April 6, 2000: Headlines: COS - Moldova: Salon: Moldova RPCV John W. Baggaley debates on our responsibility to the poor

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Moldova: Peace Corps Moldova : The Peace Corps in Moldova: April 6, 2000: Headlines: COS - Moldova: Salon: Moldova RPCV John W. Baggaley debates on our responsibility to the poor

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-13-244.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.13.244) on Sunday, January 16, 2005 - 2:46 pm: Edit Post

Moldova RPCV John W. Baggaley debates on our responsibility to the poor



Moldova RPCV John W. Baggaley debates on our responsibility to the poor

A dialogue on our responsibility to the poor



The following is a debate on our responsibility to the poor. Aaron resents the fact that his tax dollars are used in social programs. John takes the opposite stance, claiming that the fortunate have an obligation to the less fortunate.

Aaron on poverty
April 6, 2000

My problem is that too many people look at jobs as "9 to 5" things they have to begrudgingly do to pay the bills. In the end, no one puts a gun to your head and says: "Here's your random desk, here's your random assignments--finish them and you get your random paycheck at the end of the week." Maybe I've been spoiled by having been lucky enough (1 in 20 chance or so) to have been born in a country where the opportunity is there waiting to be seized. At least in this country, people have a lot more choices about what they end up doing for a living than they might like to admit. A couple of hundred years ago jobs really sucked. Today, they're a walk in the park. I watch CNN in the morning when I'm getting dressed to go to work. Today, I saw thousands of janitors in LA county who walked off their jobs demanding a 52% increase in their wages over the next 3 years. They interviewed one union organizer, a single mother of three kids, complaining about having to support her family on $15,000 or $17,000 a year. Boohoohoo. I have zero sympathy for some stupid ho who lets herself get knocked up three times by some fucking deadbeat clown. I have no sympathy for some stupid bitch who never gave a shit about trying to educate herself or learn skills above and beyond moping a fucking floor. I have no sympathy for people who knew better but didn't anyway. I'm tired of seeing almost half of my paycheck going into a government sponsored welfare system that rewards people for being lazy and/or irresponsible. I don't have any children yet, why the fuck should I be forced to support someone else's? I'd be more than happy to pay into a system that spends more on a cure for cancer or building an international space station or a superconducting supercollider or to feed homeless vets down on their luck -- at least they made unbelievable sacrifices for people like you and me to have the opportunities we have today as free citizens in a country that used to reward hard work instead of complaining about it. There are many things that happen to people in life that they can't control but there are also a lot of things that happen to people in life that they can control. I think complaining about what you do or don't do for a living is a crock of shit -- you made the bed and you sleep in it. There are always exceptions to this but I don't see people talking about them here. Maybe I'm just fucked up and have this crazy idea that I can learn to do whatever it is I want to do for a living and that what I do for however many hours I do it can be fulfilling. And yes I fucking swear but that's 'cause I'm in NYC ;^)

Robin, to some extent I think I understand the angle you are coming from on this but I don't agree that finding a fulfilling job is the stuff of fantasy that gets created at SKG Dreamworks.

John's objection to Aaron
April 6, 2000

I would not be so quick to judge that poor janitor from LA. Some people are born beautiful, some are born with incredible athletic ability, some are born with IQs over 150, and some are born into loving, nurturing environments. Some, on the other hand, are born with none of these things--even in the United States. Just because there are many opportunities here in the United States does not mean that everyone in the United States is born with the capacity to achieve or even pursue those opportunities. Some of us are born lucky. Those of us that work really hard and achieve a lot are still very lucky despite the fact that we work very hard. Effort is not the only input required to achieve. It betrays naivety and stone heartedness to point fingers at the poor.

Even people who are born with talent cannot be entirely blamed for their failure to achieve. People are heavily influenced by their environments, particularly in what they are taught is possible. If a child is told enough times that they are stupid, they will come to believe it. If a child is brought up by a single mother in a ghetto, would you consider this a nurturing environment?

