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Examining Inequality

spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filledRegistered User, __BANNED USERS regular
edited August 2012 in Debate and/or Discourse
One of the most discussed topics on this board is inequality. Whether it is inequality of wealth, political power, job opportunities, freedom to choose how one lives, education, or resources, equality is constantly discussed. But one thing that we have not discussed (at least in recent memory) is why we should care about inequality. It is just accepted that a more equal society is a better society. In this topic, I would like to discuss inequality as its own issue. By examining what we mean when we talk about inequalities that should be corrected, I think that we will be in a better position to discuss inequalities among all the conventional axises.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that there are limits to the scope of inequalities that we should want to eliminate. For example, even if we decided that we wanted wealth distribution to be exactly equal, and took all the world's wealth and parceled it out evenly, people would quickly wind up with different amounts of wealth as they traded among themselves. There is also the problem of subjective weighting, since even if everyone had an equal amount of all resources, people who valued those resources more would effectively be richer. These types of problems can all be resolved, but the cost is very high, since we would have to constantly assess people's relative levels of happiness and redistribute. If the redistribution happens on a regular basis then we may well wind up with less wealth to redistribute, since constant equalization will take away the incentive to work towards success.

Another concern is that there is more to the world than wealth, and people's intrinsic skills and characteristics will also need to be taken into account. Finding the right balance here is hard, because if someone has skills which we think should result in them receiving less wealth then they are effectively forced to use those skills even if they would prefer not to.

One tool which I find helpful in thinking about these issues is the veil of ignorance:
The veil of ignorance and the original position are concepts introduced by John Harsanyi[1][2] and later appropriated by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice.[3][4] It is a method of determining the morality of a certain issue (e.g. slavery) based upon the following thought experiment: parties to the original position know nothing about their particular abilities, tastes, and position within the social order of society. The veil of ignorance blocks off this knowledge, such that one does not know what burdens and benefits of social cooperation might fall to him/her once the veil is lifted. With this knowledge blocked, parties to the original position must decide on principles for the distribution of rights, positions and resources in their society. As Rawls put it, "...no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status; nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength, and the like."[5] The idea then, is to render moot those personal considerations that are morally irrelevant to the justice or injustice of principles meant to allocate the benefits of social cooperation.
For example, in the imaginary society, one might or might not be intelligent, rich, or born into a preferred class. Since one may occupy any position in the society once the veil is lifted, the device forces the parties to consider society from the perspective of the worst-off members.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veil_of_ignorance

There are many criticisms of their thought experiment, but I think it can be useful as a way of stripping the status quo out of the question of what inequalities we are comfortable living with and which we really see as important.

My personal view is that while starting line equality (i.e., making sure people are as even as possible at the outset) is limited, it is probably the best that we can do. Once people are out living their lives and making choices, I think it is important to respect those choices by allowing them to have consequences, but I also think that as a society we have an obligation to make sure that no one can fall too far on any axis, even if they means limiting the heights people can obtain as a way of making sure that no one falls too low. I'm interested to hear what types of inequalities people think we should fight and which we should accept.

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Posts

  • CantelopeCantelope Registered User regular
    Inequality is not meaningful with a social safety net. All of the ills of poverty can, and in many societies are dealt with through government intervention. If there are government programs designed to help get you back on your feet, or to keep you from experiencing severe poverty then it doesn't really matter. You won't care who you end up being in that society because even if you are unintelligent, or careless then the government will keep you from living in poverty.


    Our entire society is rife with corruption. I believe that's closely related to the shrinking of the social safety net. If no one is looking out for you, why should you look out for anyone else? Everyday millions of Americans will make decisions they believe to be immoral, because they fear unemployment.

    Jeep-Eep
  • CalixtusCalixtus Registered User regular
    I don't think fixing "starting line inequality" is that limited really, as in I think if you fix that you've addressed the worst problems. With free access to education and a few other support systems to ensure that an individual can use the skills they want to use (within reason) to make a career and build a life for themselves, you cover a lot of ground. Generational poverty is a blight upon society - the morality of it completely aside, it represents a waste of human resources - and with free access to education, with a sprinkle of free healthcare, you can really do a lot to get rid of it.

    -This message was deviously brought to you by:
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    Starting line equality? Are you sure? Utilitarian height and beauty tax and all?

    There's a lot of stuff here regarding what we feel should be held equal and what we apparently don't. I no longer think that 'starting line' equality captures common notions of social justice.

