Monday, October 4, 2010

Social Rights v. Economic Rights

I had a very long debate about social rights and economic rights. It involved a philosophical debate about whether social rights--such as being able to call your relationship a "marriage"--and economic rights--such as a job--are equally important.

Me: I got a very smart liberal Democrat to say that letting a child die was the same thing as denying gay couples the right to call their union a "marriage." I asked him, "If you had to choose between a job and feeding your kids (economic rights) and gay marriage (social rights), does one trump the other?" He said they were equally important--even after I explained that one scenario would cause a child to die.

For many so-called liberals, human beings and property rights are mere obstacles to their version of a more fair and just society.

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficial. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasions of their liberty--by evil-minded rulers. The greater dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." -- Justice Louis Brandeis

Alicia: Everyone thinks they're right.

Me: except that the point of being a true conservative or classic liberal is that you cannot trample someone else's property rights or right-to-life to get a desired result (assuming the person has achieved his property legally and you are not acting in self-defense).

Ivie: your analogy is flawed!

Me: flawed how? I understand that the choice offered is not ideal, and in an ideal world, we should have both social and economic rights; however, this is a philosophical exercise. The whole point of a philosophical exercise is to present tough choices to determine a person's values.

Alicia: What are the rates of child deaths by hunger in the United States? Would job creation really stop the problem of hunger in the US? Would the same children at risk of dying of hunger before jobs are created still be at risk after job are created? Is the issue of hunger in the US more important than it is in other countries? Does the severity of the issue in developing nations make it more pressing to deal with the problem there, first?

Me: you are injecting several other factors into the question, which was originally intended to force someone to choose between two clearly defined choices that involve different values.

Alicia: Life doesn't work like that, though. What's the point in having to pick between two clearly defined choices when that's never the case?

Me: to determine someone's value system and to determine a baseline to analyze more complex issues. We live in an imperfect world, and sometimes we must choose between two imperfect or non-ideal scenarios.

Alicia: There's this exercise we do a lot with the group I work with where you figure out what element (Thai people use animals) you are. I still haven't decided what I think of the activity, but it kind of seems like you just end up putting yourself in a box. I'm not sure if I agree with activities that involve strict yes or no, you are this or you aren't. I think analyzing more complex issues would give you a pretty good baseline, too.

Me: think about Kant and the categorical imperative. You have to analyze different situations and tough either/or scenarios to arrive at a consistent baseline.

Alicia: Why is there a need to come to a consistent baseline? Why do I have to always think that one thing is better than the other? Why wouldn't someone be able to call themselves a liberal without subscribing to all its ideologies? What's the measure of what's right and wrong? Is there anything that's truly good or bad, true or false? I think there's a big difference between sitting around and intellectualizing things and real life. You can consistently hold opinions that point to non violence and an aversion to killing, but if it comes down to a real life situation where you might have to kill someone (for whatever reason), then who really knows what you'd do. The Milgram experiment shows that what people think they'd do, want to do is different than what they'd actually do.

Just as not having a job MIGHT end in the death of a child, not helping to promote inclusion through policies like allowing gay marriage MIGHT end in death as well.

Me: except that your two scenarios are not at all similar, and therefore you miss the point of my original question. If you do not have a job, you cannot earn a living, and you cannot typically feed your child. It is true that perhaps welfare will allow your child to survive, but some countries lack welfare programs and food stamps. To determine a universal set of values, you cannot require that your child will be born in a first world country, b/c you would be imposing a random, lucky element in a discussion about universal values.

Once you apply Rawls' "veil of ignorance," and agree that you cannot predict whether you will be in California or Uganda, the possibility of welfare and other avenues of survival become less certain. But whether in CA or Uganda, someone with a job and source of income has a much higher (tho not 100%) chance of improving his/her child's chances of survival. It should be obvious that jobs require money and money requires goods, and goods involve food, etc. In other words, the existence of jobs requires a minimum level of infrastructure, and once you admit the existence of infrastructure, jobs have a direct value on survival.