It is our duty to help the poor. It is a matter of justice. Justice is a matter of fairness. What is fair? Certainly it isn't fair that one is born with a 180 IQ and another is born with a 100 IQ. Certainly it isn't fair that one is born with loving parents, and another is born with abusive parents. These are contingencies about the world that we are born into. We have no control over these matters.

So what should we do about it? Well, we do the just thing. What is the just thing? That which is fair. How do we decide what is fair? Well, we can get together and vote on it. But, we would have to vote on it with out prejudice and without bias. Certainly would be in one's self interest as a talented and wealthy individual to vote against helping the poor. So, we must imagine how we would vote without these biases. We can imagine everyone gathering together to decide upon a common conception of justice. These people are not currently in a world, they are outside the world. They will soon be placed in the world, but they do not know who they will be in this world. They do not know if they will be born rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, fortunate or unfortunate. They know only the basics of human nature and socialization.

What would be rational for these people to choose as a common conception of justice? How do we choose? Well, we figure that everyone will vote self-interestedly, and they desire primary goods (money, wealth, freedom, etc.). Everyone wants to be one with more primary goods rather than less.

One proposal might be that everyone is on their own--chaos. This shouldn't be appealing to anyone. If it is, then maybe a very few, very powerful, might be happy in a situation like this, but the majority wouldn't, so this option should be quickly struck down by our panel of impartial judges.

How about adding laws that protect property and basic rights, but no requirement to help each other? Such a system would certainly help those born fortunate, but would certainly not be good for those born less fortunate. Would a rational person vote for such a scheme? Probably not. Wouldn't that be very risky? You're either very lucky or very unlucky. You might be born either way. In approaching this option, a person might start by comparing the number of fortunate people versus unfortunate people and figure out what their odds would be of being any of the given people. But what if nothing was known about how many fortunate versus unfortunate there would be?

A very plausible solution here, would be that everyone would vote for the following two principles.

1. The protection of rights guaranteeing equal opportunity, free speech, etc.
2. A utility maximizing principle

Both 1 and 2 should sound very promising. Let's take 1 as a given. What about 2? By adding a utility maximizing principle to our conception of justice as fairness, wouldn't this increase everyone's chances of being happy? Wouldn't everyone want this?

But what utility maximizing principle should be used? Should we maximize the number of happy people or the amount of happiness? Certainly the former over the later. But wouldn't the former principle still have some people that are worse off than others? Wouldn't that choice be risky too? And wouldn't it legitimize society's abuse of a minority in order to make the majority happier? Wouldn't that be risky? Mightn't you end up as one of these minorities?

Probably the best solution here would be to develop an egalitarian differential principle. We might agree going into this, that if you are rich and I am poor, you will help me, and if I am rich and you are poor, I will help you. Wouldn't this be fair? Do we have to strive to make things perfectly equal? Certainly not. If you and I both make $10 an hour and we are offered the option to trade this in so that I will make a little more, say $12 an hour, and you will make much more, say $15 an hour, then certainly we would both make the trade.

In this sense then, we want to maximize both equality and utility. Some differences in equality can be justified and others cannot. My making more money than you, or my being better off than you, can only be justified if it makes you better off than you would otherwise. If my being better off makes you worse off, then this cannot be justified. So, allowing the rich to take from the poor would never be universally accepted, particularly from the perspective of the impartial judges. Equality would be nice, but we would be better off if some were given more than others. It is to our benefit that we reward entrepreneurship, because it benefits everyone. I am quite happy that it is possible for someone to make a lot of money developing new technologies because these new technologies benefit me greatly. Allowing some people to make a lot of money gives them incentive to do things that benefit the rest of us.

However, these disparities do need some kind of justification, and the greater the disparity, the harder it is to justify. We can think of this difference principle as a more complicated version of the maxi-min or Pareto principle. The combination of principles 1 and 2, is the rational choice of a conception of justice as fairness, judged from an impartial perspective. Those that are obscenely wealthy owe, as a matter of justice as fairness, to give back to those that are less fortunate.

I always try to keep in mind the following: there are many poor who work very hard and there are those that are rich who don't work at all. The poor do not deserve to be poor, and the rich do not deserve to be rich. Of course, this is no reason to be fatalistic. I can realize this and still work hard and become rich, or richer. However, it is important, at the same time, to realize that we do have a duty to the poor and a duty to be sympathetic towards those that are suffering.

