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Ambition: is it evil?

ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS
edited July 2008 in Debate and/or Discourse
I've finally moved in to my new place in SoCal. I don't know anyone in the area, but it turns out my parents have a friend who lives in LA and he invited me to his place for dinner.

The guy is a top-notch doctor and he has this sick ass place on the hills overlooking Sunset Blvd. Three story apartment, wonderfully decorated and with a gorgeous view. He has pretty much everything, from a mini movie theater to saunas to his own fitness center. You get the idea.

As he was preparing dinner he handed me a glass of wine and told me to enjoy myself, so I went to the balcony, sat down, and started doing just that. And there I started thinking about ambition, and what it takes to be where he is right now (I mean in life in general, not this particular location). I made a list: being hard-working, being ambitious, knowing the right people, and maybe some luck.

Then it occurred to me that, as a society, we have associated negative connotations with all of them. Hard-working people, we call workaholics. Ambition, we regard as dickish and even evil. Using connections to step up, we call unfair. Luck, we view with a certain amount of disdain, as we judge them as undeserving and silently curse our own lack of luck. Why is this so? Certainly there are many rich people who are also good people, who have a healthy work-life balance, and have used their ambition not only for themselves but for their friends, family, community. So why are we as a society obsessed with judging them?

My personal take on the matter is that it is just massive jealousy. You may not have the financial high ground but at least you have the moral high ground, right? He may be rich but he no doubt committed a lot of evil get it. Did some immoral things, broke a law here and there, maybe killed a few people. I mean there is no way in hell that these people just have more intelligence, skills, and the drive to use them more than you, because you're one special flower, the center of the universe, and if someone is in a better position, you either make excuses about conditions being unfavorable or convince yourself that you don't want what he has. Sour grapes.

As we were having dinner we started talking about it, and we ended up talking for three hours about a lot of things. He bulldozed some of the naive (and judgmental) preconceptions that I had regarding money, success, ambition, etc. Here is what I learned... or I should say agreed with, as he was just stating his opinions and he said as much:

1- Money is not important... is bullshit. Money is always important.
2- A lot of the time, money is the most important thing in the world. Not always, but there are things money can accomplish that anything else cannot.
3- Money can buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).
4- Never let other people beat your ambition out of you, or convince you that it is evil, because it is just their way of bringing you down to their level and making sure you don't surpass them.

Now, these don't mean that money will for sure make you happy, or that you should aim for money and nothing else. On the contrary, he did point to some of the regrets he had in life in terms of the decisions he made that led to more money and less other things (he is single for instance). But he did say that there were many situations where money accomplished what other things - love, respect, joy, etc. that we typically hold as superior, at least morally, to money - could not (he gave the example of a patient who caught AIDS due to no mistake of her own, and how she would be dead ten years ago if she didn't have the money for the medicine).

Anyway we did talk about other things too, but for the purposes of this thread I don't want to go on with my rambling.

Bottom line is that I think that the stigmas we have associated with being rich are the way less rich people (not necessarily just the poor) cope with not being richer. And this is disgusting because they are a result of massive over-generalization of rich people as less moral, less ethical, and less humane.

ege02 on
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Posts

  • VariableVariable Ted Hitler Stroke Me Lady FameRegistered User regular
    edited July 2008
    I completely disagree with your premises and your conclusion. to keep it simple, we praise the rich in this country. you seemed to have somehow missed that. I've never seen someone call ambition a negative or evil trait, and the term workaholic is not meant for people who work hard, but specifically for the idea of working so hard that it causes some sort of problem in your life. for what you describe we might just call the person a 'hard worker', or... 'ambitious'.

    as far as money buying happiness, there is a lot you can buy with money and a lot you can't. while there may be a small amount of people who choose to believe that every rich person on the planet is evil in several ways I think you are far far far off in the claim that this is common or true to our society on a whole.

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  • LanzLanz Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    I think the point that all those things you mention in paragraph 4 aren't "good" or "evil" in and of themselves. It's, like everything, in how they're used or come about.

    Is it bad to be a hard worker? Hell no. Is it good to work to the point of ignoring everyone important around you? quite likely not.

    is it bad to be ambitious? No! is it good to let your ambition consume you, or let your ambition hurt others but "fuck them I want what I want"? Yeah, that's pretty dickish.

