We Are All Bad People

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Adamah
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We Are All Bad People

Postby Adamah » Sat May 29, 2010 5:40 pm UTC

A professor of mine once started a lecture by pointing out that for $10, one could pay for the vaccination of a poor, third-world child and save his or her life. He then asked us to raise our hands if we intended to go out and donate $10 at the end of the class. Not surprisingly, no hands were raised. He then said he doesn't think we're bad people for not donating and continued with his lecture. But I kept thinking about that point - are we bad people for not saving those lives?

The fact is, every day at least 30,000 people die every day because of starvation or other easily preventable causes. That's a mind-boggling number. If even 5,000 people were killed in a tsunami or earthquake, it would be front-page news. Yet there are many more than that dying every day silently.

I want to stress that these are preventable deaths. Easily preventable. Instead of buying a new video game, that money could prevent a child's death. Instead of going out to a bar and getting drunk, that money could save a life. In effect, every time we choose to indulge ourselves, we are choosing to NOT save a life. So why don't we? Why do we spend our money on luxuries while others starve, often at no fault of their own?

When I ask people this, they seem to get very offended and upset, as if they'd just rather pretend they never even heard the question. One girl I asked said that those deaths are "natural" so it's not our responsibility to interfere. What rubbish. Cancer is natural, and yet we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars treating that just so a person might live a few more years. We even pay for surgery for our pets. Yes, we choose the life of our cats and dogs over the lives of people. An even greater contradiction - ask a person if they would die to save 20 people, and they will usually respond yes. Now tell them they don't have to die, they can do it right now by donating X dollars. They'll never do it.

So why is this okay? Why can we pay $1,000 for a dog's surgery instead of saving the lives of those in need and still consider ourselves decent human beings? Why do we eat fancy dinners and stuff our faces while others starve? The only answer I can think of, is that we're just bad people. All of us. And it's okay to let those people starve because they are also bad people, and they would do the same thing as us if they had the choice between indulgence and charity as well. That's an unsatisfying answer, obviously, and I'm hoping someone else can give me a better one.

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Dasboard
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Dasboard » Sat May 29, 2010 5:44 pm UTC

The answer lies in the human mind I believe. People care more about themselves then about strangers in a distant country, simply for the reason that they think it'll make them less happy if they help them. They're merely protecting their happiness. Is this selfish? Yes, very.

Just my point of view, even though I'm not donating either. ( My parents do a lot though, about 200€ a year to a non profit help organisation of their choice. And of course to collectors who come at the door and stuff. )
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Plutori » Sat May 29, 2010 5:55 pm UTC

If you ask me, a LOT more donations would occur if they actually transported several hundred of these poor, underprivileged persons to a developed country (with a translator or two of course). The problem is probably that we are not seeing the problem 15 inches in front of us, and therefore cannot relate to that/those people/persons.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Adamah » Sat May 29, 2010 6:08 pm UTC

Plutori wrote:If you ask me, a LOT more donations would occur if they actually transported several hundred of these poor, underprivileged persons to a developed country (with a translator or two of course). The problem is probably that we are not seeing the problem 15 inches in front of us, and therefore cannot relate to that/those people/persons.

That's true. I think if a person saw a child starving on a street as they walk by, they would be far more inclined to help. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that almost everyone would help in that situation.

But does that make us any better? We know that there are people starving out of sight. We know that we can save them. And yet we don't act. I don't think a lack of an emotional stimulus is an acceptable excuse for doing nothing.

And even if one does feel compelled to help out -- maybe they are prompted to donate $10 by a volunteer -- why should that be enough? There is still another kid starving somewhere that they can save by donating another $10 that they would frivolously spend otherwise anyway.

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Kuji
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Kuji » Sat May 29, 2010 6:27 pm UTC

People could also have trust issues with some companies that say "Donate $10, and we'll send you a picture of the kid you just helped out". People want to see WHERE EXACTLY is their money going, instead of just a simple picture. Of course, they won't go to the third world countries to see exactly where the money went, which is another problem. :roll:

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby PurpleMint » Sat May 29, 2010 6:46 pm UTC

I don't think a lack of an emotional stimulus is an acceptable excuse for doing nothing.

I think it is.

You can write this off as "selfishness" by saying we only do nice things to "emotionally stimulate" ourselves... but that's just shifting the contradiction out of sight. Specifically, why does saving one pet feel better than saving several distant strangers? I believe there is no good reason. Morality is mysterious because it's illogical.

An even greater contradiction - ask a person if they would die to save 20 people, and they will usually respond yes. Now tell them they don't have to die, they can do it right now by donating X dollars. They'll never do it.


The first offer makes people think of sinking lifeboats filled with fellow tourists, while the second offer makes people think of silly "mosquito nets" and corrupt charities. Imagine you're in the first scenario and a genie appears. He wants to sell you a bigger lifeboat.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Wnderer » Sat May 29, 2010 7:56 pm UTC

Adamah wrote:Why can we pay $1,000 for a dog's surgery instead of saving the lives of those in need and still consider ourselves decent human beings? Why do we eat fancy dinners and stuff our faces while others starve? .


