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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 4:45 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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I have to say that I'm rather depressed now after reading some of the thoughts and comments in this thread. I know most of you are speaking not about your personal views but merely your thoughts on how others might feel, but still....

:(


And, Nin, is your opposition to charity based on the idea that it perpetuates a harmful cycle where the impoverished are made to feel more inferior, lowering their self-esteem, which exacerbates the poverty issue?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 4:52 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Yes, I am quite surprised. Why in the world? :?


That is actually very easy: charity is a private decision and as such depends on persons willing to give it and on the values they decide to support and defend. As I consider living in dignity a basic human right, I think that it should not depend on any private decision or have any value attached to it, but be the charge and duty of society in its whole. So, I don't blame people who give their money to charity, but a system in which charity is necessary. It seems totally flawed to me.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 5:04 pm 
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yovargas wrote:

#1 - I If no one gives away money to the "undeserving", the undeserving still have the option to try to earn their money. My company does not "give" me money, they trade me money for my labor.


For me there are two major flaws in that thought: what about those who can't "earn" their money: sick, mentally or physically ill, old, addicted, handicapped?

And: what about the value given for labor? Many people in this world work much more than I do, yet my labor is given far more value than theirs. By what right? No difference in the value of labor can explain the actual difference in income between e.g.the CEO of a clothing company and the actual woman in Bangladesh sewing.

My ideal: everybody contributes what he can and gets what he needs.

Eta: sorry for dividing this post in two and not adressing Lali's question directly. iPad and migraine issue today....

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 5:07 pm 
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Nin wrote:
For me there are two major flaws in that thought: what about those who can't "earn" their money: sick, mentally or physically ill, old, addicted, handicapped?


Those who cannot provide for themselves will always have to depend on the charity of others, regardless of the name or nature it takes.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 5:53 pm 
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Nin wrote:
yovargas wrote:
Yes, I am quite surprised. Why in the world? :?


That is actually very easy: charity is a private decision and as such depends on persons willing to give it and on the values they decide to support and defend. As I consider living in dignity a basic human right, I think that it should not depend on any private decision or have any value attached to it, but be the charge and duty of society in its whole. So, I don't blame people who give their money to charity, but a system in which charity is necessary. It seems totally flawed to me.


I'm curious - imagine, hypothetically, a word where humans were so generous and charitable and caring that private charity was able to 100% rid the world of poverty and financial struggles - would you still prefer that instead of individuals doing it themselves, this kind of redistribution was done by the gov't?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 5:55 pm 
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The problem with that is that charity doesn't work. It helps, but it is never sufficient for the need. It never has been. There aren't enough people with both the means and the inclination to eliminate poverty and need. There can't be. (Well, maybe now—those 62 people who own as much wealth as half the world's population might be able to make a dent. . . .)

http://www.theguardian.com/business/201 ... n-combined

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:02 pm 
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I said hypothetically....
(But of course there can be. There isn't now and hasn't in the past but that doesn't mean that it's for some reason theoretically impossible. I find that a very strange statement. But whether or not it is likely, that wasn't really the point of what I was trying to ask Nin.)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:10 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
I'm curious - imagine, hypothetically, a word where humans were so generous and charitable and caring that private charity was able to 100% rid the world of poverty and financial struggles - would you still prefer that instead of individuals doing it themselves, this kind of redistribution was done by the gov't?


Yes, absolutely.
What if one of the donors dies and his inheritants will not follow his footsteps? What if some of the donors loose their wealth? I'm sorry, anything depending on private decision would not satisfy me.

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Those who cannot provide for themselves will always have to depend on the charity of others, regardless of the name or nature it takes.
.
No, those who cannot provide for themselves do not have to depend on charity. A pension for the elderly is not charity, it is a right. An insurance for handicapped or disabled persons is a right. Charity is not a right. It is not a difference in name, it is a difference in concept. For me, it is a crucial difference.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:55 pm 
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Nin wrote:
What if one of the donors dies and his inheritants will not follow his footsteps? What if some of the donors loose their wealth? I'm sorry, anything depending on private decision would not satisfy me.


What if the gov't changes policies? What if it goes bankrupt? There are never any guarantees.