    Using Connections? No, it can help you show off your talents to those looking for them. Getting by purely on connections when you don't have the skills to back them up? Not that good.

    Luck? Not even touching that one

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  • UmaroUmaro Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Ambition is fine. Working hard is great. But "money" cannot be the goal of your ambition, or the reason for your hard work. Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If your goals in life demand money then certainly pursue it - if they do not, then you haven't got much of a need for it beyond basic survival expenses.

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  • HachfaceHachface Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    3- Money can buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).

    This assumes that happiness is just getting everything you want. Maybe money can fulfill all your wants if you are a particularly shallow and emotionally destitute individual, but if you are such an individual than the things that you want are probably not the same as the things that are good for you--that is, the things that will really fulfill you. Most people want the wrong things, and I'd say that the people who see acquiring wealth as the most important road to happiness just end up with an insatiable desire for more wealth and are never really satisfied. After all, you can always be more rich.

  • ElkiElki hegemon globalSuper Moderator, Moderator, ClubPA mod
    edited July 2008
    The American dream? Rags to riches? MTV Cribs?

    I think there's some rich people hating going on. They're certainly not 'down to earth' as the salt of the earth people, whoever they are, blah blah blah. But it's not a big deal. Yeah, the rich guy might lose the girl in the movie, but nothing major. Being rich is hardly seen as a bad thing (because it's not), and I can't count the number of times I heard 'hard-working' used as a synonym for 'saint'.

    What everybody really loves to hate on are the trustfundians. Now that's a persecuted group.

  • ChurchChurch Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    I don't really think we use "workaholic" to try to demonise hard workers, so much as it is used to describe people that withdraw into their work to avoid dealing with the rest of their life or any other reason. There's a difference between being a dedicated employee and hiding in your office.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    The first part of your argument is predicated on misusing a bunch of terms. A workaholic is not a "hard working" person - a workaholic is someone who cannot take a vacation or in some way relax and is miserable for it. Of course the term is poorly defined in the first place and used colloquially a lot (then again, so is OCD in that case) to the point where people will say something like "well I blah blah blah, but to be fair I'm a workaholic". EDIT: And this actually goes on to show that you've heard the term in a lot of weird ways compared to me since I would consider that example as a perfectly normal way of using it. Also what Church wrote.

    Also I agree with what Elki said - the rich are not stigmatized, it's just everyone loves an underdog story. I'd also put it out there that it's extremely difficult to say the rich are stigmatized because it's certainly a perceptual state in most cases, and the ones it's not (your Donald Trumps and the like) then if they're hated/stigmatized because of what they actually do with their influence, not necessarily their wealth.

    I'd also go so far as to say trustfundians aren't hated, the visible trustfundians are - but that's because they really are pompous asses (and hence why they're visible).

  • MrMisterMrMister Valuing scholarship above all elseRegistered User regular
    edited July 2008
    It's hard to catalog how thoroughly I disagree with you. First, I would agree with the posters who've pointed out that the rich aren't really stigmatized in this country.

    Furthermore, I think that it's justified to react with moral opprobrium to excessive luxury. It's immoral to spend money on installing a mini-movie theater and sauna in your home while people in the world are dying for lack of oral rehydration salts. Preemptively, yes, that applies to all sorts of luxury items, including those not bought by the ultra rich--the ultra rich are just the worst offenders in that regard. I wouldn't contest your point that money is nifty--indeed, it is precisely because money is so nifty that how one spends it becomes a morally loaded decision.

    Finally, I would contest your implicit assumption that people with fewer skills or less intelligence also deserve less comfort and opportunity in their lives. Is it just that when stupid poor people get AIDS they die for lack of medicine, whereas when rich smart people get AIDS they can afford indefinite courses of treatment? That's the false premise of your argument: that the poor and the untalented are unjustified in their resentment of the rich and the talented for having exclusive access to all these wonders that money can buy.

    That's not even getting into the fray over whether wealth tracks merit as much as you seem to think.

  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited July 2008
    Variable wrote: »
    I completely disagree with your premises and your conclusion. to keep it simple, we praise the rich in this country. you seemed to have somehow missed that. I've never seen someone call ambition a negative or evil trait, and the term workaholic is not meant for people who work hard, but specifically for the idea of working so hard that it causes some sort of problem in your life. for what you describe we might just call the person a 'hard worker', or... 'ambitious'.

    This is pretty much all the thread needs. Nobody sane thinks that anyone who's ever worked hard is a 'workaholic'. That's really silly. And given that I live in the country that does the most unpaid overtime on the planet, I challenge the notion that people even really look down on actual workaholism.

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  • ohhaytharohhaythar Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ambition and jealousy are two different things.

  • DockenDocken Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Well... I take issue with your use of the word "Happiness"

    Looking at many clinical definitions of happiness (for example Maslow's hierarchy of needs), its difficult to call satisfying a "want" satisfying your fundamental sense of fulfillment... which I suggest is perhaps more indicative of your overall level of "happiness".

    Let me put it to you another way; What if you were to ask your friend this question - would you give up all your money (or a large chunk of it) in order to be in a satisfying personal relationship with another person and be able to contemplate all the options that come with such a relationship? (assuming he is straight, though a homosexual relationship would have its own - different - options too).

    True, that may be a bit of a strawman, but the point is what people think happiness is is often far from the truth... which is why so many people are unhappy. Generally people use things to substitute in for happiness and that is why the perception that money can lead to happiness is so prevalent in this society.

    So considering that, I think your point 3 is incorrect, in the sense that money is not really a plus or a minus when it comes to happiness... Ok sure, an extreme lack of money is probably not too good either, but that probably reveals bigger problems anyway.

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  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    The point about money == happiness is the fact that a lot of people are really bad at realizing what makes them happy. At the low end of the spectrum obviously more money can generally make you happier, but what people who are not in that part of it tend to miss (or people who keep moving up and up) is that it is not the virtue of having money which is making them happy but rather what it is able to do for them.

    Hence the rich but unhappy - those who have gone up and up and up and continually sacrificed other things in the pursuit of, ultimately, more money i.e. they have money and they're sitting there thinking "but is this really what I like to do? I have no time to do other things, but I have heaps of money so why am I not happy?"

    If you make loads of cash and actually like the job you do, you're going to be happy.

  • KageraKagera Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Yes ambition is evil, and anyone who has it is a horrible person.

    Apathy is the trait of the superior mind because oh who gives a crap.

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  • The CatThe Cat Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited July 2008
    Kagera wrote: »
    Yes ambition is evil, and anyone who has it is a horrible person.

    Apathy is the trait of the superior mind because oh who gives a crap.

    also, things are only funny if you're being 'ironic'

    tmsig.jpg
  • Rabid_LlamaRabid_Llama Registered User
    edited July 2008
    They may not be stigmatized, but my god do they get assraped on taxes.

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  • LewieP's MummyLewieP's Mummy Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    1- Money is not important... is bullshit. Money is always important.

    Enough money is important - to pay your bills, buy food, have somewhere safe to live, be able to go out once in a while, buy the things your kids need ...
    ege02 wrote: »
    2- A lot of the time, money is the most important thing in the world. Not always, but there are things money can accomplish that anything else cannot.

    Money is only the most important thing in the world if you don't have it.
    ege02 wrote: »
    3- Money can buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).

    Friendship? Satisfying relationships? Love? Peace of mind?
    ege02 wrote: »
    4- Never let other people beat your ambition out of you, or convince you that it is evil, because it is just their way of bringing you down to their level and making sure you don't surpass them.

    I want to say bollocks here, so BOLLOCKS!

    I once was on a train travelling from London to Manchester, on a double seat with table, facing forwards. A man and woman got on, and he asked if the seats opposite me were taken, they weren't, so he stood waiting for me to move my bag off the seat next to me so that the woman could sit beside me, and he could have the (empty) double seat. I didn't notice at first, (I was reading a book) and when I did, chose to ignore his behaviour. Eventually, (10 - 15 seconds later) they both sat down facing me.

    I read for about half the journey, but also listened in to their conversation - he was loud and mildly offensive. After a bit, I interrupted them to tell him he was wrong. He had been ranting about one of his team, whose wife had just given birth, and that this new dad had actually taken paternity leave, and then worked normal office hours, as he wanted to get home to his wife and baby. He was outraged, and called this guy a lightweight, who should get his priorities in order. He also commented about his current wife and kids, who were complaining about the hours he himself worked - that his first wife had accepted it til they divorced. I asked him if he thought his first wife would have liked him home more, and if his not being home contributed to his divorce, and his crappy relationship with his older children. He agreed it did. I asked if he was repeating the same mistakes with his second family. He looked a bit surprised, but also agreed it was causing them problems. I asked why he expected his team member to damage his own relationships in the same way as he had, was destroying another family worth it? He was a bit shocked (I think because I had the temerity to ask, but I'd also like to think it was because I made him think about what he was doing). We talked for the rest of the train journey about the balance between working hard (to provide for your family) personal ambition and wealth. It was interesting.