This "poetic unfairness of the world" argument is nonsense. It's a picture of a rich fat man eating in a fancy restaurant while starving urchins peer through the window. Your assertion is he should not buy that overpriced dinner and go out and give his money to the poor children. Well I've got a jar of nickels and you can have all you can eat. What gives a nickel value anyway? The fact is a nickel from a country with fat pets and fancy restaurants is worth more than one where those thing are considered a waste. The fluidity and value of money on the individual scale doesn't work on the larger economic scale. If we double your salary, you're twice as rich. If we double everyone's salary, everything just cost twice as much. When you manage the larger economy, your managing resources. To get the most value, you want all your resources in play. You want the veterinarians doing dog surgery and the gourmet chefs serving gourmet meals; the rocket scientist doing rocket science, the basketball players playing basketball, the poets writing poetry and the programmers writing video games. None of these activities take food or medicine away from anyone. Even overtaxing your evil rich capitalists doesn't fix things. Do you think they have food and medicine piled up in their mansions? Or maybe gold and jewels in swimming pools like Scrooge McDuck, where you can go and shovel it out to the poor so they can decorate their Christmas trees. The money is invested in the economy. Less investment would mean fewer jobs. The US gave $307.65 billion to charity in 2008. (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.c ... ew&cpid=42). Why isn't it enough? I'm not saying we shouldn't try to solve the problems you talk about, but it's not a zero sum game. Some of the solutions to these problems are to lend money in poor countries so people can open fancy restaurants or go to school to become veterinarians. No were not 'Bad People'. In fact too many of us are too emotional and irrational and moved by the "poetic unfairness of the world" and do more harm than good.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Adamah » Sat May 29, 2010 8:29 pm UTC

Wnderer wrote:
Adamah wrote:Why can we pay $1,000 for a dog's surgery instead of saving the lives of those in need and still consider ourselves decent human beings? Why do we eat fancy dinners and stuff our faces while others starve? .


This "poetic unfairness of the world" argument is nonsense. It's a picture of a rich fat man eating in a fancy restaurant while starving urchins peer through the window. Your assertion is he should not buy that overpriced dinner and go out and give his money to the poor children.

Yes. I don't think there should be a difference between a rich fat man eating in a fancy restaurant while starving urchins are 5 feet away, or 5,000 miles away.

Wnderer wrote:Well I've got a jar of nickels and you can have all you can eat. What gives a nickel value anyway? The fact is a nickel from a country with fat pets and fancy restaurants is worth more than one where those thing are considered a waste. The fluidity and value of money on the individual scale doesn't work on the larger economic scale. If we double your salary, you're twice as rich. If we double everyone's salary, everything just cost twice as much. When you manage the larger economy, your managing resources. To get the most value, you want all your resources in play. You want the veterinarians doing dog surgery and the gourmet chefs serving gourmet meals; the rocket scientist doing rocket science, the basketball players playing basketball, the poets writing poetry and the programmers writing video games. None of these activities take food or medicine away from anyone.

Yes they do. What if we trained our veterinarians to treat people instead of pets? What if we allocated the grain going toward making beer instead toward feeding the hungry? I'm not talking about printing money, I'm talking about rethinking our priorities. And that isn't beyond our control as consumers. If I have $300 and I say I want that going toward feeding hungry people instead of producing beer, then there will be more hungry people being fed and less beer. If nobody wants surgery for their pets, then those vets are going to become doctors. Supply matches demand.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Vaniver » Sat May 29, 2010 8:30 pm UTC

Adamah wrote:So why is this okay? Why can we pay $1,000 for a dog's surgery instead of saving the lives of those in need and still consider ourselves decent human beings?
Those people are not your responsibility. That dog is.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Zamfir » Sat May 29, 2010 9:13 pm UTC

Just a quick reality check: $10 doesn't save a life. Even poorest countries in this world can afford $10 to save their children. Spending on healthcare of poor children is already multiple billions each year, and that is obviously not saving 100's of millions of lives each year.

Perhaps $1000 really has a good chance of saving someone's life, if you know where to spend it and to get it there. Perhaps we should indeed do that more. But asking students to spend a thousand dollar clearly lacks the appeal of the $10 story.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Vaniver » Sat May 29, 2010 9:34 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Just a quick reality check: $10 doesn't save a life.
$10 can easily delay one death. The central confusion, I think, is equating delaying death with saving life.
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Wnderer
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Wnderer » Sun May 30, 2010 12:54 am UTC

Adamah wrote:Yes. I don't think there should be a difference between a rich fat man eating in a fancy restaurant while starving urchins are 5 feet away, or 5,000 miles away.

Yes they do. What if we trained our veterinarians to treat people instead of pets? What if we allocated the grain going toward making beer instead toward feeding the hungry? I'm not talking about printing money, I'm talking about rethinking our priorities. And that isn't beyond our control as consumers. If I have $300 and I say I want that going toward feeding hungry people instead of producing beer, then there will be more hungry people being fed and less beer. If nobody wants surgery for their pets, then those vets are going to become doctors. Supply matches demand.


The links you see are only poetic. There is no cause and effect. Pets and restaurants contribute to a global economy that helps support more people than fall through the cracks. These people aren't suffering because of a lack of resources. Last year during the global food crisis Koffi Annan was on the PBS news hour complaining about the US subsidizing its farmers and making it hard for third world farmers to compete. Most of the people starving in this world are doing so because of political reasons. Corrupt leaders who steal the resources and isolate their nations from the global economy, or they are trapped in tribal wars that prevent them from their normal means of supporting themselves. Social experiment like you suggest have only led to failed economies and more of the suffering you're trying to end. I'm not knocking charity. It is still necessary, but people need decide for themselves what they can afford to give and the abstract suffering of others takes second to the responsibility of providing for their own quality of life.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby tastelikecoke » Sun May 30, 2010 5:47 am UTC

Adamah wrote:That's true. I think if a person saw a child starving on a street as they walk by, they would be far more inclined to help. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that almost everyone would help in that situation.

