.

More, we understand that there is a valid role for a social safety net and that a certain measure of risk sharing is a necessary part of social organization. Group action, in many cases government action, has tremendous benefits and efficiencies of planning and scale. We understand that although all citizens are in the same “ship of state”. However in this economy, some of our fellow citizens are really and truly hungry at the dockside while the affluent sail past in yachts.

However, we also understand that the engine that has been most destructive to poverty and most enhancing of human welfare is capitalism.  Capitalism is the reason why the vast majority of men and women in the western world will eat better tonight and live better tomorrow than Louis XIV of France. However, capitalism is more than just a social welfare calculation. Like our moral sense (and morality itself) it is a sociobiological product of our evolutionary history. It feels right to protect our property.  We bristle at a threat to what we believe we have worked for and earned. We do not understand why one does not feel uncomfortable at appropriating what does not belong to them.

It is understood that Dr. Harris does not believe he is anti-capitalist. Nonetheless, in advocating disproportionate taxation he is in fact attacking the right to property, an essential pillar of capitalism. Pleas of poverty are appropriate when one is discussing charity, not when one discusses the obligations and rights of legally equal citizens. This is where morality lies.

Wealth disparities can lead to social problems and inefficiencies, and a real problem is that both wealth and poverty self re-enforce. Increasing the wealth and productivity of all citizens is in the interest of all citizens. I shudder to think of how many Einsteins or Mozarts have been lost to the grinding poverty of some parts of the inner city or rural countryside.

But an ineffective advocate for a good cause makes no friends. Dr. Harris would do far better with a different approach.  Can a meritocracy survive without a large inheritance tax ? Should capital gains be taxed less than other income ? Should we unequally subsidize each other’s home purchases with tax deductions ?

Most capitalists would say no on all counts. These changes would probably gather more funds than any proposed alternative – and hopefully be put to good use, investing in our collective future, infrastructure and children. A crucial difference, though, is the method. The method does matter, not just the consequence.

Thank you for considering my words.


You say that the engine that has been most destructive to poverty and most enhancing of human welfare is capitalism. You clearly aren’t aware of how wealth is divided amongst the population of the world. And the fact that human welfare has enhanced so enormously can hardly be attributed to capitalism alone, if at all. As this is brought about because of technological evolutions in agriculture, medicine and automation and because of social revolutions like giving voting rights to women and declarations like that every man is created equal. Capitalism happened to be the contingent structure of our economy. It is clear that capitalism was only one road of a multitude of roads we could have taken to accompany these technological and social revolutions that would have occurred with or without capitalism.


Capitalism produces extreme and excessive wealth for the very, very few. Low to slightly moderate wealth for the majority. And extreme poverty for the rest.


These statistics proves this irrefutably :

- The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth.
And the gap between poor and rich grows increasingly larger.


- At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day


- The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.


- Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.


- In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%:


If you doubt my sources here they are:

 

Statistics of inequality


Home - Documentary by Yann Arthus - Bertrand


The documentary Home, if you haven’t seen it already, is a definite must-see for every conscionable person


Poverty facts and stas - Global issues

 

In the light of such overwhelming evidence of the failure of our economy how can you uphold that it is because of capitalism and not despite of it that we achieved this level of welfare. It is simply the lesser of more evils that we have tried. It does not mean that there aren’t other and better ways to structurize our economy. People are so easily rusted in in conventional/traditional beliefs and ways of viewing things that it is hard for them to realise that there are a whole lot of ways of doing things. Do we even need a monetary system? Jacque Fresco, an industrial and social engineer, thinks not necessarily. I advise you look him up on youtube.

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Posted: 01 September 2011 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Thank you for your note

Knowing these statistics, I don’t doubt them. The point is better confined to variation within individual nations but the truth you describe regarding wealth disparity remains. Capitalism, generating wealth, magnifies this disparity - creating massive amounts of inhomogeneously distributed wealth rather than creating the grinding poverty that has existed in almost all places over almost all time.

Of course it is an interconnected part of a wider system that has contributed to the allievation of human suffering.

In a meritocracy, at least some disparity will arise “naturally” and is not evil. In fact, some measure of capital and resource accumulation is necessary to make more and to increase efficiency. This can be kept in check by the realization that one’s rights expire with death - your right to property ends and those resources then become subject to the common will and interest.

