Moral Responsibility and the Poor
Two central dogmas of contemporary liberalism are that the rich are to be blamed for all our ills and that in the end all people are the same and no one is more or less worthy than anyone else. Blaming those who are not so well off as others is unjust because they are not well enough socialized to be ambitious and diligent.
At the same time, those who are well off get a lot of moral criticism for failing to be generous, kind, charitable or giving. Indeed, they are so bad that they need to have their wealth reduced by way of heavy taxation – not just the familiar progressive kind but whatever else the politicians and bureaucrats with this line of thinking can manage to extort from them. (Remember, taxation is extortion. It is the legacy of the feudal era, the kin of serfdom.)
Not only that but even those who stand up defending the wealthy are morally guilty, deserving of scorn and contempt, not civilized discourse about the matter. I know this quite well since I have been standing up against extortion for decades now. For me it isn't a matter of whether the wealthy deserve their wealth – I don't know the bulk of them so I cannot tell – but whether anyone is justified in doing such extortion. (I may not deserve my good health or pretty face but this doesn't justify anyone levying a tax on it!)
The liberal attitude about morality stems, in part, from widespread scientism, the view that science has invalidated morality, made it something bogus like astronomy has made astrology bogus. Extrapolating the empirical scientific method to everything else of interest to human beings achieves this distortion.
Everything is not subject to the experimental method – for example, whether faking research is ethical isn't. And this is the beginning of the confusion and obfuscation – those who are championing the abolition of morality are just as morally ticked off with those who distort their ideas as anyone else is with bad conduct. They become moralists, all of a sudden, never mind that no natural science can show there is anything amiss with faking research, with distorting anyone's views, etc.
So from the git-go the effort to abolish the moral perspective fails. But what then about denying to those not so well off a moral criticism? Is it right to hold that the poor or disadvantaged cannot be held morally responsible?
That would be rank dehumanization. These folks are not invalids or infants but full human beings who for whatever reason lack substantial wealth. But that doesn't mean they could not be guilty of acting irresponsibly. All bona fide human beings are subject to moral assessment, usually by those who know them well but when the conduct is evident to us all, to anyone aware of how they are acting. It doesn't take intimate knowledge of a terrorist to know that what he or she is doing is contemptible. Or of a child molester or cheat.
In the realm of economics, also, that some people refuse to make the effort to lift themselves out of poverty is quite subject to criticism. Or that despite being poor, they keep producing children they cannot care for and then dump them on the rest of society as if others were the parents.
But if all this is true, then all this blaming the rich needs to be seriously reconsidered. Maybe the rich – or at least most of them – are the good guys, having worked hard or deployed their skills and talents wisely so they'd end up well enabled to carry on in their lives.
And all this also implies that the public policy debate about who is to be held responsible for housing bubbles, becoming debt ridden and unemployed and such needs some serious revision. Instead of penalizing the rich, perhaps most of them ought to be praised and held up as models for the rest of us. And the poor ought not to be let off so easy when they come under scrutiny. As Herbert Spencer observed:
"Sympathy with one in suffering suppresses, for the time being, remembrance of his transgressions....Those whose hardships are set forth in pamphlets and proclamations in sermons and speeches which echo throughout society, are assumed to be all worthy souls, grievously wronged; and none of them are thought of as bearing the penalties of their own misdeeds." (Man versus the State, p.22)
Posted by Melissa@coloradoprocessservers.net on 09/08/11 01:32 AM
I think that all of these problems stem from the disconnect between forced-collectivism and individual liberty - the primary notion that we should own our own lives, and not be owned by the collective.
Author and Founder of "The Planetary Bill of Rights Project".
Posted by Summer on 09/07/11 05:26 PM
Wealthy people are fortunate/blessed in that specific sphere (for whatever reason - talent, wealth, family etc). A poor man may be far more honest, sincere and moral - they may blessed in an equally valid or better way.
Simply, the fortunate should empathise with those who are not. Tomorrow it may be them holding out an empty begging bowl.
Posted by Summer on 09/07/11 05:12 PM
"(I may not deserve my good health or pretty face but this doesn't justify anyone levying a tax on it!)"
Posted by haha on 09/07/11 11:54 AM
Hi Tibor/ DB,
Can either of you please address the following editorial "Will belief trump facts?" The empiricist dogma needs some debunking
Click to view link
Posted by rossbcan on 09/07/11 10:59 AM
TM: "Moral Responsibility and the Poor"
I will answer this question.
