Saturday, January 31, 2009

Corporate Feudalism

Recently, in a post on the flaws of socialism, I pointed

out that socialism responds too closely to changes in information.

See: The Three Flaws of Socialism

A member of the studio audience challenged me with the following:

Is that why trans-fats had been banned in several countries of the world long before US America would even admit they could be problem? Is that why the various bans on cigarette advertising and smoking in stipulated places was slow to occur in the US?

Part of the answer to this is that a portion of the American economy and its culture is neither capitalist nor socialist. It follows another set of terms that I identify with the label “corporate feudalism”.

I call it this because it is an ideology that divides the population into two groups – those who own businesses, and everybody else. It then grants to the former all sorts of legal rights (not moral rights) and privileges that neither capitalism nor socialism would permit.

Capitalism does not grant any person the moral right to kill or maim or poison others, or to destroy their property, merely because the person doing the killing, maiming, poisoning, or destroying considers it profitable to do so. According to capitalist principles, these would be considered violations of the rights of the person being killed, maimed, poisoned, or whose property is being destroyed.

The American system of government, on the other hand, is one in which the argument is often made that businesses must be given such rights because it is good for the economy – because to prohibit businesses from doing such things is bad for business.

So, for example, we have the issue of global warming. The reason the Bush Administration offered for not taking steps against this problem is that it would harm the American economy to do so. Yet, what he was permitting, according to the best scientific evidence, was the rights of business to engage in actions that scientist told us would take tens of millions to hundreds of millions of lives, and destroy a great deal of coastal property.

I have yet to hear of a Republican candidate, in spite of claiming to be a defender of capitalism, bring up this argument against business practices that kill, maim, or poison others or destroy their property. Instead, Republican candidates seem to exist to do the opposite – to defend the practices – which is inconsistent with capitalism.

Now, we are familiar with those businesses branding their practice of killing, maiming, and poisoning others and destroying their property as “capitalism”. This is because lying is another “right” that the corporate feudalists have. We must remember that these businesses are masters of marketing – at least those that survive tend to be.

In a country like America, businesses that refrain from engaging in the practice of killing, maiming, and poisoning others an destroying their property finds themselves at an economic disadvantage – unable to compete against companies that do kill, maim, poison, and destroy the property of others for profit. Those businesses close their doors, leaving only those willing to inflict such harms to rule the marketplace.

It would actually be an act of instituting capitalism to condemn businesses that engage in these practices. However, any attempt to make the country more capitalistic by prohibiting businesses from inflicting these harms – creating these externalities – is met with political stonewalling from a group of politicians who tend to call themselves capitalists.

It is quite ironic, if you think about it.

Well, actually, it is just another component of this package of deception.

This is not a flaw either with socialism or with capitalism. It is a deviation from an area in which both of these systems speak with a common voice. They both prohibit people with capital from treating people without capital as mere tools of production - or as "statistics" who may be made to suffer externalities without a trace of a moral qualm. Yet, this is exactly what the American system of government permits in far too many cases.

44 comments:

Janus said...

Alonzo,

I am currently writing a dissertation in English (as it is not my first language), and I find your description of American economics as 'corporate feudalism' a perfect descriptor of what I had in mind but could not put into English. Do you mind if I use such a phrase?

anton said...

A rose by any other name . . .

As that member of your studio audience who made the comment that prompted this posting, I like your term -- corporate feudalism. By isolating the offenders by a term, you are allowing us to focus on the offenders. You see, we are really not attacking US Americans, Republicans, Democrats, et al. Our frustration is that when we attack corporate feudalism, most US Americans see it as an attack on US America and they end up defending the "bad guys". I suggest that the audience consider that if US America sees itself ridding the world of the "bad guys", it might consider laws and enforcing those laws that would deal with those "bad guys", even if they are US American's. When US America pokes its nose into foreign affairs its actions are often rejected by the citizens of those countries because they have been victims of US American corporate feudalism

And when US America sites foreign examples of "bad practices", it does not isolate the "bad guys" but instead, attacks the country. For example, a few years ago George the Shrub appeared to be protecting US Americans when the flu vaccines manufactured in England were contaminated and rightly rejected. The inference, of course, was that the UK produced "shoddy" goods. He forgot to mention that the company in England who manufactured the bad vaccines was a US concern! Who in US America would know?

US America does not really want to know what travesties the "bad guys" have committed. Their actions are proclaimed as just good old examples of capitalism and democracy in action. The rest of the world does not believe US America cares enough to know the truth, or to do anything about it!! A member of your previous audience proclaimed that "he didn't give a shit what the rest of the world thinks!" Like I said then, that identifies the problem.

Doug S. said...

Another symptom of corporate feudalism: ridiculous CEO compensation.

1) CEO compensation is supposed to be tied to the performance of the corporation. In practice, this turns out not to be the case; CEOs hired to run an established public corporation make out like bandits regardless of whether the corporation is successful or it collapses under their reign.

2) CEOs are chosen and compensated by the Board of Directors. Many CEOs sit on the Board of Directors of other companies. That leaves them in a position to say "I'll raise your salary if you raise mine."

3) CEO compensation of non-American companies of equivalent size tends to be much, much lower. For example, the CEO of Toyota has an annual salary of about $700,000.

You can't have feudalism without feudal lords, after all!

Capitalist Roader said...

A bit ot, apologies but...

"Is that why trans-fats had been banned in several countries of the world long before US America would even admit they could be problem? Is that why the various bans on cigarette advertising and smoking in stipulated places was slow to occur in the US?"

Something about that comment makes me itch. The assumption that banning transfats and advertising is good seems to come from a totalitarian socialist viewpoint in itself. The state exists to protect its citizens who cannot make decisions correctly and therefore must ban certain actions by its citizens. A little condescending no? Coffee, alcohol, bacon and eggs for breakfast... these things are not particularly good for the states citizens either... shouldn't they be banned?

Perhaps the reason that the US was slow to introduce these reforms was that it is more of a capitalist system. In which individuals are considered best able to judge their own consumption preferences, and act accordingly. i.e. if you dont like transfat or cigarettes dont buy these goods and let the market work it out.

The problem of cigarette smoke pollution in public is a different (difficult) beast to tackle. Externalities in general are what often what gives rise for the need for government intervention in markets. As such it is an example of how regulation in mixed economies may be necessary due to externalities arising from different usage preferences of public goods (sidewalks to walk or smoke on.)

Should the slow movement on the banning of cigarettes in public should be seen as a problem in american capitalism - i'm undecided but doubtful. The reluctance to ban transfats and cigarette advertising is not a problem with capitalism. However the ban itself might illustrate some of the problems of socialism mentioned in previous posts, especially if you fancy a cheap muffin.

anton said...

especially if you fancy a cheap muffin.

I would imagine, then, that if scientists proved that, for example, "many human lives could be extended if they stopped consuming trans fats", you would let people decide for themselves if they wanted to consume trans fats, and feed them to their infants. Don't forget that children have not yet attained the maturity to discover that trans fats are harmful so you, as a parent, are passing on your ignorance to your children and conditioning them to eat "cheap muffins". (This is similar to how Christianity "brainwashes" kids!) And when they are mature enough, its too late but you don't care! It is most likely too late for you, and your children, if you like consuming those delicious, moist chocolate muffins loaded with trans fats. Also, freedom of speech would permit people of your persuasion to broadcast the news that people should have freedom of choice.

Corporate feudalists exercised their international clout and forced countries like Canada to include in its packaging laws that while labeling must include notice that the product includes trans fat, they managed to make an exception of baby food where no notice is required on the label. (This was an accommodation for US American baby food manufacturers?) YUK!!!

Similarly, corporate feudalists at the tobacco companies have addicted several generations since it was first proven that there was a direct link between smoking and cancer. Also, those same tobacco companies enjoy a good bottom line because they now export to the third world nations, cigarettes that would never be approved in US America because of their nicotine and chemical content.

