There's no such thing as "social responsibility" - Jay Maynard

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Monday, 29 November 2004


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1047 - There's no such thing as "social responsibility"

wbwolf, in his latest LJ entry, excoriates me because I don't buy the notion of "social responsibility". Put simply, he, as well as his leftist buddies, believe that people should consider not just their own needs, but the needs of everyone else - defined, of course, in the best leftist fashion - when making purchasing decisions.

This is a load of horse exhaust. To follow this is to inevitably tread the path of Communism, as marked by governmental control of the very basic choices that define one's life. After all, if others get to define one's needs in priority over one's own perceptions, then why shouldn't the benevolent government enforce those choices by regulation? The government is the best guarantor of the rights of all, to their way of thinking.

What escapes these folks is that governments have the Midas Muffler touch: everything they touch turns into a muffler. Governments are inevitably the least efficient providers of any service, and the biggest wasters of dollars ever imagined, because they simply have no competition to keep them in check.

Beware the term "social responsibility". It's a codeword for concepts that have been tried and failed.

current mood: [mood icon] contemplative

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:foolscap001
Date: - 0000
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I can't help wondering what the response of the people who are so ready to say "You don't need an SUV, so you shouldn't have one" would be to the same argument applied to their computers, clothing, CD collections, etc. Should we all be eating Soylent Green as long as anyone on earth is ill-fed?
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From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000
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So, you wouldn't mind if your next-door neighbor bought a leaf blower? Or perhaps a set of huge speakers and a powerful amplifier to listen to his rap CDs at 80dB at 3 a.m.?

Or would you rather he said to himself, "Wait, this would piss off the neighbors. Better not buy it."

If that isn't "social responsibility", what is it?
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From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000

Actual vs. Theoretical

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I don't care if my neighbor has a leaf-blower, really. I've not had issues with the devices. Nor do I care if my neighbor has the ability to listen to rap CDs at 80dB. The example of listening to them at 3 AM, presumably without sufficient soundproofing, is the only part that is a demonstrable and actual problem which would directly affect me. What is too often suggested under the guise of "social responsibility" is that someone should limit themselves not because of an actual and demonstrable thing but because of a theoretical thing which is not demonstrable. That sort of thing reminds me of when kids tell other kids not to step on cracks lest they injure their mother's spines. As there is no demonstrable link from stepping on a crack to back injury of another person, it's just nonsense.

The issue of not wanting to piss off the neighbors is in my neighbor's self-interest rather than a vague social responsibility thing. If he doesn't wake me (and his other neighbors) up at 3 AM, I (and those other neighbors) don't call the cops on him for disturbing the peace.

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From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000

Re: Actual vs. Theoretical

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Let's see... what was it that brought all this up? The SUV thing? If so, well, congrats to Jay for not getting a bigger SUV than he needs. I think what other people are upset about is the large number of people who have bought monstrous gas-guzzling behemoths that they don't really need, and driven up gas prices for everybody as a result.

I could be wrong about that, that's just my impression.
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From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000

Re: Actual vs. Theoretical

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What I find interesting that some are going on about how Jay got to the result he did - which seems to be result they desire, that he has no more machine than he needs - rather than realize the result itself is exactly what they desire! It's not a matter of "ends justifying the means" but that simple self-interest (not desiring to pay for more vehicle than needed, not desiring to pay higher fuel bills, not desiring higher repair expenses) resulted in precisely the thing they desired. This effectively destroys their argument. As for getting more than one needs: how does anyone other than the buyer know what is needed?

Do some people make mistakes? Yes. Everyone makes them from time to time. Yet some apparent mistakes turn out not to be mistakes, and some apparent good choices turn out to be mistakes (Ask Jay about his Explorer). If a person is not free to make his own errors, is he free at all? I'd say he was not. It all comes back to who decides things. There are three groups of people who have decisions made for them rather than by them:


  • children (unable to make completely rational informed decisions)

  • convicted criminals (who have shown that their decisions were unsound)

  • the truly mentally incompetent (unable to make completely rational informed decisions)



Making a decision for anyone who is not in one of those groups is effectively a form of slavery. I've noticed a tendency to want to criminalize actions that some think might possibly harm them but have no demonstrable proof of harm. I've also noticed that some take the same vague things and rather than understand that not everyone is a cookie cutter copy of them, declare those they disagree with to be crazy or stupid. These people scare me far more than anyone merely making a mistake does - they are religious zealots, only there might not be a deity mentioned. Anyone who claims "I know better than you what is best for you" is best avoided - even if they don't say it quite so plainly.