But does that make us any better? We know that there are people starving out of sight. We know that we can save them. And yet we don't act. I don't think a lack of an emotional stimulus is an acceptable excuse for doing nothing.

And even if one does feel compelled to help out -- maybe they are prompted to donate $10 by a volunteer -- why should that be enough? There is still another kid starving somewhere that they can save by donating another $10 that they would frivolously spend otherwise anyway.

I see a lot of starving children on our sidewalks. (really. They are full of grease and playing with rain ponds on the asphalt)

And actually I felt more irritated than inclined to help.
Why? Give them P100: they run away fast as a lightning bolt w/o a thank you.
Give them food: same.
Give them a no: they act even more clingy.
Give them some change: they still ask for more.

Charity in my humble jumble opinion doesn't help them feed themselves and the problem is in the root of the root of evil.

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Utisz
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Utisz » Sun May 30, 2010 6:40 am UTC

He isn't suggesting any alternative non-market solution he is simply stating that by ignoring humanitarian issues affluent individuals and nations allow a huge number of preventable deaths daily. This is in essence a fact, for example someone mentioned mosquito nets above,they cost around $3USD while there use is associated in a 97.3% reduction in attack rates, the total cost of a comprehensive but basic control program would come to two billion to cover a population of 500 million (sub-Saharan), $4USD a person and a little over $2000 USD for every life saved. For $2000 USD you can prevent someone dying from malaria, pumping money into ORT, vaccines, clean water initiatives are equally effective. When you can compare these costs against the total GDP output for the first world you see it would actually be a piece of piss to solve half these problems if developed nations pledged anywhere near the 1% of GDP that the UN suggests for international aid.

Secondly it seems a little hypocritical to denounce aid initiative as uneconomical when America and the EU spends somewhere in the ballpark of 350 billion on agricultural subsidies and installs protectionist economic policies. Essentially affluent countries pour money into uneconomic policies to prop up their own inefficient industry and fuck over the developing world. Going back to Malaria, the reason people in the US don't catch Malaria is because the government nuked the southeastern states with DDT during the late 1940's. Fifty years on US and Europe lobby against the use DDT in developing nations because of its environmental impact resulting in preventable deaths. I don't think we'd be hearing these complaints if people were still dying in Florida.

I don't believe aid is going to save the third world but denying that well targeted aid can make a substantial difference on the ground. Statements that it is worse then useless are nonsense. Whether we have a responsibility to help them is in my view irreverent the question was if we are aware people are dying and we let it happen through inaction, does that make us all bad people?

Not really it just proves we're all able to ignore or reason our way out the Cognitive dissonance that it entails to successfully not give a fuck.
Last edited by Utisz on Sun May 30, 2010 10:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby jakovasaur » Sun May 30, 2010 7:09 am UTC

Utisz wrote:Not really it just proves we're all able to ignore or reason our way out the Cognitive dissonance that it entails to successfully not give a fuck.

Exactly. We simply don't give a fuck. We all choose go out to dinner, or buy a video game, or buy an eighth, rather than save some anonymous poor person's life. You can try to justify it, or defend your actions, but there's no way around it. That starving African kid with flies all over him doesn't give a shit about us, either. That's just how people are. No point beating yourself up over it.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby orinjuse » Sun May 30, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:
Utisz wrote:Not really it just proves we're all able to ignore or reason our way out the Cognitive dissonance that it entails to successfully not give a fuck.

Exactly. We simply don't give a fuck. We all choose go out to dinner, or buy a video game, or buy an eighth, rather than save some anonymous poor person's life. You can try to justify it, or defend your actions, but there's no way around it. That starving African kid with flies all over him doesn't give a shit about us, either. That's just how people are. No point beating yourself up over it.


Pretty much this. People want to look after their own, and that's OK. It's good if you can look beyond your basic human nature and care about distant people who have no bearing on your own life, but many people simply can't. It's not really an issue of those people being bad or good; that's just the way it is.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby LaserGuy » Sun May 30, 2010 7:27 pm UTC

Utisz wrote:I don't believe aid is going to save the third world but denying that well targeted aid can make a substantial difference on the ground. Statements that it is worse then useless are nonsense. Whether we have a responsibility to help them is in my view irreverent the question was if we are aware people are dying and we let it happen through inaction, does that make us all bad people?


I'm assuming you're referring to the well-documented studies that show that food aid can destroy the local agricultural economies of developing nations and in result in increased famine (and reliance on food aid!) in the long term, primarily benefits the donor and not the receipient, and is often used to for political or commerical gain? Or perhaps you refer to criticisms that the IMF and the World Bank (and by extension, the developed countries that finance these institutions) promote policies that lower the standards of living in countries they lend to and, encourage corruption and subvert democracy? That countries outsourcing their healthcare or education to foreign corporations sacrifice their sovereignty? Or that drug companies offering free/cheap drugs to developing countries may in fact be using the people there for illegal human testing of medications?

So, yes, of course the problem is just that we're not giving enough money. I'm sure that if all of the rich nations dramatically increased their foreign aid, the developing world would finally catch up and start to enjoy the fruits of a healthy civilization. After all, that's how countries like the United States got rich in the first place, right?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Wnderer » Sun May 30, 2010 8:38 pm UTC

Utisz wrote: it would actually be a piece of piss to solve half these problems if developed nations pledged anywhere near the 1% of GDP that the UN suggests for international aid.


Maybe. The flip side to the "We could end starvation with the money we spend on pet food" is the "we could all buy Ferrari's if we didn't have to pay taxes." No you couldn't. If everybody had more money, everything would just cost more. Money is just a means of distribution. The economy will drive prices so that middle class people own middle class cars. But, this doesn't mean the government can tax its way to a better world, either. What tax rate is the right rate, why a 3% of GDP deficit is a 'good' deficit and whether 1% of GDP for international aid is the right amount; I don't know. I do know that having pets and fighting malaria are not competing interests. You don't have to kill your dog to fix the world.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Diadem » Sun May 30, 2010 10:03 pm UTC

Adamah wrote:
Plutori wrote:If you ask me, a LOT more donations would occur if they actually transported several hundred of these poor, underprivileged persons to a developed country (with a translator or two of course). The problem is probably that we are not seeing the problem 15 inches in front of us, and therefore cannot relate to that/those people/persons.

That's true. I think if a person saw a child starving on a street as they walk by, they would be far more inclined to help. Indeed, I think it's safe to say that almost everyone would help in that situation.

Almost everyone would help the first time they saw a starving child on the streets. The second time too, and maybe the third time. The fourth time though, they'll just be annoyed at the delay of having to walk around the kid.

That doesn't even make them bastards. People are just very, very good at adapting to new situations.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Le1bn1z » Sun May 30, 2010 11:38 pm UTC

Well, this is a little better than St. Augustine beating himself up for stealing pears, but it still reads a lot like medieval doctrine. Just not as funny, I suppose.

I'd like to suggest an alternative consideration to straight-up indifference. Culturally, we have an ingrained sense that its wrong to get too deep into other cultures and civilizations, have had for a very long time. I like to think of it as a sort of Burkian/subconcious "prime directive." And as often as not, its a good instinct that serves us well.

Western meddling in other countries has as often produced horrific results as good ones. Antibiotics and food aid are always welcomed; birth control, new educational and cultrual mores and other prickly little details, less often so. Western intervention can bring other cultures wildly out of balance.

For example, the Aga Khan, the great humanitarian and spiritual leader of the Ismali subgroup of Islam was recently made an honourary Canadian Citizen (the 6th ever so honoured). In an interview, he gave some sage advice on some things we tend to overlook in aid. In funding education, the trend is now to focus on women, who are thought to be more naturally ammenable to Western-desired reforms.

Well and good. But where this leads to an imbalanced community of educated women and uneducated men the result can be.... nasty. It chafes against deeply ingrained social mores and tradtions, and leads to some pretty harsh resentment and indeed renewed repression and violence.

We like helping people caught in Tsunamis and Hurricanes (and even sometimes drought) and whatnot because we know we're not trying to fix a structural problem with only a few seconds of thought. These are, by definition, sudden catastrophes, and the response can be very straightforward. Likewise, when the disaster is right-in-your-face, you are better able to assess the problem and come up with a reasonable response.

A healthy distrust of the "Save the World Agenda" is partally ingained in us as human beings, as part of our selfish and avaricous natures. But its also a cultural thing. Past attempts to bring the whole of a society to put all their being into solving every problem of the world have been unmittigated disasters, with the French and Soviet Revolutions sticking to the foremost in our mind.

Part of the problem isn't moral weakness or moral indifference; its moral paralysis. We honestly don't know if we're helping or in fact making things worse. In the face of such problems, we tend to throw our hands up in dispair. And I don't think that makes us evil. Just rational.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby phonon266737 » Sun May 30, 2010 11:52 pm UTC

Population control. Rich counrtries are rich because 200+ years ago they efficiently used resources and traded and such. They then reinvested that money in things that produce more money.
Take a country with lots of starving people- do you invest in durable goods that only a few can use and let others starve, or do you feed them? The food is inherently not durable- it will be gone, and the eater will be starving, shortly after.

The problem is preventing the starving people from selling/scrapping the durable goods for food. The amount of aid we send, if focused, could help small portions of these countries become first world economic centers. But to do that, you're letting many people starve...what would you do?

Cities with walls that keep mobs out, so that some people can have nice things? Or feed everyone?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Utisz » Mon May 31, 2010 12:20 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I'm assuming you're referring to the well-documented studies that show that food aid can destroy the local agricultural economies of developing nations and in result in increased famine (and reliance on food aid!) in the long term, primarily benefits the donor and not the receipient, and is often used to for political or commerical gain?


Clearly you assume wrong if I specifically mention (in my above post) that I'm strongly against farming subsidies why the hell would you think I'm for nonessential food aid? Your own link goes into detail about something I briefly touched on subsidies and tariffs which have a huge negative effect on the developing nation. Clearly you didn't do a very good job reading my post. Furthermore there is a distinction between essential and nonessential food aid as your own link makes clear. Obviously during a massive famine in which significant numbers of people are dying food aid has a positive effect by both humanitarian and economic measures (i.e. less people die of starvation). So no when I said well targeted aid I did not mean food dumping nor do I recant that Well targeted aid is beneficial.

As for the IMF and the World Bank the criticism is not that they are providing loans the criticism is the policy conditionalities that come with it this is a separate issue entirely. As for "Reliance on Philanthropy May Reveal More Fundamental Issues" of course those countries that have the most fundamental economic issues most heavily rely on aid, it is basic cause and effect. Just because something is not a perfect solution doesn't mean it can not have a positive effect, the fallacy of the ideal. Most of the information from global issues comes from people that do not argue aid is negative but desire to redirect how it is administer to make it more effective. So no increased foreign aid wouldn't make the world a perfect place but it could if administer with even a small amount of common sense have a net positive effect. We could wipe out malaria and we could do it by throwing a small amount of money at the problem and I think that is a worth while thing.