If you want to poison yourself, I guess you have the right. But I would think that my "government" should be protecting me, and my children, from the effects of corporate feudalism. That is why we are supposed to be protected by the Food and Drug Agency. Don't forget, they are also supposed to keep harmful food off US American store shelves!!! It would appear that you would eliminate the FDA! Are there any other departments you would get rid of . . . like the Aviation Board, Child Welfare etc. and while you are at it, you could eliminate speed limits and traffic lights ! ! !

anton said...

privileges that neither capitalism nor socialism would permit.

Alonzo, perhaps this is being a bit "nit picky", but since I agree with most everything in your post, I should point out the correct statement should be "privileges that neither capitalism or socialism should permit" since both applied doctrines seem to have no reluctance in currently permitting corporate feudalism.

Katesickle said...

I'm not sure I agree with this concept of Corporaate Feudalism (Global warming certainly isn't a good example to use, since the link between man's actions and climate change is very weak--particularly if you consider things like the actual relationship between CO@ and earth's temperature (one has risen steadily for decades, the other has fluctuated or if you consider that earth is coming out of an Ice Age, etc.)

Tobacco companies, Trans fats, etc are also bad examples: a company offering a product is not harming you in anyway, (unless they don't tell you what's in their product). I don't see any reason why they should have to tell you their product is harmful unless you ask (which you are perfectly capable of doing). If you ingest something unhealthy--or if you feed something unhealthy to your kids--you are the responsible party. Banning things like trans fat or tobacco is just a way to absolve people of their personal responsibility. That is a very un-capitalist ideal.

Finally, CEOs. Doug S, have you ever actually compared the salary a CEO makes with the overall earnings of the company he works for? If you had, you might have noticed that if every CEO in the world worked for $1, it would hardly make any difference in how the company does. The vast majority of what the comapny brings in goes to pay the workers--even though they each make less, there are far more of them, so that's where a large portion of the money goes.

Even if that were NOT true, however, so what? If a company chooses to pay its CEO a ridiculous salary and goes bankrupt as a result, so what? That's not 'corporate feudalism'--its just bad business, and should be allowed to happen in a capitalist system. No rights are being violated (you do not have the 'right' to a job, since such a right would force someone else to give you said job, taking away their right to freedom). The idea that a CEOs salary is somehow a perversion of capitalism doesn't make sense.

Finally--and this is just me being pedantic, so feel free to ignore it--the phrase 'corporate feudalism' as used hear, is a nonsensical term. Feudalism is the idea that all land belongs to a ruler, and people exchange goods/services for the use of the land. That concept doesn't quite carry over--one entity does not own all the wealth, workers are not 'tied' to their companies, etc. But again, that's just me being pedantic ;)

anton said...

That is a very un-capitalist ideal.

So what? And perhaps, Katesickle, you are getting too stuck up on definitions that have evolved over the ages. Feudalism was identified as a process where someone exercised "unfettered control". In ancient times, control of property and people was sufficient to feed the feudal landlords. Appetites and imaginations have expanded with the times. Yesterday's feudal landlord has been replaced by today's purveyor of products which appeal to today's ignorant tastes through the use of trans fats, MSG (disguised by more than 25 terms that are now permitted by US packaging laws), etc. The success of this manipulation of the consumer is to appeal to their taste, not their common sense. Common sense is not so common any more!

Katesickle said...

anton, let me get this straight--you are comparing feudalism (where the state holds all the power, and the people are essentially slaves) to situations where people make bad choices by virtue of stupidity and/or ignorance?

If you eat trans fats, its not because the company selling them has unlimited control over you, or because you are forced, or because rights have been violated--its because you didn't bother to check. The fact that trans-fats are unhealthy is not privildged information. We KNOW they are bad for us--if you are too lazy to ask the corporation for nutrition information then that is your fault. It has nothing to do with the corporation's 'unfettered control' over you.

Tell me, do you also support placing warning labels on everything? Should a hairdryer company be held responsible if someone falls asleep using the dryer, if there is no warning against doing so? What about warning labels telling us that electrical devices are dangerous when wet--something most of us are taught as children? At what point do you stop blaming the company, and start blaming the person whose own actions caused themselves harm?

anton said...

Katesickle:

In case you are not aware, there was a long period where the rest of the world acknowledged that trans fats were bad for you. US American food producers knew it was bad for you BUT had to be forced to include information on their labels that trans fats were present. "Ignorance" is "ignoring" what is available information. The travesties committed by "knowing" corporate feudalists who "withheld" essential information from their public is a very long one. According to your comments, every average homemaker has to have a science degree and the talent to determine what is in every product consumed by them . . . or their children! That is ridiculous!!!!

Collectively, the people entrust their safety to agencies who are supposed to protect the people from the "bad guys". If there ever has been a beneficial application of science this would be one of the most significant. You would suggest that we eliminate these "food safety policemen" and rely on the individual to detect if the food manufacturer is producing questionable products and if he is properly labeling his mechandise. I think your dedication to your philosophy has exceeded any idea of common sense.

According to you, we don't need any "consumer" protection organizations. Food Inspectors would not be required. People would have to "fend for themselves". Maybe those same people would then exercise their "right to bear arms" and shoot the "corporate feudalists". And, since there would be no police forces, they would get away with murder . . . just the same as the "corporate feudalists"!!!

I hope your next prescription from your druggist is not a "pirate" product . . . or should I hope that it is! NO, I won't! I may be argumentative but I am not mean spirited. I would never be a good corporate feudalist.

Doug S, said...

Yes, I know that executive compensation is a small expense compared to the vast sums of money that flow in and out, but it's still entirely out of proportion to the actual value they provide.

Katesickle said...

Doug S--who determines the value of their service? How is it measured? Is there some meter stick for objectively quantifying how valuable a job is? Of course not--its an entirely subjective value. Paying a CEO thousands of dollars may not seem worthwhile to you, because you don't value the CEO as much. But there is no reason to take your value as the only measurement that matters--especially when it is not your money being spent on his salary.

Anton, we were talking about the banning of trans-fats, not the requirement of companies to not commit fraud. Everything you just said is entirely irrelevant.

Eneasz said...

Katesickle -

I fear you've been deceived by the very corporations you are defending. Global Warming is a perfect example in this case, because the fact is that the scientific evidence showing that we are altering the earth's climate has been overwhelming for over 40 years now. The fact that a large portion of the population still believes the opposite is a shining (and saddening) example of how good these corporation are at deceiving people, and how little they care for the truth or for the well-being of their consumers.

I don't see any reason why they should have to tell you their product is harmful unless you ask (which you are perfectly capable of doing)

This is another arguement in defense of corporate fuedal lords. If someone markets poison as "a delicious a healthy snack!" they are liars and endangering others. They have a moral responsibility to market the product as it actually is, and in the case of dangerous substances label them as such. They don't wish to do so because it would result in reduced sales. They are literally trading other's lives for their own profits.

I've had several conversations with friends regarding people who were duped by blatently immoral agents into buying expensive houses at low interest rates that would within two years raise to a point they could not afford. These people did not know the rates would increase, they simply trusted the agent and signed on the line. Their lives have been greatly harmed as a result. Several of my friends quoted "buyer beware" and said no one should ever sign anything without reading all of it first. This may be true. But one should also not have to go through life assuming that everyone is out to ruin your life for minor personal profit. One should not have to get a law degree just so s/he can understand what one is signing. Afterall, this is what the agent is paid to do for them. A breach of trust like that is disgusting.

Not disclosing the negative effects of one's product to consumers is an equal breach of trust. A society in which one cannot trust anyone else to work on good faith is doomed to catrostrophic collapse. That is why such breaches of trust are condemned in moral systems. And that is why trying to defend corporations who regularly engage in such breaches of trust (as it seems you are doing) is poisonous to the very fabric of the society we live in. Those corporation dance in glee that they've managed to convince you to defend them at your own expense - it means greater profits for them. It also means a deteriorating quality of life for everyone else in society, including yourself.


As for CEO compensation, the amount of money they make has a direct effect on social justice issues. I agree it's a tricky area to try to regulate, and it is fertile grounds for corruption, and for those reasons I think it's best for the government to stay out of it completely. However it's obvious that it has gotten out of control, and the government should at the very least tax the ultra-wealthy at an increased rate (yes, moreso) in order to make use of those funds to promote more social justice and equality. And no, that is not socialism, that is just social responsibility.