Many would not want Jay making decisions or limiting options for them, so what's the big problem with him desiring the exact same freedom from their control?

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From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000

Re: Actual vs. Theoretical

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Um...
Does any part of this mean I don't get to mutter "Thanks for driving my gas prices up, jerk" under my breath at the guy with the Escalade at the next pump?
From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000

Re: Actual vs. Theoretical

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[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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Anyone prattling on about the "social contract" needs to read about the Third Thing.

And the statesman, although he is marginally more coherent, also makes philosophical distinctions that do not bear up to close scrutiny. For example, he may say, "My domination of you is justified because you have consented to it in every particular." He will hold up his empty hand and say, "See here? See this Social Contract? You're committed. You're obliged. I have your consent." Meet the Third Thing.

Or he might say, "My domination of you is justified because I have been selected by god himself to guard you from the exponents of evil who falsely claim to have been selected by god himself to protect you from me. It's the Divine Right of Kings." Meet the Third Thing.

Or he might say, "My domination of you is the will of the people, the little people, the common people. The weak. The halt. The lame. The children..." Meet the Third Thing.

The zeitgeist, the spirt of the times? Meet the Third Thing.

The practical benefit of uniform law? Meet the Third Thing.

The individual's natural right not to be injured? Meet the Third Thing.

The consent of the governed? Meet the Third Thing.

The purity of the race? Meet the Third Thing.

The inevitability of one-world Socialism? Meet the Third Thing.

And we can traverse our way down the tree of philosophy until we arrive at a pitiful little proto-statesman with a shaman by his side. He will tell us with a devout solemnity that he is justified in claiming domination over us because he alone possesses the sacred ceremonial amulet. Meet the Third Thing in its undiluted form...

For the Third Thing, ultimately, is insanity defended with devout solemnity. There is no Social Contract imagined by you but binding upon me. There is no Divine Right of Kings. Every person is possessed of free will, but there is no accumulation of that will, and the voluntary support of many or even most people does not justify anything. There is no zeitgeist. Neither your convenience nor mine justifies our domination of our neighbors, or each other. You have the capacity to act in self-defense, but it absurd to argue that this somehow prevents future injuries. "The consent of the governed" could only have meaning if the consent were explicit and unanimous. The "race" has no rights. Neither Socialism nor any other creation of the mind of man is inevitable. And, finally, the sacred ceremonial amulet is just a rock suspended from a rope.

These are all products of the imagination. They are wholly products of the imagination. They are all extremely elaborate, often very confusing, pantomimes of philosophy. They all concede that "might makes right" is not a philosophical argument; it is brutal, unsavory, and, as above, idiotic. And the question that each one of these creeds--and many others--is an answer to is this:

How can we dominate people without claiming that "might makes right"?
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Regardless of who's enforcing it - the government, the church, or oneself - there is such a thing as social responsibility. If one does not consider how one's actions will affect their nation, then one can end up irreparably harming one's nation.

If your argument was "people can be socially responsible without government telling them how", then I'd accept that kind of argument for the purposes of debating. But saying "there is no such thing as social responsibility"... well, that is, by definition, socially irresponsible, and rather selfish.

In fact, here's Merriam-Webster on "selfish":

concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others



You can argue all you want that government shouldn't tell people how and when to put others before themselves, that that should be their own decision and their own choice, because people have the responsibility to make those decisions for themselves. That's a rational argument and a central tenet of libertarianism. But by claiming that you have no responsibility whatsoever to consider how your decisions will affect those not personally valuable to you, that is exactly what you are being--selfish.

And by boldly shirking that responsibility and proclaiming your selfishness, you end up providing fuel to your enemy's argument that you're incapable of being responsible on your own.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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In this, as with your previous statement that you'd accept my decision to buy a small SUV if I did it for reasons you found acceptable, you insist on trying to answer the argument by defining it in such a way as to make your side correct by definition. I refuse to play that game.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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My "side" is less selfish than your "side". Whether you accept this or not, whether you label it a "game" or not, this is true by definition.
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From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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If one does not consider how one's actions will affect their nation, then one can end up irreparably harming one's nation.

One's nation?