John

PS Before someone flames me, calling me a Communist--I wouldn't. The former is about as far from Communism and Socialism as you can get. These principles of justice, when brought into practice, bring forth a system of Democracy and fair capitalism. It is certainly possible to have a Democracy and capitalism that feels an obligation to the poor. And this sloppily written e-mail was of course not meant to be any kind of dissertation on justice, fairness, and government. It is more of a knee-jerk reaction to certain kinds of naïve poor hating bigotry that I really just can't stand.

Kevin's reply to John
April 6, 2000

John, you need to learn to compress your arguments a little better.

Buddha might say : 'choose the Middle Way'. Pithy, readable, and full of meaning.

Aaron, you should not be supporting a cure for cancer because the leading causes of cancer are smoking, bad eating, and lack of exercise, all of which are foreseeable and therefore people bring it on themselves. In my mind, supporting the poor is not a choice of 'do I pay or do I not pay'. The choice is 'do I pay for child health care and education, or do I pay for police and jails'. Answer : the middle way. Some for children, some for jails. Though picking an extreme is wonderful for lively discussion, bless you for doing it.

I'm glad that you enjoyed being a financial dude so much. I thought all those guys were unhappy BMW-coveters.

Penner : see you next year at South by Southwest

- kevin

John's reply to Kevin
April 6, 2000

I agree with you, concise arguments are nice. However, given a complicated subject, it takes longer to write a concise argument than it does to write a long one.

Cheers,

John

Aaron's reply to John
April 6, 2000

I would not be so quick to judge that poor janitor from LA. Some people are born beautiful, some are born with incredible athletic ability, some are born with IQs over 150, and some are born into loving, nurturing environments. Some, on the other hand, are born with none of these things-even in the United States. Just because there are many opportunities here in the United States does not mean that everyone in the United States is born with the capacity to achieve or even pursue those opportunities. Some of us are born lucky. Those of us that work really hard and achieve a lot are still very lucky despite the fact that we work very hard. Effort is not the only input required to achieve. It betrays naivety and stone heartedness to point fingers at the poor.

>> It betrays an MIT education to assume people are poor and will remain so for no other reason than because their parents were

Even people who are born with talent cannot be entirely blamed for their failure to achieve. People are heavily influenced by their environments, particularly in what they are taught is possible. If a child is told enough times that they are stupid, they will come to believe it. If a child is brought up by a single mother in a ghetto, would you consider this a nurturing environment?

>> How many people do you hang out from the ghetto? You speak for all them? That's so enlightened of you to treat them like helpless

>> children who don't have the capacity or will to better themselves. I'm glad to see you are capable of jumping to conclusions and

>> passing judgment. You must have had the "white man's burden" in another life.

It is our duty to help the poor. It is a matter of justice. Justice is a matter of fairness. What is fair? Certainly it isn't fair that one is born with a 180 IQ and another is born with a 100 IQ. Certainly it isn't fair that one is born with loving parents, and another is born with abusive parents. This are contingencies about the world that we are born into. We have no control over these matters.

>> I don't recall a "life is fair" guarantee stamped on my ass when I was born. All I got was a smack on the ass -- maybe your doctor

>> knew something mine didn't.

So what should we do about it? Well, we do the just thing. What is the just thing? That which is fair. How do we decide what is fair? Well, we can get together and vote on it. But, we would have to vote on it with out prejudice and without bias. Certainly it is in one's self interested as a talented and wealthy individual to vote against helping the poor. So, we must imagine how we would vote with these biases. We can imagine everyone gathering together to decide upon a common conception of justice. These people are not currently in a world, they are outside the world. They will soon be placed in the world, but they do not know who they will be in this world. They do not know if they will be born rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, fortunate or unfortunate. They know only the basics of human nature and socialization.

>> I think you should put the crystals away. After you do that I'm sure you'll recall that there is no such thing as a perfect voting system

>> that is mathematically consistent. I don't recall Kenneth Arrow's paper on that but I'm sure you'll tell me which one it was. You're

>> idealism blinds you to reality. You should know better than that.

