• Rob J Kennedy
    35
    Without trying to describe or justify a whole politcal or philosophical system, I'd like to ask a question. If we could improve equality, is the question below what needs to happen?

    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?
  • BC
    13.2k
    Whether I (we) am (are) willing or not makes no difference, because we operate within a system which decidedly increases some people's opportunities at our collective expense. Society's goods (material and cultural) are not fairly and evenly distributed -- and they never have been.

    Most of the time I accept the status quo with a measure of equanimity because some of the advantaged people (some artists, performers, surgeons, etc.) share their good fortune with everyone by the way they live their lives. On the other hand, some of the advantaged people are plugs in the bowels of grace, and it it would be a good thing if they disappeared. Most advantaged people are in between the extremes.

    Then there are the disadvantaged people. A good share of those who did not receive advantages live (lived) exemplary lives and we can be grateful for their existence. Some of the disadvantages wouldn't have done anything good had they been showered with cash. It just isn't in them to do great things.

    Life is not fair. I don't like it, but that's the way it is.
  • Rob J Kennedy
    35
    Hey BC,

    It sounds like you are saying there is no point in even raising the question.

    For me, it’s a question that needs to be asked if the human race wants equality. For it is inequality that separates humanity. Maybe most of us don’t want equality, but I don’t believe that. There is good will, but at what point does that good will stop?

    Should it come down to people who have a lot, having most of their lot taken away to support those that don’t? You know, the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • fishfry
    2.9k
    If we could improve equality, is the question below what needs to happen?Rob J Kennedy

    Make everyone an impoverished slave and feed them all the same bowl of gruel everyday.

    That's the problem with "equality." If you have a system that allows everyone to thrive at their own level of ability and ambition, you'll get lots of great art, science, and wealth. Lots of excellence among the excellent. You'll also get lots of inequality. And if you hammer down every nail that stands up, you'll get all the equality you want ... good and hard.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?Rob J Kennedy

    You mean, by paying income tax?

    It's a very politically-incorrect fact that not all people are equal. All people should be treated equally by the law, and generally should have equal opportunity to participate in the economy. But not every one is equal in respect of their abilities, proclivities, talents, desires and intentions. To try and impose equality ends up being a recipe for totalitarianism, as Orwell prophesied so eloquently.
  • Rob J Kennedy
    35
    That why you don’t impose equality. You set up safety nets to help people who are not able to help themselves. Then, when basic needs are met, people can focus on personal growth, development and advancing society. This already happens in many countries. Sometimes its effective, sometimes not, but at least they are trying.
  • Wayfarer
    21k
    Fair enough, agree with that. Much more like the Scandinavian model of democratic socialism. Although they have the advantage of a highly intelligent citizenry ;-)
  • Lionino
    1.8k
    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?Rob J Kennedy

    In some cases yes, in other cases no. Most people saying "yes" would be lying.
  • Mww
    4.6k
    …..accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others…..Rob J Kennedy

    A set of principles? Given the fundamental nature of principles in general, why would a set of them benefit the opportunities of one person over another?

    If it is the case “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is a fundamental principle, and each member in a community is subject to that principle, why would I need to relinquish anything in order for any of them partake in it?

    No, I would not be willing to give up my job, such that the next guy could claim the income from it. On the other hand, I might be willing to relinquish something in order to facilitate the opportunity for another to be subject to that fundamental principe, ranging from going to war, or merely going to vote.

    Hardly a simple question, methinks, insofar as the domain of the query itself is more anthropological/psychological than philosophical, but the response is predicated entirely on a moral disposition, which is altogether philosophical. The ol’ apples/oranges thing.
    ————-



    HA!!! You beat me by scant seconds.
  • NOS4A2
    8.4k


    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself

    I would not because it is immoral; such an arraignment is premised on the exploitation of those who accept the principles. The arraignment is also unjust insofar as it does not consider those who are deserving or undeserving of the prospects and opportunities you mention.
  • RogueAI
    2.5k
    Like affirmative action? Would I, a white male with a bunch of privileges, agree to a 5% reduction in the chance of getting into a good school/good job if it meant a minority could have a better chance? Sure.
  • DifferentiatingEgg
    21
    How about I decide what opportunities I miss out on? Rather than someone else telling me what I can and cannot do?
  • Hanover
    12.1k
    Maybe most of us don’t want equality, but I don’t believe that.Rob J Kennedy
    Equality is most certainly not a virtue. We may seek justice, fairness, equity and the like, but we are all different and unequal.

    Equality is the mantra of the Marxist.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Social equality must be qualified, else someone will trump it by saying we are not created equal so what's the point of comparing success rates? Men and women are not the same, so how could you treat them the same? That's the sleight-of-mind there, conflating social equality with individual similarity.