At the same time, one can easily argue that gay marriage, whether in California or Uganda, will have little impact on being able to feed a child. This is b/c whether in California or Uganda, one does not have to be married to a man or a woman to feed a child. Thus, the presence or absence of gay or heterosexual marriage is irrelevant when it comes to feeding a child in California or Uganda. In contrast, a job presumes infrastructure and certainly improves the chances of buying food, whether in CA or Uganda.

Therefore, the situations are obviously different, and the attempt to make them appear similar is incorrect. Social values tend to be emphasized by rich, affluent people (if you are American, you are richer than 99% of the world). Poor people care about survival, not social values. If you want more social values, you have to give people jobs first, and the social values follow. In short, economic values are a good indicator of social values, and I believe that economic values are the foundation for social values--and not the other way around.

That is the point of the question: to test whether someone believes that gay marriage, by itself and in the abstract, creates stability and infrastructure--which of course it does not. In contrast, a job and money require certain basic infrastructure. Assuming basic infrastructure, a person with a job has a directly improved chance of improving his progeny's survival, whereas the abstract value of (gay) marriage is an idea that bears no direct relationship to survival or childbearing. In fact, once you realize marriage itself--whether hetero or gay--has little direct bearing on a child's survival, it is easy to see that economic values are more important than social values.

Maris: Wow. As a liberal parent, even I have to say there is definitely a hierarchy in democratic causes. Geesh.

Me: Maris, you have (indirectly) hit the nail on the head. I have found that the main difference on various issues is the presence of children. People with kids tend to have more common sense on these issues, perhaps because they must think about the future. My hypothesis is that the greatest danger to civilization is childless humans, b/c to them, it is easier to see society as a vehicle for advancing social causes instead of a unique, fragile infrastructure.

Maris: Perhaps it's the job. It's pounded into us "life over property" over and over and over again. By chance does this friend have kids?

Me: all the people in the room who said that social values were equal to economic values were child-less. The two people who had children did not answer my question.

Alicia: I think if you're going to answer this question straight, the only way to answer it is in terms of the United States. The policies of different countries are far too different to be able to compare them. The topic of gay marriage in the U.S. is far different than in Uganda. I don't think you can say that because looking at economic needs in Uganda is more important, that the same could be said in the US. There are different priorities and different needs. It would be like looking at a school in a impoverished area and one in a rich area and saying that because the poor school needs computers, so does the rich school.

Also, I think that a child's survival does have something to do with marriage. By furthering the cause of gay marriage, then you're indirectly furthering the cause of gay adoption, allowing children access to home and survival they might not have had otherwise. By putting children into loving homes, you're helping to end the cycle of poverty that would end up putting more children in danger of starvation.

But, that's not to say I think that one is more important than the other. It's to say that different situations deserve different thought, and that, for me, the situation can't be clean cut. There are a million different ways to look at that question, and I personally wouldn't want to look at it terms of only have one right answer.

I also think that it's not so much about having children as it is about looking outside of yourself. I think having children helps people to realize the need to protect more than themselves. However, I think it's just as bad to think about just your family as it is to think about yourself. Never said it wasn't understandable, but shouldn't be the goal.

Me: as far as I know, you don't need to be married to adopt in California. See California Family Code 297.5.

Also, I will accept your "American" restriction. Please answer the following question: an American adult is malnourished. Which is more important to him? Gay marriage or a job that will allow him to make money and buy food? (Economic infrastructure that allows him to get food from welfare programs, or the abstract right to get married as a gay or straight person?)

Alicia: But, it's not legal for gay couples to adopt children in all US states. The question wasn't asked in terms of California.

And, of course, to someone directly affected by poverty, their most important issue is going to be getting food. But that doesn't mean that gay marriage issues aren't valid in their own right. The point I'm trying to make is that both issues are valid. And in certain instances, they both take a more important role. I don't believe that one is always more correct than the other.

I think more important than economic or social reform is educational reform, as it has an effect on all areas of society. By improving education, you're not only creating a less impoverished society, but one that is more willing to accept all types of lifestyles.

Me: you said, "And, of course, to someone directly affected by poverty, their most important issue is going to be getting food."

I was getting worried there :-) Of course in an ideal world, we want both social and economic rights--but no one in their right mind thinks that economic rights are the same as social rights in every instance. Even though it took about ten tries, you've passed the test of common sense, and you don't even have any kids :-)

And I agree with you re: educational reform, but that's a topic for another time.