Katesickle said...

Eneasz, the most convincing arguments I have heard against global have come from science, not corporations. The geologic record, for example, tells us that the earth goes through natural heating and cooling cycles. It also tells that we are coming out of an Ice Age, so warmer temperatures are to be expected. The rate at which humans have been emitting CO2 has been increasing steadily, while the earth's temperature has not, making any correlation between the two unlikely (it is also worth noting that current CO2 levels are far lower than they have been in earth's history). Even if there is a correlation, humans emit so little CO2 (3.4% annually) that we wouldn't be making much of an impact anyway. There are more arguments against man-made global warming, but I think I'll take the shorter route and just say you should consider doing some more research. The evidence that we are responsible is not nearly as strong as people would have you believe.

"If someone markets poison as "a delicious a healthy snack!" they are liars and endangering others."
When have I ever said, or even implied, that companies may lie about anything until you ask them? A company can not say something up front, and still not lie about it.

As for your friends--if the contract told them everything that was going to happen, then it IS their fault for signing. All the information they needed was right in front of them--it is no one's fault but their own that they failed to read it.

Finally, the idea that CEOS (and other ultra-wealthy) should be taxed at an even higher rate then they are now--you are coming dangerously close to bigotry. Rather than punish specific CEOs, you have decided that we should punish ALL CEOs by making the law apply differently to them.

If a poor man commits a crime, should we consider every poor person guilty by association? Of course not--why, then, should we treat all CEOs as deserving some punishment based on the actions of a few? Judge them by their actions, not their paychecks.

Eneasz said...

Hello Katesickle!

I think I'll take the shorter route and just say you should consider doing some more research. The evidence that we are responsible is not nearly as strong as people would have you believe.

I actually did quite a bit of research on this topic about a year ago. Of all the climatologists in the world, there are only six (yes, six) that claim that humans are not responsible for a large part of the recent climate change. Studies by large panels of scientists have supported this conclusion since the early 1970s. Of the hundreds (possibly over a thousand by now) peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject, barely a couple dozen even dispute this claim. I myself am not a climatologist. In light over the overwhelming scientific consensus on this issue, I trust the hundreds of people who have dedicated 8+ years of formal training and decades of research over the few outliers who claim the opposite.

When have I ever said, or even implied, that companies may lie about anything until you ask them? A company can not say something up front, and still not lie about it.

First - is not an omission of crucial and possibly life-destroying information as morally reprehensible as a lie?

Second - many companies actually DO lie. Not just omitting information (which is abhorrent on it's own), but directly making false claims they know are false. The tobacco industry is one such culprit. The oil industry is another.

I don't want you to think I am putting on airs of superiority. I smoke. I drink too much. I love trans fats and eat them more than I probably should. So I acknowledge that people can be fully aware of the risks and still engage in self-destructive behavior, and perhaps they have a right to (I'd certainly be pissed off if someone tried to take away my cigarettes). But that doesn't change the fact that omitting such information when it is not general knowledge is immoral.

All the information they needed was right in front of them--it is no one's fault but their own that they failed to read it.

No one I know fell for this trick, they are all well educated and cautious. I was argueing for those who do not have such privledges. And I still disagree with you. One should be able to trust the agent they are paying not to mislead them. That is why you are paying the agent - so you don't have to get a legal degree yourself. On this issue I feel we'll simply have to disagree, because I doubt I can convince you otherwise.

you are coming dangerously close to bigotry. Rather than punish specific CEOs, you have decided that we should punish ALL CEOs by making the law apply differently to them. ... why ... should we treat all CEOs as deserving some punishment based on the actions of a few?

I am not advocating punishment. I am advocating a higher tax rate for the ultra-wealthy in order to promote social justice. All the ultra-wealthy, not just the CEOs. This can only be viewed as punishment if you consider taxes to be punishment. I do not consider them to be such, and see many good reasons why the poor should pay less than the rich (just one of these being the reduced marginal utility of the dollar). I do not think the rich must support the poor. However I do feel the current tax system has swung too far in the direction of the poor supporting the rich.

anton said...

Katesickle:

The fact that trans-fats are unhealthy is not privedged information.

It was privileged information, or at least information not readily available to the consuming public!!! And, when US Food companies were confronted with the facts, they attempted to convince us that trans-fats were not harmful. They fought not to have trans fat information on their labels. And, since there were no "laws" preventing them from using trans fats it was not a matter of potential fraud -- just exploiting an unknowing population that believed they were being protected by their government!

It would appear by your comments that you are very zealous in your defense of those who we would label "corporate feudalists" so I would ask, "Are you old enough and experienced enough to really know what the heck you are defending?"

On other matters I believe Eneasz has said most of what has to be said about your comments. We are always on the lookout for Christian Trolls. It would appear that Corporate Feudalist Trolls are yet another plague with which we must now contend.

Katesickle said...

Eneasz, I don't care how many people support the idea of man-made global warming. The evidence does not support this idea. I have shown why the evidence does not support this idea. If you can demonstrate otherwise I would be greatly interested in your arguments, but please don't try to sway me by appealing to authority and popularity.

"First - is not an omission of crucial and possibly life-destroying information as morally reprehensible as a lie?"
Why does the type of information being omitted matter? Either not mentioning something is the same as lying, or it isn't--the actual information being omitted should not matter. (I would like to add that while companies may omit things when giving information freely, such as in marketing, it is not acceptable to ommit information that has been directly asked about. I probably made that clear already, but I just wanted to be sure).

"I am not advocating punishment. I am advocating a higher tax rate for the ultra-wealthy in order to promote social justice."
Alright, you don't see it as a punishment. Fine--you are still treating a group of people differently under the law.

"However I do feel the current tax system has swung too far in the direction of the poor supporting the rich."
How so? The rich already pay a much higher percentage in taxes.

There is no (morally acceptable) reason for the rich to be taxed differently than the poor. They have just as much right to their wealth as a poor man has to his--the fact that a rich man has more does not make it ok for us to take it from him.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Katecickle

Your claim that the science does not support man-made global warming is flat-out wrong.

CO2 is opaque to infrared radiation. By doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it would take an act of God to prevent that CO2 from absorbing additional energy.

The amount of energy it will absorb (as a base amount) is equal to 4 watts per square meter - enough for a 2.5 degree C increase in temperature.

If you know the absorbsion spectrum of an element, and you know the frequencies of light being shined through it, you can calculate the amount of energy absorbed very precisely.

This energy absorbtion cannot be prevented short of magic.

Now, one can ask whether humans are responsible for the increase in CO2 gas emissions.

When Source 1 adds 7 units per year of substance into a container, and the quantity of the substance in the container increases by 3.5 units per time, then the 7 unit source is responsible for the increase. At the very least it is responsible in the sense that, if there is a reason to prevent the increase, and the source is under your control then that is where you go to control the increase.

In this case, humans put 7 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, and the amount of increase is 3.5 gigatonnes. (At least it was when I last was directly involved in this research.)

Denying human CO2 contributions to global warming is about as absurd as denying evolution or a heleocentric solar system.

Emu Sam said...

In some of my classes, the argument was made that the large compensation to people in positions of authority is to prevent them from passing on information to the company's competitors. In other words, it's a bribe to get them to act morally by giving them more to keep proprietary information private, than anyone else would pay for the info.

Then I saw the comment about Toyota's CEO's salary. If a GM CEO makes over $14 million, but a Toyota CEO stays quiet with only $700,000 - it may be that Toyota has a better culture of loyalty. It may also be that no one's paying millions to find out anything from GM.

Katesickle said...

"CO2 is opaque to infrared radiation. By doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it would take an act of God to prevent that CO2 from absorbing additional energy."
Except we haven't doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere--again, we only contribute about 3.5% of the CO2 put into the atmosphere annually.

"The amount of energy it will absorb (as a base amount) is equal to 4 watts per square meter - enough for a 2.5 degree C increase in temperature."
'It' being how much CO2? That's a pretty important part of the equation.