What would be rational for these people to choose as a common conception of justice? How do we choose? Well, we figure that everyone will vote self-interestedly, and they desire primary goods (money, wealth, freedom, etc.). Everyone wants to be one with more primary goods rather than less.

One proposal might be that everyone is on their own-chaos. This shouldn't be appealing to anyone. If it is, then maybe a very few very powerful might be happy in a situation like this, but the majority wouldn't, so this option should be quickly struck down by our panel of impartial judges.

>> Gee, did you come up with this stuff (immediately above and below) or did Rawls? Next time just refer me to the book so you don't waste your time writing this all out.

How about adding laws that protect property and basic rights, but no requirement to help each other? Such a system would certainly help those born fortunate, but would certainly not be good for those born less fortunate. Would a rational person vote for such a scheme? Wouldn't that be very risky? You're either very lucky or very unlucky. You might be born either way. In approaching this option, a person might start by comparing the number of fortunate people versus unfortunate people and figure out what their odds would be of being any of the given people. But what if nothing was known about how many fortunate versus unfortunate there would be?

>> It seems to me you miss the whole point of why people are born poor -- you accept it as a God given fact that can only be

>> ameliorated by the transfer of wealth, regardless of its consequences for the incentives to create that wealth in the first place

A very plausible solution here, would be that everyone would vote for the following two principles.

# The protection of rights guaranteeing equal opportunity, free speech, etc.
# A utility maximizing principle

Both 1 and 2 should sound very promising. Let's take 1 as a given, what about 2. By adding a utility maximizing principle to our conception of justice as fairness, wouldn't this increase everyone's chances of being happy? Wouldn't everyone want this?

But what utility maximizing principle would be used? Should we maximize the number of happy people or the amount of happiness? Certainly the former over the later. But wouldn't the former principle still have some people that are worse off than others? Wouldn't that choice be risky too? And wouldn't it legitimize society's abuse of a minority in order to make the majority happier? Wouldn't that be risky? Mightn't you end up as one of those minorities?

>> I think John Stuart Mills and John Rawls hashed this out awhile back. I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong.

Probably the best solution here would be to develop an egalitarian differential principle. We might agree going into this, if you are rich and I am poor, you will help me, and if I am rich and you are poor, I will help you. Wouldn't this be fair? Do we have to strive to make things perfectly equal? Certainly not. If you and I both make $10 an hour and we are offered the option to trade this in so that I will make a little more, say $12 an hour, and you will make much more, say $15 an hour, then certainly we would both make the trade.

>> Who enforces this almost Utopian ideal? Does someone snap their finger and 1 million altruistic, solar-powered police come into

>> existence to enforce these "laws" -- oh, you say I miss the point and this doesn't need to be enforced? I'm sorry, why isn't the world

>> like this already then?

In this sense then, we want to maximize both equality and utility. Some differences in equality can be justified and others cannot. My making more money than you, or my being better off than you, can only be justified if it makes you better off than you would otherwise. If my being better off makes you worse off, then this cannot be justified. So, allowing the rich to take from the poor would never be universally accepted, particularly as these impartial judges. Equality would be nice, but we would be better off if some were given more than others. It is to our benefit, that we reward entrepreneurship, because it benefits everyone. I am quite happy that it is possible for someone to make a lot of money developing new technologies because these new technologies benefit me greatly. Allowing some people to make a lot of money gives them incentive to do things that benefit the rest of us.

>> It is simple to ask for a Pareto equilibrium -- quite another to make it happen. If I recall correctly, though, seeking Pareto optimality

>> treats endowments exogenously -- again, does someone snap their finger and Mr X has N apples and Mr. Y has M oranges?

However, these disparities do need some kind of justification, and the greater the disparity, the harder it is to justify. We can think of this difference principle of a more complicated version of the maxi-min principle. The combination of principles 1 and 2, is the rational choice of a conception of justice as fairness, judged from an impartial perspective. Those that are obscenely wealthy owe, as a matter of justice as fairness, to give back to those that are less fortunate.