Me: 1. Who voted for Prop 8? Most affluent Bay Area DINKs, or most poorer Central Valley folks?

2. Who cares more about gay marriage? Affluent Swedes (who have wonderful infrastructure) or members of the Taliban (who are located in areas without economic infrastructure)?

3. Please cite a single place without economic infrastructure and/or affluence that has advanced or supported gay rights.

4. Whom amongst you is willing to say that a poor Somali or American who lacks food believes that jobs and economic infrastructure are equal in importance to the idea of gay marriage?

Patrick: ‎"this is a philosophical exercise. The whole point of a philosophical exercise is to present tough choices to determine a person's values."

So is the question, "would you rather be burned alive, or frozen in a block of ice?" a philosophical question?

Why would I have to make this choice? Why must a child die in order that same sex couples might wed?

The only scenario in which this sequence might come true is a terrorist's demand: Criminalize same sex marriage, or this child gets in the head. In that event, my choice would be for a SWAT team to shoot the terrorist in the head.

Me: except that both your scenarios involve death--a tangible, real thing with the same end result. As a result, there is no real choice. In contrast, my question involves a real choice between an abstract right vs. a tangible right.

By setting up a question that involves two tangible results that are exactly the same, you've missed the whole point of the question--to differentiate between tangible rights leading to a better economic position, and abstract rights leading perhaps nowhere.

Patrick: Your point's ridiculous. But to play your game, suppose the Ku Klux Klan announced that if America does not return to segregation and Jim Crow, the Klan will hijack multiple airliners and fly them into the Empire State Building and the Washington Monument. So we must choose between loss of intangible rights and loss of tangible rights, according to the Klan.

My response would be that this is a stupid choice. Arrest the Klan.

And WHY would rejecting Proposition 8 kill a child?

Peter: I think the laws pertaining to the death of children are pretty well hammered out, whilst the laws pertaining to gay marriage are not, hence the unequal amount of attention one gets over the other. I'm not sure exactly what basis you are using to equate the two things, except that there are laws which oversee them.

Me: @Patrick and @Peter: you've missed the entire point of the exercise. Let's try again.

My scenario involves an attempt to differentiate between economic rights and social rights. We are attempting to gauge the value of a job, which leads to money and increased chances of survival vs. the abstract value of having two men or women get married. It is obvious that almost anywhere in America or elsewhere, a single person who is unmarried has similar chances of survival than a married couple (whether gay or straight). It is also obvious that marriage has little direct relevance on survival, b/c in most places, someone need not get married to have a job or to survive, even if it means stealing food.

It is also obvious that assuming basic infrastructure, having a job has direct relevance on a person's survival. Namely, a person with a job or money (tangible goods) has an increased chance of attaining food and shelter when compared to someone without a job or money.

It therefore follows that in almost all instances, someone who had to choose between a job and money vs. marriage (whether gay or straight) would rationally choose a job and money if survival were at issue.

Again, my scenario sets up a contrast between economic rights impacting survival and non-economic rights that may or may not have any impact on a person's survival. If you want to create an analogy, you must stay within those guidelines.

Your example fails to set up a situation similar to mine. Instead, you have created a situation where someone must choose between death and segregation--both of which involve tangible property/economic rights. The reason segregation was immoral and harmful to Africans wasn't because of some abstract idea--it was because segregation and Jim Crow prevented Africans from gaining the same property rights, police protection, and economic rights as white Americans. So your example compares two economic rights, one direct (right to life) and one indirect (property rights). It is not similar to my scenario and is therefore inapplicable to this discussion.

Alicia: Also, you're making the assumption that economic reform would lead to positive change. And I'm sure there were plenty of people who questioned whether the social reform of the 1910s and 60s would make a change, but I'm pretty happy that happened.

Me: Last time I checked, we were relatively affluent in the 1960's. Also, b/c we didn't have to worry about fulfilling our basic survival needs, we were able to focus on improving social ideals and social values. Which proves my point: economic values and affluence typically precede broader social values and acceptance.

