More about me slowly coming to (always temporary) conclusions in :

, social

For a long time, I failed to define a clear line between fair, necessary, humane benefits on the one hand, and greedy, opportunistic, unjustified rent-seeking on the other.

More recently I settled on a heuristic that I find just, and that is fairly simple to apply:

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First of all, I establish

  • a universal, absolute threshold for human well-being (enough food, reasonable shelter, basic medical treatment, physical safety), and
  • the moral obligation of society as a whole to help those who find themselves below that threshold, for whatever reason,
  • for as many people as necessary, for as long as necessary, and regardless of the cost in taxes.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a long-time beneficiary of social benefits already, a former billionaire who recklessly burned all their cash, a chronic tax-evader, or an unrepentant serial killer: if you are starving, have no roof, or suffer from illness or violence — and you do not have the resources to remedy your situation — and you have not unequivocally rejected the assistance of society — then it is not only moral but mandatory that our taxes be directed towards lifting you out of that dire state and back into human dignity.

That’s the unconditioned baseline for welfare benefits.

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@tripu I think your argument fails at the premise: can you objectively demonstrate the "universal threshold for human well-being"? If not, it's subjective and you will have to impose your will upon others that don't agree with your arbitrary threshold, by force.



The impossibility of “objectively [demonstrating] the ‘universal threshold for human well-being’” does not destroy my reasoning, I think.

Two arguments:


1. Many other moral rules that I (and I think most human beings) hold true do not have clear, objective cut-off measures or thresholds — but that does not utterly invalidate them.

I (and most people) believe that interrupting procreation by force one minute after intercourse is OK, but that doing so one day before the due date of the child is wrong. There might not be an instant in time where the act switches from morally acceptable to morally wrong. So what.

I (and most people) believe that an adult having sex with a newborn is wrong, but that sex with some who is 30 or older is OK. There might not be an age where the act switches from monstrous to normal. So what.



2. Even the most staunch sceptic/relativist/rigorous critic would agree to an absolute minimum for that threshold, don’t you think? If you think my assessment (whatever it is) is too generous, divide it by ten. Can we agree on that, at least?

Imagine a person who is ill and malnourished to the point where any doctor would predict their death in a matter of hours if they don’t receive assistance. Or a person with chronic pain who lives in constant agony but doesn’t have the resources to afford painkillers, anaesthesia nor euthanasia.

Do you believe in the moral obligation of society, or of the Sate, or of you personally (Fidel Ramos) to somehow help that complete stranger who is staring you in the eye?

If your answer is “yes”, you agree with me in that there’s at least a minuscule baseline for human dignity that imposes moral obligations in others to help. There’s the hole in your Libertarian absolutism.

If you answer “no”, then there’s a much wider gulf between our philosophies than I thought.

@tripu I believe in that moral obligation to a point, but I don't think it's right to impose that obligation on anybody else. However I can choose not to associate with people of low moral character: I can refuse to do business with them, refuse them access to my private property or refuse to support them in any way. But I cannot force them violently to behave the way I want them to behave, as long as they don't actively harm anybody else.

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