There is a valid role for the use of the capitalist engine to power and elevate a wider column of humanity. No one doubts the ability of the state to do this in times of real and present danger. But again, it must be done correctly. When you procede in a manner that cannibalises the engine, ultimately you will compromise the speed of the car and be left with a wreck.

Threats to property do exactly this. As you have alluded to, our current system is the best humans have devised so far. Of course it does not mean it cannot be improved or that it cannot be replaced by something better. However, the litanies of failure by well intentioned social planners should give one pause.

Lastly (and thank you for reading so far), if one is concerned with consequences as I think we both are - a high inheritance tax, the end of the home ownership deduction and the taxation of capital gains at income will gather a great amount of funds for public use. It will ensure the necessary dynamism in the system required so that there is a real opportunity for the vast majority of citizens to have a real chance and a good life when they “play by the rules”. A sound public system will find excellence and ability that would otherwise be lost to poverty.

But one of the rules is respect for property. Disproportionate taxation implies that the billionaire has less right to each of his dollars than you or I. Although I am not and will never be one of them, I will defend their rights to their property just as all fellow citizens are expected to defend each other’s rights to person, property, expression and belief.

Do not leave that happy company.

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Posted: 01 September 2011 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Knowing these statistics, I don’t doubt them. The point is better confined to variation within individual nations but the truth you describe regarding wealth disparity remains.


I agree that I’d better confined it to variation within individual nations that adhere to the capitalistic system. But our economies are so globalised and interwoven that the validity of it still holds.

In a meritocracy, at least some disparity will arise “naturally” and is not evil.


This on the other hand is only true if we have free will, which we don’t. I have argued about this subject earlier in this thread if you would care to (re)read. And Harris has brilliantly explained why we don’t decide what we decide. I will do a very concise summary.


The ramifications of accepting the fact that we don’t have free will reach to the foundations on which our economic structure is based. For if we are determined by chance, by the genes and the kind of upbringing we had, we are not responsible for our ability to make money. Bill Gates is equally irresponsible for his contributions to science than the beggar in the street is irresponsible for his not-contributing to society. Therefore it is deeply immoral to give to Gates billions of dollars and a few pennies to the beggar, as they are equally responsible for the way they are. Gates will have had a relatively nice youth without him being molested as a child and with opportunity’s for higher education, the composition of his genes in combination with his upbringing enabled him to be capable of intellectually understanding the complex matters of computer-programming. His personality evolved in such a way, without him consciously guiding this, so that he would be interested in computer-programming rather than playing football and so on.


Whereas more than 90% of the most dangerous and file criminals in jail are all molested and abused as a child. Violence would’ve been commonplace from the moment they were born. One can see how this would hinder them to attain values and norms that you and I consider normal. And then you got the people who simply have a brain that is predetermined or hardwired to construe false conceptions of reality.


We are ALL victims of fate, chance, destiny whatever you would like to call it. Nobody is free to think what he wants. If you want a better argumentation read Harris’s digressions about it, he does a far better job at it.

But one of the rules is respect for property. Disproportionate taxation implies that the billionaire has less right to each of his dollars than you or I. Although I am not and will never be one of them, I will defend their rights to their property just as all fellow citizens are expected to defend each other’s rights to person, property, expression and belief.


Even if you don’t accept that we don’t have any free will I still consider it highly immoral to have billions on your bank account while at the same time all around you millions go hungry, I really won’t be able to go to sleep at night if I did.
The billionaire has less right to each of his dollars than you or I for a reason. Because the dollar that the billionaire gets is of far less vital importance than the poor, sick and crippled man that isn’t physically able anymore to provide for himself.


I find it very ethical of you that you are prepared to defend the rights of all citizens, that is if you do it for the right reasons, which in this case you don’t. And I hope you choose the morally just side here.

[ Edited: 01 September 2011 02:28 PM by panthamor]
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Posted: 01 September 2011 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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premedan - 31 August 2011 11:28 PM

Two different conversations

1) The best economic system for human well-being, or at least some good principles to base a changing science of economics.

2) How to implement economic change in our current political system.

I know that these are related, but I think that number 2 is what frustrates philosophers the most.


That are two sides of the same coin.


One can see that the economic system we use is inherently immoral, but as long as it stays with that observation and no good alternative can be formulated we’re stuck with this lesser of more evils.

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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… Steve Grand

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Posted: 03 September 2011 08:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Panthamor

A final note on my part – but of course I will read your reply.

Free will is not at issue. Unless there is a ghost in the machine, of course the entirety of what we are is fully an incalculably complex calculation involving the protons within and without us. For the term “free will” to have meaning, there must be such as thing as “free will” and “not free will”. The strict definition refuted by Dr. Harris and yourself is a bit of a straw man. Like absolute Truth with a capital T, it is both meaningless and nonexistent in the world we live in. That we have an illusion of free will is enough, and with that illusion of free will can interact with the economic system in such a way that is either negative or positive for them both. In evolution and economics, mechanistic processes do not predestine a given path.

Therefore, while we are victims of storms, we are not leaves on the wind.

On the issues of how one should conduct oneself, we probably have a great deal of agreement (not surprising for similar arrangements of protons in similar environments).

On issues of “right” we deeply disagree and the chasm is impassable. When you say that the billionaire has less a right to his dollars as the poor man, there you part company with all definition of property, as it has been understood in much of the world and the entirety of western society. Here you cannot win, as the best you can do is replace a functional system with one that destroys itself.  More, when one argues that billionaires hold their assets immorally when children starve, one suffers a just charge of hypocrisy. I don’t know you, but most of use here have at least some means.

Lastly, attempts to re engineer the rules of society must be mindful of the nature of the people within it and their sociobiological history. When we consider issues of charity and humanity, individual flexibility is appropriate. Rights are different. They are the rules upon which our wealth generating social interactions depend. With only few exceptions, they cannot be positive in a stable system.  A “right” to bread will bare the shelves. Experience trumps theory, and unfortunately that final point has been proven by tragedy.

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Posted: 05 September 2011 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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“One of my opinions about economy is that before we even begin to establish its structure we must agree upon the ontological nature of reality. As we have based our current economic system on the implicit premisse of free will without considering that this might not be a true representation of reality.”

That’s not the way things work.  You don’t get to invent economies from the base up in this way and those who’ve tried end up causing mass starvation.    Economies are evolving living things that follow certain economic laws.  Laws as real as any law of physics.    You can no more build highly evolved economy from scratch as you could build a rabbit from scratch, working from some basic herbivore premises.

Besides we will never ever come to an agreement on what the foundational premises should be.  If we have to figure that out first then how are we to eat in the meantime.

All sorts of sciences advanced without agreeing on the foundational premises first.  Medicine moved forward without knowing quantum mechanics.  Etc.

So no it cannot be “before we even begin to establish its structure”.    In fact, you desperately need to read some Hayek.

Besides your basic premises about free will and determinism are incorrect.  I started to discuss that with you over on the other thread but you haven’t responded.

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Posted: 22 October 2011 02:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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timothygmd - 03 September 2011 12:31 PM

Panthamor

A final note on my part – but of course I will read your reply.

Free will is not at issue. Unless there is a ghost in the machine, of course the entirety of what we are is fully an incalculably complex calculation involving the protons within and without us. For the term “free will” to have meaning, there must be such as thing as “free will” and “not free will”. The strict definition refuted by Dr. Harris and yourself is a bit of a straw man. Like absolute Truth with a capital T, it is both meaningless and nonexistent in the world we live in. That we have an illusion of free will is enough, and with that illusion of free will can interact with the economic system in such a way that is either negative or positive for them both. In evolution and economics, mechanistic processes do not predestine a given path.

Therefore, while we are victims of storms, we are not leaves on the wind.

On the issues of how one should conduct oneself, we probably have a great deal of agreement (not surprising for similar arrangements of protons in similar environments).

On issues of “right” we deeply disagree and the chasm is impassable. When you say that the billionaire has less a right to his dollars as the poor man, there you part company with all definition of property, as it has been understood in much of the world and the entirety of western society. Here you cannot win, as the best you can do is replace a functional system with one that destroys itself.  More, when one argues that billionaires hold their assets immorally when children starve, one suffers a just charge of hypocrisy. I don’t know you, but most of use here have at least some means.