Think about it: how willing were most Americans pre-WWII to accept broader social values and change? Why do Americans, even today, go anti-immigrant whenever there's a recession? Why are more affluent areas in America more open to immigrants and diverse lifestyles than poorer areas?

Me: @Patrick: there's another issue you've missing: most Americans today don't care much about marriage as they used to. Therefore, a married person, whether gay or straight, has little advantage over an unmarried person in modern-day America. Which, of course, makes your refusal to see the difference between a job--necessary for survival and basic needs--and marriage--unnecessary for survival and basic needs--very, very troubling.

In the old days, segregation caused serious problems economically and also psychologically, because de jure segregation makes the side imposing segregation superior to the side subject to segregation. This superiority manifests itself in substantive, tangible ways that restrict economic rights.

If we were arguing about whether gay people had to attend separate schools, work in limited professions, buy houses only in specific neighborhoods, etc. this would be a completely different conversation. But we're not--we are discussing an abstract right that may have no economic impact on a person during the time he or she is alive. If you don't believe me, go outside and see if it makes any difference whether you wear your marriage ring or do not wear your marriage ring.

It should be obvious that the failure to allow (gay) marriage--which doesn't restrict most people from basic survival or a high quality of life--and the active imposition of segregation--which does harm a person's chances of affluence and a high quality of life--are completely different.

(P.S. By using scenarios that involve two economic rights rather than one abstract social right and one economic right, you implicitly accept that I am correct. In other words, you cannot even pose a question similar to mine without imposing scenarios that involve two economic rights. Therefore, you intuitively understand that a social right is worth less than an economic right...which is the entire point of this discussion.)

Peter: Well, there's a lot of ways you can look at this, but my view is pretty simple.

If you look at a married couple as an economic unit, then compare the survivability of the two people working together vs. the one person working by themselves, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a situation in which the single person has an advantage.

That being the case, and all child rearing being equal (which in reality it is of course not, but this is a thought exercise), then it would seem obvious that the couple would create a higher chance for survival of children, regardless of sex or orientation, hence a relation between economic and social rights.

Now, lets look at the other side of things. What would be the benefit, economically, of disallowing marriage between an arbitrary set of two people, based on any criteria which would exclude some portion of the population? If someone can answer that, then please do, as I cannot.

So, lets apply these values to your scenario: 1) Jobs lead to survival; 2) Gay marriage leads to social freedom. I come out with: two people with two jobs have a better chance of survival than one person with one job, and any person reliant on those people's survival will therefore have a greater chance of survival if they rely on two people rather than one.

By that reasoning, allowing any two people to get married and rear a child increases the survival rate of children, so it would seem that convincing multiple people to work as a single economic production unit has more economic benefit than denying certain people from forming such units.

I think this pretty creates a link, at least in this instance, between social liberty and economic viability.

Me: I was waiting for someone to link marriage to economic values. By creating the link, we are no longer comparing an abstract right vs. an economic right--we are comparing two economic rights.

I agree that marriage's value is only relevant to this discussion if it is linked to economic gain or loss. No sane person would equally compare an economic right to an abstract social right. You've now proved my point: abstract social rights are worth less than economic/tangible rights. Thus, in California, which already guarantees substantive equal rights to gay couples (see Family Code above) to the greatest extent possible, economic rights take precedence over abstract social rights. Remember this discussion if some misinformed person tells you s/he's voting for Candidate A over Candidate B for a California state office based on the right to gay marriage in California.

The only rational argument for social rights being equal to economic rights is if those social rights impact property rights or the right to life. That was my whole point. Why did it take this long to get here?

Tahir: Who cares more about cartoons of Mohammed published in Denmark? Affluent Swedes (who have wonderful infrastructure) or members of the Taliban (who are located in areas without economic infrastructure)? In fact, wasn't the Taliban the ones who squandered time and resources on shelling ancient statues documenting that at least some of their ancestors were Buddhists? Why weren't those shells sold in exchange for food?

Me: you've sort of helped prove my point--by disrespecting all property rights (such as the statutes they destroyed, as well as women's property rights), the Taliban demonstrates that destitute people tend not to care about social rights or economic rights. In other words, the Taliban is willing to destroy everything opposed to them, whether abstract or tangible, because their lack of an economic or social infrastructure allows them to be completely destructive without having to suffer any negative consequences. Inject religion into it, which has allowed them to make their right to life abstract, and they now have nothing to lose. The Taliban has no respect for economic or social rights, and part of their savagery is based on having no infrastructure or tangible rights, period.