"Now, one can ask whether humans are responsible for the increase in CO2 gas emissions."
Only if one is an idiot. Obviously we have pumped more CO2 into the air. I'm not arguing that fact--what I'm arguing is the correlation between human CO2 emissions and temperature. We put out such a small amount of CO2 that to say we are causing the earth to heat up is ridiculous, especially when you consider that the earth's heating and cooling pattern puts this warming trend as being right on schedule.

"Denying human CO2 contributions to global warming is about as absurd as denying evolution or a heleocentric solar system."
Only if you consider correlation to be sufficient evidence of causation. A general increase in CO2 and a general increase in temperature (or a decrease in temperature, depending on what time period you choose to compare it too--earth is much cooler now than it has been in the past) does not mean that the CO2 caused the temperature increase. If there was no other explanation for the earth heating up then I would be more willing to consider CO2 as the cause, but we do have another explanation, and it fits perfectly.

Eneasz said...

If you can demonstrate otherwise I would be greatly interested in your arguments, but please don't try to sway me by appealing to authority and popularity.

Hello Katesickle. 1 - I have presented my arguements. You do not find them convincing. There is not much else I can say. 2 - Unless you are a climatologist, you are in the same boat as me. You must form opinions based on the advise of experts in the field. As the overwhelming majority of experts solidly support the conclusion that humans contribute significantly to global warming, the best course of action is to accept their advice. To side with a tiny minority who says you don't have to leave your comfort zone for any reason is to say you would rather deceive yourself, and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage and potentially end hundreds of thousands of lives, than face an uncomfortable change of life-style. 3 - what else do you propose I appeal to? We are a highly specialized society. This allows for tremendous economic advantage. It also means we must trust the specialists in their fields.

Why does the type of information being omitted matter?

Because when the information is life-threatening, there are many and strong reasons for people to demand it be made public. Omission of such information is immoral.

Either not mentioning something is the same as lying, or it isn't

When you know that informing a consumer of something (such as the fact that your product will kill them) would drastically change their decision and strongly impact their lives, and choose to withhold that information, then yes, this is as bad as lying. Arguing otherwise is arguing that people have a right to poison others as long as their victims are unaware that they are being poisoned.

(I would like to add that while companies may omit things when giving information freely, such as in marketing, it is not acceptable to ommit information that has been directly asked about. I probably made that clear already, but I just wanted to be sure)

You did make that clear, and I could not disagree more. Would you want to know if the car that you just purchased has a 5% chance of exploding whenever you exceed 50mph? Would the car company be innocent of the deaths caused if it simply didn't reveal that information unless directly asked?

There is no (morally acceptable) reason for the rich to be taxed differently than the poor.

How about the diminishing marginal utility of the dollar? The 1-millionth dollar means a lot less to the rich than the 1-hundreth dollar means to the poor. For one it means an insignificant more fraction of luxuries. For the other it means a modestly greater fraction of necessities.

Or the fact that you can always be poor, but to be wealthy you must have a government with strong institutions? It is good government that makes such wealth possible.

Perhaps the fact that your interests carry a lot of weight with the government, while the interests of the poor and powerless are rarely represented?

Maybe the fact that you can bid resources away from the poor for luxuries that they would like to use of necessities?

Extreme divisions of wealth can cause many social problems, and those can be somewhat alleviated by government action. I'm not saying everyone should get the same wage. Those more skilled deserve more, and those who provide greater value should be compensated at a greater rate, obviously. But perhaps they could also give a damn about those still stuck laboring on the assembly line? Not by giving them handouts, but by being willing to pay a bit more to support the great nation that makes all of this possible?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

'It' being how much CO2? That's a pretty important part of the equation.

'it', as I had said in the previous paragraph, is a doubling of CO2 concentations in the atmosphere, from pre-industrial levels 275 ppmv to 550 ppmv. (ppmv = parts per million by volume).

Only if you consider correlation to be sufficient evidence of causation.

This proves you have not studied the issue.

The formulae that dictate that a doubling of CO2 concentrations will result in an increase energy absorbtion of 4 watts, which, in turn, translates into a 2.5 degree C increase in base temperature (not counting feedback mechanisms) were known 120 years ago.

This is basic, fundamental chemistry and, as I said, would require an act of God or some form of magic to violate.

The only scientifically interesting question over the past 50 years is whether positive feedback mechanisms (e.g., H2O evaporation, methane release by thawing tundra, melting ice caps changing the reflective properties of the earth surface) will outweigh negative feedback mechanisms (cloud formations), and by how much?

And what the specific effects will be (e.g., sea level rise).

If you believe otherwise then you are merely following the propaganda of people who are willing to see the destruction of whole cities and, in some cases, whole countries for the sake of personal profit.

Capitalist Roader said...

I would imagine, then, that if scientists proved that, for example, "many human lives could be extended if they stopped consuming trans fats", you would let people decide for themselves if they wanted to consume trans fats,

Exactly! People as rational agents in an economy should be allowed choice! Is that so terrible?

and feed them to their infants.

A completely different issue, offering myriad problems without doubt. How a pure market system allocates parental rights etc, im not perfectly sure. And may be an example of the problems of capitalism. The slowness of the US to ban trans-fats is still not that example.

Also, freedom of speech would permit people of your persuasion to broadcast the news that people should have freedom of choice.

A side rant - but one which appeared to be offered in a negative light. I'm still unsure how freedom of speech is involved in this issue. I'm a big fan of it personally, especially when used to tell people they have freedom of choice. You?

Corporate feudalists exercised their international clout and forced countries like Canada to include in its packaging laws that while labeling must include notice that the product includes trans fat, they managed to make an exception of baby food where no notice is required on the label. (This was an accommodation for US American baby food manufacturers?) YUK!!!

That is terrible, i was unsure personally how harmful trans-fats are, but a quick search suggested they weren't particularly beneficial. Isn't it horrible how government is easily influenced by powerful lobbying groups to promote harmful regulation (in this case weak regulation that placates consumers without actually protecting them). An example of how capitalism harms society? I'm not sure, perhaps. An example of how government will frequently cave to powerful interest groups for the individuals within governments interests rather than the publics. Definitely. What we need is more government.... very debatable, no?

If you want to poison yourself, I guess you have the right.

Not quite, that's still illegal. But if i want to consume low quality goods with a negative side effect, yes that is my prerogative.

But I would think that my "government" should be protecting me, and my children, from the effects of corporate feudalism. That is why we are supposed to be protected by the Food and Drug Agency. Don't forget, they are also supposed to keep harmful food off US American store shelves!!! It would appear that you would eliminate the FDA! Are there any other departments you would get rid of . . . like the Aviation Board, Child Welfare etc. and while you are at it, you could eliminate speed limits and traffic lights ! ! !

A slippery slope argument, and one with some merit. The slippery slope however is more of a seesaw - it tilts the other way too. If you want to include government everywhere it starts to get a little worrying too. Your assumption appears to be that government is a white knight of justice. Past government trends don't appear to support you so well on that, even just considering the trans-fat issue. Government is not a mythical creature endowed with perfect knowledge and a desire to do good. It is simply a group of individuals, who like consumers have imperfect knowledge and mostly act for their own purposes. In some areas government regulation is a good thing. In others it is certainly a bad thing.

We are always on the lookout for Christian Trolls. It would appear that Corporate Feudalist Trolls are yet another plague with which we must now contend.

Tall horse you've got there mate. Nice to see you sit in it so well.

anton said...

Capitalist Roader:

I am impressed by your response and I would like to address a couple of the points you mentioned.

How a pure market system allocates parental rights etc, im not perfectly sure.

I don't believe this should have anything to do with parental rights, but rather child rights. We don't own our children but we have a responsibility to "protect them", not only from the "bad guys" but also from the possibilities that we may be ignorant. I have found that open-minded parents learn a lot from their children.

We should also take into consideration that children copy their parents. If daddy or mommy gets orgamismic over a chocolate muffin laced with trans fats, they will want to know "why can't they have one too?" (The same goes for cigarettes, speeding, stealing, or breaking the law, etc.). A parent who justifies taking a "day off work" with a bull shit excuse is teaching the child to use the same process to take a day off school.

