Morality of passive/active

  • Thread starter madness
  • Start date
27,316
3,903
So if you have a decision to either spare some of your excess wealth and stop a person for starving to death, or to keep your money and let them die, then it's morally ok? But if you were to do anything that might be construed as actively contributing to their death that's not ok?
IMO those two are clearly not morally equivalent.

If a person has earned what they have through economically productive work and not through any force or fraud then their wealth is not ill-gotten nor is it the cause of anyone else's poverty. If instead they have taken what they have through force or fraud then their wealth is ill-gotten, even if their victims were all rich and were not impoverished by the theft.
 
Last edited:
1,328
0
And as the workers gain wealth, they buy shares in their company, and the ownership moves.

I wouldn't argue that capitalism does anything like a perfect job or shouldn’t be better regulated, but it does do a job.
I'm not anti-capitalist, but I don't think its unfair to say that it favors the rich to such an extent it is very difficult to 'move ownership'.
 
646
3
Hitler and Ayn Rand are sitting in two different rooms. Hitler sits in front of a button that if pressed, would kill 11 million people. Rand sits in front of a button that if pressed, would save the lives on 11 million people. Is the action of Hitler pushing and Rand not pushing morally equivalent?
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,080
4,582
Thats a bit misleading. If the world was run completely on a free trade model, and reset so that everyone started with the same amount of cash, your numbers would be different.
You're arguing what could be, I'm arguing what is. Your argument does not even attempt to address mine.
One of the political realities is that 3rd world countries are a source of cheap labor because they don't have the laws 'developed' countries do. Westerners earn more for doing the same work, not based on expertise or workmanship, but on where they live. Westerners also control trade: by owning companies, lands and mineral rights...etc...
As was pointed out, that's misleading because the cost of living is lower, so it doesn't necessarily qualify as exploitation. Also, market forces will tend to force equality - that's why China's GDP growth is so much higher than anyone else's. It is being pulled into equilibrium with the West due to - not in spite of - trade and outsourcing.

That's also not really relevant to the claim I was debunking: the claim was that most of our wealth comes from that, which is quite simply wrong.
So they can maintain their higher standard of living by exerting control over production and trade. In this sense, the GDP is merely a symptom of this control.
The high standard of living/GDP has nothing to do with control over anything. People see that there are differences between haves and have nots and assume that the haves must be forcing the have nots down and in reality, just the opposite is true.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,080
4,582
So if you have a decision to either spare some of your excess wealth and stop a person for starving to death, or to keep your money and let them die, then it's morally ok? But if you were to do anything that might be construed as actively contributing to their death that's not ok?
The first sentence doesn't make any sense - the pieces of the sentence don't fit each other. In any case, I addressed the issue in post 15. I said that if you truly have the means to help without harming yourself, then it is not ok to not help.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,080
4,582
Hitler and Ayn Rand are sitting in two different rooms. Hitler sits in front of a button that if pressed, would kill 11 million people. Rand sits in front of a button that if pressed, would save the lives on 11 million people. Is the action of Hitler pushing and Rand not pushing morally equivalent?
No, it isn't. This may seem to contradict what I have said before, but it doesn't: just because two things are both morally wrong, that doesn't mean they are morally equivalent.
 
So if you have a decision to either spare some of your excess wealth and stop a person for starving to death, or to keep your money and let them die, then it's morally ok? But if you were to do anything that might be construed as actively contributing to their death that's not ok?
Would giving the man money and having the man steal the money from you be morally equivalent? Apparently by your logic not giving the man money and allowing him to die is, morally, the same as intentionally killing him. If you believe that it is ok to do what ever is reasonably necessary to a person to keep that person from killing you (you haven't stated this but I am making an assumption since most people would agree) then it should not be morally wrong for the man to steal from you so he can eat and prevent you from killing him by not giving him the money.
 