The reason tangible rights mean more than abstract rights is b/c tangible economic rights give people something to lose. People with something to lose tend to care more about social rights that help preserve their property.

Tahir: Well no, the Taliban justified the action on the basis of a social right, furthering their particular set of religious beliefs despite their economic destitution.

Me: I disagree. The so-called "social rights" advanced by the Taliban involve destruction of everyone else's property and social rights. I don't think any reasonable person would argue that the right to destroy everything is a social right. That's sort of the point--the reason economic rights are superior to abstract social rights is b/c people with something tangible to lose tend to create more affluent and open societies than people with nothing tangible to lose. The basis for civilization is property and tangible economic rights, not abstract rights divorced from economic rights.

Tahir: So-called to you, established to them. You need to back up the distinction with universally applicable reasoning rather than an abstract plea of what a "reasonable person" would argue. And the Taliban certainly do not believe in destroying any one else's social rights any more than those who want to deny gay marriage to others. Where is the distinction between the two?

The starting point of a civil society is a respect for individual liberty limited to the extent it unreasonably interferes with another's liberty to arrange their social and economic affairs as they see fit.

Defining "unreasonable" is where us lawyers come in. And of course, if your "choice" is to have real world relevance, I would expect some reference to child deaths in Massachusetts that are linked to gay marriage in that state. One argument at a time no doubt.

Me: You said, "And the Taliban certainly do not believe in destroying any one else's social rights any more than those who want to deny gay marriage to others. Where is the distinction between the two?"

You're comparing people who voted for Prop 8 [to deny gay marriage] with the Taliban? You lose automatically.

Tahir: you've abandoned argument for conclusory statements. Do better and show me the steps of your reasoning.

Me: I already did explain my reasoning. The Taliban believe in nothing, and to them, even life is abstract. The Taliban show what happens when people deem abstract values the same as tangible economic values, namely, total destruction. This is b/c abstract values--when divorced from tangible economic consequences--are of course subjective. Once something is subjective, there is no basis for objective protection of tangible property rights. In contrast, a society that values tangible property rights over abstract social rights creates the necessary framework for social values.

Tahir: No, the Taliban do not "believe in nothing' and they certainly for a time created a framework for their social values (and you and I find common ground on disagreeing with those social values). Take time to think. This statement is a non-sequitur: "Once something is subjective, there is no basis for objective protection of tangible property rights." Consider instead that the absence of gay marriage bars gays from adding their partners to their health insurance. Are you trying to say that the denial of marriage to some on the basis of a subjective decision that one pair of humans should be able to cover each other on their health insurance and another pair of humans should not is a denial of a tangible economic benefit? Careful where your reasoning takes you.

Me: you just linked economic rights to social rights. That's my whole point. Social rights, in the abstract and divorced from economic rights, are inferior to tangible economic rights.

My statement re: social rights being subjective meant that social rights, in the abstract, are subjective. Which they are, of course. It is only by linking them to economic rights do they gain tangible form and equal priority with economic rights.

Tahir: Tangible economic rights are certainly of more consequence in the real world, but then I take it that if I put to you the question you posed to your smart liberal friend and explained to you in turn that the denial of gay marriage would kill another human being who could not thereby obtain employer-provided health insurance through his/her spouse that you would agree the two situations you posit are equivalent?

Me: now we're getting somewhere. First, in California, your scenario is void and inapplicable because of Family Code 297.5. But let's pretend we are in Wyoming. In that case, your analogy still isn't applicable, because American hospitals are legally required to treat everyone, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. But let's keep going, because you're onto something here.

If you could show that the failure to obtain health insurance would definitely lead to a person's death in Wyoming, then yes, we are comparing two deaths, which implicates two economic rights. Consequently, the two situations would be equivalent. But for reasons stated above, your example doesn't apply in the United States. And if you notice, the issue, as you've now drafted it, isn't about marriage per se or the ability to call a couple "married," but the availability of health insurance to all persons--an economic issue.

