Re: ETHICS: Responsability to life

Arjen Kamphuis (
Sun, 8 Mar 1998 22:49:06 +0100 (CET)

At 10:34 6-03-98 -0800, Lee Daniel Crocker <> wrote:
>> I'll answer 'Yes' [that one has a moral responsibility to minimize
>> human suffering]. And then I have a big problem. Because if that's so.
>> If that is what I say I believe... Then what am I doing waisting my
>> time typing E-mails when I should be clearing mines in Aghanistan or
>> volunteering for Medicine Sans Frontiers in Namibia?
>You probably /are/ the very best thing you can do for the future of
>all humanity: earning a living. Better still if you actually own a
>profit-making business.

You may be right, although there's not much heroics in IT-consultancy ;-)
I'll agree with you that in the long term work that improves efficiency
will benefit everybody but that doesn't address the acute problems that
people are facing now. The fact that I am not to blame for their existance
makes no difference whatsoever. I realize this is irrational (and maybe
even a bit selfish) but then so are most other motivators in life.

>It would be a sin for you to throw away
>your skills to go playing in the third world unless that's actually
>where your skills are;

Maybe is I had greater medical skills or something...
It's true that I can probably generate more added-value at home than
somewhere in a 3rd world village but don't you ever feel you want to do
something about it yourself? I do, and the knowledge that's its almost
impossible to do something constructive can be frustrating.

>comparitive advantage will put people where
>their skills make the most difference--and therefore, money.

Problem here is that working as a consultant I can earn a pretty decent
living in a comfortable way. Red Cross and such is most often volunteer
work or, at best, paying much lower wages than what one could earn in the
commercial sector. Apparently trying to build a school in Africa isn't
rated very high, economicaly speaking, compared to work done for the Big Blue.

>If a
>group like the Red Cross or the Peace Corps--staffed with people
>who are well-suited to those tasks--wants to go there, that's great.

I find it more than great, I find it admirable that doctors volunteer to
work under harsh and dangerous conditions without pay simply because they
feel 'this is the right thing to do' (call me old-fashioned if you like ;-).

>But as has been pointed out before, Michael Milken did far more to
>abolish hunger and poverty in the world than Mother Theresa did.

Possibly, they both did great things in their own way. Comparing them would
be difficult at best (aside from the fact that I don't like connecting aid
& religion).

>There is not a more fundamentally moral or socially responsible act
>than to earn profit in free trade.

Where the definition of 'free trade' is the tricky part of course. Other
than that I would agree.

Interesting point is that while Holland spends something like 1% of it's
GNP on non-military foreign aid there is a net cash flow from Africa to
Holland. Most of it going to large banks that have lent billions to these
countries and are cashing in on the interest. Most of this money ends up in
the Dutch economy somewhere. Africa is still very good to us.

>I believe there is, however, another responsibility that sometimes
>is overlooked: to actively resist, to the extent of one's ability,
>those forces opposed to the values of life. I vote, for example,
>because if I did not, I would feel some moral complicity in whatever
>atrocities are committed by the government I failed to vote against.

I agree. We just had county-level elections over here last wednesday and
since I'm not that aware of local politics (they don't influence me that
much) I was unsure what to vote for. But as Heinlein stated: "Even is there
is no-one you'll want to vote for, there will always be people you'll want
to vote against.".
Another fine day for democracy ;-)


Arjen Kamphuis | "Here Be Dragons", read the ancient maps | in all the white spots that seemed large
enough to hold the fabled creatures.

let's go dragon hunting.

Transcedo, the Dutch Transhumanist site: