This post will be a bit long but I hope it’s worth it. I’ve been working out a concept of an ideal society over the past few days. I’ve been especially thinking about the problem of scarcity and how it affects the distribution of goods. Usually, scarcity is a problem when there are not enough goods for the people who want them. However, there have been certain goods, especially recently, that have the opposite problem: scarcity is non-existent, and it costs nothing to have it distributed infinitely (music, movies, other types of data). An article on Cracked actually explains the problem really well:
In a quick summary, the article basically points out how advertisers are already convincing us to pay money for things we can get for free (tap water, music, etc.). This will have to happen in more and more areas as our increased efficiency leads to less and less scarcity. The article also points out how labor is eventually going to be less and less valuable; we’ve already replaced most manufacturing jobs with machines. What happens when less and less people are needed in the workforce?
My solution begins by eliminating all forms of currency, paper or otherwise. This is a pretty insane proposition, but I think it could work. Goods and services would be transferred without any money involved, and jobs wouldn’t be paid in currency. The way this would work would be by establishing several “classes” of jobs. So far, I feel that a 5 level system would be optimal, and it’d go like this:
Level 1-No job.
Level 2-Basic/introductory job. Examples would be introductory business positions, any type of job a high-school/college student would do, etc.
Level 3-Career job. Examples would be stable business positions, small business managers, bus drivers.
Level 4-Significant Contribution to Society job. Examples would be teachers, engineers, doctors, successful business owners.
Level 5-Exceptional Contribution to Society. Examples would be presidents, nobel prize winners.
The distribution of goods would depend on these levels. The greater availability of a good, the more levels it can be distributed to. If you are at level 1, then you can freely consume any goods or services available to level 1. If you are level 3, then you can freely consume any goods or services available to levels 1-3. And so forth. Here’s how it would work:
At Level 1 you would get everything that is essential to live the minimal standard of life: food, water, minimal housing, healthcare, and education at any level. Further, you would get everything that can be produced enough for everyone: data (music, movies, tv), maybe certain types of mass produced furniture, etc.
At Level 2, you would get everything Level 1 gets and anything that can be produced enough to handle Levels 2-5. I’d guess this would include small luxuries such as restaurants, easily produced cars, and so forth.
On each subsequent level, the concept is the same. Level 5 gets any goods available, and each level down gets what can be produced enough to handle that need.
Quick side note: If something can be produced for levels 3-5, there is no priority for that good in distribution. So a level 5 wouldn’t be able to “cut in line” in front of a level 3, it’d be first come first serve.
The other end of the equation involves how you decide which job gets which Level. To begin with, I’d assign a level to each job based on how much it contributes to society (as I did earlier in the post). But these levels would have to fluctuate depending on a few things:
1. Degree of difficulty
2. Education needed
3. Other appealing factors of the job
If any of those three factors is too high to justify the current level, the level should be raised. Here’s basically how it would work:
How much of a certain good needs to be produced to provide for the level it is currently being distributed to? How many workers does it take to meet that level of production (and how skilled must these workers be)?
If there aren’t enough workers, or not enough skilled workers willing to do the job, then you raise the level of the job to attract more/higher skilled workers.
This system would result in a different form of supply/demand economics. Raising/decreasing levels of jobs would be the focus of the entire “economy”. As noted already, raising levels of jobs would be the method of increasing interest in jobs to produce more of that good/service. If there are too many jobs at a high level, and as a whole the system of goods cannot support it, then you devalue the jobs that are not as necessary or have a high enough demand at a lower level to sustain the output of the good/service.
This might be clearer in my head than it is to a reader, so I’ll outline an example of how a real world example would work:
Imagine starting a business selling tacos. You get the ingredients from farmers for free, perhaps needing to arrange with the farmers for higher amounts of food than normal for your business. You file a petition with the government to grant you a certain number of “jobs”. Let’s say that, to maintain the business at first, you need 4 entry level workers. So you apply for that and get one level 3 job for being a small business owner, and 4 level 2 jobs as workers. To justify keeping these jobs, you need to produce enough meals for people. Let’s say you do, and actually you produce a lot of meals for people. Since you are providing goods to people (level 1 goods), your business has enough value to justify the jobs. If you produce less than enough meals, or if not enough people are interested in your tacos, then you are no longer providing enough meals to justify the 5 total jobs and would get either closed or downsized. If you produce more than enough, then you could apply for more level 2 jobs. If your business keeps growing, so would the amount/quality of the jobs.
Obviously with any system, there are going to be kinks that need to be worked out. But as a base theory, I think it could work. Unlike other “utopian” government ideals, it keeps the “profit” motive that drives competition and industry. Instead of striving for more money though, you are striving for a higher level job.