    I once had a job where I was working 60+ hours per week, we had more money than we could possibly spend, but as a family, were miserable. I quit, and work half time, earn half as much, but we are happier.

    Ambition is good, wanting to earn lots of money is good, working hard is good. Keeping an eye on your priorities in life matters the most. I know its easier to be happy when you have lots of money, but its just as easy to be miserable - lonely is still lonely if you're rich.

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  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Money's a means to the end, not the end in itself. If the be all and end all of what makes you happy is a house in the hills and a nice car and all the material things that go along with that, more power to you. Stack up your cash like there's no tomorrow.

    The problem is that for most people, that isn't what makes them happy. The tremendously wealthy/happy people I know fall into two camps: those who love their work and would do it for much less money, and those who balance a high-paying professional career with personal pursuits. Here is an example:

    I met an alumni of my fraternity once. Graduated with honors in business, married a graduated med student. She's some sort of high-powered doctor/researcher at a hospital/university in the city. You know what he does? Garbageman.

    Yeah, I was a little thrown by it too, until he explained it. Dude's a fit, outdoorsy kind of guy, and he makes an income in the high five figures doing a job that gets him exercise and lets him work outside. And he gets off work in the early afternoon and spends the rest of the day with his (6- and 9-year-old) kids. Going on 40 years old, looks like he's 27.

    And I thought, here's a guy who has it together. A guy who knew what his priorities were, and figured out the perfect way to get them. Now he's living the dream.

    It's the difference between just getting a bunch of money and expecting happiness to naturally follow (maybe it will, probably not), and knowing what makes you happy and getting enough money to make it reality.

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  • SageinaRageSageinaRage Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Money is the most important thing in the same way that not being on fire is the most important thing. If you are on fire, it leaps to the top of your priorities. If you have enough money, then it should drop down your priority list.

    The problem with most people is defining 'enough money', we're very bad at it.

  • Popped CollarPopped Collar __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    1- Money is not important... is bullshit. Money is always important.
    2- A lot of the time, money is the most important thing in the world. Not always, but there are things money can accomplish that anything else cannot.
    3- Money can buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).
    4- Never let other people beat your ambition out of you, or convince you that it is evil, because it is just their way of bringing you down to their level and making sure you don't surpass them.

    5- Ambition is the enemy of consistency.

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    It was probably not until the next morning after you took a shower and ate your raisin bran that you decided you were a lesbian. And you've been living with that for.... 7 years?
  • NeadenNeaden Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Another reason people don't like the rich is the whole power corrupts thing. If a rich man commits a crime he's much more likely to get away with it or at least get a lesser punishment then a poor man. Rich people often have a feeling of entitlement when it comes to what they have as well, attributing it all to themselves and ignoring other causes of their wealth. I don't think this is because they are inherently worse people mind you, lottery winners are a good example of that, it is just more visible and annoying when a rich person does it.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    short answer: no

    medium answer: if ambition is evil doesn't that make a lack of ambition good.....

    long answer: if there werent ambition we would still be living in caves hunting and gathering what we could to survive. it is our desire for more that made human beings what we are. and while i dont think you can say that the change from caves to skyscrapers was good or evil, you can say that ambition is what brought us to this preferable state of life which makes ambition good.

  • saggiosaggio Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    The assumption that there is some causal relationship between talent, intelligence, or worth and wealth or riches is absolutely and patently false. Sometimes there is an incidental relationship between the two - Warren Buffet, is, for instance, an incredibly smart man, and he has leveraged that into vast amounts of wealth. But should I be so in awe of the actor, the professional athlete, the businessman who, due to their field, makes a lot more money than a teacher, or an artist, or a musician?

    Not really.

