Coffeehouse Thread

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Political thread. Difficulty: no raymond postings

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  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about the role of the state in shaping society. I proposed that increased social programs funded by the taxpayer can work to prevent disenfranchisement and ghettoisation and so rise the 'baseline' of society which in turn benefits everyone eventually.

    He agreed that it would work in principle, but that it would be "wrong" of any state to do that under various principles of freedom: even though social programmes do not tread on anyone's rights or freedoms (besides taxation), and how, in fact, they work to increase the effective freedoms and opportunities of said disenfranchised peoples. That it is wrong because the state would be engaged in a form of social engineering, which is at ends to the notion of freedom and liberty that many subscribe to.

    "The Great Experiment" of the USA has worked, there's no denying that. The nation has the highest per-capita rates of development and economic strength but is far from perfect.

    So I'm asking: is it ethical to resume "the experiment" given it is shown to produce undesirable results in certain cases, or is it morally right to have such a system given that other systems work better to reduce ill-effects at the expense of imagined (or real) "freedom"?

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    I don't like the idea of taking money away from people to provide services for others. With that said, I don't think filling prisons with the poor and paying for it by taxing the rich, is either productive or ethical.

    I think people are happiest when they are most productive. There are a lot of ways to measure growth and or productivity and a couple ways to measure happiness. I'm not sure which one is the leading indicator, but I would be interested in seeing if policies geared towards increasing happiness will result in increased productivity.

    Growing the pie should be a more important goal than making sure the slices are even. However, the pie is limited in size by its smallest slice.

    -Josh

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    , JoshRoss wrote

    I don't like the idea of taking money away from people to provide services for others.

    I see that saying a lot. I have a problem with it because I believe it's a simplification and misrepresentation of what social democracy is about; the expression is worded such to provoke a slight moral outage at the supposition which immediately leads to one siding with the opposing viewpoint.

    I believe it would be fairer to describe it as "all for one and one for all" - that everyone in society assists everyone else, such is a condition of partaking in society; anyone who disagrees is free to leave. I don't believe that anyone can claim all of their wealth is entirely their own and that no-one has a rightful claim to it: from a Christian perspective it can be said that everything, including wealth, belongs to God and that no person can claim it for themselves (which I why I find wealth-toting Christians quite galling).

    And I believe that when handled appropriately, that many social problems can be solved, failing that they can be at least reduced to a more manageable level and any tax burden eventually reduced (possibly even to the point where private charity might even actually work). The end result is win-win.

    Also, it's 2am when I made this thread. I know better than to talk politics online, I just felt the need to air our discourse.

  • User profile image
    JoshRoss

    , W3bbo wrote

    *snip*

    I see that saying a lot. I have a problem with it because I believe it's a simplification and misrepresentation of what social democracy is about; the expression is worded such to provoke a slight moral outage at the supposition which immediately leads to one siding with the opposing viewpoint.

    Which is more morally outrageous, taking money from someone at gun point or giving it to someone who has neither earned it or respects it?

     

  • User profile image
    kettch

    @JoshRoss: I saw a show on some cable channel the other day. It was one of those reality shows of dubious reality, but I think it illustrates the point. It's Called Repo Games and the premise is that by answering trivia questions, the person can keep their car from being reposessed.

     

    After winning her car back, purely by luck, the lady said "Great, now I don't have to even look for a job".

    Staged or not, that is an attitude that I see far too often, and it disturbs me to my core.

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    Of course any system will have those that abuse it. But that isn't enough reason for me to let those people who are legitimately unable to get a job starve.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    @W3bbo:"That it is wrong because the state would be engaged in a form of social engineering,"

    The state is always engaged in social engineering. Schools with a common curriculum, a health service, setting laws and punishing criminals, tax breaks for some and not for others. I was discussing this at work this week and pointed out that the US tax break on mortgage interest was a good example - it's social engineering to encourage home ownership.

  • User profile image
    brian.​shapiro

    , W3bbo wrote

    I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about the role of the state in shaping society. I proposed that increased social programs funded by the taxpayer can work to prevent disenfranchisement and ghettoisation and so rise the 'baseline' of society which in turn benefits everyone eventually.

    I'd be fine with social programs that are designed to be public and for everyone , ie roads, which everyone can drive on, rail, which everyone can ride, welfare programs, which are basically employment insurance that everyone pays into, etc... I don't agree with social programs that are designed to be redistributive, or help specific groups of people over others.

    That's why I agreed with Republicans when Obama talked about "redistributing the wealth" and "redistributive justice". Its completely the wrong principle on which to run government. Republicans were right to sneer at this as "socialism", at least in rhetoric.

    There's nothing in principle wrong with the government having some health care policy, but when people try to design the policy around "giving the poor the same medical care as the wealthy" I see that as inherently problemsome.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    , JoshRoss wrote

    *snip*

    Which is more morally outrageous, taking money from someone at gun point or giving it to someone who has neither earned it or respects it?

     

     

    Which is more morally outrageous, taking money from people for taxes or letting someone die young because they didn't have enough money? I still remember the fallout of Thatcherism: entire sections of society with no prospects and no hope because the government essentially gave up on them and wrote them off. They were under-educated and unhealthy, with a reduced life expectancy.  That is morally outrageous.

     

    Frankly the concept of personal 'freedom' is childish; we are always linked to the people around us and affected by their problems and demands - to truly be free you would have to be a selfish sh*t and ignore everyone else's problems.

     

    , W3bbo wrote

    *snip*

    I believe it would be fairer to describe it as "all for one and one for all" - that everyone in society assists everyone else, such is a condition of partaking in society; anyone who disagrees is free to leave. I don't believe that anyone can claim all of their wealth is entirely their own and that no-one has a rightful claim to it.