Here are some possible objections, and my responses to each:
1. It puts too much control in the government
- This is true, and in the past giving that much control to governments lead to horrible things. But I honestly think things would be different in this system, as there is no money to corrupt. In every government since the invention of currency, money has equaled power. Controlling more of it means controlling more power. If you give government complete control of the currency (ala communism) you give the government complete power.
This system, on the other hand, has no money. No bribes are possible. Hiring a private army is impossible. Having the army be loyal to you, rather than the country, is impossible without money.
Further, in this system, the power is still with the people (I’m still for democracy). You vote the people with whom you agree with, just like you do today. If they do things that are corrupt, then you get rid of them.
2. People wouldn’t be motivated to work.
-I think evidence points against this. It is true, at level 1 (no job) you can live a comfortable life with food, water, clothing, etc. and never have to work a day in your life. Some people would choose this, and I think it’s a great thing that humanity could have this option.
But most people are not satisfied with just getting by in life. Ambition makes us want more and more goods, and makes us want to climb the social ladder.
Think of it this way: we already have welfare, food stamps, and ways to get free healthcare. You can never work and survive in life this way. Do you want to? Or you can work a minimally committed minimum wage job and get by decently well by yourself. Do you want to? Not to mention the fact that you can get free food, water, and shelter for life in prison.
I believe we naturally want to achieve, and not as many people as some fear would simply not work their entire lives. Which brings me to my next objection:
3. By having levels of jobs, you create a much more strictly defined class system in society.
-Yes, but this is intentional. A classless society sounds nice in theory, and I wish it could be maintained, but I don’t see how. I strongly believe in the idea of Thomas Hobbes that humans are naturally competitive-we want to be relatively better than those around us, whether from pride or from instinct. It’s one of the key sources of conflict that Hobbes believes inevitably lead us to war.
In our current society, we try to work our way up for higher paying jobs. Why? The extra money is a good motive, but are we really motivated solely by the ability to purchase more goods? I think it’d be foolish to claim that. What drives a lot of people, right or wrong, is the desire to be in the “higher” part of society. Working as a doctor, lawyer, or high businessman is considered high class. To prove this, think about the appeal of expensive cars, particularly Rolls Royce’s. Is there a practical reason to spend so much more on a Rolls Royce than a Corolla, or even a mid-luxury car? It obviously isn’t efficiency, and it isn’t power as there are other cars that are significantly faster than Rolls Royces. Yet having one is a mark of being high-class, and thus is sought after.
So basically, we as a society need classes to get us to strive to move our way up in society. I think this system works especially well, as the “high-class” jobs would be valued based on their contributions to society, rather than how well they can turn a profit.
4. There wouldn’t be enough goods produced to satisfy everyone’s needs.
-This is false. The only goods not still dependent on laws of supply/demand are those necessary for life. Food, water, clothing however, can be produced enough to satisfy everyone’s needs even with today’s technology. Money is literally the only thing standing in the way of this.
5. This would be impossible to transition into.
-This is almost true. In today’s society, it might be impossible. The only way this system works is in a global economy. There can’t be one country that has this system while everyone else uses currency, as it would end trade. In a global economy, we could maintain global dependence and trade.
The biggest problem would be goods that are not replenishable by labor, like oil. In today’s society, oil would be consumed almost immediately without money restricting its use. But, I don’t see this as a problem as this system would never be implemented in today’s society. It’s going to take a long, long time for a universal government to exist. By that time (when this system could be implemented), I highly doubt we’ll still be using oil or any other limited resource as fuel.
Why this system is needed:
As stated earlier, we are going to need less and less jobs to satisfy everyone’s needs. What happens to people who can’t find work?
Why this system is a utopia:
Think of what this system would entail. World hunger, gone. Poverty, gone. Corporate greed, gone. Petty theft, gone. Most crime, gone (poverty is the top cause of crime).
People would be able to pursue the life they want, and not have to worry about going hungry. Further, people would on a much larger scale work toward causes that benefit humanity, rather than what is profitable. Imagine how many people would work at charities, or start new movements to clean up the earth or plant trees. They’d all have jobs and be able to support themselves, all while improving the world. People would be able to do whats necessary to get the job they want, instead of taking an awful job they don’t want in order to feed themselves.
While it doesn’t necessarily entail it, war might end entirely. What is there to fight over (besides maybe religion)?
Lastly, it eliminates the problem of artificial scarcity. All businesses would produce the maximum number of goods/services that society would demand, rather than portion it out to those who could afford it. The new focus for businesses would simply be on quality of goods (so people will want it), rather than cost efficiency.