The "poor" have, like the rest of us, a non-negotiable survival imperative and, as a consequence, a moral responsibility to care for themselves to the degree they are able.
The only moral responsibility anyone else has towards others (apart from their children, dependents until adulthood) is to insure that:
"None are tolerated to be predator, nor, prey".
This is also prudent social self-defense because, when people are not allowed to survive or are preyed upon, they must react in self-defense, imposing costs in their sphere of existence.
Then, the "poor" have the choice: Honestly trade and contribute to civilization OR choose not to and perish OR, be criminal and be dealt with by their victims or law acting in social self-defense. In other words, what happens to the poor is completely up to them. They choose their own fate, as does everyone, which is just.
It is also socially prudent to voluntarily provide objective education and opportunity to improve for the young and poor, the eternal "teach a man to fish" and make them self-sufficient TRUTH.
In other words, provide a general "freedom to choose" social / economic environment, for all. Then, none can whine "unfair", empowering coercive power by pretexts of faux "help". All of this can be (and once was) provided by the free market and voluntary charity.
As to the physically and mentally disabled. Let them do whatever they are capable of, augmented by voluntary charity as it once was.
Without "freedom to choose", not only are the unfortunate doomed, but, so are we all:
Click to view link
Posted by WorkingClass on 09/07/11 10:27 AM
Is the ruling class morally superior to the rabble? Are crooked bankers morally superior to looters? Of course not. Class is not a reliable signifier of character or morality. And don't worry about the poor being "let off so easy". Being poor is not easy. And the looters go to prison. The crooked bankers do not.
Posted by rossbcan on 09/07/11 09:18 AM
... with a bit of a mind flip, you're into the time slip.
... and NOTHING can ever be the same - Rocky Horror
Nazis, licking their wounds:
Psychopath A: We really pooched it, demonizing identifiable groups and invoking the final solution of genocide. It works in the short term, to gain control of the apparatus of state, but is long term unsustainable. The public are basically peace loving and, once they see organized murder and the arrogance of the unfettered power we crave, they want no part of it and, when we push, we lose "terror of the governed" and our power base evaporates. Oh woe, what to do?
Psychopath B: Yes, clearly, people do not want any part of extermination, mass murder, or for that matter to be placed in servitude, at least, not without getting "a perceived cut".
Psychopath A: And yet, we NEED power. We cannot exist by honest trade, we are predators and add no value.
Psychopath B: We need to find some means of vastly profitable dishonest trade that provides the illusion of being morally sound and, simultaneously, provides a minor cut to achieve "appeasement of the governed"
Psychopath C (silent thinker): You have defined the problem and, solutions are implied by problems. Let's do this:
a - Use the pretext of "helping" the unfortunate (as opposed to harming demonized groups) to get lucrative "helping" commissions and disburse the appeasement cut. This requires the productive be enslaved and aggressed against, since, where else can the resources and power we crave come from?
b - This makes the unfortunate (unproductive) dependent on our largess, a small "cut". When the SHTF, we do not have to overtly flex tyrannical power which results in overt opposition against us. Our dependent slaves will deal with our enemies for us. Any atrocities "necessary" will be for motherhood and apple pie pretexts of "helping the unfortunate".
c - By generally aggressing against the productive, it cannot be plausibly claimed we are out to destroy any particular racial, ethnic nor religious group. The productive are easy prey because the lazy and slothful are already of the opinion that they are being ripped off by the productive whose efforts yield the prosperity we all crave but, definitely do not want to work for. Work is for fools.
Psychopath A: We basically lost because we acted in opposition to the equality of treatment provisions of the "rule of law", by decreeing our prey subhuman. What about the law and the "rule of law"?
Click to view link
Psychopath C: Fool. We cut them in. This will create a lot of conflict, their and our bread and butter. The law and we are natural allies. We both take what we want and point guns at dissenters. There are enough fools and trusting prey for all.
Psychopaths A,B: Brilliant!!! Where do we start?
The rest, as they say, is history...
Morality defined: Not causing harm, voluntarily helping, if you can.
Justice Defined: We are all free to profit or suffer and learn (adapt to excellence) by facing the consequences of our OWN choices. Injustice is to be forced to suffer the consequences of choices of unaccountable (irresponsible) others..
"The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. The law of liberty tends to abolish the reign of race over race, of faith over faith, of class over class." ~ Lord Acton