1,328
0
You're arguing what could be, I'm arguing what is. Your argument does not even attempt to address mine.
And what *is* only occured because a huge wealth imbalance created by colonialism. You can't ignore history. Western nations are not more wealthy because they have outperformed in any market related sense. They are more wealthy because of political power. They had a huge headstart because they were able to pillage north america without much resistance or competition. This means inflated currency and financial power.
As was pointed out, that's misleading because the cost of living is lower, so it doesn't necessarily qualify as exploitation.
Yes, it pretty much does.
Also, market forces will tend to force equality - that's why China's GDP growth is so much higher than anyone else's. It is being pulled into equilibrium with the West due to - not in spite of - trade and outsourcing.
Market forces tend to favor the monopoly.
the claim was that most of our wealth comes from that, which is quite simply wrong. The high standard of living/GDP has nothing to do with control over anything.
Sure it does, the market wouldn't even exist without control mechanisms. You don't need to pay for something you can just take from someone. Whether its via police, the military, or political power, trade is all about power. Currency is just one aspect of that. Control of land and resources is another.
People see that there are differences between haves and have nots and assume that the haves must be forcing the have nots down and in reality, just the opposite is true.
Pfffft. GDP only tells us what is, it doesn't tell us how it came to be.
You are oversimplifying in a huge way.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
18,080
4,582
And what *is* only occured because a huge wealth imbalance created by colonialism.
So what? Why does that mean anything, much less have anything to do with my point?
You can't ignore history. Western nations are not more wealthy because they have outperformed in any market related sense.
I never claimed they were.
They are more wealthy because of political power.
No, they are more wealthy now because money grows more money in a government that manages the economy well.
They had a huge headstart because they were able to pillage north america without much resistance or competition. This means inflated currency and financial power.
Yes, that's true. So what? What does that have to do with the point? The point made that I contradicted is that we are "pillaging" right now. That's what I was arguing against. You have not addressed that point.
Yes, it pretty much does.
Why? you are making assertions and not backing them up. I have explained why not - if you want to argue against it....argue against it!
Market forces tend to favor the monopoly.
What market forces? I'm talking about gravity and you're talking about magnets. You're just doing random babbling here that doesn't have anything to do with the issues I'm discussing. Yes, it is true that monopolies rise due to market forces. In a completely unrelated issue, it is also true that market forces drive economic parity between nations.
Sure it does, the market wouldn't even exist without control mechanisms. You don't need to pay for something you can just take from someone. Whether its via police, the military, or political power, trade is all about power. Currency is just one aspect of that. Control of land and resources is another.
Markets existed before control mechanisms for them did, but in any case, you are again mixing unrelated issues. You're talking (mostly) about internal market regulation, I'm talking about external market manipulation.
Pfffft. GDP only tells us what is, it doesn't tell us how it came to be.
You are oversimplifying in a huge way.
The sentence you quoted didn't mention GDP. :confused:

JoeDawg, all of that was just random babbling that didn't have anything to do with anything in this discussion. I'm not going to continue going off on these random tangents.
 
1,971
415
The original post contained the line, "...it is mostly agreed that third world countries remain poor due to unfair trade, tied aid etc and their povery is a direct consequence of our affluence." This is totally false; it is not agreed, and the reasons given are not facts.

Take two specific cases in point, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Both of these were functioning nations with laws, a prosperous economy, an infrastructure, everything, at the time that blacks took control of them from whites. Today there is wide spread starvation in Zimbabwe and complete break down of that society. Things are moving rapidly in that direction in South Africa. It is inherent in the nature of these people. This was not something "done to them" but rather a disaster in each case that they freely made for themselves because of who/what they are.

So, by all means, as long as you continue to believe your original statement, you are honor bound to give every penny you have to alleviate world poverty. But if, just if perchance you begin to see clearly, you might want to rethink that.
 
Take two specific cases in point, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Both of these were functioning nations with laws, a prosperous economy, an infrastructure, everything, at the time that blacks took control of them from whites. Today there is wide spread starvation in Zimbabwe and complete break down of that society. Things are moving rapidly in that direction in South Africa. It is inherent in the nature of these people. This was not something "done to them" but rather a disaster in each case that they freely made for themselves because of who/what they are.
It would probably be better and more accurate to say that the socio-political situation in these countries, driven primarily by the fact that the indigenous people were made second class citizens (or not even citizens at all) in their own lands, led to the current instability. And we should likely acknowledge that the disperity in rights and wealth between colonists and natives precipitated the revolution against, and dismantling of, the colonial governments paving the way for these countries current political and economic issues.

Saying that its because there is just something wrong with those people is really rather ignorant.
 
1,328
0
The sentence you quoted didn't mention GDP. :confused:
You brought up GDP, not me. I think its completely irrelevant. The reason western countries are wealthy is because of the control structures put in place by colonialism. The specific amounts of money are irrelevant. Those will fluctuate, the fact people in the 3rd world have had very little control over their own economies, which can be traced back directly to colonialism, is why they continue to be poor. Ignoring the huge influence the west has on the rest of the world is just ignorance.

Insulting me doesn't change that, but it makes it clear where you are coming from. I think we're done here.
 
612
10
By the way the part "our affluence is a direct result of their poverty" was a quote from a UN Human Development Report a few years ago.
 
1,971
415
It would probably be better and more accurate to say that the socio-political situation in these countries, driven primarily by the fact that the indigenous people were made second class citizens (or not even citizens at all) in their own lands, led to the current instability. And we should likely acknowledge that the disperity in rights and wealth between colonists and natives precipitated the revolution against, and dismantling of, the colonial governments paving the way for these countries current political and economic issues.

Saying that its because there is just something wrong with those people is really rather ignorant.
Isn't the term for this "enablement"? I'm not much of a psychologist/sociologist type, but when you are willing to stand on your head to overlook the nonsensical behavior of someone in order to justify their actions, aren't you enabling them?

The rampage in Zimbabwe has been going on for around a quarter of a century, and is almost complete. They have almost entirely destroyed what was once a highly productive, food exporting economy. Most of the nation is now starving.

In South Africa, the power system is being destroyed because the blacks are stealing the transmission lines to sell as scrap metal. They are willfully sending their society back to a much more primitive time. There are countless other examples.

To speak of this as an "instability" is ignorant. Instability, by definition, leads pretty rapidly to a new stable condition. What we are seeing is the stable condition, the true nature of the people.

Perhaps we should simply say that savagery is the nature of those people when left to their own devices. They were far better off under the supervision of white people (oh, I know, that is terribly, terribly un-PC, but it is true). At least then they had a system of laws, everybody ate, everybody had a job, there was some level of medical care for everyone, even if there was gross inequality in the society. As it is now, they have no laws, many people do not eat, most people have no work, and medical care is almost nonexistent, and there is still gross inequality even among the blacks. So how are they better off now?
 
Isn't the term for this "enablement"? I'm not much of a psychologist/sociologist type, but when you are willing to stand on your head to overlook the nonsensical behavior of someone in order to justify their actions, aren't you enabling them?

The rampage in Zimbabwe has been going on for around a quarter of a century, and is almost complete. They have almost entirely destroyed what was once a highly productive, food exporting economy. Most of the nation is now starving.

In South Africa, the power system is being destroyed because the blacks are stealing the transmission lines to sell as scrap metal. They are willfully sending their society back to a much more primitive time. There are countless other examples.

To speak of this as an "instability" is ignorant. Instability, by definition, leads pretty rapidly to a new stable condition. What we are seeing is the stable condition, the true nature of the people.

Perhaps we should simply say that savagery is the nature of those people when left to their own devices. They were far better off under the supervision of white people (oh, I know, that is terribly, terribly un-PC, but it is true). At least then they had a system of laws, everybody ate, everybody had a job, there was some level of medical care for everyone, even if there was gross inequality in the society. As it is now, they have no laws, many people do not eat, most people have no work, and medical care is almost nonexistent, and there is still gross inequality even among the blacks. So how are they better off now?
To enable is to overlook so as to maintain the status quo. I am not advising any such thing. I am only pointing out history. Oppressed people tend to rise up against their oppressors. There have been several instances in history, even in white european countries (gasp!), where an oppressed people rose up against their oppressors. And in every instance there was a period of of social, political, and economic upheaval. Its a fact of history not a flaw of dark skinned people.