  • HacksawHacksaw J Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    The height and beauty tax is interesting, if ridiculous and unrealistic.

    I say this as a handsome, 6'4" Nordic man. Fuck paying taxes on that.

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    Hacksaw wrote: »
    The height and beauty tax is interesting, if ridiculous and unrealistic.

    I say this as a handsome, 6'4" Nordic man. Fuck paying taxes on that.

    Behold the problem: people really dislike paying taxes on things they can't do anything about, yet things they are blameless for are precisely the things starting-line equality taxes want to affect. Unless there is political awareness of the relevant identity (then you get protected classes and such).

  • HacksawHacksaw J Duggan Wrestler at LawRegistered User regular
    The funny thing is I didn't start out tall and handsome. Had a bunch of hormone problems that had to be corrected with medicine and therapy, and the medicine had to be injected. In my stomach. Every fucking night. For four years. I don't want to say I bootstrapped my way to where I am today, but, well, I did.

    spool32
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    Dynamic effects are the other thing: if you manage to perfectly neutralize the negative impact of being short and ugly on lifetime material quality-of-life, then the technological incentive to invent ways to get around formerly unsurmountable difficulties has to come from elsewhere. Research grants, perhaps.

    Reflect on pollution permits here as appropriate...

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    Cantelope wrote: »
    Inequality is not meaningful with a social safety net. All of the ills of poverty can, and in many societies are dealt with through government intervention. If there are government programs designed to help get you back on your feet, or to keep you from experiencing severe poverty then it doesn't really matter. You won't care who you end up being in that society because even if you are unintelligent, or careless then the government will keep you from living in poverty.


    Our entire society is rife with corruption. I believe that's closely related to the shrinking of the social safety net. If no one is looking out for you, why should you look out for anyone else? Everyday millions of Americans will make decisions they believe to be immoral, because they fear unemployment.

    There are some blanket statements in this post that are, I think, in need of a ~citation needed....

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    I mean for one thing, it's an observed fact that the time of the year you were born, and where your initials are in the alphabet have a measurable affect on your performance in school.

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited August 2012
    e: whoops

    ronya on
  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    Starting line equality? Are you sure? Utilitarian height and beauty tax and all?

    There's a lot of stuff here regarding what we feel should be held equal and what we apparently don't. I no longer think that 'starting line' equality captures common notions of social justice.

    I think that luck egalitarians can dismiss this criticism as follows: differences in height and beauty are just as unearned as differences in caste, and just as pernicious in their effects. But due to human social structures, government redistribution in these cases is impracticable. Can you imagine the government man coming to your door, taking your photo, putting it on hot-or-not, and then giving you an appropriate rebate (you poor ugly goose)? The contingencies of human character and present social arrangements simply rule that out.

    I agree with the OP that the veil of ignorance is a useful way of getting at the requirements of justice (though I actually skew more utilitarian than egalitarian in my fundamental outlook). Also, I think one of the most important reasons for enforcing constant semi-equality over time has yet to be mentioned: namely, political equality is not possible in conditions of extreme material inequality. We are seeing this in our own country right now. Sheldon Adelson simply counts more than any of us--by a lot!--in the governance of our country. And so on for the coterie of hyper-rich who involve themselves in politics. There cannot be a healthy democracy without at least approximate political equality, and there cannot be even approximate political equality when the differences in material means are so great that a single fortunate person can, on their own, dictate the political course of the country.

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

    That works just as well against arguments for inter-racial and inter-gender transfers and other policies that seek to move costs of having the wrong skin color elsewhere, and I do not think that the insult dynamic you identify occurs in practice. Of course in those cases an active political identity of race and gender came first.

    Perhaps we are both too far up the ivory tower, but when I look outside, non-economists seem to instinctively recoil from the height tax idea, not go "hmm it's too bad we can't do this".

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    Not to mention that "beauty" is rather subjective. Not everyone has the same tastes; Person A thinks freckles are ugly blemishes; Person B thinks that freckles are adorable, Person C thinks a shaved head is sexalicious, Person D thinks they're ugly, etc., etc.

    Helping someone because they have an objective disability in things that they can do is a fine and noble thing for society. Penalising someone because they have an inherent and involuntary advantage due to transient, stochastic and subjective social preferences is deeply disturbing to me. It seems like a slippery slope leading right back to racial/sexual discrimination. Or at the very least, an open invitation for people to impose their own preferences and agendas on others (I don't like long haired girls because my hair is thinning and receeding; let's tax hair over 6" Let those long-haired bitches suffer!)