>> There is no such thing as impartial fairness -- you define fairness one way and I define it another way, why is your definition

>> better than mine? Because it makes you feel good about yourself all warm and cuddly inside?

>> Maybe you should spend a little less time reading books and a little more time living and working in the real world -- don't get me

>> wrong Baggaley, I whole heartedly applaud your book list -- I just don't think it can work in the real world. How many successful hippy

>> communes do you know of? I might be stone hearted but I'm not naive... on the contrary.

I always try to keep in mind the following: there are many poor who work very hard and there are those that are rich who don't work at all. The poor do not DESERVE to be poor, and the rich do not DESERVE to be rich. Of course, this is no reason to be fatalistic. I can realize this and still work hard and become rich, or richer. However, it is important, at the same time, to realize that we do have a duty to the poor and a duty to be sympathetic towards those that are suffering.

>> Wait, why don't the rich DESERVE to be rich and the poor DESERVE to be poor again? If they don't DESERVE, then nothing

>> DESERVES -- define DESERVE or deserve. Clarify this issue for me.

John

PS Before someone flames me, calling me a Communist-I wouldn't. The former is about as far from Communism and Socialism as you can get. These principles of justice, when brought into practice, bring forth a system of Democracy and fair capitalism. It is certainly possible to have a Democracy and capitalism that feels an obligation to the poor. And this sloppily written e-mail was of course not meant to be any kind of dissertation on justice, fairness, and government. It is more of a knee-jerk reaction to certain kinds of naïve poor hating bigotry that I really just can't stand.

>> Don't try to cover your ass by saying you were sloppy in writing this -- you spent a lot of time on this and it shows.... C+

Geoff's reply to John
April 6, 2000

One preliminary question: who decided that money was the only, let alone the best, indicator of happiness? Your attempt to optimize the world is doomed with wealth as the only measure of personal success. I would vote to be a dirt-poor aboriginal Hawaiian drinking fermented coconut milk on the beach before I would vote to be a multimillionaire working 18 hours a day in NYC.

>Just because there are many opportunities
>here in the United States does not mean that everyone in the United States
>is born with the capacity to achieve or even pursue those opportunities.

Equal opportunity does not imply equal outcome. Ending up on the bottom of the ladder does not entitle you to be hauled to the top by the people who worked to get there or even by the people who just happen to be there.

If some person does not have "the capacity to achieve", then why should they? It's certainly not my responsibility to make them into achievers. What ever happened to rugged individualism?

>Some of us are born lucky. Those of us that work really hard and achieve a
>lot are still very lucky despite the fact that we work very hard. Effort is
>not the only input required to achieve. It betrays naivety and stone
>heartedness to point fingers at the poor.

I agree that effort is not the only input for success, but it can make up for a whole bunch of "bad luck". It betrays naivety and stone-headedness to point fingers at fate and use that as an excuse for lack of achievement.

>If you and I both make $10 an hour and we are offered
>the option to trade this in so that I will make a little more, say $12 an
>hour, and you will make much more, say $15 an hour, then certainly we would
>both make the trade.

What about the person who employs both of you? He is now out $7/hr because you voted to take his money. Maybe that money could have been used to hire a third person who currently earns 1$. Or seven people who earn nothing at all. When they move into the office they see these two people making 10x their salary and now they want more money too.

This whole process is not a step or even a ladder; it's a treadmill. How fast and how far people run up this treadmill is completely up to them. Even people who start at the top will eventually fall off if they stand still.

The only way to eliminate the treadmill is to put everyone at ground zero and keep them there. The more you achieve, the more you need to give to everyone else. From each according to his abilities...

Despite your preemptory protestation to the contrary, lots of these ideas come straight from communist ideology.

-Geoff

John's second reply to Aaron
April 6, 2000

>> How many people do you hang out from the ghetto? You speak for all them? That's so enlightened of you to treat them like helpless

>> children who don't have the capacity or will to better themselves. I'm glad to see you are capable of jumping to conclusions and

>> passing judgment. You must have had the "white man's burden" in another life.