Note: Instability does not breed stability. Most often an unstable system collapses before being replaced by another.

Note 2: I believe you grossly overestimate the quality of life of the black people who lived under apartheid.
 
I only have a moral obligation to myself. I am only responsible for myself. I am to live by my own effort. I am to earn everything I have, need, and want. This may seem selfish. It is. But, there is much virtue involved.

If I am to earn my own way through life, then I can never steal or cheat. Not only would that involve breaking my own moral code, it would also infringe on someone else's inalienable right to live their own virtuous life. If I steal an apple, I am not just stealing food, I am stealing a part of someone's livelihood. Someone had to buy that apple, with money they worked for. It is their effort, and the precious moment's of their life that they spent on that effort that I am stealing.

If I see a bum walking down the street, and he is starving, I am not morally obligated to pass him my burger because I can afford another one. I am not responsible for him. I am not the reason he is starving.

Some will call me heartless. It may seem that way. But this mentality extends through my entire life, and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, my life has hardly any 'footprint' in this world. There is no person who has to pay for my mistakes; no person whose life is made harder by my actions or my very existence. I just live, and I enjoy almost every bit of it.

Perhaps we should consider the idea that the reason that bum was ever in the street, is because he knew the people with coins in their pockets and burgers in their hands would turn them over to him because of some broken moral system that teaches them they should support those who won't support themselves, otherwise they should swallow a mound of guilt and feel shame.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
179
727
You brought up GDP, not me. I think its completely irrelevant. The reason western countries are wealthy is because of the control structures put in place by colonialism. The specific amounts of money are irrelevant. Those will fluctuate, the fact people in the 3rd world have had very little control over their own economies, which can be traced back directly to colonialism, is why they continue to be poor. Ignoring the huge influence the west has on the rest of the world is just ignorance.
More assertions. Can you provide a reference for any of this? How is the wealth created by, say, Microsoft and Apple in creating a powerful and affordable personal computer owed to colonialism? How is the poverty inflicted by Mugabe on Zimbabwe all attributable to colonialism 40 years after independence, especially when there's a successful democracy next door?
 
1,328
0
More assertions. Can you provide a reference for any of this? How is the wealth created by, say, Microsoft and Apple in creating a powerful and affordable personal computer owed to colonialism? How is the poverty inflicted by Mugabe on Zimbabwe all attributable to colonialism 40 years after independence, especially when there's a successful democracy next door?
More anecdotes.

40 years?

So what?

Some 80 years after its revolution against Britain, the American colonies fell into a barbaric civil war. Had judgment been rendered then, one could hardly say the revolution was successful. One of the big reasons it recovered was because regardless of how badly the people there screwed things up they still had plenty of natural resources, and not a lot of neighbors who could interfere with and/or stifle their progress.

Africa continues to be a mess because technology allows outsiders easy access for exploitation. The diamond and oil trade are solid examples of this. For all its talk about democracy, the west really has no good reason to want such things in countries that it has an interest in exploiting. Its much easier to deal with a dictator than a democratically elected government.

The vast resources of the Americas, stolen from the natives, allowed Europeans the ability to build strong economies which further gave them the ability to exploit and control other countries, increasing their wealth. Microsoft made so much money because it sells to people who are already rich.

Jared Diamond's book 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' is a good, easily accessible, introduction to why western people are not superior. Assuming one cares.

The ignorance and racism in this discussion turns my stomach.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
179
727
1,328
0
If you have read Diamond then you should know that most of the Native American's were killed by disease, up to 95% according to him.
http://books.google.com/books?id=kLKTa_OeoNIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=jared&ei=NClRSemcFIPmzASU5rzHBg#PPA78,M1
I have, and its a good book, I've read it twice actually.

Quite a lot died from disease, which made the survivors easier to kill off. Diamond does not state that land wasn't stolen, he simply explains why conquest happened so quickly. Without disease, better weapons or not, it would have been a much harder job taking control of the land.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
179
727
I have, and its a good book, I've read it twice actually.