Wnderer wrote:Maybe. The flip side to the "We could end starvation with the money we spend on pet food" is the "we could all buy Ferrari's if we didn't have to pay taxes." No you couldn't. If everybody had more money, everything would just cost more.


I'm not suggesting printing money however redirecting capital down alternative routes alters the nature of production. So while I agree we wouldn't all be driving Ferrari's if tax rates where lower you can't honestly argue with a straight face that altering the tax rate would not effect GDP and the structure of production within a country.
Last edited by Utisz on Mon May 31, 2010 10:26 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Dark567 » Mon May 31, 2010 2:08 am UTC

Utisz wrote:
Wnderer wrote:Maybe. The flip side to the "We could end starvation with the money we spend on pet food" is the "we could all buy Ferrari's if we didn't have to pay taxes." No you couldn't. If everybody had more money, everything would just cost more.


I'm not suggesting printing money however redirecting capital down alternative routes alters the nature of production. So while I agree we wouldn't all be driving Ferrari's if tax rates where lower you can't honestly argue with a straight face that altering the tax rate would not effect GDP and the structure of production within a country.


It does affect it, but its not linear. For example if we are trying to vaccinate a disease in Africa that costs $10 per dose and the US decides to double the amount spent, the cost of a dose could go to something like 15 dollars and the number of doses goes up by 33%. So it is increase the number of vaccinations, but not in a linear way. I think people miss this point when they talk about these problems in Ethics classes. Philosophers don't always make the best Economists.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Nem » Mon May 31, 2010 3:05 am UTC

If you give all your money to one group the price will go up - but that seems more an argument for not giving all your money to one group than against the overarching aim.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Utisz » Mon May 31, 2010 6:09 am UTC

Yes I'm aware it isn't a linear relationship that's why they call them supply curves [JOKE]. In your scenario doubling the amount spent increases doses produced by 33% may still be a very worth while thing to do depending on the cost of vaccine, the reduction in illness burden, the lives saved, the cost of alternative aid projects etc, etc. In the end the market tell us what the value of a human life is in this balancing game and it is apparently less then $2000.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Wnderer » Mon May 31, 2010 10:03 am UTC

Utisz wrote: you can't honestly argue with a straight face that altering the tax rate would not effect GDP and the structure of production within a country.


No. That is why I said.

Wnderer wrote: What tax rate is the right rate, why a 3% of GDP deficit is a 'good' deficit and whether 1% of GDP for international aid is the right amount; I don't know.


I was trying to say there was a correct point for all these things and there was a percentage of GDP which wouldn't hurt us to contribute in international aid. I don't know if 1% is that amount. Looking at the average growth rate of about 2% I would think 1% is kind of high.

http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states ... _rate.html

But I'm not prepared to argue that. I think we are dragging this thread off topic.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Marywoeste » Mon May 31, 2010 12:44 pm UTC

This is something I've given a lot of thought to, myself. When I was younger I went through a phase where I thought, "OH MY GOSH, PEOPLE ARE STARVING!! WHY DO WE HAVE A TV?? WE NEED TO SELL EVERYTHING AND GIVE IT TO THE POOR!!" but then I had this funny dream:

An entire country had the same realization I did. Everyone had the sudden urge to sell everything and give the money to the poor. And one man, one very, very rich man, bought everything from everyone. And everyone thought, wow! Look at that rich dick, buying all that stuff when he could give all that money to the poor. But actually, he was the real hero. He knew everyone wanted to give their money to the poor and so he bought their stuff so they could do that. He also knew that everyone would respond illogically and hate him. And he did it anyway. Because SOMEONE had to.

When I woke up I realized that I was being more caring than logical. Helping the poor isn't just a matter of charity: it's the right KIND of charity. Donate money to the RIGHT organizations. Support the right markets.

One of the easiest and most important things we can do as Americans, middle-class people who want to help and have the resources, is to BUY FAIR TRADE. It costs more money, but the money is GOING TO THE RIGHT PLACE. You're supporting stability in places that need a jump start, and it's better than charity because the money is an investment, not a handout.

When it comes to handouts, those are necessary in emergency situations like war or natural disasters, but otherwise, as mentioned before, more harm than good.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby LaserGuy » Mon May 31, 2010 2:07 pm UTC

Utisz wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:I'm assuming you're referring to the well-documented studies that show that food aid can destroy the local agricultural economies of developing nations and in result in increased famine (and reliance on food aid!) in the long term, primarily benefits the donor and not the receipient, and is often used to for political or commerical gain?


Clearly you assume wrong if I specifically mention (in my above post) that I'm strongly against farming subsidies why the hell would you think I'm against nonessential food aid?


I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You claimed that statements that aid can be worse than useless are nonsense. I pointed out that, in fact, nonessential food aid is worse than useless, because it undermines development and leads to increased dependency on more foreign aid, and is hence worse than useless. Looking at the aid system as a whole, there is certainly an argument to be made that because Western powers are (ab)using the system to achieve foreign policy goals and exploit the resources of the underdeveloped world, that contributing to that system is inherently immoral.

(Are you sure you didn't mean to say that you are surprised I think you support nonessential food aid? That seems more consistent with the rest of the content of your post)

Utisz wrote:Your own link goes into detail about something I briefly touched on subsidies and tariffs which have a huge negative effect on the developing nation. Clearly you didn't do a very good job reading my post. Furthermore there is a distinction between essential and nonessential food aid as your own link makes clear. Obviously during a massive famine in which significant numbers of people are dying food aid has a positive effect by both humanitarian and economic measures (i.e. less people die of starvation). So no when I said well targeted aid I did not mean food dumping nor do I recant that Well targeted aid is beneficial.