Nin wrote:
No, those who cannot provide for themselves do not have to depend on charity. A pension for the elderly is not charity, it is a right. An insurance for handicapped or disabled persons is a right. Charity is not a right. It is not a difference in name, it is a difference in concept. For me, it is a crucial difference.


I disagree rather profoundly. Regardless of who's doing it or where it's coming from, it's still charity. You can choose to call it something else but they are still depending on the goodwill of others, regardless of who those others are, to provide for them. If that goodwill disappears, and it very much can no matter what system you set up, then they do not have what they need.


(As I side note, I have no idea what most people mean by the word "right". It is usually used in a way that I genuinely have no comprehension of, including in this post.)

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:08 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
What if the gov't changes policies? What if it goes bankrupt? There are never any guarantees.

Well, it is a far higher level of guarantee. The highest any system can offer. And if I see how difficult it is to change an amendment like the 4th or a law like the death penalty - and how easy it is for donor to turn away from his promises, for me, the choice is easy.

yovargas wrote:
I disagree rather profoundly. Regardless of who's doing it or where it's coming from, it's still charity. You can choose to call it something else but they are still depending on the goodwill of others, regardless of who those others are, to provide for them. If that goodwill disappears, and it very much can no matter what system you set up, then they do not have what they need.


Well, then we will have to disagree. A "right" for me is something that is guaranteed to you by law. Simple definition. Charity is not guaranteed by law. And the goodwill it depends on is no longer dependent on one person or even one generation. It goes far beyond that, which for me changes the nature of it. It becomes a part of the inherent treaty which is at the base of our society. (What Rousseau called the "Contrat Social").

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:13 pm 
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(How funny you mention that - I'm reading Rousseau's Contract right now! Fascinating, stimulating read but I think it's mostly ridiculous nonsense. :))

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:57 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Nin wrote:
What if one of the donors dies and his inheritants will not follow his footsteps? What if some of the donors loose their wealth? I'm sorry, anything depending on private decision would not satisfy me.


What if the gov't changes policies? What if it goes bankrupt? There are never any guarantees.


Nin wrote:
No, those who cannot provide for themselves do not have to depend on charity. A pension for the elderly is not charity, it is a right. An insurance for handicapped or disabled persons is a right. Charity is not a right. It is not a difference in name, it is a difference in concept. For me, it is a crucial difference.


I disagree rather profoundly. Regardless of who's doing it or where it's coming from, it's still charity. You can choose to call it something else but they are still depending on the goodwill of others, regardless of who those others are, to provide for them. If that goodwill disappears, and it very much can no matter what system you set up, then they do not have what they need.


(As I side note, I have no idea what most people mean by the word "right". It is usually used in a way that I genuinely have no comprehension of, including in this post.)



Let’s say, for the purpose of discussion, that government represents the citizenry of a particular country (with the awareness that there is never universal agreement on policy), so that government can be seen as the collective voice of the people. If charity is a voluntary giving on an individual basis – or, as you say, the goodwill of others to provide for those who have not -- then government policy is a determination by a society that something particular should be done. This isn’t voluntary action on an individual basis, except in the wider sense that people are making a choice to live in a particular country and abide by its laws (but that choice could involve numerous factors). Some may agree with the policy in principle and others may disagree. If the policy is that you can’t kill your neighbor just because he annoys you, then one might say the people in that country have the right not to be killed on a whim by their neighbor. The right is something the government guarantees because it is seen as a necessary aspect of life in that society.

What the need for charity in any society says is that those people find poverty to be an acceptable aspect of life. If a society did not find it acceptable for people to be poor, that society would guarantee through its government that no one was poor; you could say the people in that society had the right not to be poor. The government, being the collective will of the people (for the purposes of discussion), would guarantee that no one was poor – not because of goodwill from those who have towards those who have not (some might not agree with the policy), but out of a collective sense that it was something vital to the fabric of that society, to secure the moral well-being of all of its members, both those having more and those having less.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:11 pm 
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Nin wrote:
A "right" for me is something that is guaranteed to you by law. Simple definition.


So is there a difference between a law and a right?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:16 pm 
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I hope Voronwë will weigh in.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:26 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
So is there a difference between a law and a right?