Now who's being condescending? I grew up in a small farming town in the San Joaquin valley, CA. We had 23% unemployment when I was in high school. While in the Peace Corps, I lived and worked with people who made less than $100 per month. My family is very modest.

What I'm talking about here is a kind of cycle. Poverty begets poverty. Some people can work themselves out of the cycle, but it helps a great deal if those from outside can provide a helping hand through education.

Would an example help? One of my best friends in High School, Nate, was a very bright kid that grew up in poverty. His parents were very nice people, and they seemed pretty happy. Now, when Nate's senior year came around, he told me that he would like to go to college, but that of course he couldn't afford $25k a year. So, he planned on going to the local junior college. He had no idea that schools provide grants and financial aid to those that are less fortunate. After all, how could he? We had a dropout rate of 34%. Of those very few that graduated and went to college, most of them went to the local junior college. Very few went to four-year schools. Many people living in the town were born and raised in the town, and many of them went to the local junior college. Naturally, there was some pressure from our peers to go to the local junior college (it was good enough for them, right? Does he think he's too good to work at Taco Bell?) Financial aid seemed like a fantasy, particularly to his parents. Could they picture a university just giving them $100k? Yeah, right!

I encouraged my friend to go away to school. I told him about financial aid opportunities. (How did I know? Because I was lucky. We weren't from that town, and my parents went to college, valued college, and they knew how things worked. I was very lucky.) Nate didn't believe me about the financial aid, but I encouraged him to apply anyway and see what would happen. Well, he went to UCSB on a full-ride scholarship.

Going to UCSB was one of the best things that ever happened to Nate. If it had not been for two factors stepping in from outside the community, myself with the information/education, and the generosity of the US Government/American people, my friend would have been another victim of the cycle.

Those that devote their lives to improving the lots of others are not trying to create a utopian society; they are just trying to help a few people like my friend Nate, escape the cycle. Their work is based upon compassion and solid philosophical principles, not empty theories. Social programs do work, and they benefit us all. We have a duty to help those that are less fortunate than ourselves. I'm not saying that we have to sell everything we have. That's altruism; I'm talking benevolence. We can make small contributions that make big impacts.

>> I don't recall a "life is fair" guarantee stamped on my ass when I was born. All I got was a smack on the ass -- maybe your doctor

That's my whole point, we aren't born equal, and LIFE isn't fair. However, WE can be fair, and we can act justly.

>> It seems to me you miss the whole point of why people are born poor -- you accept it as a God given fact that can only be

>> ameliorated by the transfer of wealth, regardless of its consequences for the incentives to create that wealth in the first place

I think you missed the point of the difference principle. The difference principle allows people to achieve great wealth, because doing so provides incentives for human achievement. Furthermore, allowing individuals to achieve great wealth is also compatible with progressive tax systems and pass-throughs. If you make $5 million and pay 20% tax and have an opportunity to work harder and make $100 million and pay 40% tax, wouldn't there be incentive for you to work harder?

>> Who enforces this almost Utopian ideal? Does someone snap their finger and 1 million altruistic, solar-powered police come into

>> existence to enforce these "laws" -- oh, you say I miss the point and this doesn't need to be enforced? I'm sorry, why isn't the world

>> like this already then?

It is already being enforced today in America by citizens like myself who vote.

>> treats endowments exogenously -- again, does someone snap their finger and Mr X has N apples and Mr. Y has M oranges?

Might as well. I had no choice over what genes I would be born with.

>> There is no such thing as impartial fairness -- you define fairness one way and I define it another way, why is your definition

Theoretically there is such a thing. The mention of impartial judges is simply a theoretical construct to develop a theory. We do this kind of thing all the time in economics, ie what would a perfectly rational person do, despite whether there is such a thing as a perfectly rational person or not, and we still apply these theories to the real world with increasing amounts of success.

None of this is empty idealism. Social programs WORK. People like my friend Nate, and even myself, benefit greatly. I am on my way to making a very nice living, the fact that I am obligated to help those less fortunate than myself, does not mean that I cannot achieve.