Lastly, attempts to re engineer the rules of society must be mindful of the nature of the people within it and their sociobiological history. When we consider issues of charity and humanity, individual flexibility is appropriate. Rights are different. They are the rules upon which our wealth generating social interactions depend. With only few exceptions, they cannot be positive in a stable system.  A “right” to bread will bare the shelves. Experience trumps theory, and unfortunately that final point has been proven by tragedy.


It all depends on the viewpoint that is taken, the assumption that is tacitly, implicitly and unconsciously made. I view things from the abstract perspective ‘sub specie aeternitatis’ as Spinoza put it, you view things ont his matter from the concrete socio-biological vantage point.

I look at things without reference to past or existing ideas. I simply look at the world that is before us, without any preconception( insofar that is possible). If taken this stance, notions like property are irrelevant and non-existent.

Simply imagine a spherical heavenly body, populated by beings with lesser and higher consciousness. Where one specie of life (as far as we know and maybe can know) has developed to the extent that it has self-awareness. Like every “intelligent” species of animal on earth it has a complex social structure. The way this structure is formed is based on socio-cultural/biological origins, there is no grounding metaphysical basis for why the things are how they are. Although this being is conscious and self-aware it is not free to fulfiil every function in society that it wants to fulfill. It is limited, varying from one individual to another. Then you must ask yourself what is the most just way of organizing the structure of society?

Yet, there is one truth that is universal, man tries to minimise suffering and accumulate happiness. Man’s final end or goal must be the fulfilling of this truth. To right the wrongs that are inherent to nature.


The famous adage “Man is created equal” which leads to an equality of rights (rule of law) is an assumption that does not corresponds to the nature of reality. Man ISN’T created equal. It has been touched at before in this discussion, the fact that nature isn’t just. One person is gifted with enormous talents and potential and the right upbringing to support and develop its talents while at the same time another person should be happy if he’s able to get a job as a trash collector. So they create equal rights for everybody, on paper this is true, but in actuality man is not free to make use of them. It is not because you make it legally possible for every human to excercise its artificially manufactered basic rights it automatically follows that they are physically capable of doing so. One of the things that differentiates humans from animals is the ability to right the wrongs, to make up in justness what nature bequeaths to do. Why would someone be a vegetarian, it stands in contrast with our evolutionary predisposition; we are omnivores, it is in fact because we began to eat meat that we obtained the required amino acids necessary for developing the brain that we have now. But man can, for humane reasons, choose not to eat meat because he deems it immoral that an animal should die and suffer to feed us, while we don’t necessarily need it anymore.


If you do want to look at it concretely it boils down to the major schism that exists in political philosophy. On the one hand you have the side that gives priority to freedom, the most prolific proponent of this philosophy is Locke; one of the basic tenets is the right to equal rights (to which you refer). For a neo-liberal policy it is not relevant that the gap between poor and rich widens, as long as freedom is secured.


Then on the other side of the spectrum you have the political philosophy that gives priority to equality, most fervently defended by Rousseau. There the “volonté générale” , the general will or common interest trumps the individual rights.Where Locke says that acquiring private possessions is an important part of the fundamental right of the individual, Rousseau stresses other things than material interests, like education and culture. The extreme example of this is marxism, of which communism is its political application; in its striving for equality, (political) freedom is abolished.


So If mankind truly wants to be humane, its main goal should be to ‘equalitise’ nature so to speak. The poltical philosophy of freedom is inherently immoral. It ensures legally individual rights but fails to see that not everyone is free to make use of them equally, quite paradoxical. Saying that the current Western organization of society is the only functional structure is short-sighted and absolutist. Right to property is not an absolute law, it is a social construction just as science and even mathematics are socially constructed.

More, when one argues that billionaires hold their assets immorally when children starve, one suffers a just charge of hypocrisy. I don’t know you, but most of use here have at least some means.


That is correct if one neglects to make a contribution himself, however, this should be done proportionally. If a billionnaire gives 100 dollars a year on charity it is immoral, if a cleaning woman/man gives 100 dollars a year it is commendable. It is as simple as that.