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited August 2012
    A personal perception of whether it is enjoyable to interact with other people of different races is also subjective; we have no problem telling such people that they can take their personal tastes and stuff it.

    ronya on
  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

    That works just as well against arguments for inter-racial and inter-gender transfers and other policies that seek to move costs of having the wrong skin color elsewhere, and I do not think that the insult dynamic you identify occurs in practice. Of course in those cases an active political identity of race and gender came first.

    Perhaps we are both too far up the ivory tower, but when I look outside, non-economists seem to instinctively recoil from the height tax idea, not go "hmm it's too bad we can't do this".

    I agree that most people find the idea of these transfers absurd. But don't they feel the same way about direct race-and-gender transfers, e.g. a 'man' or 'white' tax? And yet they do not object to the redistributive use of economically functional equivalents of indirect taxes on the same. So, it strikes me, that commonsense morality strongly embraces certain distinctions that the utilitarian and, given the growth of economics out of utilitarian political economy, the economist also tend to ignore. And given that they do embrace those distinctions, it makes a difference for the best analysis, even given that the best analysis itself does not embrace those distinctions (as I think it does not).

    Or, in other words: I drank the utilitarian kool-aid, so while I acknowledge that the particular redistributive tax is unworkable I am laying the blame there entirely on human social arrangements, not on the underlying theory of egalitarian redistribution.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    A personal perception of whether it is enjoyable to interact with other people of different races is also subjective; we have no problem telling such people that they can take their personal tastes and stuff it.

    Yeah no sorry, not buying that goosey false equivalence. Remember that time that a thousand years of religious prejudice and persecution lead to millions of freckled girls being carted off to the death camps? Or the centuries of brutal enslavement by the shoulder-to-long haired endured by short haired people?

    Me either. Seems like the situations are grossly inequivalent and you're goose for trying to say otherwise.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

    That works just as well against arguments for inter-racial and inter-gender transfers and other policies that seek to move costs of having the wrong skin color elsewhere, and I do not think that the insult dynamic you identify occurs in practice. Of course in those cases an active political identity of race and gender came first.

    Perhaps we are both too far up the ivory tower, but when I look outside, non-economists seem to instinctively recoil from the height tax idea, not go "hmm it's too bad we can't do this".

    I agree that most people find the idea of these transfers absurd. But don't they feel the same way about direct race-and-gender transfers, e.g. a 'man' or 'white' tax? And yet they do not object to the redistributive use of economically functional equivalents of indirect taxes on the same. So, it strikes me, that commonsense morality strongly embraces certain distinctions that the utilitarian and, given the growth of economics out of utilitarian political economy, the economist also tend to ignore. And given that they do embrace those distinctions, it makes a difference for the best analysis, even given that the best analysis itself does not embrace those distinctions (as I think it does not).

    Or, in other words: I drank the utilitarian kool-aid, so while I acknowledge that the particular redistributive tax is unworkable I am laying the blame there entirely on human social arrangements, not on the underlying theory of egalitarian redistribution.

    I think a good analogy here is the old dilemma of "would you kill an innocent man in cold blood to stop a speeding train and save the lives of a hundred?" The utilitarian answer is trivially obvious, yet most people would find doing so to be grossly immoral.

    Logically, helping person A overcome a handicap is equivalent to penalising person B for not being so handicapped. In practice, the first is widely acceptable to everyone who's not a sociopath, whilst the second would provoke riots, (See also: previous arguments about "privilege") because people perceive rewards and disincetives extremely differently.

    Additionally, whilst it's non-judgemental to help someone (no one feels like a worse person for being asked to help), it is highly judgemental to penalise someone (no one likes being penalised).

    Additionally, we usually penalise things we wish to disincentivize. Why would we want to discourage tallness, good looks, nice hair, etc? Especially when there are no ethical ways for people to respond to the situation and evade the penalty.

  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    The clear answer is to maximize mutability. Perfect mind-altering drugs such that people can tailor their attitudes and abilities to their desires, and perfect plastic surgery and/or genetic treatments such that people can tailor their appearance as they please.

    2ezikn6.jpg
  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    The clear answer is to maximize mutability. Perfect mind-altering drugs such that people can tailor their attitudes and abilities to their desires, and perfect plastic surgery and/or genetic treatments such that people can tailor their appearance as they please.

    But until the glorious singularity comes, we are forced to deal with non-ideal theory.