    In a society, you can set for principles of equality if you say what kind: equality under the law, equal rights of voting, equal rights to freedom of speech and association; equal pay for equal work; equal access to education and health care; equal opportunity.

    As to the principle, John Rawls had the right idea: design a society that you would be happy to live in. The catch is, when you design it, you don't know where you will fit, what your circumstances will be in that society.
  • ENOAH
    494
    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?Rob J Kennedy

    The part I grapple with is, as I am almost forced by "honesty" to answer no, why is there a nagging sensation "telling" me that is wrong? And if that same nagging is generally universal, even for those who might suppress it with reasoning or pride, why does our honesty compel us to answer no? There are competing interests within an individual, I know. But why in this case do we readily choose no, while simultaneously lingering in yes?
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    But why in this case do we readily choose no, while simultaneously lingering in yes?ENOAH

    Because the question is phrased in such a way as to threaten you, whichever answer you give. If you say yes, something you have will be taken away. If you say no, you're being mean to people less fortunate than yourself.
    But that's not really the issue. The issue is, do you want to live in a fair society?
    We don't have to contend with scarcity; we have to contend with disparity.
    Right now, we're suffering an eardrum shattering scream from the advocates of mega-wealth at the prospect of 1% rise in taxes on their billion-dollar profits. Nobody likes to give up what they have, no matter how unfairly they got it.
  • ENOAH
    494
    But that's not really the issue. The issue is, do you want to live in a fair society?Vera Mont


    Well put.
  • Ludwig V
    932
    Equality is the mantra of the Marxist.Hanover
    I thought that a free market meant that everyone had equal access to it and equal rights of contract and property.
    Marxism isn't bothered by inequality, but by unfair exploitation. The slogan "from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs" is not about equality.

    But that's not really the issue. The issue is, do you want to live in a fair society?Vera Mont
    Yes. Sometimes fairness means equality. But sometimes equality is unfair.

    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?Rob J Kennedy
    It depends on the principles. The right to property bestows rights on everyone. Essentially, it's a deal - I accept restrictions on me because others concede something to me. People accept that because they benefit enough to make the deal worthwhile. The same applies to contracts.

    What people do not think about is the fact that the first state welfare was instituted by Bismarck in Germany, not because he was overwhelmed by an altruistic impulse, but because he thought there would be a massive rebellion by the workers unless he did something. See Wikipedia on State Socialism in Germany.

    But there is also an argument that a state welfare programme is not altruism, but insurance. (In the UK, those programmes are technically insurance, not hand-outs.) Everyone benefits from insurance against unemployment, sickness and so forth. Even the retirement pension is essentially funded by workers on the basis that they will benefit later on. Only a state policy can offer unlimited cover for these things - and, actually, there are limits to what even states can do.

    Is altruism appropriate in this context? Good question. I don't see why a community should not collectively decide on some altruistic actions - but it would be politically undesirable unless there is a consensus at least to accept them.

    Make everyone an impoverished slave and feed them all the same bowl of gruel everyday.fishfry
    In one sense, it is true that "equal" means the same, but this is not an absolute. Thus, in a democracy, everyone (i.e. all adult citizens, with some exceptions) gets one vote. Not more, not less. But there are not many contexts in which that sameness is appropriate, or acceptable. The idea that equality means that everyone is the same, or should be treated in the same way in all contexts is little more than political propaganda. No-one believes that.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    But sometimes equality is unfair.Ludwig V

    Which of the specific kinds of social equality I mentioned is unfair? [equality under the law, equal rights of voting, equal rights to freedom of speech and association; equal pay for equal work; equal access to education and health care; or equal opportunity]
    It's quite true that it would be unfair to try a child in adult court or expect a disabled veteran to perform physical labour - but these exemptions come with criteria and limits that can be agreed on by consensus, rather than decreed by a ruler.

    I thought that a free market meant that everyone had equal access to it and equal rights of contract and property.Ludwig V
    So did Ayn Rand. But only a very few are born into property, and everyone else has more access to debt than to property. There is no free market and there never has been.
  • Ludwig V
    932
    Which of the specific kinds of social equality I mentioned is unfair?Vera Mont
    Did I suggest that any of them was? If so, I apologize. Perhaps I was a bit lazy in not giving a list. I hesitated because I'm not sure your list is complete.

    these exemptions come with criteria and limitations that can be agreed on by consensus, rather than decreed by a ruler.Vera Mont
    Yes. One has to be careful here. What if people who are excluded protest that they should be included? (Slaves, women, children). There's a particularly awkward question about exclusion of those who are or might be regarded as incompetent, such as very young children.

    There is no free market and there never has been.Vera Mont
    I agree. Adam Smith's model was never really more than that - a model. At the very least, a market needs a legal and social structure with power to settle disputes and enforce the rules.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Did I suggest that any of them was?Ludwig V
    Not specifically. But in response my having been specific, you remarked that sometimes equality can be unfair. I'd already dealt with the sameness herring.

    What if people who are excluded protest that they should be included?Ludwig V
    Exemption doesn't mean exclusion. When it does, people do protest and clamour for change. Social organization is an on-going negotiation among interested factions. But if the constitution is set up fairly in the first place, there is less room for contentions.
  • Ludwig V
    932
    Right now, we're suffering an eardrum shattering scream from the advocates of mega-wealth at the prospect of 1% rise in taxes on their billion-dollar profits. Nobody likes to give up what they have, no matter how unfairly they got it.Vera Mont
    Yes. It is hard to put right an inequity that has become established but perhaps even harder to prevent one getting established in the first place.

    As to the principle, John Rawls had the right idea: design a society that you would be happy to live in. The catch is, when you design it, you don't know where you will fit, what your circumstances will be in that society.Vera Mont
    Yes. If only we had the opportunity to start from scratch with people who did not differ in their negotiation skills.

    I would not because it is immoral; such an arraignment is premised on the exploitation of those who accept the principles. The arraignment is also unjust insofar as it does not consider those who are deserving or undeserving of the prospects and opportunities you mention.NOS4A2
    That's all very well. But what if the privileges are themselves the result of exploitation? Or what if the privileges are used to exploit people? Then, right-minded people at least would accept. It does happen, surprisingly often. I think the point is that everyone deserves prospects and opportunities.

    Social organization is an on-going negotiation among interested factions.Vera Mont
    Yes. Enabling that process to satisfy all parties is the really important and difficult bit.
  • NOS4A2
    8.4k


    That's all very well. But what if the privileges are themselves the result of exploitation? Or what if the privileges are used to exploit people? Then, right-minded people at least would accept. It does happen, surprisingly often. I think the point is that everyone deserves prospects and opportunities.

    If someone’s lack of prospects was the result of exploitation or injustice, and not, say, by choice, then I would gladly accept a set of principles that would increase his prospects at the expense of my own. In my mind, he would be deserving of my support.

    In our current bureaucratic trajectory, though, we do not differentiate between the deserving or undeserving, and do so according to more trivial factors such as class or tax-bracket.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Enabling that process to satisfy all parties is the really important and difficult bit.Ludwig V
    I gu3ess that's the point of social and ethical philosophy. With the right set of mental tools, one comes prepared to the conference table, demonstration or barricade.
  • fishfry
    2.9k
    The idea that equality means that everyone is the same, or should be treated in the same way in all contexts is little more than political propaganda. No-one believes that.Ludwig V

    If only. The new word is "equity" and it DOES mean that everything should be the same. Equality of outcome and not just opportunity; and if outcomes are unequal, call people racists. Tear down statues And a lot of people think that way these days. So "no one believes that" is false. Marxism is coming back into vogue, whichever side of of the matter one may happen to be on.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    Tear down statuesfishfry
    What's that to do with equality or equity? Outcomes owe a whole lot to beginnings. It doesn't mean that everything (??) should be the same or that everyone should be the same, it means that everyone should have the same chance of a positive outcome.
    A whole lot of quite nasty people have had their statues erected in public squares, at public expense. I guess the public has a right to reject them. There are places elsewhere for the images of great men out of favour special parks for the no-longer-wanted statues.
    That doesn't denote anything even close to equality or equity in those places. BTW, Marx is in both parks, though he doesn't deserve it.
  • fishfry
    2.9k
    What's that to do with equality or equity? Outcomes owe a whole lot to beginnings. It doesn't mean that everything (??) should be the same or that everyone should be the same, it means that everyone should have the same chance of a positive outcome.Vera Mont

    Some people in the public square these days would burn you at the stake for arguing for equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome. And for exactly the reason you mention, that outcomes are highly influenced by the random social circumstances of one's beginnings.

    I agree with you in principle that equality is good, but these days that's not enough for a lot of people, and you seem to be denying that's the case.