How much of the aid do you consider well targetted? 90%? 50%? 5%? What ratio of poorly targetted aid to well targetted aid can still be considered a net benefit?

Utisz wrote:As for the IMF and the World Bank the criticism is not that they are providing loans the criticism is the policy conditionalities that come with it this is a separate issue entirely. As for "Reliance on Philanthropy May Reveal More Fundamental Issues" of course those countries that have the most fundamental economic issues most heavily rely on aid, it is basic cause and effect. Just because something is not a perfect solution doesn't mean it can not have a positive effect, the fallacy of the ideal. Most of the information from global issues comes from people that do not argue aid is negative but desire to redirect how it is administer to make it more effective. So no increased foreign aid wouldn't make the world a perfect place but it could if administer with even a small amount of common sense have a net positive effect. We could wipe out malaria and we could do it by throwing a small amount of money at the problem and I think that is a worth while thing.


Then why have we not wiped out malaria? The US alone provides billions of dollars in aid to the developing world, and could easily fork over a few billion of those dollars to install all of the mosquito nets that you were suggesting. What was this not done years ago? I have heard a lot of these remarkable claims about how little it would take to get clean water to all of sub-Saharan Africa or instill a mosquito shield, yet nobody ever seems to be able to do it. World Vision alone is worth over 2 billion dollars. Why are they not doing this? How can all these problems be solved so cheaply, yet hundreds of billions of dollars are thrown into the underdeveloped world with so little to show for it?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby somebody already took it » Mon May 31, 2010 8:11 pm UTC

jakovasaur wrote:
Utisz wrote:Not really it just proves we're all able to ignore or reason our way out the Cognitive dissonance that it entails to successfully not give a fuck.

Exactly. We simply don't give a fuck. We all choose go out to dinner, or buy a video game, or buy an eighth, rather than save some anonymous poor person's life. You can try to justify it, or defend your actions, but there's no way around it. That starving African kid with flies all over him doesn't give a shit about us, either. That's just how people are. No point beating yourself up over it.

There are people who do donate large amounts of their time and money towards helping others.
So, my question is what makes them behave charitably while "we all" do not?

Utisz wrote: So no when I said well targeted aid I did not mean food dumping nor do I recant that Well targeted aid is beneficial.
...
So no increased foreign aid wouldn't make the world a perfect place but it could if administer with even a small amount of common sense have a net positive effect.

Let us hypothetically say that I have a sum of money I am willing to put towards foreign aid. How would I go about properly targeting it/administering it with common sense?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby jakovasaur » Mon May 31, 2010 9:42 pm UTC

somebody already took it wrote:
jakovasaur wrote:
Utisz wrote:Not really it just proves we're all able to ignore or reason our way out the Cognitive dissonance that it entails to successfully not give a fuck.

Exactly. We simply don't give a fuck. We all choose go out to dinner, or buy a video game, or buy an eighth, rather than save some anonymous poor person's life. You can try to justify it, or defend your actions, but there's no way around it. That starving African kid with flies all over him doesn't give a shit about us, either. That's just how people are. No point beating yourself up over it.

There are people who do donate large amounts of their time and money towards helping others.
So, my question is what makes them behave charitably while "we all" do not?

I never said nobody ever behaves charitably. What I said was that there is no one (at least that I am aware of) who forgoes all unnecessary purchases/pursuits in order to minimize the suffering of others. No matter how much somebody like Bill Gates donates, the simple fact is the man has all sorts of shit he doesn't need, and every time he buys a suit, or a car, or pays for cable TV, he is choosing those things over the life of another person. It's why those "save a kid" commercials make us feel so bad: we recognize that we are not the moral people we like to imagine we are.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Utisz » Mon May 31, 2010 10:56 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. You claimed that statements that aid can be worse than useless are nonsense. I pointed out that, in fact, nonessential food aid is worse than useless, because it undermines development and leads to increased dependency on more foreign aid, and is hence worse than useless. Looking at the aid system as a whole, there is certainly an argument to be made that because Western powers are (ab)using the system to achieve foreign policy goals and exploit the resources of the underdeveloped world, that contributing to that system is inherently immoral.

(Are you sure you didn't mean to say that you are surprised I think you support nonessential food aid? That seems more consistent with the rest of the content of your post)


Actually I said that claims that well targeted aid is useless are nonsense, which essentially means I can claim any aid that doesn't have a positive effect isn't well targeted. There by escaping from any argument with my truism. Food dumping in my opinion doesn't even count as aid it's just a biproduct of populist government policy, the intent behind it isn't really to help the third world it's to buy votes by supporting farmers. I did accidentally use an against instead of a for so I apologise for that or if I missinterpreted your original post because it was sort of phrased in a very open ended way.

LaserGuy wrote:How much of the aid do you consider well targetted? 90%? 50%? 5%? What ratio of poorly targetted aid to well targetted aid can still be considered a net benefit?


Obviously I can't answer this question no one can but is irrelevant. While you can lump all aid together for convenience different aid initiative act independently. Say we lumped all aid together and said it had a net negative effect, this still doesn't mean that people aren't having a positive effect when they support those initiates that do work. Obvious we should stop policies that actively harm the developing world and promote policies that assist it, and I believe you can differentiate between the two enough of the time to get it right.