    Jeep-Eep
  • Loren MichaelLoren Michael Registered User regular
    I think steps in that direction are typically steps in the right direction. Corrective surgery for one's appearance being subsidized, for example.

    I'm not sure that one could quantify the opportunity costs of a naturally ghastly appearance, but offering an opportunity to not have that handicap seems like it addresses the inequality without need for specific calculations outside of medical costs.

    Lots of holes in that idea, but /shrug.

    2ezikn6.jpg
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    A personal perception of whether it is enjoyable to interact with other people of different races is also subjective; we have no problem telling such people that they can take their personal tastes and stuff it.

    Yeah no sorry, not buying that goosey false equivalence. Remember that time that a thousand years of religious prejudice and persecution lead to millions of freckled girls being carted off to the death camps? Or the centuries of brutal enslavement by the shoulder-to-long haired endured by short haired people?

    Me either. Seems like the situations are grossly inequivalent and you're goose for trying to say otherwise.

    Are you agreeing that it is the historical particularities and not the subjectivity of personal tastes that gives these their different policies today?

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

    That works just as well against arguments for inter-racial and inter-gender transfers and other policies that seek to move costs of having the wrong skin color elsewhere, and I do not think that the insult dynamic you identify occurs in practice. Of course in those cases an active political identity of race and gender came first.

    Perhaps we are both too far up the ivory tower, but when I look outside, non-economists seem to instinctively recoil from the height tax idea, not go "hmm it's too bad we can't do this".

    I agree that most people find the idea of these transfers absurd. But don't they feel the same way about direct race-and-gender transfers, e.g. a 'man' or 'white' tax? And yet they do not object to the redistributive use of economically functional equivalents of indirect taxes on the same. So, it strikes me, that commonsense morality strongly embraces certain distinctions that the utilitarian and, given the growth of economics out of utilitarian political economy, the economist also tend to ignore. And given that they do embrace those distinctions, it makes a difference for the best analysis, even given that the best analysis itself does not embrace those distinctions (as I think it does not).

    Or, in other words: I drank the utilitarian kool-aid, so while I acknowledge that the particular redistributive tax is unworkable I am laying the blame there entirely on human social arrangements, not on the underlying theory of egalitarian redistribution.

    Well, human social arrangements can be worked around. So people resent taxes. They do like payments, though! We could compensate people for being shorter than the median. We already do if they are so short as to be disabled, but surely that is a rather arbitrary distinction insofar as egalitarianism is concerned. Et cetera.

    ... although if you're already steadfastly utilitarian in this respect, I'm not sure I can convince you of anything you don't already believe.

  • ronyaronya Arrrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    I think steps in that direction are typically steps in the right direction. Corrective surgery for one's appearance being subsidized, for example.

    I'm not sure that one could quantify the opportunity costs of a naturally ghastly appearance, but offering an opportunity to not have that handicap seems like it addresses the inequality without need for specific calculations outside of medical costs.

    Lots of holes in that idea, but /shrug.

    My mind is filled with the peculiar image of the state subsidizing breast augmentation cosmetic surgeries.

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    MrMister wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    There's height. Height is objectively measurable, and in many cases, hard to substantively alter. I am wary of essentially conceding the argument to the ambitious utilitarian but trying to throw implementation-related obstacles in his path.

    The implication is still sufficiently insulting that the shorter would, I imagine, reject the prospect as much as would the taller; for starters, to accept the charity of the tall would, given cultural considerations, be to place the shorter not only in the position of acknowledging their undesirability, but also under an obligation of gratefulness to their superiors. I don't endorse any of this sentiment as actually right, but it is nonetheless how people feel, and any utilitarian or egalitarian suggestion must take stock of how people feel just as much as it takes stock of the facts about height and income (and so on). So I'm willing to take the line that the ambitious egalitarian is right, but that there are implementation-related obstacles. When I imagine the world with no such obstacles, I am entirely willing to go along with them.

    That works just as well against arguments for inter-racial and inter-gender transfers and other policies that seek to move costs of having the wrong skin color elsewhere, and I do not think that the insult dynamic you identify occurs in practice. Of course in those cases an active political identity of race and gender came first.

    Perhaps we are both too far up the ivory tower, but when I look outside, non-economists seem to instinctively recoil from the height tax idea, not go "hmm it's too bad we can't do this".

