2/13/13 questions and discussion
1-how might we reconcile our ideals with reality?3
2-does a society's economic reality determine its culture?4
3-what is fair?6
4-is there any morality besides justice?5
5-should we be promoting the concept of a "bucket list" for everyone?2
what is fair?
Tor: yesterday I listened to fans of a criminal who says he was unfairly convicted. He's written a manifesto. He actually killed 4 people because of being treated unfairly. Of the 3 variable determining economic success, 1st and 2nd are justice and fairness. This explains 60% of the differences in income. I was wondering why. Justice and fairness are feelings. This makes it difficult to define. It's subjective. I get the feeling that nobody really feels better as the result of legal proceedings. Feelings of fairness can not be addressed by formula/written law. Obama's State of the Union speech was about fairness and its lack. We are looking at the most important concept in creating economic wealth and a good society. In interviews with people the first thing we see emotionally is when they've been treated unfairly. It can't be solved with rules. Obama's most interesting element was to end the speech with everyone in tears via the audience members who'd been harmed by gun violence. Greek philosophy's search for truth, beauty, and justice have never been solved or definitively described.
Jon: I'm reading a book about human neurology and biochemistry called Brain Trust. In it the author -- a philosopher researching science -- describes what is known about how we decide fairness, the good, even fundamental morality. She is frank in admitting that we both know a great deal about both yet we know a great deal less of what's fully happening when we try to understand how we decide. So there most certainly is a physical, chemical, electrical reality to our moral thinking but how those things create a preference for one thing over another is still mostly unknown.
Mike: my understanding of Communism is that people under such a system would not have fairness in their vocabulary. One just toughs out hardship, one doesn't complain of being treated unfairly. They had no expectations of fairness. So is it largely an American concept?
Jon: doesn't Communism by definition seek fairness?
Mike: it seems embedded in our US Constitution.
Tor: I have not associated fairness with any political system but I'll try it on Capitalism. In high school debate the issue is that when something goes up in price we don't necessarily buy less of it. In reality when the minimum wage has been increased the increase gets spent. This stimulus is a one to three ratio: one dollar of minimum wage increase leads to three dollars of economic growth.
Jon: is it fair to just give money to people who aren't worth it?
Tor: they will work for it. The stimulus effect "lifts all boats."
Jon: wouldn't giving that money to our wealthiest citizens result in greater national prosperity?
Tor: if they actually spent it, but they actually can't spend that much money. They are not job creators. True job creators are the 70% of us; small businesses and the consumer. In concept, the minimum wage which we're all sick and tired of, can help us shrink the income disparity.
Siva: I'm a libertarian so I believe no government or 3rd party organization should determine who we hire and how much we pay them. All transactions should be voluntary.
Tor: what about monopolies?
Siva: people condemn libertarianism/pure capitalism because it results in monopoly yet in human history most of the disparities resulted via theft (marxism/capitalism).
Jon: what is feudalism?
Siva: even feudalism isn't reached without theft.
Jon: how do we enforce "voluntary transactions"?
Siva: if someone takes without permission, just fight it. Without good role models for how to voluntarily transact constructively, we're screwed. Our nation's founders did try to keep government limited, but they really just limited it to white men.
Tor: do you have an example of a successful libertarian society?
Siva: it's never happened because of theft.
Tor: not true. The most famous was Walden II (1970s). It was a libertarian effort. The Quakers too. They didn't do well, for different reasons. Walden II succumbed to inflation. I sympathize with libertarian ideas (except Ayn Rand who cashed her Social Security checks). For libertarianism to be fair, there must be a record of its succeeding somewhere. A system must be self-correcting and libertarian systems have not successfully self-corrected.
Art: libertarianism is not just. Instead we need democracy without entitlements for those who don't need it. What we have now is not a democracy. We now have an entitlement society. Our democracy will work because we're armed.
Molly: weaponry is a good.
Jon: how did those unarmed Norwegians manage it without guns?
Art: I would guess that they actually are armed. That strength -- an armed citizenry -- makes governments more honest.
Siva: in a country where the people voting are smart/well informed, democracy works. Democracy is great good. A libertarian solution might be self-education to protect your wealth.
Mike: Silicon Valley is publishing salaries for everyone working there. It was suggested that nearly every startup tried this and failed. Back in the 70s I was dating a woman whose avocation was to go to church groups and women's groups and raise consciousness for women's rights -- what was more fair for our women. She was frequently disappointed by how few women were convinced by her -- some were even hostile towards her/her ideas.
Tor: it would take 30 seconds to find out what every Norwegian earns. That is the main reason Norway has greater economic equality. We agreed here in America that survival was for the adaptable. not the strong. In the universe there's something else at work. There isn't anybody who can leave this planet. All political systems veer between the strong and not so strong (capitalism/socialism).
Mike: most states pay 7.25/hr. Everybody would like to do something about poverty. It's easy for Obama to say we should raise the rate. That's an easy solution but I don't think people want to help the poor. Poverty is deserved, we here seem to think. I don't think we have the will to pay $9/hr.
Jon: how accurate is that?
Mike: it's there. No one wishes the poor any real ill will. Bootstraps are what we're about. Fair is Calvinistic: unless one is crippled physically one deserves what one gets. We don't think children should be hurt. Americans are unique: patriotic and selfish but the Calvinistic thing holds sway.
Eric: somewhere there is an equilibrium, a fairness and we're all striving for it. We hear that life isn't fair. I used to hear it from teachers talking to their students. Sometimes it seemed a copout. Like "I got mine, get your own kid!" or a way not to deal with the child's shortcomings at home or in their skill set. Sometimes it was true. We need to find balance yet instead we often look for one-sided solutions. There are two ways to find it: 1) give and take, and 2) move the fulcrum; change the rules a bit. Sometimes those getting less don't mind because they have stories to justify the unfairness.