LaserGuy wrote:Then why have we not wiped out malaria? The US alone provides billions of dollars in aid to the developing world, and could easily fork over a few billion of those dollars to install all of the mosquito nets that you were suggesting. What was this not done years ago? I have heard a lot of these remarkable claims about how little it would take to get clean water to all of sub-Saharan Africa or instill a mosquito shield, yet nobody ever seems to be able to do it. World Vision alone is worth over 2 billion dollars. Why are they not doing this? How can all these problems be solved so cheaply, yet hundreds of billions of dollars are thrown into the underdeveloped world with so little to show for it?


My numbers are sourced from a 2002 review published in nature so the two billion invention for a decent control system is pretty spot on. In 2005 the US pledged 1.2 billion over five years, 240 million a year obviously even with input from other countries doesn't even fund an adequate system of control. The US donates somewhere in the market of 35 billion a year if you think it should be more targeted fair enough. WHO has set a goal for Malaria eradication god knows how many times and just keeps putting it back because nothing actually ever gets done. Everyone's probably just sitting back waiting for a vaccine.

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby big boss » Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:08 am UTC

jakovasaur wrote:I never said nobody ever behaves charitably. What I said was that there is no one (at least that I am aware of) who forgoes all unnecessary purchases/pursuits in order to minimize the suffering of others. No matter how much somebody like Bill Gates donates, the simple fact is the man has all sorts of shit he doesn't need, and every time he buys a suit, or a car, or pays for cable TV, he is choosing those things over the life of another person. It's why those "save a kid" commercials make us feel so bad: we recognize that we are not the moral people we like to imagine we are.


If everyone just stopped paying for cable TV or buying new suites you know who would then be poor and starving and dying? The cable man and the suit maker. Solving all the world's problems is not so simple as stop buying nonessential goods and giving all your money to help save lives. People need tot think before the act (or speak). The third world needs industry and economic development to survive and solve their issues, not handouts.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby tastelikecoke » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:01 am UTC

I had a dilemma over this too. Americans come and enjoy, complaining about little stuff they have while beggars approximately 10% of our population wants food.

But then again, why whould Americans care? It's not like their problem...

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:22 am UTC

This argument is sophomoric to say the least. I worked in a roughish part of Chicago, and almost daily was harassed for pocket change, often quite forcibly. While handing some guy wearing rags for shoes and seven tattered jackets that double as a sleeping bag a five dollar bill may grant him some respite from the cold and a hot meal, it will almost certainly not help the next guy, or the next guy, or the next guy. You have to draw a line in your life for how responsible you feel for the world around you, and the people that inhabit it. Chicago has AMPLE resources for homeless individuals; if you're pan handling on a subway stop, it's because you don't want to take advantage of them, or, you suffer from mental illness in which case a one time donation to your cause isn't going to change anything.

Life, in my opinion, isn't about stretching yourself to be maximally philanthropic or altruistic, it's about living the most productive and satisfied life YOU want to. I don't make much money, and I want to look forward to working every day; if that means I need to buy videogames, or enjoy a sushi dinner, or buy my girlfriend something that'll make her smile, then I'm not going to do so with the sinking guilt of not having donated to the crack head on the corner. Until my personal activities are excessive and unnecessary, then I'm going to keep doing them.

I recall once refusing a homeless ladies request for money. She shouted at me, "Way to contribute to society!". I was shocked, and shouted back, "I do cancer research lady, what do you do?". I felt good about myself, justified and vindicated, until I remembered she was sleeping on the street. Your professor did you a disservice; he put forth the notion that generosity and charity should be done because one feels guilty about inaction, not because one feels rewarded for action.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby somebody already took it » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:05 am UTC

jakovasaur wrote:What I said was that there is no one (at least that I am aware of) who forgoes all unnecessary purchases/pursuits in order to minimize the suffering of others.

What do you consider to be unnecessary purchases/pursuits?
Why is motive one of your considerations?
Is temporality one of your considerations? For example, are you claiming that there is nobody who has forgone all unnecessary purchases and pursuits for a week?

jakovasaur wrote: "save a kid" commercials make us feel so bad: we recognize that we are not the moral people we like to imagine we are.

What makes you believe that this is a universal (let alone common) reaction to those commercials?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Griffin » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:29 am UTC

I feel no more obligation to poor people than I do to anything else. Its pretty simple.

I'm most able to make an impact, succesfully, reliably, on those I interact with on a regular basis - aka, my friends and family. I support people, through the economy, that make things I enjoy. I try to be productive enough that I can somehow improve the lives of others while doing things that I personally enjoy, because ultimately the person is most effective at increasing a person's happiness is themselves - If we spent all of our time and money, each one of us, worrying about other people, the world would be miserable.

This is not to say charity can't be a wonderful thing. I simply don't believe it to be, in most cases, the most effective way to make the world a better place. The type of charity that does result in real improvements? It is generally a lot harder and a lot more complex, and something I'd love to involved in some day, but it is not the sort of thing a "10 dollar donation" will do anything to address.

There is no shortage of food, money, or medicine in our world. If you want to really change the world? Find a way to efficiently solve distribution problems, or better yet an effective strategy for hiring the poor of the world and paying them to do it for you.
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:35 am UTC

Marywoeste wrote:This is something I've given a lot of thought to, myself. When I was younger I went through a phase where I thought, "OH MY GOSH, PEOPLE ARE STARVING!! WHY DO WE HAVE A TV?? WE NEED TO SELL EVERYTHING AND GIVE IT TO THE POOR!!" but then I had this funny dream:

An entire country had the same realization I did. Everyone had the sudden urge to sell everything and give the money to the poor. And one man, one very, very rich man, bought everything from everyone. And everyone thought, wow! Look at that rich dick, buying all that stuff when he could give all that money to the poor. But actually, he was the real hero. He knew everyone wanted to give their money to the poor and so he bought their stuff so they could do that. He also knew that everyone would respond illogically and hate him. And he did it anyway. Because SOMEONE had to.