    I agree that most people find the idea of these transfers absurd. But don't they feel the same way about direct race-and-gender transfers, e.g. a 'man' or 'white' tax? And yet they do not object to the redistributive use of economically functional equivalents of indirect taxes on the same. So, it strikes me, that commonsense morality strongly embraces certain distinctions that the utilitarian and, given the growth of economics out of utilitarian political economy, the economist also tend to ignore. And given that they do embrace those distinctions, it makes a difference for the best analysis, even given that the best analysis itself does not embrace those distinctions (as I think it does not).

    Or, in other words: I drank the utilitarian kool-aid, so while I acknowledge that the particular redistributive tax is unworkable I am laying the blame there entirely on human social arrangements, not on the underlying theory of egalitarian redistribution.

    Well, human social arrangements can be worked around. So people resent taxes. They do like payments, though! We could compensate people for being shorter than the median. We already do if they are so short as to be disabled, but surely that is a rather arbitrary distinction insofar as egalitarianism is concerned. Et cetera.

    ... although if you're already steadfastly utilitarian in this respect, I'm not sure I can convince you of anything you don't already believe.

    If the goal is to get me to reject these compensatory payments, then yeah, it's gonna be an uphill battle for you. I am, in principle, fine with them, just as I am fine with a social obligation (and attendent welfare transfers) to take care of the traditionally disabled.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    I think steps in that direction are typically steps in the right direction. Corrective surgery for one's appearance being subsidized, for example.

    I'm not sure that one could quantify the opportunity costs of a naturally ghastly appearance, but offering an opportunity to not have that handicap seems like it addresses the inequality without need for specific calculations outside of medical costs.

    Lots of holes in that idea, but /shrug.

    My mind is filled with the peculiar image of the state subsidizing breast augmentation cosmetic surgeries.

    It's hard to argue that an individual shouldn't have the right to the appearance of his choosing. Given the known facts of heightism, beautyism, etc, it's actually not much of a reach to enshrine that right as a basic civil liberty. It seems outlandish now because plastic surgery, cosmetics, etc are seen as "frivolous", but the premise of this debate is that appearance discrimination isn't frivolous.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    ronya wrote: »
    V1m wrote: »
    ronya wrote: »
    A personal perception of whether it is enjoyable to interact with other people of different races is also subjective; we have no problem telling such people that they can take their personal tastes and stuff it.

    Yeah no sorry, not buying that goosey false equivalence. Remember that time that a thousand years of religious prejudice and persecution lead to millions of freckled girls being carted off to the death camps? Or the centuries of brutal enslavement by the shoulder-to-long haired endured by short haired people?

    Me either. Seems like the situations are grossly inequivalent and you're goose for trying to say otherwise.

    Are you agreeing that it is the historical particularities and not the subjectivity of personal tastes that gives these their different policies today?

    The magnitude and depth of the consequences is also relevent.

  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    I walk with Amartya Sen on this issue. I think that the best way to balance the twin concerns of utilitarianism and egalitarianism is to place a high value on efficiency. We may not be able to perform height transfers, but that does not mean that we cannot devote extra resources to nurturing the talents of the shorter person such that he can enjoy a life that is on net equal to the tall man. This means that we must accept that some dreams simply are not going to be respected in our redistribution, like the 5 foot man who wants to be a professional high jumper (without cheap height transfers, we would have to devote enormous resources to making this dream viable), but I think this is a neccessary trade off if we want everyone to have an equal opportunity to achieve the best life that they can.

    I actually think that state subsidized breast implants may be an excellent idea, as long as the cost is not too high. I would argue that cosmetic surgery and early treatment of health conditions are both high efficiency ways of mitigating some of the more difficult forms of luck inequality. Take to the extreme, I can imagine (and would endorse) a future where genetic engineering allows us to correct all or nearly all purely genetic forms of inequality at the starting line. I know we may say that a world where everyone is the same height may sound boring, but it would actually be very desirable. All furniture, clothing, etc. would only need to be made with one height in mind, and everyone would enjoy the absolute physical advantages of being whatever we determine the ideal height to be, while no one would unfairly benefit from being born tall.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    I prefer to be more optimistic and hope that in a future where we have far more control over how we look, people won't care as much about whether others are short or tall because it simply won't mean as much.

    I'm also apprehensive of the possibility of forced conformity in appearance. I'm no Brad Pitt, but I'd rather keep my face than be made to have his "for my own good".

    Where choosing to look different from "the norm" is seen as socially offensive (or as morally wrong as getting high...) what protection is there for an individual who just wants to be the way he is?

  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    V1m wrote: »
    I prefer to be more optimistic and hope that in a future where we have far more control over how we look, people won't care as much about whether others are short or tall because it simply won't mean as much.