You say the billionaire has equal rights to his dollar than any other citizen (Locke’s view), I say the state has to right the wrongs that are inherent in nature, law of the strongest is the law that rules in nature, if man wishes to be really humane and differentiate himself from animals (because of its ethics) than the only moral option is to ‘equalitise’ this disequilibrium (Rousseau’s view).


It is no coïncidence that the happiest people on earth can be found in Scandinavia, where countries apply an extensively developed social system.

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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… Steve Grand

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Posted: 24 October 2011 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Very interesting post. Like you I really do see things the way they are and it really frustrates to live in such a system that is based off of greed, competition, consumption, production, materialism, etc instead of cooperation, innovation, pacifism etc.

You talked about communism, capitalism, socialism and gave really good reasons as to why these sort of systems/ideologies will not maximize human well-being.

Have you ever tried looking into anarchism? or more preferably anarcho-syndicalism or ecological anarchism? Now before I get deemed as an absurd lunatic I will say this: If your perception of anarchism is about chaos, disorder, all out war, I would advice you research what anarchism is and the philosophical principles that it is based upon. I only bring this up because I believe, in principle, that anarchism is capable of maximizing not only human-well being but the well-being of the entire biotic communities on earth. This may seem like a pipe dream but there are many, pragmatic and realistic examples that I could provide of societies based off anarchism principles that even exist today. Its emergence is really a struggle and dedication is an imperative.

Money is just a symbol, but it is a symbol that we have allowed ourselves to be attached to. Its almost have a god-like status in the sense that we can fool ourselves into believing that it can provide comfort to our lives. Just as equally it can destroy our lives and make us miserable.

Things will continue to be this way if we continue to allow money to run our lives. The credence we give to such a symbol I think is just as bad as accepting certain religious propositions. Education will continue to be cut. I just read in the newspaper that hosptiles are cutting back on how long patients can stay (this is in California). In a sense the natural rights provided to us by virtue of being Americans (this may apply to other countries as well) are really being taken away from us.

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Posted: 25 October 2011 10:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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ohawkins21 - 24 October 2011 05:43 PM

Very interesting post. Like you I really do see things the way they are and it really frustrates to live in such a system that is based off of greed, competition, consumption, production, materialism, etc instead of cooperation, innovation, pacifism etc.

You talked about communism, capitalism, socialism and gave really good reasons as to why these sort of systems/ideologies will not maximize human well-being.

Have you ever tried looking into anarchism? or more preferably anarcho-syndicalism or ecological anarchism? Now before I get deemed as an absurd lunatic I will say this: If your perception of anarchism is about chaos, disorder, all out war, I would advice you research what anarchism is and the philosophical principles that it is based upon. I only bring this up because I believe, in principle, that anarchism is capable of maximizing not only human-well being but the well-being of the entire biotic communities on earth. This may seem like a pipe dream but there are many, pragmatic and realistic examples that I could provide of societies based off anarchism principles that even exist today. Its emergence is really a struggle and dedication is an imperative.

Money is just a symbol, but it is a symbol that we have allowed ourselves to be attached to. Its almost have a god-like status in the sense that we can fool ourselves into believing that it can provide comfort to our lives. Just as equally it can destroy our lives and make us miserable.

Things will continue to be this way if we continue to allow money to run our lives. The credence we give to such a symbol I think is just as bad as accepting certain religious propositions. Education will continue to be cut. I just read in the newspaper that hosptiles are cutting back on how long patients can stay (this is in California). In a sense the natural rights provided to us by virtue of being Americans (this may apply to other countries as well) are really being taken away from us.


My knowledge about anarchism is, to my regret, very superficial and I’ll be sure to look into it in the future. I do know that it has a lot more to offer than the initial thoughts of chaos and disorganization that comes to mind. Thanks for the advise.


But I do feel man is ‘waking up’ so to speak. With the movements of ‘occupy wall street’ and the ‘indignados’ and such. The masses just have to realise that they have the real power. We are the 99%. The only trouble is what to put in place of the current system. That it should be based on compassion and equality is evident, but converting this into praxis is not. But as evolution is inherent in culture and life as a whole, everything shall come to pass. Let’s just hope it changes for the better.

Wish you the best

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“Consider yourself. I want you to imagine a scene from your childhood. Pick something evocative… Something you can remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all, you really were there at the time, weren’t you? How else would you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you WEREN’T there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… Steve Grand

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