I hope those who read the whole thing found this interesting and clear. If there are any questions that I didn’t answer, please ask in the comments. Same if there are any objections. I may be foolish for thinking so, but I believe society is going to end up using a system like this someday. Hopefully it’ll be sooner than I’m predicting, but who knows.
The “Problem of Evil” is probably the most discussed issue in the philosophy of religion. In simple terms, the problem of evil claims that evil is incompatible with the existence of an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnibenevolent (all-good) being. This quote by Epicurus says it perfectly:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Theist philosophers have tried with varying degrees of success to overcome this problem. Defenses range from the commonly known “free will argument” to arguments that evil is necessary for soul growth.
To defeat these defenses, I’m going to classify these defense as: evil exists because evil is needed for “x”. Evil is a broad term that I’ll define as anything that has a negative intrinsic value (intrinsic means on its own, or its value separate from any further consequences). X is any justification for evil, which will be assumed to be some positive intrinsic value.
These arguments basically claim that the negative intrinsic value of evil is justified by creating the positive intrinsic value x. In this way, evil is instrumentally valuable so long as the positive value of x exceeds the negative value of evil.
Here’s the problem: if an omnipotent God exists, then there cannot be any “x” such that God cannot create x without using “y” as a means to x. In simple terms, this means that God cannot be omnipotent if he needs to meet certain conditions to bring about x. If God wants x, then God should be able to make/produce/establish x on its own without needing to use y. If God needs any single condition y to meet x, then God is not omnipotent.
In the theistic defense, y is all evil that exists. The claim is that evil is “necessary” to have free will, character growth, or good in the world. But, if God cannot establish free will, character growth, and good in the universe without using evil as a means, then God is not omnipotent.
A quick note: It may be intuitive to think that free will, or any other matter, would be impossible without evil. But if that is true, then God is simply not omnipotent (because God would be unable to make free will independent of evil). If there is a single action or feat that God cannot accomplish, then he is not all-powerful.
From this, there are only two ways to potentially save the concept of God: get rid of one of the three omni’s, or argue that evil doesn’t exist.
Most theists are unwilling to get rid of any of the three omni’s, meaning that the common conception of God is dependent on those three qualities.
To argue that evil does not exist takes a stretch of the imagination. Certain theists have argued that evil is an illusion, or that what we think of evil is simply an absence of good. To argue that evil is an illusion would be akin to arguing for full blown skepticism of reality.
The “evil is the absence of good” argument takes me to my next point: there are easily understandable things that are objectively negative in intrinsic value. Pain and death, especially a death before being “saved” (if the Christian God were to be assumed) are all intrinsically negative values. I’ll use pain for my argument because it’s simpler:
Imagine one instance of pain. The person experiencing it does not want it and it is negatively affecting their quality of life. Intrinsically, it is a negative value. There are various ways a theist could try to make it instrumentally valuable, like pointing to the avoidance behaviors learned from pain, the building of character, etc. But keep in mind, all these positive values could have been achieved by God without needing pain as a means if he were omnipotent.
In order to maintain God’s omnipotence, a theist’s only defense would be that God values that pain positively completely isolated from any consequences. Meaning that if the pain did nothing except hurt the person, God would value it. The theist could then argue that we are not capable of telling God that he’s wrong about the valuation of pain. This in turn would have to apply to every other matter that we see as intrinsically negative.
My last question would then be: why follow this God? What kind of God values pain, death, and any other evil that exists?
The Problem of Evil is ultimately a fatal flaw of the common conception of God. There is literally no way to logically evade the problem and maintain the omni’s for God (please post in the comments if you think you have a successful rebuttal). While it is true that this argument doesn’t disprove the existence of any God, it does disprove the existence of any beings that are omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
The issue of self-defense isn’t as straightforward as it seems, especially when it involves killing another person to save yourself. The philosophy of self-defense is especially important in understanding just war theories and the morality of soldiers, so it deserves a full look.
1. I’ll start with a clear cut case, called the “Villainous Aggressor” by J.J. Thompson. Imagine that you are being attacked by a man with a gun. This man intends to kill you and won’t stop until he does. He has no moral justification for attacking you, and he has no excuse either (meaning he isn’t being controlled or influenced by anyone else). You have a gun. If killing him is the only way to save yourself, are you morally allowed to kill him?
The answer to this one is pretty obvious: yes, you are morally justified in killing the aggressor. Using my view of ethics to define the situation, you have a right to life that can only be saved by killing the aggressor. The aggressor, by intentionally trying to infringe on your right to life, loses his own right to life. Both objectively and subjectively speaking, you are justified in killing the aggressor.
2. The Innocent Aggressor: Imagine a man is intentionally trying to kill you and won’t stop til he does. However, he is being controlled by some evil third party and would not normally try to kill you. If killing him is the only way to save yourself, are you morally allowed to kill him?