Your assumption appears to be that government is a white knight of justice.

No, I say that government should a white knight of justice . . . and isn't, at least in North American countries (as well as many, many countries thoughout the world)! A study of governmental practices in the Scandinavian countries is often criticized by North American's because they feel that the government is taking away their freedom of choice and taxing the citizens too much. North American's have been brainwashed to believe that the "socialist" practices of these countries can only lead to communism.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the cry was to promote morality instead of democracy? Morality can exist in both! (Although may Christians don't believe you can be moral unless you are Christian)

I will leave you with this thought. "Our success in pursuing a just and moral society will be reflected in the activities of our grandchildren."

anton said...

From today's NY Times: "Even though federal health officials have begun a criminal investigation into whether the Peanut Corporation of America deliberately sold contaminated products, the government still needed the company’s permission last week before announcing a huge recall of its products.

The wording of the recall statement had to be approved by the company before the Food and Drug Administration could publish it under current rules. The agency relies on cooperation from food makers to ensure the safety of the food supply even when those makers are suspected of crimes.


I believe this is a good example of corporate feudalism at work!

I should add that the company allegedly first attempted to "dump" the "bad peanuts" on Canada but the Canadian Government agency rejected the shipment!

anton said...

PS:

Here is the link to the NY Times article. President Obama had a lot to say about this one!

www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/health/policy/03peanut.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

Katesickle said...

Eneasz--appeals to authority are not good arguments. Now if you had presented some evidence for glabal warming, and it came from a reputable source, that would be different. But just saying "hey, these scientists all agree" is not adequate (and by the way, they don't all agree--there are over 650 international scientists with dissenting opinions http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=2674e64f-802a-23ad-490b-bd9faf4dcdb7)

Also, neither of us have to just accept what scientists say and hope its true--we, as rational intelligent individuals, have the option of educating ourselves. You don't need to be a climatologist to understand, for example, that talking about earth's mean temperature when there is no consensus on how to take such a measurement (and when many papers that use this term don't mention how they got their number) presents a problem. You don't need a PhD to do a little research and discover that getting warmer is perfectly natural after an Ice Age, or to do the math and realize that because half of the temperature rise in the last 100 years happened before we started pumping CO2 into the air in 1940, then the earth had to be warming up faster before that point.

"Because when the information is life-threatening, there are many and strong reasons for people to demand it be made public. Omission of such information is immoral."
So if an advertisement for food doesn't include all the nutritional information (omitting things like trans fats) that is an immoral action? The information is not being kept from the public--anyone can ask for it. Why is it wrong of the company to simply say "we are selling a new product--if you want all the details ask"? As an adult shouldn't you be responsible enough to take two seconds before you buy the food and say "hey, I know some foods are bad for me--what's in this?"

"When you know that informing a consumer of something (such as the fact that your product will kill them) would drastically change their decision and strongly impact their lives, and choose to withhold that information, then yes, this is as bad as lying."
So because the consumer is too lazy to ask a question (which, they have many and strong reasons to desire to know, considering the impact it may have on their life) the company is guilty? What is preventing you from taking responsibility for your own life and actions?


"Arguing otherwise is arguing that people have a right to poison others as long as their victims are unaware that they are being poisoned."
No, its arguing that a person who buys something should take responsibility for that action, rather than using willful ignorance as an excuse. If a company willingly makes such information available to anyone who bothers to ask, and you DON'T bother, than you cannot cry foul when you suddenly realize that information was important. Not asking for the information was your fault, not theirs. You take responsibility.

"you did make that clear, and I could not disagree more. Would you want to know if the car that you just purchased has a 5% chance of exploding whenever you exceed 50mph? Would the car company be innocent of the deaths caused if it simply didn't reveal that information unless directly asked?"
If I bought a car without asking any questions, (and the company did not lie to be my saying everything worked perfectly) then yes, the company is free of responsibility. I accepted the car as-is. I, as a responsible consumer, should have taken the time to discover what 'as-is' meant before agreeing that it was good enough. Although I suppose if I expected someone else to always look over my shoulder and tell me what to buy and what not to, I might not feel inclined to check the car myself--after all, making sure the things I buy are safe isn't my responsibility.

"How about the diminishing marginal utility of the dollar? The 1-millionth dollar means a lot less to the rich than the 1-hundreth dollar means to the poor. For one it means an insignificant more fraction of luxuries. For the other it means a modestly greater fraction of necessities."
Let's examine this logic. The rich have a lot of money, so they can afford to lose some, while the poor can not. Does that mean that stealing from a rich man is less immoral than stealing from a poor man, since the rich man will miss it less? Sure they have the exact same rights, but the rich man is RICH. Truly a moral conundrum.

"Or the fact that you can always be poor, but to be wealthy you must have a government with strong institutions? It is good government that makes such wealth possible."
Ah, so they owe the government? And how do you determine this debt?

"Perhaps the fact that your [I assume you mean 'their'] interests carry a lot of weight with the government, while the interests of the poor and powerless are rarely represented?"
You realize that a large part of this recession started because the government wanted to help the poor, right?

"Maybe the fact that you [you know I'm not rich, right?] because the can bid resources away from the poor for luxuries that they would like to use of necessities?"
So because the rich are capable of doing something that isn't nice, they should be taxed? That's pretty harsh "you might exercise your individual rights in a way I disagree with, so the laws should apply differently to you". You really find that reasonable?

"Not by giving them handouts, but by being willing to pay a bit more to support the great nation that makes all of this possible?"
So they should all follow your values--and if they don't, the government should force them to support your values anyway by taking their money?


Alonzo:

"
'it', as I had said in the previous paragraph, is a doubling of CO2 concentations in the atmosphere, from pre-industrial levels 275 ppmv to 550 ppmv. (ppmv = parts per million by volume)."
Pre-Indsutrial Revolution, eh? I'm sure the amount of carbon present a few years before that point had a huge amount of significance to the planet. I'm sure carbon levels didn't fluctuate greatly before then, making the number recorded at that point a completely arbitrary point of comparison.

"The only scientifically interesting question over the past 50 years is whether positive feedback mechanisms (e.g., H2O evaporation, methane release by thawing tundra, melting ice caps changing the reflective properties of the earth surface) will outweigh negative feedback mechanisms (cloud formations), and by how much?"

You forgot another question that has yet to be resolved "How do we measure Surface Air Temperatures?" There is no consensus on how this should be done (which you'd think there would be, considering how important this measurement is in determining if the planet is getting warmer or not).

"If you believe otherwise then you are merely following the propaganda of people who are willing to see the destruction of whole cities and, in some cases, whole countries for the sake of personal profit."
Or perhaps I'm just paying attention to the evidence, rather than buying into the propaganda on either side. "They're hippies!" "They're evil industrialists!" The amount of hate-mongering on both sides is ridiculous, and it pains me that things have gotten to the point where everyone assumes a dissenting opinion must be the result of the enemy camp's brainwashing.

Capitalist Roader said...

@ Anton; the following is mostly unbridled opinion on my part; apologies.

completely agree with your post regarding childs rights - and the desire for government (unfortunately it may have to exist) to exist only as a white knight. The end worried me a little.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if the cry was to promote morality instead of democracy? Morality can exist in both!

Hopefully either socialism or capitalism (both methods of economic organisation) would be operated under a democratic (political organisation) system. It may not be the best system, but it appears to be the best we currently have.

In regards to morality and democracy however, [rhetoric warning] i must ask you - do you want the 78.4% of america who identify as christians to call for imposing their morality on america? One of the social reasons i believe in opposing government exercise of power is that under a democratic system, the majority should (but rarely) get their way. I personally shudder at the thought that majority morality could and does dictate aspects of peoples lives. While not personally homosexual, i would imagine that 'majority morality' causes severe emotional and social damage to same-sex couples by denying them the right to marriage and equality with what are considered more common i.e. heterosexual relationships. Fortunately same-sex couples have the right to ignore short-sighted governmental regulations and live in 'sin,' approximating marriage in everything except name. If the majority swung more towards 'godliness' i imagine this ability could be curtailed. My lifestyle choice involving premarital sex could also be harmfully effected - and its a challenge enough for me already.