You've merely linked a social right--marriage in some states--to the right to receive privately-subsidized health care. Now that we have universal health care, it's also unclear whether your analogy applies, but I do not want to be too uncharitable, b/c you have implicated an equivalent economic right--the right to life--and in doing so, have proved my point: that abstract social rights, without being linked to economic rights, are inferior to economic rights. How many times must we go around the same mulberry bush? :-)

Peter: I was only speaking to this particular scenario, in which there is a clear link between a social and economic function. I certainly would not use the same reasoning if this were two other arbitrary issues, one purely social, the other purely economic. It seems to me that society and economy are very strongly linked, especially if you consider food production to be relevant to the economy. I think from a governance perspective that you can make laws to govern economy quite easily, where laws which govern social behavior with no seeming direct impact on economy should be handled with much greater care, or in other words, there should be less of them.

This does not in any way confer a graded value system on either social or economic rights, simply on my faith in the legal system to govern those rights and ensure equality. It's easy to split a dollar in half, not so much a human.

So, I believe I can be consistent with my views on economic rights, and my views on social rights by saying there should never have been a law made which limited anyone's right to be "married" or to call it whatever they want, nor should any entity have a right to discriminate against those who are married, unless the marriage in some way impedes the rights of the entity. In other words, there should be no difference between any marriage anywhere as it applies to the state, the federal government, or any private entity operating within those boundaries. There should also be no law forcing people to accept that what they call marriage and what someone else calls marriage may not agree.

Basically, at home you can yell whatever you want at your four walls, but when you go outside of your home you have to accept that everyone has the same rights.

Alicia: I think it's definitely more of an issue than just "the right to call a relationship a marriage." There's a reason that people don't want gay marriage to be legal. It's not arbitrary. By not allowing gay people to get married, you're telling an entire group of people that they aren't allowed to do something that other people are allowed to do. If you subscribe to the belief that homosexuality isn't a choice (as I do), then it's like saying blond people can't get married. Even if you believe it's a choice and think it's immoral, it would be like saying that anyone outside of your religion couldn't get married. How do you think people would react if suddenly everyone decided Muslim people couldn't have a valid marriage in the United States?

I don't think anyone would disagree that economic issues are important. I think everyone one is trying to say that economic AND social issues are important. That you can't just abandon social reform because there are situations in which the need for economic reform might be more dire. It's not "this or that"--it's everything.

One of my favorite Buddhist ideas asks the question: What do you see when you look at a piece of paper? Buddhist belief says that it's not just a piece of paper. It's the sky, the rain, the tree, the ground, the people who cultivated it. It's everything, because everything in our world is interconnected in some way. Nothing is ever just one thing.

Me: First, please keep in mind I've already said that both social and economic rights are important. Second, we live in an imperfect world that can force us to make decisions between two inflexible scenarios, and sometimes neither scenario is ideal.

The question is what do we do when we must choose between two imperfect candidates? If Politician A has better economic ideas than Politician B, but Politician A is against gay marriage, for whom should you vote? Obviously, there are other issues besides economics and gay marriage, but we can characterize most issues as either economic or social.

My argument is that in an imperfect world--i.e., until we get a mainstream candidate who is fiscally conservative and socially liberal--we must give precedence to economic rights. In other words, when forced into a box with imperfect options, one must give precedence to economic issues, not social issues. I've shown that economic rights are superior to social rights if one must make a choice between them. Of course, whether Candidate A does indeed have superior economic ideas than Candidate B is an entirely different discussion, but it is the discussion we ought to be having.

Jon: The question itself is not designed to spur debate or evaluate the relative merits of each position on the topic you supposedly wanted to address. It's a set up so that no matter the answer, you can declare victory. Hence the only way to have a chance in the debate, logically, is to change the rules by forcing a new question so there can be real debate. Now if you had asked something like:

You are a California senator and you are late for two votes on which yours is the deciding factor, but you only have time to cast one. A bill that will cap government spending equal to inflation thus curbing tax increases, or one that will overturn prop 8 and allow gay marriage, which do you vote for thus ensuring it passes?

This is open for real debate, real support of your position etc. As neither choice is clearly right, but one is economic and one is social, it's actually a test of which you would choose.