The answer isn’t as clear, but still seems pretty sure: yes, you are morally justified in killing an innocent aggressor. You have a right to life, the aggressor may have a right to life but you should have a right to defend yourself. Objectively and subjectively speaking, you are justified in killing the innocent aggressor.
3. The Innocent Threat: Imagine a man is falling off a cliff toward you. The man was pushed by a villainous aggressor through no fault of his on. You are stuck in the ground and cannot move in time to save yourself. If he falls on you, you will die but he will survive from you cushioning his fall. You happen to have a vaporizer gun on you. If you vaporize the man, he will die but you will survive. Are you morally justified in killing the man to save yourself?
The answer is debatable. Some claim that you cannot kill an innocent person to save yourself, while others claim you are allowed to kill if it is the only way to save yourself. Objectively speaking, whichever decision you make is morally equivalent to the other. One innocent dies, one innocent lives. Subjectively speaking, I believe you are allowed to defend yourself, and that it would be foolish to claim that you would be morally obligated to die to save one person.
So the question then becomes: when are you morally obligated to die? If two people would die instead of you, are you obligated to die for the two?
It’s an unpopular opinion, but I feel extremely hesitant saying that someone is morally obligated to die in any non-extreme case. If a person is innocent of any wrongdoing and has their right to life threatened, I feel it would take an extreme case (maybe 10 people dying) to compelling obligate someone to die. I haven’t yet fully figured out how this system would work (its one of the moral questions I’m trying to figure out now), but I wanted to put the idea out there.
- I’m still planning on doing an ethical dilemma post, but I’m looking for better dilemmas.
(Semi-spoiler alert, though if you haven’t seen the Dark Knight you really should go see it now)
In the Dark Knight, the Joker does a social experiment of sorts. He holds two ships hostage, one full of regular civilians and the other full of prison inmates. He tells them over an intercom that both ships are rigged with explosives, and that they will both explode at midnight. The twist is that both ships have a trigger to the other ships bombs. If either ship pulls the trigger, the other ship will explode (killing everyone on board) but the ship that does will be saved.
In the movie, both ships heroically decide that they won’t push the button, and wait it out til midnight. Batman, whilst fighting the Joker, notes that neither ship blew the other up and called it a triumph of the human spirit. Batman then stopped the Joker from killing both ships and everyone was saved.
The subtle lesson/moral idea is that it is not okay to sacrifice some to save many/the greater good. The movie praises the citizens/inmates for refusing to press the button, then “rewards” them by having no one die.
The problem: that ethical lesson isn’t correctly taught, as the actual outcome differed from the given circumstances. In the original circumstance, here’s what the options were for either ship:
1. Do nothing, and die with the other ship or die and the other ship survives.
2. Press the trigger, the other ship dies but everyone on this ship survives.
The movie clearly supported option #1, siding with a sort of deontological theory of ethics that prohibits using others deaths in any situation, regardless of the consequences. Consequentionalists, like myself, would choose option #2. What the movie unfairly does, though, is not go through with the given circumstances: neither ship is blown up even though the time ran out.
Imagine that, instead of the movie ending, the Joker managed to fulfill his threat and both ships exploded, killing everybody. To actually promote option #1 (deontological ethics of some sort), the decision to do nothing should still be the morally right one, even though everyone died.
Is that correct? I obviously disagree; it is far worse for both ships of people to die then it is for one to kill the other.
The most common objection: In the real world, people don’t have guarantees in any situation. Maybe both ships should have waited on the chance that both were saved?
Rebuttal: In hypothetical cases, probabilities can be ignored by putting guarantees in the case (done so the ethical questions can be focused on instead of guessing at the results). So, the question is: if both ships deaths are guaranteed to happen without a remote possibility of being saved, should one ship press the trigger?
In real cases: there are no guarantees really in real cases, and very few will be so straightforward as most of these actual situations are caused by accidents and not psychopathic genius clowns. In the real world though, probabilities have to be taken on a case by case basis. What doesn’t change though, unless you believe both ships dying is better than one, is the ethical idea that consequences can justify otherwise immoral actions.
-There’s a famous thought experiment that roughly deals with this, though I can’t for the life of me remember the name/find the author. Basically, you are a traveler in a foreign country when you get taken hostage by a small army. The army is also holding 20 innocent villagers hostage. The leader, being both sadistic and playful, tells you that you have to shoot and kill one of the innocent villagers. If you don’t, he will kill all of them himself. What should you do?
I’m gonna look at some ethical dilemmas in my next post and try to outline what the “right” answer is to each. I’ll either do all of the ones listed here: http://listverse.com/2007/10/21/top-10-moral-dilemmas/ or a few famous ones.