An example (perhaps there are better ones - but im lazy) of the possibility of negative aspects being imposed by democratically elected governments is the development of democracy in iraq. While america deposed a dictator with human rights violations to his name, iraqis may replace it with a system which allows the rise of shariah.

The draft iraqi constitution provides for islam as "a fundamental source of legislation"; it further stipulates that no law can be legislated that "contradicts the ruling of islam." The application of shariah, or islamic law, is not mentioned, but that is the implication of these phrases. (iht.com - an opinion piece)

Even should we mistakenly regard islam as a religion of peace... does that not invoke a sense of worry for iraqi citizens?

Where does government nannying its citizens turn to unjustified moral enforcement? Transfat may be harmful to your body, but lusting after your neighbour's wife or praying to the wrong tooth fairy - that's going to harm your soul! Admittedly you called for the ban based on scientific data - a fair call, but is the idea the government can legislate only in line with scientific evidence enshrined anywhere? (i personally have no idea - but doubt it.)

Seperately (and negated if scientific evidence is required for legislation), from the mindset of a true believer in christianity, what is the difference between negligence that could lead to manslaughter and atheism (assuming god strikes down communities of the godless.) We are happy to legislate against negligence. I am aware how far-fetched this sounds, but humans do stupid things all the time. And i believe more-so when they act in groups, like governments or societies.

anton said...

Capitalist Roader:

As in most philosophies, definitions vary. When I spoke of morality I certainly wasn't speaking of Christian extremist definitions. When I created the Milesian model, I also developed the following definition for morality:

“No one should suffer pain, loss, or deprivation by any action or inaction by another human. There are no exceptions!”

You can read my entire "milesian" model at www.themilesians.com

Peace!!

faithlessgod said...

Anton

"I also developed the following definition for morality:“No one should suffer pain, loss, or deprivation by any action or inaction by another human. There are no exceptions!”"

So no dentists? No Physical fitness trainers (no pain no gain). How can one discipline one children so they learn to not want to harm others? Sentence and punish perpetrators (who have broken you above rule). Splitting up with one's spouse would be immoral by your book (all sorts of losses). What about dilemmas where one (in)action or another leads to harm.

As for "no exceptions" this is another absolute prescriptive law you are trying to create. Is it any better than religious absolute laws. It is at best an invention, why should anyone follow it. How do you make them. Where did the "should" come from in your law or principle?


The issue is how determine overall harm and how in your version since prevents certain action without exception but prevents actions that lead to less pain, loss and deprivation in the long run.

This seems, with all due respect, hopelessly naive. But then maybe that is why you are now active on Alonzo's site?

Eneasz said...

Katesickle -

Please see my recent comments in other posts for answers to the fake-650-scientists-list, and why a seller should have an aversion to murder. I'll get to the rest later today. However I did want to ask:

half of the temperature rise in the last 100 years happened before we started pumping CO2 into the air in 1940

You realize that the Industrial Age began in the 18th century, right? Our rate of pumping CO2 into the air has been speeding up drastically in recent decades, but it began quite a while ago.

anton said...

Faithless God:

From your many comments I would not think you would intentionally contribute in developing something beneficial. It would appear that your main thrust is to be a critic, so I hate to tell you that you have inadvertently helped me. I put out my definition several months ago with the idea that someone would help be refine it. There was always something about it that bothered me as well. Consequently I have made a slight change. Try this on for size!

"No one should suffer unwarranted pain, loss, or deprivation by any action or inaction by another human. There are no exceptions!

Eneasz: It would appear that one of the handicaps in these discussions should be attributed to the fact that many people, like katsickle are dedicated to the premise of never letting the facts deter them in an argument . . . and they don't visit these blogs to learn anything, just show off their weaknesses!

Eneasz said...

Anton -
It would appear that one of the handicaps in these discussions should be attributed to the fact that many people are dedicated to the premise of never letting the facts deter them in an argument . . . and they don't visit these blogs to learn anything, just show off their weaknesses!

Hello Anton. I gotta say, I respectfully disagree. Back when I was still a christian, I spent weeks debating theology and evolution with an atheist. Obviously I never conceeded, I fought on to the bitter end. However those debates planted a seed in my mind, a seed that grew over the following months and years, until finally almost two years later I was willing to accept that I had been wrong.

I didn't speak with that atheist again, I don't even know his real name, but he helped me see the light. Major changes of thought NEVER happen over the period of time that a debate takes, even a long strung-out one. The best you can hope is that the ideas you have shared will take hold and germinate over time. That is why I always get in such discussions with people who disagree strongly with me. I know they will not change their minds while we speak. I know I will not change mine. The point is to get the thought process started, spark the engine of curiosity and truth-seeking, and perhaps one day it will flower. And while I'll never see the results of my efforts (and likewise, they'll never see the results of their's), I am hopeful that the world will be changed slightly for the better in some future time.

Katesickle -
neither of us have to just accept what scientists say and hope its true--we, as rational intelligent individuals, have the option of educating ourselves

This is true. But for many complex issues in life, the education can represent a huge investment of resources. To fully understand such an issue, several semesters of college training would be required. Unless you are willing to commit to this level of rigor, what we lay-persons are left with is educating ourselves the best we can in our free time with books published to be understandable to non-experts. This is all well and good (it's how most people get their knowledge about most things in life), but it comes with a weakness...

We cannot go out and empirically test what we've learned ourselves. Thus, we are susceptible to dishonestly, it is easy for others to fool us as long as their stories sound "plausible" to the non-trained ear. For instance - phlogiston is a perfectly reasonable sounding theory of fire, certainly easier to understand than what chemistry teaches us, and would be impossible for most non-chemists/physicists to disprove. When one can so easily be deluded, how can one possibly decide who is right and who is wrong?

The answer is simple - we don't decide. We can't, we don't have enough knowledge and training to do so. But there are people out there who do, people who have dedicated their entire adult lives to figuring out how stuff works. And when the overwhelming majority of these people all get together and agree that "to the best of our knowledge, THIS is how this works, and what the outcomes will be" the best course of action is to trust them. Unless, of course, one feels that his free-time reading of a few fringe opinions, combined with one's own untrained biases, can reliably produce a better result than the vast consensus of the experts.

Would you trust yourself to build a suspension bridge that would transport a thousand+ people a day over a river after having read several books & websites on engineering? Or would you conceed that a trained professional should be trusted over yourself in such cases?

On the other hand, if you are passionate about the subject, by all means please attend a university and earn a doctorate in climatology. The world could certainly use more experts in this field. However I don't think you've done so yet.

As an adult shouldn't you be responsible enough to take two seconds before you buy the food and say "hey, I know some foods are bad for me--what's in this?

As adults, sellers of food should be responsible enough to take a few seconds to place a warning on a dangerous product saying "Warning - this product will kill you." Sellers of rat poison and bleach have the moral sense to put warnings on their products, even though it is common knowledge that their products are dangerous. Sellers of other poisons should do the same.

So because the consumer is too lazy to ask a question the company is guilty? What is preventing you from taking responsibility for your own life and actions?

The consumer is justified in assuming that they are dealing with moral people, and that any moral person would warn them of deadly side-effects, especially when they are not common knowledge. If the seller turns out to be immoral, they should be suffer the appropriate consequences.

And all this talk of the responsibility of the customer. Is it only the victim that has responsibilities? Is it the responsibility of an attractive women not leave her home after dark? Or is it the responsibility of other males to not rape her? Is it the responsibility of the consumer to ask about every possible way the product he is buying could harm or kill him? Or is it the responsibility of the seller not to offer a dangerous product without some sort of warning? What happened to the responsibility of the more powerful actor to refrain from abusing his power at the cost of the victim?

If I bought a car without asking any questions, then yes, the company is free of responsibility

The last time you bought something - ANYTHING - did you ask the seller to list every way this product could potentially harm you? If not, I call you a hypocrite.

Let's examine this logic. The rich have a lot of money, so they can afford to lose some, while the poor can not. Does that mean that stealing from a rich man is less immoral than stealing from a poor man, since the rich man will miss it less?