    I can certainly admire the good actor, or the good athlete, but their ability, talent, and skill is something that is not connected to their wealth. It just so happens that, due to certain cultural emphasis and expectations, certain occupations are viewed as more worthy of wealth than other occupations. Which leads to a situation where a certain select few occupations are given incomes which purportedly reflect their worth in terms of their skill or talent, but are in fact, disproportionate to other, just as deserving occupations, and don't accurately reflect the "true" value (if the value in terms of 'goodness,' talent, or skill can be measured in dollars and cents at all is dubious in and of itself...) of the occupation, or an individual's performance within it.

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  • Popped CollarPopped Collar __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    Is it good to be evil?

    El Roach0 wrote: »
    It was probably not until the next morning after you took a shower and ate your raisin bran that you decided you were a lesbian. And you've been living with that for.... 7 years?
  • PeekingDuckPeekingDuck __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    Greed makes the world go round.

  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    My take:

    I think money is like political power—it is nothing more than a means to an end. People who value money are like people who value power, they like these things because they can use them to get stuff they want.

    So I don't think it makes sense to judge people with a lot of money simply because they have a lot of money—just like it doesn't make sense to judge powerful politicians simply because they are powerful. I think it makes more sense to judge how they use these means. In other words, it doesn't make sense to judge someone for being ambitious, you should look at what those ambitions actually are.

    That said—as a judgmental person—I'm fine judging a dude who spends millions of dollars on a super fancy house and a yacht which he rarely uses and shit like that. I personally think this is frivolous and pointless and there are better ways to spend money, probably many of which will actually make you happier than purchasing status symbols. There's nothing wrong with ambitiousness, but there is something wrong with shallow ambitions. (Maybe wrong is the wrong word, I'm not prepared to say it's morally wrong, but I guess "kind of tacky"?)

  • ScalfinScalfin __BANNED USERS regular
    edited July 2008
    Anything has a word with the oposite (what's the word) inference. Are you determined or obsessed, focused or tunnel-visioned, loyal or subservient, deferential or obsequious, a good worker or a salaryman and is New England weather interesting or was it just hailing in July?

    We don't really stigmatize ambition and earned prosperity. For example, even the staunchest supply sider respects Warren Buffet's opinion on economics. What people hate is the George W. Bush and Donald Tump type: men who get into business on family ties, manage to bankrupt things which make money by themselves (oil and casinos), stay rich on pure momentum (trust funds and dividends), get even more power, and fuck up the country.

    I think the best description of how one should act comes from Hillel the Elder: "If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am 'I'? And if not now, when?" He also said "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow," but that had been around for a long time before that (which means that there's no way of knowing whose student Jesus stole it from).

    Also, some cardiovascular studies have shown that the main benefit rich people get is freedom. People just don't like to be boxed in, and the main determinant of whether you can, can't, or must do something is finances.

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  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Ambitious people are only characterized as dickish or evil when they do dickish or evil things.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Like most things in life, there's a happy medium between abject greed and abject poverty.

    And ideally you can further your own goals while making the world better. However, in my admittedly anecdotal experience, most rich people aren't. There are a handful of really intelligent, driven, and noble people who manage to make money while making the world better; however for every one of them there are a few dozen MBAs and Marketing Managers who are in the business world because they get off on moving around large sums of money and finding ways of shaving off a piece for themselves in every transaction they can. They're not necessarily evil, in fact a lot of them are nice guys, they just don't do a whole hell of a lot of good in the world and for all intents and purposes they are economic parasites.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with having nice things including a home theater system or a sauna; however without knowing what your friend does for a living or what philanthropic causes (if any) he supports, I would be highly skeptical that he's contributed more to the world than he's taken away. And that's neither based in jealousy nor cultural conditioning, but based on the experiences I've had getting to know other people who share similar lifestyles.

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  • ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    Feral, I'd like to ask you to expand on your use of the term "economic parasite."

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    Fuck that woman going "oh god oh no!!"

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  • IncenjucarIncenjucar QA Tester -> Game Producer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    Feral, I'd like to ask you to expand on your use of the term "economic parasite."

    Those who do not create new wealth or benefit to society.

    That said, people are paying them for services, there's just a question of how fair the exchange is.

    A lot of government agencies and the like function in this manner. While the intent of their existance is good and useful, the execution is simply harmful. See: Environmental organizations which create regulations that harm the environment AND the economy.

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  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    Feral, I'd like to ask you to expand on your use of the term "economic parasite."

    Just because somebody believes that your services are important enough to pay you lots of money for them doesn't mean you're really contributing enough to the world in a moral sense to justify the resources or energy you use.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    The most obvious example might be a professional athlete. Sure, there are enough people out there willing to pay Derek Jeter $25m per year to play and endorse products, but does Derek Jeter really improve the world to the same degree that 10 oncologists at $250k per year or 60 teachers at $40k per year do?

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Just because somebody believes that your services are important enough to pay you lots of money for them doesn't mean you're really contributing enough to the world in a moral sense to justify the resources or energy you use.
    This would be more the fault of the consumer, then, for being so mistaken about what they consider to be valuable. Who is Feral to say that "somebody" is wrong? That their belief about importance is not as good as his?
    Feral wrote: »
    The most obvious example might be a professional athlete. Sure, there are enough people out there willing to pay Derek Jeter $25m per year to play and endorse products, but does Derek Jeter really improve the world to the same degree that 10 oncologists at $250k per year or 60 teachers at $40k per year do?
    That is easy. The professional athlete affects so many more people. How many lives has Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan inspired? How many businesses have they spawned; jobs created? Orders of magnitude more than 10 oncologists could ever hope to treat.

    Anyway, I think ege has certainly revisited a valid and time-honored argument as to why we shouldn't admonish capitalist successes as we are prone to do. People do tend to criticize those who are more successful, and I'm fairly certain they often do so because that is how they rationalize the difference between themselves and the more wealthy.

    But that doesn't mean that there aren't also evil people who make money. That doesn't mean that there aren't rich people who really didn't earn it through hard work or intelligence.

  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    This would be more the fault of the consumer, then, for being so mistaken about what they consider to be valuable. Who is Feral to say that "somebody" is wrong? That their belief about importance is not as good as his?.

    Not necessarily. It's almost like a form of collective action problem - your services may be worth your salary to your employer, but that doesn't mean your services benefit the world at large.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Yar wrote: »
    That is easy. The professional athlete affects so many more people. How many lives has Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan inspired?

    I'm suggesting that a person's salary is not directly proportional to their benefit to the world. I don't see this as particularly controversial, and the fact that you have to fall back on fuzzy ill-defined intangibles like "inspiration" over a direct tangible benefit like "curing cancer" indicates to me that you're grasping at straws.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    Elki wrote: »
    The American dream? Rags to riches? MTV Cribs?

    I think there's some rich people hating going on. They're certainly not 'down to earth' as the salt of the earth people, whoever they are, blah blah blah. But it's not a big deal. Yeah, the rich guy might lose the girl in the movie, but nothing major. Being rich is hardly seen as a bad thing (because it's not), and I can't count the number of times I heard 'hard-working' used as a synonym for 'saint'.

    I don't know. In my experience the rich-hating is more wide-spread than that. Just the other day on CNN there was a celebrity coverage and the subtitle read: "Celebrities get richer as the poor get poorer" I mean really? Granted that this is anecdotal, but it fits in with the attitudes of most people I've met in life.
    The first part of your argument is predicated on misusing a bunch of terms. A workaholic is not a "hard working" person - a workaholic is someone who cannot take a vacation or in some way relax and is miserable for it.

    What if they are not miserable, if they in fact like it? Does being miserable have anything to do with being judged as a workaholic?
    MrMister wrote: »
    Furthermore, I think that it's justified to react with moral opprobrium to excessive luxury. It's immoral to spend money on installing a mini-movie theater and sauna in your home while people in the world are dying for lack of oral rehydration salts. Preemptively, yes, that applies to all sorts of luxury items, including those not bought by the ultra rich--the ultra rich are just the worst offenders in that regard. I wouldn't contest your point that money is nifty--indeed, it is precisely because money is so nifty that how one spends it becomes a morally loaded decision.

    This is precisely why I have a great amount of disdain for morality in general.

    The reason the guy had a movie theater and a sauna and a gym in his house was because he's an extremely busy person - often sacrificing his own leisure time to help his patients, even if they can't pay him - and he doesn't have time to drive to and from the gym, the sauna, movies, etc. He told me that before he got his new place, it took him an hour and a half to drive to his fitness club, an hour to the beach, and two hours to the movies (not to mention having to schedule his life around movie showtimes). And he often got stuck in traffic and couldn't do any of those. When he lived like this he often got four, maybe five hours of sleep every night. He was miserable.