    I'm also apprehensive of the possibility of forced conformity in appearance. I'm no Brad Pitt, but I'd rather keep my face than be made to have his "for my own good".

    Where choosing to look different from "the norm" is seen as socially offensive (or as morally wrong as getting high...) what protection is there for an individual who just wants to be the way he is?

    This is a transition issue though. Once the last generation of people who look different die out, the whole concept of looking different would cease to exist, wouldn't it? Your complaint reminds me of how the deaf community is lammenting the coclear implant since it is "killing the deaf culture" by keeping new children from needing to learn to sign or attend special schools. Yes, we are losing diversity, but the diversity we are losing is a negative. We should not rupture children's ear drums just so that deaf culture can live on, because hearing is better.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

  • CantelopeCantelope Registered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    It's more like "If you can have surgery or topical paste that turns you white, why wouldn't you use it?


    Even then it's not really a fair comparison. It's disingenuous to say the least to compare not being able to hear to skin color.

  • spacekungfumanspacekungfuman Poor and minority-filled Registered User, __BANNED USERS regular
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    First, this is all highly theoretical because the technology to perform these types of genetic manipulations simply does not exist. But if it did, and instead of sterilizing people we just genetically manipulated all new children to be a single skin color, would that really be a problem? I don't think there is any more inherent value in skin color diversity than diversity of eye color.

  • CantelopeCantelope Registered User regular
    edited August 2012
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    First, this is all highly theoretical because the technology to perform these types of genetic manipulations simply does not exist. But if it did, and instead of sterilizing people we just genetically manipulated all new children to be a single skin color, would that really be a problem? I don't think there is any more inherent value in skin color diversity than diversity of eye color.

    It would be wrong because it's essentially putting a band aid on an issue. The underlying issue is that a small cross section of the population are severely intolerant of characteristics that are arbitrary. If you simply try to eliminate the characteristic your doing nothing to change underlying behavior or thinking. They'll simply latch onto a different set of characteristics they identify with to reward and punish groups of their choosing.

    Cantelope on
    Jeep-Eep
  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    I'd prefer we just all fuck a bunch until we're a nice olive color all round

    "Maybe we're here to eat the sandwich." -- Joe Rogan
  • CantelopeCantelope Registered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    I'd prefer we just all fuck a bunch until we're a nice olive color all round

    Cause multi-generational forced breeding is the most logical and practical answer to racism and prejudice.

  • BSoBBSoB Registered User regular
    Take to the extreme, I can imagine (and would endorse) a future where genetic engineering allows us to correct all or nearly all purely genetic forms of inequality at the starting line. I know we may say that a world where everyone is the same height may sound boring, but it would actually be very desirable. All furniture, clothing, etc. would only need to be made with one height in mind, and everyone would enjoy the absolute physical advantages of being whatever we determine the ideal height to be, while no one would unfairly benefit from being born tall.

    Only if you think there is a single ideal height. Jockeys and basketball players should be the same height? piano players hands should be the same size as surgeons?

    Diversity allows specialization, specialization increases efficiency.

    Jeep-Eep
  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    Cantelope wrote: »
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    I'd prefer we just all fuck a bunch until we're a nice olive color all round

    Cause multi-generational forced breeding is the most logical and practical answer to racism and prejudice.

    Who said anything about forced? I think EVERYBODY should just do it a bunch, with a bunch of people. It'll be fun! The best way to be post racial is to actually be post racial.

    We're confusing conformity to current fashions and fads as inequality.

    It's a tangent.

    big vs little breasts isn't an inequality

    Insurance vs no insurance is an inequality



    "Maybe we're here to eat the sandwich." -- Joe Rogan
  • tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    Cantelope wrote: »
    V1m wrote: »
    I could apply the same argument to racial minorities: If we just sterilised all the browns then in a hundred years none of us superior blue eyed blondes would have to worry about a world where racial prejudice existed. What a marvellous solution!

    Wait no, it's horrifying and so is your proposed Brave New World of facial conformity.

    I'd prefer we just all fuck a bunch until we're a nice olive color all round

    Cause multi-generational forced breeding is the most logical and practical answer to racism and prejudice.

    I would like to think that JohnnyCache was implying that you won't need to force anyone to do this. It will simply happen by itself due to the mobility of people. In 50 years I imagine it will be rarer to see a single race kid than to see a mixed race one.

    Your puny weapons are useless against me
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