Re: Vote on Valuess, Bet on Beliefs

From: Emlyn (onetel) (
Date: Mon Jul 31 2000 - 21:17:29 MDT

> Matt writes:
> > For a practical example, take a market for transplant organs: I'm an
> > average guy with failing liver - a new one would be of great value to
> > me - and I can beg, borrow, and, steal perhaps $1,000,000 to
> > literally save my life. You, on the other hand, are a fantastically
> > wealthy industrialist, worth more billions than you can conceivably
> > spend the interest on, and you happen to like eating human liver,
> > cooked, whipped, and spread on crackers. Since $10,000,000 is worth
> > nothing to you, you easily out bid me.
> To resolve this paradox you have to look at how the billionaire got
> his money. Assuming he acquired it legally, he (or his ancestors) did
> something so incredibly valuable to the human race that people rewarded
> him with billions and billions and billions of dollars. This was
> way of saying thank you for the huge benefit he provided to mankind.
> Now, when he eats liver, he is taking the reward from that debt of
> thanks humanity owes him. It may seem unfortunate that he is able to
> command resources that could mean so much more to someone else, but that
> is the only way society was able to say thank you in a meaningful way.
> In effect, humanity thanked him by giving him their livers, even though
> others wanted them more.
> Hal

There's a dangerous line of reasoning; money is good. If you have money, it
is because you deserve it. Not a new position, but not defensible I think.

There are many ways that you could acquire money without deserving it as a
"thank you". Maybe this guy acquired a monopoly through foresight, and
squeezed out all competition, ripped of his customers, and generally,
although arguably deserving some reward, managed to reap benefits far out of
proportion of his actual social benefit. Or perhaps he is a blithering
idiot, who's best idea of a good time is eating human livers (?!?!?!?), who
inherited enormous wealth. Maybe he piggy backed on someone elses' great
work, managing to bump his partners out of the way at just the right moment.
Perhaps he was one of the in crowd with some nepotistic banana republic's
govt, and managed to squeeze billions out via massive corruption. Or any one
of a zillion other ways of making vast sums of money.

And of course there is the inverse; people who really do add to society,
without being rewarded appropriately. Examples would be lengthy and boorish;
left as an exercise.

I was reading a PR textbook recently, where the writer was justifying the
moral goodness of the existence of PR. His argument went something like
this: Useful things are good. Useful things survive in the marketplace,
non-useful things don't. PR survives, which means that PR is useful.
Therefore PR is good.

I see parallels in the money morality above. It goes something like this:
People deserve money in proportion to their goodness. People only get money
as a result of doing beneficial things. Therefore, the more money people
have, the "gooder" they are, and everything is golden sunshine. Right.

Really, I think money is awarded mostly, in it's really useful sized chunks,
based on business acumen, and not much else. Business acumen is fine, great,
I'm all for it, but it is the greatest of all virtues, that it should be
awarded far out of proportion to any skill? Maybe it is.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:35:26 MDT