Cheers,

John

John's reply to Geoff
April 6, 2000

One preliminary question: who decided that money was the only, let alone the best, indicator of happiness? Your attempt to optimize the world is doomed with wealth as the only measure of personal success. I would vote to be a dirt-poor aboriginal Hawaiian drinking fermented coconut milk on the beach before I would vote to be a multimillionaire working 18 hours a day in NYC.

Sorry, I did not mean to equate happiness with money. Primary goods can include other things besides money, such as self-esteem. However, money is a big factor in providing opportunities and education. It is also easier to be happy when you aren't living in absolute poverty. I am not saying you need to be rich to be happy.

>Just because there are many opportunities
>here in the United States does not mean that everyone in the United States
>is born with the capacity to achieve or even pursue those opportunities.

Equal opportunity does not imply equal outcome. Ending up on the bottom of the ladder does not entitle you to be hauled to the top by the people who worked to get there or even by the people who just happen to be there.

If some person does not have "the capacity to achieve", then why should they? It's certainly not my responsibility to make them into achievers. What ever happened to rugged individualism?

Ok, so if someone is born with a low IQ, you should watch them suffer -- you sigh and say, "You should have been born smarter"?

>Some of us are born lucky. Those of us that work really hard and achieve a
>lot are still very lucky despite the fact that we work very hard. Effort is
>not the only input required to achieve. It betrays naivety and stone
>heartedness to point fingers at the poor.

I agree that effort is not the only input for success, but it can make up for a whole bunch of "bad luck". It betrays naivety and stone-headedness to point fingers at fate and use that as an excuse for lack of achievement.

I'm talking about blaming fate. I'm talking about helping those that [oops, I never completed my response here...]

>If you and I both make $10 an hour and we are offered
>the option to trade this in so that I will make a little more, say $12 an
>hour, and you will make much more, say $15 an hour, then certainly we would
>both make the trade.

What about the person who employs both of you? He is now out $7/hr because you voted to take his money. Maybe that money could have been used to hire a third person who currently earns 1$. Or seven people who earn nothing at all. When they move into the office they see these two people making 10x their salary and now they want more money too.

I think you are missing my point. Here is an example of what I am getting at. Say we all value egalitarianism, that is all having the same things, no one having more nor less. And let's say that everyone on the planet makes $20 an hour. Now there's this girl Jane Snow and she is very smart. She is thinking about doing some research to develop a drug that would cure nasty disease XYZ, but she would have to work very very very hard. Jane is not sure if she wants to work that hard. However, if she were offered $1 million, or fame and fortune, or something else that we don't have, then it would be very beneficial to all of us if she were offered this reward as incentive to develop the drug to cure the nasty disease XYZ. Furthermore, perhaps, after developing this drug, Jane takes her company public and does very well. Maybe this would encourage others to do likewise, and now we have a new industry of such and such sort, which hires all kinds of people, creating new jobs and opportunities, etc. So, now, Jane can have her $1 million and we all benefit from a thriving economy and make $25 an hour. Jane is justified in being wealthier than we are because her being wealthier benefited everyone down to the worst off.

This whole process is not a step or even a ladder; it's a treadmill. How fast and how far people run up this treadmill is completely up to them. Even people who start at the top will eventually fall off if they stand still.

The only way to eliminate the treadmill is to put everyone at ground zero and keep them there. The more you achieve, the more you need to give to everyone else. From each according to his abilities...

If life is like a treadmill, then we are running, and there is a limited amount of water. Some have many gallons of water, some just a glass, and some are dieing of thirst. It would be wrong of those that have exorbitant amounts of water to pour their excess water on the ground when they could easily give some of it to the others. In fact, what they should do is distribute the water evenly, and then those that could prove that if they had more water they could benefit the worst off, then they should have more water than everyone else. A capitalist free market economy with a democratic government that provides programs to help the worst off would be the most effective method of doing this.

Despite your preemptory protestation to the contrary, lots of these ideas come straight from communist ideology.

Egalitarianism is compatible with communist ideology, but the difference principle that I have been discussing certain is not! Nor is communism compatible with the primacy of equal rights, freedom of speech and expression, etc. that are also part of the justice as fairness theory.