    By getting all of those installed in his house, he gained more free time for leisure or work (as necessary), which means he does his job - i.e. healing people - better. From this perspective his spending his money on those things is not an immoral act.

    But hey, that's no concern of morality, is it? Morality is just a tool people use to get on some kind of high horse from which they can judge other people as oh-so-immoral.
    Finally, I would contest your implicit assumption that people with fewer skills or less intelligence also deserve less comfort and opportunity in their lives.

    That's not my implicit assumption at all.
    saggio wrote: »
    The assumption that there is some causal relationship between talent, intelligence, or worth and wealth or riches is absolutely and patently false. Sometimes there is an incidental relationship between the two - Warren Buffet, is, for instance, an incredibly smart man, and he has leveraged that into vast amounts of wealth. But should I be so in awe of the actor, the professional athlete, the businessman who, due to their field, makes a lot more money than a teacher, or an artist, or a musician?

    Not really.

    I can certainly admire the good actor, or the good athlete, but their ability, talent, and skill is something that is not connected to their wealth. It just so happens that, due to certain cultural emphasis and expectations, certain occupations are viewed as more worthy of wealth than other occupations. Which leads to a situation where a certain select few occupations are given incomes which purportedly reflect their worth in terms of their skill or talent, but are in fact, disproportionate to other, just as deserving occupations, and don't accurately reflect the "true" value (if the value in terms of 'goodness,' talent, or skill can be measured in dollars and cents at all is dubious in and of itself...) of the occupation, or an individual's performance within it.

    You are completely wrong.

    In a supply and demand economy, how much money a person makes is a direct function of how unique their skills are, how good they are at marketing them, and how much other people want/need those skills. If you doubled the amount of doctors in America, you'd see the average salary of doctors plummet, because now there are twice the number of people who can do that same job (there's actually a great deal of controversy in some fields of medicine because people argue that a lot of medical schools artificially keep the number of students they take low in order to keep salaries high). Why do you think teachers get paid so little? It's because there are a plaethora of them and every person who doesn't know what to do with their lives jumps into getting a degree on education, which is a really easy degree to get (which is why we have so many teachers and why most of them are horrible). Then again let's not ignore the fact that good teachers - those who are masters in their specialized subject - get paid a shit ton.

    In other words, we do not determine an occupation's earning power on its value to society, because value is subjective. Rather, we determine it based on how much demand there is for it, and how many people there are who have the necessary credentials.

    I'm sure you can find an exception or two, but this is generally the case.
    ege02 wrote: »
    1- Money is not important... is bullshit. Money is always important.

    Enough money is important - to pay your bills, buy food, have somewhere safe to live, be able to go out once in a while, buy the things your kids need ...

    But how much money is enough? That's the thing: you never know. You can either choose to be on the safe side and hoard it so you can afford to get out of unforeseen and difficult situations, or you can choose to get enough to just get by and get completely screwed when something bad happens.
    ege02 wrote: »
    2- A lot of the time, money is the most important thing in the world. Not always, but there are things money can accomplish that anything else cannot.

    Money is only the most important thing in the world if you don't have it.

    I agree that it is more important if you don't have it - i.e. the marginal utility of money diminishes as one has more of it - but there are many other situations where it can accomplish things anything else can't.
    ege02 wrote: »
    3- Money can buy happiness, if what you want is purchasable (turns out that, most of the time, it is).

    Friendship? Satisfying relationships? Love? Peace of mind?

    Money can certainly buy peace of mind.

    Friendship too. Hand out a loan to someone who is in desperate need, or connect them with someone who gives them a well-paying job, and they'll be your friend forever.

    Satisfying relationships... it depends on what satisfies you.

    Love? See above.

    Medopine wrote: »
    Fuck that woman going "oh god oh no!!"

    It's nature, bitch
  • FeralFeral Who needs a medical license when you've got style? Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    saggio wrote: »
    I can certainly admire the good actor, or the good athlete, but their ability, talent, and skill is something that is not connected to their wealth.

    You are completely wrong.

    In a supply and demand economy, how much money a person makes is a direct function of how unique their skills are, how good they are at marketing them, and how much other people want/need those skills.