Quite a lot died from disease, which made the survivors easier to kill off.
Some of the survivors were killed by Europeans.
Diamond does not state that land wasn't stolen, he simply explains why conquest happened so quickly. ...
Yes, but neither does Diamond say there was a native already sitting on every acre of natural resource. He makes the opposite point by citing the decimation of population via disease. Given that fact, how do you get to
"And what *is* only occured because a huge wealth imbalance created by colonialism."
in the case of the U.S.? Yes, there were atrocities against natives, but the evidence is this played a small part in the economic growth of the US. If we move on to chattel slavery in the American South, the case is even stronger: the economy and wealth of the South was a fraction of that found in the Northern states. Further, most of the wealth the South did have was destroyed in the US civil war.
http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org/neh/interactives/civilwar/lesson1/
 
1,328
0
Some of the survivors were killed by Europeans.
Well yes, some were just just shipped off to reservations. I didn't say all were killed, I said the disease made it 'easier' to kill them.
Yes, but neither does Diamond say there was a native already sitting on every acre of natural resource.
So what? It would be insane for him to say that. The natives were here first. Europeans took their land, and yes, even the land living natives WERE sitting on. You're being ridiculous, people don't have to be sitting on land to have a right to it.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
179
727
Well yes, some were just just shipped off to reservations. I didn't say all were killed, I said the disease made it 'easier' to kill them.


So what? It would be insane for him to say that. The natives were here first. Europeans took their land, and yes, even the land living natives WERE sitting on. You're being ridiculous, people don't have to be sitting on land to have a right to it.
Look, you have made an assertion here that present day Western wealth is due only to its colonial past. You have not made an argument to back up that assertion, and no saying you read a book is not evidence, and no calling someone ridiculous for pointing out counter factuals to your assertion is not evidence. If you feel Diamond's or other's work makes that assertion obvious, then it should be easy to source the relevant work here. Please show an actual argument as to how ~3-4 million natives (N. America after pandemics) had a 'right' to all 59 million sq miles of North America, some of whom wiped out or shoved aside or enslaved generation after generation of natives there prior to them, and then please show how the Europeans somehow stole it all from the natives remaining after the spread of disease. The sad history of early American atrocities and native dislocation, does not make the case, just by mentioning it, that the entire continent was stolen. Then you have still have to show a connection between European settlement and the majority of present day wealth, ("Microsoft made so much money because it sells to people who are already rich." won't do) otherwise we're left with them burring their wealth in a hole in the ground which is dug up by their descendants.
 
1,328
0
Look, you have made an assertion here that present day Western wealth is due only to its colonial past.
And you are ignoring it all and putting your head in the sand.
Wealth doesn't come from a vacuum.
Implying the land wasn't stolen from the natives because European diseases killed a lot of them is like saying its ok to take possession of your neighbors house if he dies in a car crash. Screw his heirs, his family or any normal understanding of property rights... when of course it suits you to do so. The assertions made hear about the inferiority of non-Europeans are unsubstantiated and racist.
 

mheslep

Gold Member
179
727
And you are ignoring it all and putting your head in the sand.
Ignoring what? Getting indignant does not excuse you from following the guidelines:
* explicitly stating starting premises or assumptions;
* providing logical or empirical support for such premises or assumptions;
You made a broad, sweeping assertion. Please follow up.
JoeDawg said:
Wealth doesn't come from a vacuum.
True, but stating it must come from B because it can not come from A with out further qualification is false dilemma fallacy.
JoeDawg said:
Implying the land wasn't stolen from the natives because European diseases killed a lot of them is like saying its ok to take possession of your neighbors house if he dies in a car crash. Screw his heirs, his family or any normal understanding of property rights... when of course it suits you to do so.
I ask again, what understanding of property rights leads to the ownership of the N. American continent? Do you assert that hunter gather societies had fixed location housing rights? Did the Maya 'own' central Mexico after slaughtering and enslaving their neighbors?
JoeDawg said:
The assertions made hear about the inferiority of non-Europeans are unsubstantiated and racist.
Where have any inferiority assertions been made?
 

Want to reply to this thread?

"Morality of passive/active" You must log in or register to reply here.

Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving

Top Threads

Top