Cheers,
John


About John W. Baggaley

Photo of John Baggaley
John W. Baggaley, 2000
A few words about the author

I was born on July 4, 1975, to a very humble family in Miami, FL. I have a younger brother and an older sister; we're each about a year and a half apart.

When I was too young to remember, we moved from Miami to the San Joaquin Valley in Central California. My family moved around some within the Valley: Fresno, Modesto, Visalia. Though my family no longer lives there, I suppose Visalia can be called home, since I lived there the longest.

When I lived there, Visalia was an ultra conservative and economically depressed small town. Visalia is straight out of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, literally--only the migrant workers are no longer from Oklahoma but Latin America.

While having grown up most of my life around farming, I wasn't too fond of it. So, when I graduated from high school, I left home to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I intended to study computer science, train in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, and eventually become a pilot in the Navy.

As is quite typical with people at that age, my interests either changed, or I discovered what my true interests were. I abandoned my aspirations for a career with the Navy after my first year and opted to study Management Science and Philosophy in place of Computer Science.

While my decision to study Management Science was calculated, my decision to pursue a second degree in Philosophy was really more of a fortunate accident.

After graduating from MIT in 1997, I joined the Peace Corps, where I served for two years as an Economic and Organizational Development Volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe. Life was very difficult and I faced many challenges. However, while not a very pleasant experience, I treasure it as one of my most valuable life lessons. I have certainly gained more from the experience than I have lost.

When I completed my Peace Corps service in the summer of 1999, I returned to Boston where I accepted a position with Braxton (formerly known as Deloitte Consulting), where I spent three years as a Consultant specializing in Customer Relationship Management.

This fall (2002), I began studying law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School. I decided that my interests lie outside of consulting. I am hoping that law will provide me with the opportunity for intellectual challenge that I enjoy with philosophy and for social activism that I enjoyed while in the Peace Corps.

In my spare time, I read and write. I enjoy listening to jazz, classical, and electronica. When I have the opportunity, I run or practice aikido. I also have a fondness for clubbing--perhaps reminiscent of my time in Europe.

Please feel free to write me. I appreciate any constructive comments you might have about my writing.

John Baggaley





When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."

December 10, 2004: This Week's Top Stories December 10, 2004: This Week's Top Stories
Dodd says Rumsfeld's answer was unacceptable 9 Dec
RPCV Blake Willeford runs classic movie theatre 9 Dec
RPCV says education is key to curbing AIDS 9 Dec
RPCV Dannielle Tegeder opens exhibition 9 Dec
Shalala 1st Woman In Touchdown Club 9 Dec
"Today we have a new country" says Toledo 9 Dec
DDN wins Investigative Reporting Award 8 Dec
Celeste on Panel to study Colorado finances 8 Dec
RPCV leads Rotary Club medical team to Togo 6 Dec
Vasquez to speak at Hawaii, Wisconsin commencements 6 Dec
Tom Murphy warns Pittsburgh on budget abyss 2 Dec
Venezuela RPCV Martha Egan runs Pachamama imports 30 Nov
more top stories...

RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.
Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes Vote "Yes" on NPCA's bylaw changes
Take our new poll. NPCA members begin voting this week on bylaw changes to streamline NPCA's Board of Directors. NPCA Chair Ken Hill, the President's Forum and other RPCVs endorse the changes. Mail in your ballot or vote online (after Dec 1), then see on how RPCVs are voting.
Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying Charges possible in 1976 PCV slaying
Congressman Norm Dicks has asked the U.S. attorney in Seattle to consider pursuing charges against Dennis Priven, the man accused of killing Peace Corps Volunteer Deborah Gardner on the South Pacific island of Tonga 28 years ago. Background on this story here and here.
Your vote makes a difference Your vote makes a difference
Make a difference on November 2 - Vote. Then take our RPCV exit poll. See how RPCV's are voting and take a look at the RPCV voter demographic. Finally leave a message on why you voted for John Kerry or for George Bush. Previous poll results here.

Read the stories and leave your comments.






Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Salon

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Moldova

PCOL13388
79

.


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: