Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Peter C. McCluskey (
Date: Mon Jan 21 2002 - 10:58:25 MST (Chris Hibbert) writes:
>I was in general unimpressed by the arguments of "Luxury Fever". I agree that
>many people are driven by envy and care about relative standing. I don't see
>that that gives the argument moral weight. Some people are doing very well at
>improving the lives of others, and they're being compensated very well for it.

 A society in which a large fraction of rewards go to a handful of people
who become the best tennis player or the best movie star is a society in
which in which a large number of people take big risks to become one of that
handful, and it is a society in which most of the people who make that
attempt fail to achieve what they want.
 In a society in which rewards are much more dispersed, a larger fraction
of people are able to accomplish what they attempt.
 That's why the arguments in Luxury Fever imply that there are negative
externalities associated with celebrity-worship. Since I don't see any way
to internalize those externalities, I therefore believe that a moral system
which creates social pressure to make choices that reduce inequality will
produce a nicer society than a moral system that claims inequality doesn't
matter. Most of the choices that affect inequality aren't as simple as
choosing whether to worship celebrities, but that doesn't make them any
less important.

> That's why life is so much better for everyone, including the worst off.

 Everyone? Do you deny that there are people who have lost their job
security due to economic change? Do you deny that there are people whose
pristine view of lake Tahoe has become less valuable because someone else
became wealthy enough to build another house within that view?
 The economic progress that I observe looks like some people (often a large
majority) benefitting from an innovation while others lose something as a
result. It's hard to explain the widespread controversy over policies that
promote economic progress unless I notice the existence of people who are
hurt by such progress.

Peter McCluskey          | Free Jon Johansen! | 

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