    The connection between talent and salary is tenuous at best, for the bolded reason above. We've all met mediocre people who were highly paid and talented people who weren't making what they're worth. That's because making money is a skill in and of itself. Some people aren't good at going to job interviews, negotiating salaries, demanding raises, etc. That doesn't mean that they're good at their job. There's no invisible hand of Adam Smith making sure your salary is proportional to your job-related talent.
    ege02 wrote: »
    Why do you think teachers get paid so little? It's because there are a plaethora of them and every person who doesn't know what to do with their lives jumps into getting a degree on education, which is a really easy degree to get (which is why we have so many teachers and why most of them are horrible). Then again let's not ignore the fact that good teachers - those who are masters in their specialized subject - get paid a shit ton.

    What? No. There is so much wrong with this statement.

    First off, teachers get paid so little because their pay is determined by a government bureaucracy; to increase teachers' pay you'd have to increase taxes and you know how people react to that.

    Secondly, good teachers do not get paid a shit ton. Good college professors who publish a lot make good salaries, but publishing ability and teaching ability are not the same thing.

    Third, we have horrible teachers because we don't pay teachers enough to attract enough top-tier students. Why be a teacher making $45k a year when you can be a doctor or lawyer making three or four times that?

    Fourth, your basic fallacy here is assuming that all jobs and services are elastic when many (like teaching) are clearly not.
    ege02 wrote: »
    Friendship too. Hand out a loan to someone who is in desperate need, or connect them with someone who gives them a well-paying job, and they'll be your friend forever.

    Haha no. Just no.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.
    the "no true scotch, man" fallacy.
  • Grid SystemGrid System Registered User
    edited July 2008
    ege02 wrote: »
    Elki wrote: »
    The American dream? Rags to riches? MTV Cribs?

    I think there's some rich people hating going on. They're certainly not 'down to earth' as the salt of the earth people, whoever they are, blah blah blah. But it's not a big deal. Yeah, the rich guy might lose the girl in the movie, but nothing major. Being rich is hardly seen as a bad thing (because it's not), and I can't count the number of times I heard 'hard-working' used as a synonym for 'saint'.

    I don't know. In my experience the rich-hating is more wide-spread than that. Just the other day on CNN there was a celebrity coverage and the subtitle read: "Celebrities get richer as the poor get poorer" I mean really? Granted that this is anecdotal, but it fits in with the attitudes of most people I've met in life.
    Nevermind "attitudes", it's true. I don't see any problem with news media reporting what is actually happening.

  • ege02ege02 __BANNED USERS
    edited July 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    That is easy. The professional athlete affects so many more people. How many lives has Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan inspired?

    I'm suggesting that a person's salary is not directly proportional to their benefit to the world. I don't see this as particularly controversial, and the fact that you have to fall back on fuzzy ill-defined intangibles like "inspiration" over a direct tangible benefit like "curing cancer" indicates to me that you're grasping at straws.

    I think, in response to your counter argument, I'd say that in your examples you're too obsessed with tangible benefits. Entertainment is not a tangible benefit yet it has a great deal of value to a lot of people. Take it away and you'd see the society's productivity plummet, and people would be much less happy.

    So, on the contrary, I think his point is very valid. Tiger Woods provides entertainment for millions of people. Okay, let's say that "inspiration" is intangible. What about the businesses that have spawned and the jobs that were created as a result? How many young men started playing basketball because they wanted to be like Jordan, and as a result became more fit, and maybe even got things like scholarships and awards?

    Medopine wrote: »
    Fuck that woman going "oh god oh no!!"

    It's nature, bitch
  • YarYar Registered User regular
    edited July 2008
    Feral wrote: »
    Yar wrote: »
    That is easy. The professional athlete affects so many more people. How many lives has Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan inspired?

    I'm suggesting that a person's salary is not directly proportional to their benefit to the world. I don't see this as particularly controversial, and the fact that you have to fall back on fuzzy ill-defined intangibles like "inspiration" over a direct tangible benefit like "curing cancer" indicates to me that you're grasping at straws.
    Fine... the entertainment they provide. A very important part of the lives of people, the very same lives that oncologists save. We could speculate about the fuzziness involved in the calculation, but I'd say that if that entertainment is only 1/10,000 of someone's life, but that athlete reaches 100,000 times as many people... well then he's worth 10x as much.

    But we don't really need fuzzy calculations, we have money to do it for us. Things are worth what people will pay for them. Who are you to say it's wrong? Who are you to say that "curing cancer" (who's done that?) is more valuable when it is clear that people at large aren't willing to commit as much to such a thing?

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