    I'm confused by your post. @Ludwig V said, "The idea that equality means that everyone is the same, or should be treated in the same way in all contexts is little more than political propaganda. No-one believes that." And I responded by noting that these days A LOT of people believe that. Then you kind of jumped in and defined equality, ignoring my point that many these days reject equality in favor of equity, which is equality of outcomes combined with grievances against racial groups they think are holding them down.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    But only a very few are born into property, and everyone else has more access to debt than to property. There is no free market and there never has been.Vera Mont

    Indeed. The myth of the level playing field is pervasive.
  • Ludwig V
    932
    Some people in the public square these days would burn you at the stake for arguing for equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome. And for exactly the reason you mention, that outcomes are highly influenced by the random social circumstances of one's beginnings.fishfry
    I hope you exaggerate.
    I agree that insisting on equality of outcomes is more complicated than is usually acknowledged. Where outcomes are influenced by random factors, differences do fall into the category of the unfairness of life. But where they are systematic and not random, they are a problem. So inequality of outcome can be an indicator or symptom of a systematic problem.
    There is another problem, which is distinguishing between issues that can be fixed, and those that can't.

    A whole lot of quite nasty people have had their statues erected in public squares, at public expense. I guess the public has a right to reject them. There are places elsewhere for the images of great men out of favour special parks for the no-longer-wanted statues.Vera Mont
    Yes, the case of Eastern Europe is instructive. They seem to be developing a sensible approach. They had the advantage of a widespread consensus about what should be done. Clearly, that doesn't hold in the West, and, to be fair, it isn't the same situation.

    That's the problem with "equality." If you have a system that allows everyone to thrive at their own level of ability and ambition, you'll get lots of great art, science, and wealth. Lots of excellence among the excellent. You'll also get lots of inequality. And if you hammer down every nail that stands up, you'll get all the equality you want ... good and hard.fishfry
    Your system (or lack of it) sounds great. But you can't justify it just by appealing to the high achievers. An ethical system needs to recognize and have space for the majority - the mediocre. It also needs to ensure that high achievement is at least possible for everybody and that the achievements benefit everybody.
    Hammering people for any reason is not something that I could approve of, whatever the reason.

    In our current bureaucratic trajectory, though, we do not differentiate between the deserving or undeserving, and do so according to more trivial factors such as class or tax-bracket.NOS4A2
    I'm not sure what you mean about not differentiating between the deserving and the undeserving. Freedom from inappropriate discrimination should not be restricted to the deserving, whoever they may be. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are not to be handed out to only to those who deserve them.
  • frank
    14.6k
    Without trying to describe or justify a whole politcal or philosophical system, I'd like to ask a question. If we could improve equality, is the question below what needs to happen?

    Would you be willing to accept a set of principles that increases the prospects of others, even if it means having fewer opportunities yourself?
    Rob J Kennedy

    Improvement in equality can happen in many ways. The Bubonic plague brought about greater equality because it killed off so many slaves. Those who were left had an improved bargaining position. This enraged the aristocracy, but there was nothing they could do about it. They weren't willing to accept any new set of principles, but they had no choice but to pay more for labor, and money is power. Equality is about power distribution.
  • Vera Mont
    3.5k
    I agree with you in principle that equality is good, but these days that's not enough for a lot of people, and you seem to be denying that's the case.fishfry
    Seem to be denying? I didn't notice that. I was responding to the OP question. Equality was always unpopular with the people who considered themselves better than others through birth and wealth, more worthy of acclaim and privilege. And those are the people who have traditionally made the rules for everyone - they still largely do.

    If you mean that some people are demanding compensation for long-entrenched inequities, I don't deny it. Some tipping of the imbalance might be appropriate. If you mean that some people demand special treatment for various reasons, I don't deny that either, and would consider the demands case by case. I certainly wouldn't pass judgment on the basis of a blanket accusation.

    Some people in the public square these days would burn you at the stake for arguing for equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome.fishfry
    Some people in the public square these days would shoot you on sight for being a judge or not wanting a baby or wearing a rainbow teeshirt. Violent times, these. I have not seen it demonstrated that anyone demands similarity of outcomes. In fact, I'm not sure what you mean by "outcome".
    Everybody doesn't want to be an artist or doctor or executive, but none of the artists, doctors and executives could do the work they do or live the life they live without all the farmers, builders and mechanics who maintain the world.
    What I mean by equality of outcome is a reasonable life: satisfying work, physical safety, access to good nutrition, shelter and health care, freedom of movement and personal autonomy.
    Why not simply give every citizen the chance to achieve their own ambition and fulfill their own potential, and respect each for his or her contribution?

    They had the advantage of a widespread consensus about what should be done. Clearly, that doesn't hold in the West, and, to be fair, it isn't the same situation.Ludwig V
    That's because some Westerners still think slavery was a good idea and defending it was heroic.
    Personally, I'm all for public art, but totally opposed to monuments. Today's hero is almost certain to be tomorrow's villain.
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