@fidel

One more point where I think you’re wrong:

You are right in that forcing an action upon others is in principle morally wrong (eg, nobody should force you, in principle, to donate money to the poor). But forcing an inaction is equally wrong in principle. This is how I think your reasoning actually imposes inaction upon others:

Imagine three people:

  • A is the most privileged person imaginable (say, Jeff Bezos),
  • Z is the most miserable and helpless human being, and
  • Y is someone who is slightly above Z, but still basically destitute and resourceless.

The three people stumble upon each other. A sees without a doubt that Z is in agony and on the brink of a horrific death, but A is utterly selfish and decides to give Z nothing, not even a glass of water from his Olympic pool. Y contemplates the scene, and feels the moral obligation to steal a dollar, or a banana, or a paper clip (since Y doesn’t even have that to spare) from A (exerting no violence upon him) and to give it to Z to somehow remedy their plight, or even save their life, at least temporarily.

I bet you that the vast majority of human beings (including the sub-groups of ethicist and political philosophers) would agree with Y and defend his “altruistic theft”.

Your absolutist , on the other hand, would impose inaction on Y and condemn/prosecute/ban that behaviour.

@fidel

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.

@fidel

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.

etc.

@fidel

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

Two arguments:

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• Tetsuya Ishida: “Self-Portrait of Other” https://brooklynrail.org/2019/11/artseen/Tetsuya-Ishida-Self-Portrait-of-Other
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Addendum (lest I should be accused of utopian over-simplification):

Yes, chance plays a huge role in life outcomes. Yes, the past, which we can’t control (heritage, inheritance, the womb, childhood) is decisive, too. Yes, even conscious life decisions are strongly constrained by circumstances and by the information available at the time.

Yes, free will might be but an illusion.

I just want to stress that all the above holds true in our current welfare systems, too.

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I realise many cases won’t be easy to adjudicate. But that’s a problem with our current welfare laws, too.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for the State to collate all the relevant data they hold for each person and feed it to an algorithm which in many cases would produce a fairly confident result. Think work history, tax returns, residency, health indicators, race, education, reports from social workers, property owned, investments, criminal record, etc. A good chunk of the population are clearly “privileged” or “dispossessed” by looking at these metrics.

Expressed this way, it sounds eerie and inhumane. I’m just describing the logic of it here. Of course, there still would be judges, social workers, recourse, and exceptions involved — just as in the current system. But I feel this general guidance would deliver as well if not better than the current system, while decreasing rent-seeking and public expenditure (taxes).

Thoughts?

🧵 5/5

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A single parent who finds themselves struggling to raise their offspring while at the same time enjoying themselves the small luxuries of modern life (tourism, Netflix, eating out, a new car, a gym membership). If they are a single parent because their spouse died or left, leaving them with precarious income, they should get some benefits to help them make ends meet. If, on the other hand, they decided to raise kids without a partner in the first place, they are not morally entitled to anyone else’s money.

A new retiree who suddenly can’t afford more than the basics and has to lead a monastic life until death. If that person had miserable jobs all their life and still managed to be frugal and save a bit for retirement, society owes them a chunk now, since their misfortune was not their fault and they made responsible use of the bad cards they were dealt. If, on the other hand, that person used to be well-off and had the resources to invest on their own retirement plan, but was reckless enough to live hand to mouth instead, then a monastic life is all they get, in all fairness (no assistance from the rest of society).

Someone who is unemployed. If they are unemployed because they are handicapped, belong to a marginalised group, suffered an important workplace accident, have a very low IQ, etc, then society should fund a reasonable life for them (ie, above the minimum threshold). If, on the other hand, that person is lazy or unconscientious, or too picky when offered a job, then food, clothing and shelter is all they are entitled to get from the rest of society.

🧵 4/5

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What about needs up and beyond that basic threshold? To give a few examples: predictable, regular cash flows from retirement until death (public pensions); subsidies for IVF or child care; public study grants; tokens for public transport; subsidised campsites or holidays; everything having to do with “culture” or sports (coupons for book shops, concerts, museums, sport centres, sport clubs).

For those, I draw a line between situations of necessity that are caused by events mostly outside the control of the person, and those for which the person is much to “blame”. I am all for taxes to fund the former, and zero for the latter.

So: individual responsibility, and the predictability of the (bad) outcome, are my deciding criteria.

Here go a few examples:

🧵 3/5

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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.

🧵 2/5

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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:

🧵 1/5

@shironeko
I consider quite a few more variables: licence, source code, protocol, jurisdiction, governance, discoverability, feature set, usability…
/cc @eff

@shironeko

Fair enough. We enter the territory of trade-offs and individual preferences.

/cc @eff

@icedquinn

It depends on your definition of , doesn’t it? I was discarding radical libertarianism (ie, ).

Even if all monopolies are cancelled, as long as there is a State, there is central authority exerting some coercion, limiting some freedoms. What I meant to say is that I’m fine with that. ie, I think I agree with you in that even a libertarian society ought to have some restrictions.

@shironeko

Every tool has its drawbacks (usability, if nothing else). Isn’t , in practice, among the very few “least bad” options we have? If your recommendation is encrypted e-mail or something like that, we have very different use cases in mind.

/cc @eff

When I was younger, I thought that the defining distinction between and was solidarity — as in, the former necessarily has to have way more of it than the latter.

Gradually I came to realise that characterisation is problematic for three reasons:

  1. want to impose , which is an oxymoron (by definition, you can’t mandate voluntary inclinations, such as affection or desire, on people).
  2. In practice, and at least in my own country (), the Left has become pro-independence and sympathetic towards secessionists (but more solidarity would require larger unions, stronger federations — not the richest regions going their own way).
  3. Sometimes the Right puts in practice more solidarity towards certain groups or causes (eg, non-elites, non-conformists, disadvantaged people who reject the orthodoxy) than the Left itself.

I now think that the ratio personal freedom vs economic freedom better categorises Left vs. Right (cf ). I like to think of those two dimensions as “ to do what you please with your body” (food, drugs, euthanasia, suicide, sex, read, speech, thought, association, religion) and “freedom to do what you please with your property” (save, invest, buy, sell, donate, build, trade, settle).

This is not a defence of or , by the way — I do believe certain restrictions on both kinds of liberties are necessary for any society to function at all.

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