Stealing is always immoral. Everyone should have a strong aversion to stealing. Taxes are not stealing. You are conflating two unrelated things.

You realize that a large part of this recession started because the government wanted to help the poor, right?

Debatable. This certainly contributed a fair bit. Many would argue that the primary driver of the housing collapse was the use of Collateralized Debt Obligations to divorce risk from return (at least on paper) which made giving any loan to anyone lucrative by passing on the risk to a third-party. The government has been pushing full home-ownership since the end of WWII, but the collapse didn't happen until CDOs were introduced. (if you have a spare hour, listen here) (and yes, TAL is very emo, but this is a slightly less emo episode)

"Maybe the fact that you [you know I'm not rich, right?]

Yes, I apologize. I assume you're not rich if you're spending free time posting comments on a blog. :) I got caught up in the moment, and was using "you" inappropriately.

"because they can bid resources away from the poor for luxuries that they (edit: the poor) would like to use (for) necessities?"
So because the rich are capable of doing something that isn't nice, they should be taxed? That's pretty harsh "you might exercise your individual rights in a way I disagree with, so the laws should apply differently to you". You really find that reasonable?


I am not talking about "doing something that isn't nice" (altho, as a general rule, doing things that aren't nice should be discouraged. But that's neither here nor there). I am talking about helping to rectify one of the flaws of a free-market system. It is not a perfect system, it has some problems, and some of them can be alleviated in this manner. Unless you somehow believe that pure free-market capitalism is without flaws, you probably have some interest in correcting for these flaws as well. Is there a better solution you could propose?

I'm stopping here because this comment is long already. I know there were some things I skipped to reduce length. I feel I answered the spirit of your comment, but if you would like me to respond to any point I glossed over please mention them and I'll respond as best I can. Thanks!

faithlessgod said...

Anotn

"From your many comments I would not think you would intentionally contribute in developing something beneficial."
You can infer what you want however lets keep to support for and against arguments, rather than your ad hominems which contradicts your ethical intentions, surely?

"It would appear that your main thrust is to be a critic, so I hate to tell you that you have inadvertently helped me."
This is called constructive argument I was not trying to indavertantly help but simply, as it turns out in this case, help you. This is what one does to each others arguments, criticise them to discover errors and mistakes and update as needed.

"I put out my definition several months ago with the idea that someone would help be refine it."
Well here I am :-)

"No one should suffer unwarranted pain, loss, or deprivation by any action or inaction by another human. There are no exceptions!"

1.How do you determine what is warranted or not?

2. This still looks like a single absolute prescriptive law but at the same time it is less like a definition of morality per se but rather what most would likely agree is a desired consequence of morality. That is you have not said what it is but more what is the (desired) result of morality.

3. The exception-less status is troubling. This over-rides all other considerations but what if there are multiple clashing instances of this law, how is this resolved.

4. Why "should" everyone follow this law? What type of "should" is this. If this is a moral "should" you must be presupposing something prior to this law. What is it?

And finally Alonzo, I think, specifically answered you in a post a couple of days ago. What is wrong with that and why is yours better?

anton said...

Eneasz,

So, it took you two years. Some never experience a "change" . . . some take less time! Your experience is exactly that -- your experience -- and not necessarily an approach that is applicable to everyone. If your debating opponent is trying to discuss advanced mathematics with you while you stand behind your argument that "2 + 2 = 5", you will be wasting the other persons time and effort until you accept the fact that "2 + 2 = 4" and revise your argument. Some of us don't take as long. That doesn't make us better -- just different!

Faithless God,

(1) Warranted -- someone has knowingly entered into a "contract". For example, gone to the dentist. He then accepts that "pain" is a warranted part of the contract. A child does something wrong -- broken a contract with his parents -- and experiences a "warranted" punishment for his behavior.

(2) The definition of morality is meant to provide a guideline to judge actions.

For some of us, the object of this exercise is to replace the Christian concept of morality which, among other things, claims that all Atheists are immoral no matter what they do or say!!!

I made no allegations or claims that my definition was better. Also, there was nothing wrong with his while there was something wrong with mine so I am attempting to fix it. Instead of using your debating ability to pick mine apart, you could use your wisdom to improve it!

faithlessgod said...

Anton

First of all this is really off topic for this thread. Maybe you can chose one to move it to? I am just going out so have no time but just to respond here.

(1) Warranted -- someone has knowingly entered into a "contract". For example, gone to the dentist. He then accepts that "pain" is a warranted part of the contract. A child does something wrong -- broken a contract with his parents -- and experiences a "warranted" punishment for his behavior.
This looks like contractarianism. What about people who have no contract or would disagree with its terms.

(2) The definition of morality is meant to provide a guideline to judge actions.
That I took as a given. However how practical is it to use over dilemmas? e.g euthanasia or abortion and more generally there are day to day challenges where is is unclear what is warranted or not without jumping to conclusions others might disagree with. In other words what is the rational basis to determine what is warranted and how to decide. A hypothetical contract is a useful first step but IMV insufficient given my answer in (1).

For some of us, the object of this exercise is to replace the Christian concept of morality which, among other things, claims that all Atheists are immoral no matter what they do or say!!!
Aha! This is, IMV, an entirely different issue to the way I have been responding. I have learnt that as soon as they take the moral low ground with such a statement the burden is on them to show they are not being immoral. Any time myself or anyone I have observed proposes their own secular alternative, they go on the attack with the tacit supposition that they are moral, I do not allow that.

Now you are quite entitled to state what your moral guide is- and IMHO it is far better than any christian moral code. Still questions here are just to see how robust it is. Only by questions and challenges can it be improved and made robust or replaced by something better.

Also, there was nothing wrong with his while there was something wrong with mine so I am attempting to fix it. Instead of using your debating ability to pick mine apart, you could use your wisdom to improve it!
Would there be any difference in my replies, could you tell? Anyway glad to be of service. Anyway I would suggest adopting Alonzo's approach but that is for you to decide. As I like to say DU in one line "Encourage desires that tend to fulfil other desires and discourage desires that tend to thwart other desires

Emu Sam said...

I have learnt that as soon as they take the moral low ground with such a statement the burden is on them to show they are not being immoral.

This goes against the principle of "innocent until proven guilty." Under this principle, the burden is never on someone to show they are NOT immoral. It is always on the person making the claim of immorality.

"Innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt" is a good principle because people who want this are far less likely to cause harm to those who do not deserve it.

It works both ways, of course. An atheist cannot claim a Christian is immoral without providing proof beyond reasonable doubt. The proof must apply to that particular person, not to Christians in general. Some (many? empirically testable) Christians and some versions of Christianity say all atheists are immoral. This version has seeped into our general culture and must be combated by those who wish to see atheists as equals - by those who wish that atheists are not punished for being immoral without proof of immorality.

faithlessgod said...

Hi Emu Sam gave not seen you here for a while. Now remember as I said I was being brief and think this sub-thread should be moved to another post. Maybe Alonzo could suggest one. Anyway:

I said "I have learnt that as soon as they take the moral low ground with such a statement the burden is on them to show they are not being immoral."

You said "This goes against the principle of 'innocent until proven guilty.' Under this principle, the burden is never on someone to show they are NOT immoral. It is always on the person making the claim of immorality."

First of all they have made a prima facie immoral statement. My last sentence might have better read "... not being immoral...by making that statement" Okay?

The burden is then on them to justify that such a statement as "all atheists are immoral" is not immoral - not a statement of bigotry, not the result of moral negligence and ignorance, unsupported reasoning designed to convince - sophistry and rhetoric, and certainly not the result of a deliberate lie - knowing it is not true and saying it anyway. After all there has to be doubt as why would a honest and ethical person assert make a morally repugnant assertion surely? That is as soon as someone makes such a statement they have cast doubt - by their own actions - on any tacit assumption that they themselves are moral.

So the point is that such statement is the evidence to be examined and so it becomes the the subject of the conversation rather than offering one's own moral theory in reply.