    ++

     

    The human race is successful mainly because we are a social animal and it is in our nature to look after each other, including the old, the young and the sick.  Government taxation is simply an extension of that nature.

    I hear a lot of people saying that the government shouldn't tax then and that they should individually decide how to help charitably.  My problem with that is that many people just wouldn't 'get around to it'; not necessarily due to selfishness but just due to bad time management. Plus you really need someone to oversee the distribution of charity, or there's a real risk that the fluffy kitten charities get the bulk of the money and the mentally ill homeless people don't.

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    brian.​shapiro

    Dr Herbie wrote

    *snip*

    Which is more morally outrageous, taking money from people for taxes or letting someone die young because they didn't have enough money? I still remember the fallout of Thatcherism: entire sections of society with no prospects and no hope because the government essentially gave up on them and wrote them off. They were under-educated and unhealthy, with a reduced life expectancy.  That is morally outrageous.

     

    Someone is going to be a victim no matter what system we have. People also die because of the problems of government run systems. Is it really more moral that someone dies because of the decisions of a government bureaucrat than the decisions of a insurance company?

    The best thing we can do is make things fair, not make things equal.

  • User profile image
    cbae

    This is how I argue with those who think that government shouldn't be in the business of running social programs, and that the rich have no obligation to helping the poor through taxes. If you take this to the extreme and remove every safety net that exsts, what you're going to end up with is a class of people that are so desperate, they're going to resort to crime. And in such a case, the targets of these crimes are going to be the rich. The government will always be obligated to protect these potential crime victims. This puts the taxpaying low and middle income people in a position of paying for the protection of the rich against the desperately poor. You can argue that the low and middle income could receive a proportional amount of police protection, but that ain't going to happen. The rich will be receiving 100% of the protection.

    I firmily believe that a minimum level of safety net for the poorest class of citizens is absolutely necessary for any civilized society. If the removal of all the safety nets means complete anarchy, then the rich have the most to lose, so they should willing pay more to avoid this scenario.

    I know the scenario above is specific to crime, but you can also look at this from a purely economic basis. If it's going to take taxation to prevent our country from defaulting on its obligations and experiencing an economic collapse, then the rich should gladly pay a higher tax rate than the poor. If I have $5 to my name today, and the value of the dollar drops 80% tomorrow, then I lost $4 in total value. Big flipping deal. It's not like I could have lived off of that extra $4 anyway.

    On the other hand, if somebody with $5 billion today finds that his assets are worth $1 billion tomorrow, he's going to throw himself out a window. Even if giving up 75% of one's assets is necessary to avoid complete economic collapse, then the rich would still be better off by paying the taxes. After all, $1.25 billion is still better than $1 billion.

    I know these are rather extreme examples, but this is how I rationalize having to pay more taxes than somebody who's less well off.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    , brian.​shapiro wrote

    *snip*

    Someone is going to be a victim no matter what system we have. People also die because of the problems of government run systems. Is it really more moral that someone dies because of the decisions of a government bureaucrat than the decisions of a insurance company?

    The best thing we can do is make things fair, not make things equal.

    There is a correlation between deprived areas and low life-expectancy that is not just based on affordable health-care.  Insurance companies don't run schools, or nutrition education classes for young mothers, or job-finding clubs for unemployed school leavers or summer youth clubs to keep teenagers off the streets and out of trouble. There is a cultural vicious cycle that needs an organised entity to tackle and break; insurance companies won't do that.

    I don't really get what you mean by "People also die because of the problems of government run systems" -- could you give an example?

     

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , JoshRoss wrote

    *snip*

    Which is more morally outrageous, taking money from someone at gun point or giving it to someone who has neither earned it or respects it?

    The burden of proof in our criminal laws is based on the notion that it's far worse to wrongly convict an innocent person than it is to wrongly exonerate a true criminal. IMO, it would be true even if it meant that 90% of real criminals have to go free in order to prevent anybody from ever being wrongly convicted. I think social safety nets should be considered in the same vein. If even one person could be given a "hand up" to become a productive member of society, it's worth the risk of turning 3 others into lazy, freeloaders. The alternative is that you could have 4 people turning into desperate criminals. I like the idea that I can walk through most places in this country without worrying about being a crime victim. If I have to pay taxes for this to be the case, then so be it. It's part of the privilege of living in a country in which the most destitute have some kind of safety net.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    , cbae wrote

     This puts the taxpaying low and middle income people in a position of paying for the protection of the rich against the desperately poor. 

    In the UK, this already happens:  the very rich often get away with tax avoidance meaning they pay less tax than someone on the average UK income.

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    cbae

    , Dr Herbie wrote

    *snip*

    I don't really get what you mean by "People also die because of the problems of government run systems" -- could you give an example?

    That's the ole "People Would Die From Low-Quality Government-Run Healthcare So It's OK If They Die From Not Having Private Healthcare Insurance" argument.

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    @cbae: Oh, I see.  That's funny because in the UK, private surgeons often call for NHS ambulances when things go wrong.

    Herbie

  • User profile image
    DeathBy​VisualStudio

    It's a sad, sad world that we live in where people believe in the fraud the words "wealth redistribution" represent. Yes, simpletons, every rich person worked hard for each and every dime and every poor person is lazy and incompetent. It's easy to make the simple argument. It's even easier to get the simple minded all pissed off about it. Hate is an easy thing to instill in people. Do ya feel it? I bet you do...

  • User profile image
    Dr Herbie

    @DeathByVisualStudio: I would also state that although many rich people did work hard, they also got lucky; a lot of people work hard and don't get the lucky break.

    Herbie

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