You have the right to an attorney. I'd say the right is that everyone gets to have an attorney if they are charged with a crime. The law explains the right, and guarantees it (i.e., there is legal recourse if you are denied that right).

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:57 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
I hope Voronwë will weigh in.


"Law" is a very specific term that refers to a legally binding rule established by a constitutional provision, statute, or a court decision. "Right" is a much more ambiguous term that could refer to: something specifically codified as law such as Cerin's example of "you have a right to an attorney," which in the U.S. system is codified specifically in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; an interpretation of a law such as "you have a right to remain silent" which is not stated in the Constitution or in any statute, but is considered a legally binding right based on the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fifth Amendment in Miranda v. Arizona; or a more amorphous concept such as the right to "the pursuit of happiness" referred to in the Declaration of Independence, which is obviously not capable of being legally binding in any way.

Some laws codify the protection of rights, and some rights are protected by law, but not all rights are laws, and not all laws are rights.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:21 pm 
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In the original contexts, such as those I see old Rousseau using, the idea of a right was more like something that no one, not even a gov't could morally do to you or take from you. The way the term has evolved in modern usage, I don't see much value or meaning to the term anymore.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 9:22 pm 
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Nin wrote:
That is actually very easy: charity is a private decision and as such depends on persons willing to give it and on the values they decide to support and defend. As I consider living in dignity a basic human right, I think that it should not depend on any private decision or have any value attached to it, but be the charge and duty of society in its whole. So, I don't blame people who give their money to charity, but a system in which charity is necessary. It seems totally flawed to me.

Ah, I see. I agree with this. I've said before that in my perfect world, there would be no charitable organizations; not because no one had needs, but because the system would be constructed in a way that made them redundant.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:19 pm 
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Original question- "A better world... what's YOUR vision?"

StNG (Star Trek Next Generation)

Replicators- no shortages of material goods for anyone

Transporters- no limits on travel on a planet

Aliens- people wouldn't be so twitchy about differences among humans if there were genuine aliens to compare to

Warp drive- faster than light travel would allow humans to spread out and not be trapped on this one crowded planet where everyone is going crazy from too many people trying to live too close to each other.

Phasers- With the stun setting available, police would never need to kill anybody. (And a phaser would be SO handy in farm work! I could stun the cow that needs her feet trimmed and just take care of it! )

And all the medical technology they have! Instant wound sealing, medical tricorders that can diagnose right away. Stasis for hopeless cases....

And planetary engineering... Global warming could be fixed in a single episode, I bet!

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As for here and now, I have no suggestions. Most humans really don't make sense to me, and thus I can't figure out any sort of sane, humanitarian way to make them all be nice to each other. It's like herding cats.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:19 pm 
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(Hello everyone :) I hope I don’t regret posting this… )

I couldn’t not comment on this thread, as it actually asks the question a class I help teach attempts to answer, and I am in the middle of 10 weeks were this thought is driving me all the time.

Lets start at the beginning, what is Government? Well, the government exists to enforce the law with coercive force (with respect to its own citizens… for the moment lets ignore the concept of dealing with other governments). This is, of course, if you require a government at all, but that’s another thought really.

With that in mind, what is the law? To me, the law is what ethical considerations individuals (and thus the collective society) are willing to coercively force on everyone else and themselves.

Aside: To me, this is currently easily observable in the divide in US Politics inside the political classes. Both Republicans and Democrats are perfectly fine with increasing the power and reach of the government, because that’s how they maintain or increase their own influence. Furthermore, as long as “their guys” are pushing an agenda that imposed ethical ideas they agree with, everything is fine. However, when the “other guys” push an agenda they don’t think is ethical, it’s the end of the world. This is why spending is continually out of control, because very few in government on either side actually think that government spending is unethical.

Anyway, in the class we are trying to optimize personal freedom, which I guess would be my answer to the question this thread asks. The most basic maxim that such a society could possibly function on is that “Everyone has the right to be left alone.” This is a bit difficult to deal with outside of the abstract, so we actually go with “Peaceful, honest people have the right to be left alone.” This is imposing the ethical concepts of being peaceful (non-violent, or physically threatening violence), and honesty (in the sense of fraud in a transaction, or theft, not in telling lies) on everyone, but that makes a society much more functional.

