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Re: [The-Saint-Paul-Socrates-Cafe] 7/11/12 questions and discussion

From: Mike M.
Sent on: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 12:40 AM
Getting back to the original question: In ''New England style democracy'', it would've been rather easy to be a well informed voter. You probably grew up with the candidate, knew his family, knew a lot about his habits, public utterances, his income, how he maintained his property, etc. This has never been true on the national level and remains an impossibility. We seem to arrange ''facts'' about an issue or candidate that are beneficial to ourselves and vote accordingly. I think we all deeply believe that ''Nice guys finish last''.

From: Jon Anderson <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Monday, July 16,[masked]:49 PM
Subject: [The-Saint-Paul-Socrates-Cafe] 7/11/12 questions and discussion

7/11/12 questions and discussion

1-is it ok to exploit others' ignorance in order to achieve political goals?6
2-how can we unify without religion?4
3-is there a difference between ethics and morality?3
4-if it's "jobs jobs jobs" then why hasn't congress passed a jobs' bill?1
5-what are the powers of labels?5
6-how do we move beyond a polarized society?5
7-in a personal or business relationship, is it good to spy on those you're in relationship with?3


is it ok to exploit others' ignorance in order to achieve one's own political goals?

Siva: in order to accomplish any political goal that's meaningful it's difficult to do when just talking issues. If we frame issues in simple phrases that do no justice to the complexity of issues it does motivate voters to like and agree with you; energizes the base. If one's base later learn you were deceptive it's usually ok because the other guy's guilty doing the same thing. It's the way politics works in the US. Is it ok to "fight fire with fire."

Erik: you think the exploiter is doing the right thing?

Siva: ethical techniques lose so good guys need to lie

Jeremy: are you asking if we think it's ok?

Siva: yeah

Erik: if I have always been conservative yet secretly liberal in truth. Am I being deceptive?

Siva: that's not in the question. For example, Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay in campaign mode but not in fact.

Jon: Machiavelli's the Prince seems an appropriate source literature here. In that book he gives advice on how one ought to rule a people/country/etc. One of his ideas I remember is that it's important to be willing to do anything to maintain power but essential to be able to appear ethical: be mean, appear nice.

Tor: a recent quote from a US senator about America's uninsured demonstrates another attitude: he said "I don't care about them because they're not going to vote for me anyway." In Norway there will never be a political condition when any one party could say that (parliamentary government/multiple parties). Two parties are good for scorched earth politics. People vote self interest and politicians govern from self interest. If one is serious about reform then we know that rationality won't work. Fixing economics is rational but unpopular.

Art: people are much smarter than we give them credit for. People with credentials and authority are not being truthful. No one talks of the catastrophic effects of global warming and how to prepare. We here in MN are going to be overcrowded! It's about dishonesty from the top, not ignorance at the bottom

Siva: most Americans don't like scientists

Art: that's because they're not honest. Regular people impress me a lot with their perceptions and predictions.

Jon: Jonathan Haidt's books suggest different reasons for how we vote. Apparently we do not vote for our individual ends. We instead our voting priorities are those that we feel are the priorities of the group(s) we identify ourselves with. This is not a rational thing. This is why Tor's correctly states that the rational cure for our economic woes are obvious yet no one will do it. When we are manipulated, lied to, or just convinced it's never for rational reasons (at least not at first). A successful manipulator is one who knows how to appeal to our irrational cores.

Art: in Roosevelt's Great Society we ended up with mixed results. One bad result has been to discourage parents from marrying by lowering their benefits if they do. Those policies supported kids but not marriage itself.

Jon: Haidt also argues for a political balance wherein liberals' interest in fighting for the little guy is balanced by conservative sensibilities about morality. The problem Art describes is just that kind of problem.

Erik: process vs. product. Must one be ethical at promoting a great product? There's an error differentiating product from process. Means justify the ends. Ethics are necessary in both process and product.

Siva: is that realistic?

Art: where is the successful unethical society?

Siva: US is both unethical and unsuccessful

Tor: custom defeats law. Customs take thousands of years to develop and are impossible to stop. Western ethics are accomplishments that are isolated to the west.

Art: Arab societies are not successful

Tor: Egypt is successful. It depends on which time period we discuss. Ethics and morals are different so we have a problem chastising others with differing values.

Siva: what my question asks is if it's ok to violate our own, culturally established ethics.

Jon: we're not puppets

Siva: the nature of deception is to not give us good enough information.

Erik: i don't like political questions here. Partly it's because it's so quickly polarizing. Politics is so divided.

Siva: no matter your politics, is it ok to deceive?

Erik: people by nature are hypocrites. They might actually believe what they say unless tested to fulfill it. 

Siva: I'm asking about knowingly deceiving

jeremy: this topic is frustrating because there are so many different actors. Corporations have too much power. When one's opponents are unethical you must be too in order to defeat them but how far ought one go? Politician's handlers tell them what to say, control the message -- or do what Obama did and never actually say anything. That's the safe approach

Siva; not true. What sounds indirect can offend the base, yes?

jeremy: yeah, republicans are truthful, they tell everyone they're going to be nasty then democrats make promises that aren't kept.

David: what do we mean by exploitation? Causing harm, asymmetrical relationships? Is ignorance harmed. I say no.

Jon: isn't politics compared to sausage making (if you ever saw how it gets done you'd never eat it again)?

Mike:  we often end up discussing whether the ends justify the means.

Tor: there are many historical examples we know of pendulum swings from right to left, wealth to poverty, war to peace. This time is America's time of rage that seems actually threatening (more so than the 60's). When a country reaches such a level we get upheaval. We may think it can't happen but it can (civil war). This makes the next election important.

Siva: good discussion, no consensus. Tor's right, in fairytales the evil stepmother always gets beat up. Here in America the deception is very magical. The manipulation makes us feel we're making our way in life. We're happy and ignorant, so we allow the bad.

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