Now once we see how they understand and endorse it then we can see as to whther they themselves are guilty of the "crime" they accuse atheists of. That is what I wrote by burden of proof. Yes they are 'innocent until proven guilty' but this is the charge that they need to show that such a statement is not evidence of immorality and can be made by moral person.

Emu Sam said...

Faithlessgod,

So if I understand you correctly, it's because of the presumption of innocent until proven otherwise that makes such a statement (as claims that all Atheists are immoral no matter what they do or say) immoral, and I entirely misunderstood. I apologize.

faithlessgod said...

Hi Emu Sam

I think you have still mis-understood me but your mis-understanding has given me a new insight on this:-

Lets go through this slowly:

Statements of the type "all atheists are immoral" is:

A fallacious statement because one is making an inference from a group which is not relevant to the question at hand - "who is moral" - since one cannot tell just by whether someone believes in god(s) or not as to whether they are moral or not. The "all" in the premise makes it a hasty generalisation and the conclusion does not follow, it is a non sequitur.

A statement of prejudice because one is not following the principle of "innocent till proven guilty" and instead prejudging the guilt of a group on these fallacious grounds.(This is what has been clarified by your questions).

A statement of bigotry because one is assigning this guilt to any perceived members of this group.

When someone makes such a statement one does not know whether they either guilty of

(a) moral negligence - being ignorant of the moral implications of such a statement is not a defence. Having failed to consider or examine this, granted they are tacitly claiming - they think - the moral high ground - the onus is on them to ensure that this moral claim and moral judgement is on firm foundations and not in error - not to do so is to be guilty of intellectual negligence and especially considering their tacit claim this makes it moral negligence.

(b) bearing false witness - they know full well this claim is false and make it anyway.

(c) they need to believe this to be moral themselves and losing this belief would make them immoral. (If so are they a moral cripple needing the crutch of the church to be moral? Then their specific church is morally culpable).

(d) Something else.

The point I was making is that when this statement is brought up by offering your own morality in reply, you are tacitly acknowledging their tacit claim of the moral high ground. I say do not do this, instead this is what needs to be challenged and become the topic of conversation and to not fall into any of the traps that the statement utterer has possibly made themselves - we do not know what until we ask them.

So yes use the principle of "innocent till proven guilty" - do not reply to a statement of prejudice with prejudice (prejudgement of the statement utterer) either. (Although on the principle of ethical reciprocity, they have no defence if you were to, unless they reject the golden rule... )

What our conversations has helped me in, is in better distinguishing between bigotry and prejudice as they mistakenly appeared coextensive to me before. Thanks.
:)

Anonymous said...

I realize this is an old thread, but I just wanted to stick up for katesickle on global warming. Just cuz a lot of scientists think something doesn't make it true (world is flat, we're the center of the universe). When comparing temperature and CO2 levels on a graph, it just looks messy and uncorrelated. As Katesickle stated, we contribute to 4% CO2, so we are affecting CO2 levels by FOUR percent! Volcanos are the largest output of CO2 btw.

When comparing temperature of the sun to temperature of the earth, it is a spot-on match! Go search on google and tell me otherwise... I think it is the sun causing global warming. Why else would other planets, like Mars, ALSO be experiencing global warming? We are in a known period of increased solar activity, as the sun reverses its magnetic poles.

Katesickle, I disagree with you on everything else you stated in this thread...other people have debated you enough on that.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Scientists do not "just think" something. In fact, this is a bit insulting and demeaning, as if scientists (like priests) merely dream up their truths and jot them down for others.

Nor do scientists base their conclusions on just one piece of evidence (e.g., an alleged correspondence between CO2 levels and temperatures). The actual explanation includes a wide set of data having to do with the structure of atoms, the way certain structures absorb photons, black-body radiation formulae, the emission spectrum of the sun, the emission spectrum of the earth, and a huge set of other factors.

The claim that we contribute 4% (actually closer to 3%) of CO2 levels is bogus and shows poor reasoning skills.

Take a tub. Fill it with 280 gallons of water. Set up a system with 100 gallons/day entering the tub and 100 gallons/day leaving the tub. Then, turn on a faucet that adds another 3 gallons per day. Discover that the volume of water in the tub is now going up at 3 gallons per day. One can argue that the faucet is adding only 3% of the total input into the tub. However, it is contributing 100% of the rate of change.

If some engineer were then to day, "If the tub keeps killing up it will get so heavy that it will collapse," then there is only one reasonable and rational response - turn off the faucet.

If you compare the lengths of skirts during the 1920s to the stock market it is a spot-on match. No sane person thinks that a match is proof of causation. There is no mechanism by which sunspot activity can affect global temperatures - where as (as mentioned above) we fully understand the mechanisms by which the absorption spectrum of CO2, solar emission spectrum, earth emission spectrum, and the molecular structure of CO2 contributes to global warming.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I feel compelled to add that the "tub" issue described in the previous post really is absurd.

Anybody but the most incompetent idiot who faced this type of situation would not be the least bit confused about what was happening.

You have a tub with a large volume of water flowing in and out where the volume in the tub has remained constant for 10,000 years. You turn on a faucet adding 3 gallons per minute and discover the volume of water in the tub starts going up.

What COULD be responsible for this? It is absolutely baffling. Could it be . . .? Certainly not! It couldn't be the contribution of water by turning on that faucet? That's just too bizarre to contemplate!

Anonymous said...

Neither capitalism nor socialism on their own are the panacea for all problems. Neither comes without its own problems.

Working towards a common good is an essential aspect of socialism, while making sure your own interests are met is an essential aspect of capitalism. A balance between the two is essential.

The attitude to rid one of these models in favor of the other is merely childishness that demonstrates lack of experience and wisdom. Both contain aspects that are important to life.

Profit is not the sole purpose of our existence. You could build a posh mansion among the people you exploited to earn your wealth, but you will not be able to sleep well in that mansion without security, and even then you can sleep well only if you adopt traits of sociopaths and psychopaths.

If you smoke cigarettes, you pollute my air. If you eat trans fat, you increase demand for health care which affects me when my daughter needs care for a congenital defect. When your workplace dumps chemicals into the water, CO2/NO2/SO2/dust into the air, etc, you are infringing upon my rights!

Your conscious actions affect my freedom to live. That is in no way justified by capitalism. Profit should come from your genius and your hard work, after paying the commensurate price for everything you leave behind as externalities.

If you smoke, you should be paying for the healthcare of everyone and their suffering for having to require health care. If you eat trans fat, you should be paying not only for your healthcare, but you should also be subsidizing my healthcare costs to the extent that you increase the price of my healthcare by increasing demand for healthcare.

However, not everyone who misuses their rights and violates my rights without paying for it is capable of paying for it. Therein comes the bans imposed by government.

Government is my representative standing up for my rights against those who violate my rights. Government is not somebody else. It is me and you and everyone else. We just don't have the time or the energy to go sit in government every day. So we elect others to represent us.

It is both socialist and capitalist for a government to stand up for me. I pay taxes and elect people to use my taxes as their income. The job for which they are paid is to stand up for my rights.

They fight for my rights so that I don't have to spend all my time every day fighting in courts, on the roads, in the board rooms, in the shareholder meetings, at tribunals, etc fighting for my rights, fighting with every silly ignorant moron arguing what my rights should be, fighting to breathe cleaner air, fighting to eat good food, fighting to ... basically live with dignity as a human being. That is the purpose of government, government regulation and government intervention.

Corporate feudalism, of which I have been a part as a board member and as a VP previously, is as real as can be. When you oppose government because government does not fit into your label called socialism which you despise based on weird irrational reasons which the cold war propaganda fed your brains well, you are weakening yourself.

Because you are the government, if government becomes weak, you become weak. Who fills the void? Corporations. And therein begins corporate feudalism, where corporations control you and your governments.

You will need more freedom struggles and independence days if you don't open your eyes to the fact that you aren't voting in your own best interests when you vote for corporate feudalism as it already exists in the US.

Having said that I do recognize that most of the people who post online saying global warming isn't true or that government regulation is bad are paid corporate shills of groups such as Koch brothers. And if they are not paid shills, they are stupid to be posting for free when they could have got paid for posting the same nonsense they post.