When I woke up I realized that I was being more caring than logical. Helping the poor isn't just a matter of charity: it's the right KIND of charity. Donate money to the RIGHT organizations. Support the right markets.

One of the easiest and most important things we can do as Americans, middle-class people who want to help and have the resources, is to BUY FAIR TRADE. It costs more money, but the money is GOING TO THE RIGHT PLACE. You're supporting stability in places that need a jump start, and it's better than charity because the money is an investment, not a handout.

When it comes to handouts, those are necessary in emergency situations like war or natural disasters, but otherwise, as mentioned before, more harm than good.

This. Completely. If you want to help, invest. Purchase. Offer microloans. Giving can be counterproductive if not done right. Stability is a not-often-used word which describes a condition absolutely needed to hold back the vultures that pick good people clean. If you were told your gift was instead going to support a warlord who sought to slaughter his enemies and rape their women to prove his power and enlist their sons in his wars, why would anybody in a right frame of mind want to contribute to that?

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Arrian » Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:11 am UTC

Adamah wrote:The fact is, every day at least 30,000 people die every day because of starvation or other easily preventable causes. That's a mind-boggling number. If even 5,000 people were killed in a tsunami or earthquake, it would be front-page news. Yet there are many more than that dying every day silently.

I want to stress that these are preventable deaths. Easily preventable.


Really? Easily preventable? You don't say? Then of the thousands and thousands of aid agencies spending billions of dollars must all be pretty dense, eh? You should jump in, form your own agency, show them how it's done and win a Nobel Peace prize!

The annoying truth is that ending hunger, or disease, or poverty isn't easy. It's not a simple matter of hungry child + food = fixed. Even if you just want to pour food or medicine at the problem you've got to handle the logistics of getting what's here over there first and then from a general "over there" to the specific people who need it, on a global scale. Even if everybody were working together, it would be a very difficult task. And the majority of the time, everybody isn't working together. When their government isn't actively starving them they're siphoning off the funds for their own enrichment, or western activists are convincing them to turn American grain (or worse, seed) shipments away because it's GM and will cause their babies to have two heads, or the donor country insists on buying only from their own suppliers putting the locals out of business because they can't compete with free, or...

But more importantly, if you want to eliminate hunger or a disease you have to address why that specific group of people is suffering from it, and after that how to address their specific issues. 'Cause refugees in Darfur are hungry for very different reasons than refugees are in the Congo, even if they're both victims civil war. It's that trite "give a man a fish..." over and over and over. And no, throwing money at the problem won't solve it.

Ending hunger or disease is non trivial. It requires addressing the causes of those outcomes, and there are multiple unique causes for each region suffering from them, and the solutions can seldom be successfully imposed from the outside (see Afghanistan for just the most recent example.) Your professor is simply expressing the 20th century version of the White Man's Burden. It was a quaint 19th century idea, but caused more harm than good. And if he told you that ending hunger was easy he was just lying.

Money IS important in alleviating poverty, but it's only a tool, it's not the solution in and of itself.

Marywoeste wrote:One of the easiest and most important things we can do as Americans, middle-class people who want to help and have the resources, is to BUY FAIR TRADE. It costs more money, but the money is GOING TO THE RIGHT PLACE. You're supporting stability in places that need a jump start, and it's better than charity because the money is an investment, not a handout.


Buy fair trade if it makes you feel good, by all means. But, as it's currently implemented, it's not an effective means of ending poverty. Far more effective is buying products made in sweatshops (Japan and Korea started out with sweatshops, China's up and coming in large part because of sweatshops, the people of Madagascar were severely harmed when a change in US policy closed many of their sweatshops.) Also support open immigration not only to the US but shame European nations into it as well, sending money back home is a great factor in alleviating poverty (these remittances accounted for a quarter of Haiti's GDP pre quake.)

I don't know of any nation or group of people who have made a long term improvement in their standard of living simply through charging a price premium in the name of "fairness." They either increase their productivity, making more stuff per person (like Asia, and the US and Europe for that matter) or they specialize and make a higher quality product like Amish woodcrafts.

And finally, not a lot of that money is being siphoned off by fat cat capitalist pigs to provide their executive bathrooms with golden toilet seats. Especially when you're dealing with commodities, third world producers simply aren't as productive and the markets are competitive, so the poor farmers are actually getting paid what they're worth for a lot of factors. Again, Haiti provides an example. Low productivity doesn't mean lazy, it means they don't have the tools, roads, knowledge, infrastructure, etc to make the same amount of stuff a first world worker can make in the same amount of time.

*edit* Better link for the Haiti Mango story.*

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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Marywoeste » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:28 pm UTC

Are you serious? Buying stuff in sweatshops is actually helpful? I'm not asking that sarcastically, I'm actually surprised and curious. I was always under the impression that buying stuff made in sweatshops was supporting the unfair wages and working conditions. Can you please explain to me more specifically how I'm wrong?
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Re: We Are All Bad People

Postby Dark567 » Tue Jun 01, 2010 12:56 pm UTC

Marywoeste wrote:Are you serious? Buying stuff in sweatshops is actually helpful? I'm not asking that sarcastically, I'm actually surprised and curious. I was always under the impression that buying stuff made in sweatshops was supporting the unfair wages and working conditions. Can you please explain to me more specifically how I'm wrong?


http://www.slate.com/id/1918

For the most part almost every developed country got to be developed by going through a phase where it relied on sweatshop workers.
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