Getting someone to admit they would rather save a baby than allow gays to marry says nothing about economic or social values, it says they aren't a psychopath.

kudos on coming up with an interesting question/scenario. The point of our discussion is that the Senator should vote for or against the economic issue b/c it takes precedence over the social issue. (I actually have no problem with gay marriage, but I'm troubled by the idea of letting a court overrule the initiative process unless fundamental rights are involved. Hence, the dilemma in California, where we have FC 297.5.)
Sometimes, you are stuck with two imperfect scenarios and you have to make a choice. The issue is how we choose between two imperfect scenarios, which is similar to voting for GOP or Dem candidates, neither of whom are perfect.

So one benchmark is whether we go by social rights or economic rights. Are they equivalent, or is one superior to the other? The point of this discussion is that economic rights should trump social rights in a head-to-head collision b/c economic rights are the foundation for most social rights.


Alison said...

In psychology terms, your argument boils down to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Basic economic need is survival such as putting food on the table is your base line of safety needs thus takes precedent. If basic needs aren't fulfilled, then nothing can be built upon.

Gay marriage falls higher up the triangle, the theory as to where about will differ from person to person. Some will even place elements on the bottom line; contentious, yes. Sometimes not being able to express love hurts too much (people sometimes end up dying).

I'm going off on a tangent, because this is making me think. Is economics is the absolute base line for 'safety'? I'm thinking about how societies or law has evolved, take Moses and 'thou shalt not kill'. That proclaimation is an element of pushing safety into a society, and without that economics cannot exist. Sure economics stops people from killing each other (that's why we have the EU), but what about how society evolved *before* people experienced trade and killing your customer was bad for business?

I find it difficult to buy into the argument that economics is an absolute bottom line, and has to sit on top something (i.e. conscience, which I know varies from person to person). Economics applies rational calculations of self interest, so if everyone just adapted pure economic thinking they would just take what is the best deal for them. Why not endure the odd parking fine and risk putting your car in the disabled parking space (or handicapped space, to use US terminology), since it would be cheaper? Why isn't North Korea the ideal state?

Zed said...

Alison, let me guess...

You're white, under the age of 40 and have lived in urban environs all your life. You have a college degree from a state school, where you studied almost exclusively, and majored in, the social sciences. You either work for the government or a non-profit/NGO.

You firmly believe 'the wealthy' could buy life, liberty and happiness for the world if they were not so cold hearted and greedy. You've probably never been in a discussion about economic OR social issues in which you did not invoke the "If-Everyone-Would-Just..." argument.

Try this thought experiment: The EU collapses in a daisy chain starting with Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc. falling into national bankruptcy. The US soon follows, pulling the rest of the world with it. Having no market for its goods and holding trillions in worthless American and EU paper, China closes it's borders and economy and resumes mass starvation/execution of the 'non-productive' elements of it's domestic economy.

In this scenario, who is left that gives a rat's wet patootie about Maslow, 'social justice', or frankly anything that proceeds from the thoroughly brainwashed collective mind of 'progressives'?

Alison said...

Zed - you've just got one of your assumptions right, with the rest very wrong. Not everyone who presents an alternative view, is doing so from an idealistic textbook or your fixed stereotypes y'know. The university of life comes in many forms.

In order to be able to trade with money, certain conditions need to be in place. Like health, communication and language; without which, you're not going to be able to earn money. E.g. money ultimately exchanges hands, *after* communication has taken place. You cannot have a contract without the ability to communicate. Sometimes for this to happen, then you need so called "social justice" for communication to take place. And by suggesting such conditions need to take place, doesn't mean you are finanically illiterate either.

Want to disagree with me? Please go ahead. Since you don't care much for diversity and seem to think that inclusion is just textbook brainwashing; I would be most interested in reading what you think should happen to deaf people in your vision. If they have access to interpreters, access to telephones etc, then what? No communication > no work > no money > no food / shelter. What next, Einstein?

A society that doesn't give a "rat's wet patootie" and any suggestion of being included is simply brainwashing so obviously learnt at some cheap state school, right?

Alison said...

Sorry, that last comment should have read if "If they have NO access to interpreters, access to telephones etc, then what?"