Since this maxim uses the term “right” I thought I’d give my thoughts on that here. I would argue that a “right” is something that is inherent in human nature, and collectively we as a society can recognize that it is somehow “wrong” to take that away from someone.

There are two kinds of rights in general: “Negative rights” would be rights that require nothing from anyone else. The right to be left alone is one such right. You can sit in the middle of the desert and get nothing from anyone until you are sick of it or die, and no one can force you to leave or eat or drink water or anything… that’s your right. Might not be what you want, but still your right. “Positive rights” on the other hand, are for things that must be provided or given to you. The “right to an education” for example, would be a positive right. It might be nice, but there has to be someone to educate you before you can get it, and how do you force them to give it to you?

Interestingly, most “rights” we think about in the US are “negative rights” at least as far as the constitution is concerned. Free speech, free religion, bear arms, not incriminate ourselves… these are all “negative.”

Anyway, back to my ideal society. We have the right to be left alone. There are lots of implications of this (enough to spend 10 weeks on at least), but with regards to the topics mentioned in this thread, I thought I would highlight a few.

-No government… and thus no taxes. There’s an interesting book by John Stuart Mill called On Liberty (it’s available for free online). In the fifth and final section he talks about applying his theory of liberty in actuality. Everything gets along well enough until he assumes the existence of a state, and government. Well, if the government must be there (because how could it not be?) then it must have money to function, and if it must have money to function then it must have the power to tax (this isn’t necessarily a logical step, but he still makes it). If this government has money, it must have something to do, so we have to come up with what we think is the “right thing” to do… education, regulation, etc. Every single thing he defines is eliminating some freedom, but for no other purpose than because the government exists and should do stuff…

-No mandatory education (or anything else for that matter). This leads to the question of how do we get anyone who wants something what they want when we think it is a good idea. Obviously everyone getting as much education as they want to do what they want is a good idea… society will benefit usually. I could talk about how I think this could work for a very long time but this post is already too long… simply put, if we treated learning like we did athletics… we’d all be a lot more interested in it. (Professional athletes are the cream of the cream of the crop to make that kind of money… wouldn’t it be cool if say the cream of the cream of the crop of mathematicians could get that too? Currently the market does do this to some extent, but people aren’t trading contracts of mathematicians out of high school and giving them specific training and encouragement in any manner that compares to say… baseball)

-No mandatory charity (although I already said taxes). This is the part that is hardest for people to grasp in the class. I don’t expect Nin to think it is possible to function as a society this way, but I disagree. Prim said earlier in the thread that the problem with charity is that it doesn’t work, it’s not enough, and it never has been. My question of that would be, what is the goal of charity? I would argue that it cannot be to eliminate poverty. Charity is not only about giving money to people who have little, it is about helping people who need help. That help can be in any number of forms. If Charity could eliminate poverty, and we already have forced charity though government programs, we should have long ago eliminated poverty.

Ok, I think I’m coming to a conclusion. I don’t mean this to be a direct argument to Nin’s point of view, but it is that philosophy that struck me as so baffling. It is not surprising, though as it is based on Kant, who I have mostly looked at through an ethical lens, but wouldn’t expect to ever agree with him. In other words the ends do not justify the means. I have never understood why people think it is ok to just take from other people who have something they want, or they think they need (or they think someone else needs). That’s all taxes are, accepted stealing.

I do not believe we can eliminate all poverty, sickness, and war, but I believe this for religious reasons, and it doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. But the answer is not to forcibly take property from some and have a small group (representative or not) decide how best to use it. Let the people who earned it decide what to do with it. People these days seem to forget that most of the famous rich people in history spent the first half of their lives getting rich, and the second half of their lives trying to give it all away (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, etc..). Is the government who gets money “freely” (by stealing it) a better judge of who to spend it that the people who worked to earn it? They are certainly not going to be as careful with it. But that’s not even where the people who can actually do most of the good charity are coming from. You don’t have to be rich to share a meal with your neighbor, or invite them over to watch the game on your big screen. The couple across the hall that is out of work would probably much more appreciate a home cooked meal than an EBT card to go to Burger King. Most taxes are paid by the middle class… imagine how much more they could help the people around them if they literally had twice as much money…

Where did this concept that only the government could spend our money most appropriately come from?

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