So a German who, during World War II, opposed the Nazis, was being selfish? And a member of the Vichy government was being non-selfish?

The "nation" is a purely artificial construct. Nobody has a moral obligation towards his nation, and I say that speaking as a devout patriot.
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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I meant the word in terms of the country's population, in which case, it would have been selfish for someone to not oppose the Nazis. I was acting on the assumption that, at least in America, the nation is made up not of a government that rules a people, but of a people, which supposedly rule the government. Thus to serve the nation, you should serve the people, and the government should follow.

The "nation", here in America, is a construct of all the people in America. And I was referring to a responsibility to those people.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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it would have been selfish for someone to not oppose the Nazis.

In which case, being selfish would have been an entirely desirable thing, no?

The "nation", here in America, is a construct of all the people in America. And I was referring to a responsibility to those people.

You're committing the fallacy of composition; what may be true of the parts is not necessarily true of the whole.
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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[User Picture]
From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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Way to nitpick there. Try "group" or "system" on for size.

Vorn
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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Don't see what that gets you.

Whence comes my moral obligations to the "group" or "system"?
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From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000
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"So a German who, during World War II, opposed the Nazis, was being selfish? And a member of the Vichy government was being non-selfish?"

Only if you think Nazism is a good thing.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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I think it's a safe assumption that the Nazis felt National Socialism was a good thing.
[User Picture]
From:unspeakablevorn
Date: - 0000
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The problem with saying that social responsibility doesn't exist is that it goes against Nash economics: individuals pushing in directions dictated solely by self-interest can only reach a local maximum, which is extremely likely not to be the universal maximum. Individuals pushing in directions dictated by both self-interest and group-interest will always reach the universal maximum.

Vorn
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Nash is basically my hero at this point, and I advocate a political position based on this theory: Try to do what is the balance of what is best for the self and best for the whole. Jay, unfortunately, doesn't believe he needs to give a damn about the whole, which is where this particular problem arises.
[User Picture]
From:vakkotaur
Date: - 0000
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People who see a demonstrable benefit from going along with "group interest" are are acting in self-interest. They see they can get more for themselves by joining that group. The key is that the benefit must be demonstrable rather than theoretical. The firefighting example comes to mind: It is to my own benefit to aid my neighbor in case of a fire. You can say that I'm helping for selfish reasons, but the result is that I help and what the neighbor wants is to have the fire suppressed - he won't be fretting about whether I did it to save my own house or did it for an endorphin rush or did it because I was bored and figured fighting the fire would provide me with a bit of a change. And it won't matter why I did it. It will (or at least may) matter that I did it. My neighbor will care about my actions, not my intent.

[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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People who see a demonstrable benefit from going along with "group interest" are are acting in self-interest.

This is true, but only for a person who believes in "group interest" or, to put it another way, "social responsibility". Believing in, observing, and reacting to such a thing does end up benefiting the self... but not necessarily as much as it would if you looked out solely for your own interest. That's what the difference is. Since the outcomes can be similar in a variety of circumstances, it's hard to tell by one's actions, but one's intent still matters, since while doing something good is good (gee, that sounds obvious), it's important to make sure they're doing it for the right reasons so that they keep doing good.
From:vakkotaur
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From:shelbystripes
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[User Picture]
From:sunnielady
Date: - 0000

How About This Then

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Personally, I like that Golden Rule thing:

...and as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise...
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000

Re: How About This Then

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This is the only tenet held in common by substantially all of the world's religions, and I believe a complete, consistent, and "right" (for whatever value of "right" any reasonable person would accept) set of morals can be based on that principle alone.

This doesn't equate to "social responsibility", however, because it's fundamentally about interactions between individuals, not some nebulous "society".
[User Picture]
From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000

Re: How About This Then

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What do you think "society" means then?
[User Picture]
From:foolscap001
Date: - 0000

Re: How About This Then

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Long ago I read a cute SF short story about a missionary sent to another planet. He introduced himself to the locals: "I am Brother So-and-so." The local chief replied, "I am so-and-so, and I think rotten roots are the best," rotten roots being the local delicacy. The missionary set out to teach the locals about Christianity, starting out with the Golden Rule... and one day he awoke to find himself being fed the aforementioned rotten roots. When he protested, the aliens explained that they'd always thought that one should treat others the way _they_ want to be treated, but since he'd taught them the Golden Rule...

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