Ineffective Government, an outcome of our definition of "Freedom"?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Seattle, Jan 28, 2023.

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Three comments there. (And the tragedy of the commons is a fairly high level concept, so this post will be fairly abstract, without the sort of concrete solutions that have been discussed above.)

    One, of course there will be people who take advantage of it - which is by definition the tragedy of the commons. Since no one person pays for the commons (the various homeless-support programs) there is less desire to preserve the grass in the commons (i.e. conserve the resources available for the homeless, and use them sparingly.)

    Two, at a slightly higher level, I think we realize that any such solution is not going to be 100% efficient. There will be people who take advantage of any system, no matter how well policed, and there will be people who are not helped by the system, no matter how freely available those services are. The goal is to trade those two off against each other.

    Three is that with the homeless, we are entering the realm that Joshua Greene calls "the tragedy of commonsense morality." His premise is that if we still lived in tribes - groups of 20 to 500 people - there wouldn't be a homeless problem. If there are 500 people in your tribe you are going to know them all, and if someone is homeless for whatever reason, they are taken in. Evolution equipped us with these responses; it made living in communities possible. Like my example of the janitor above - his family takes him in, and he is cared for. We are wired for that, to show compassion and forgiveness for people close to us (those in our "tribe.")

    But that starts to break down in larger groups. Over population groups of millions of people, and over continental differences, we just don't care that much - and often find reasons to hate and fear those other faraway tribes. Evolution also equipped us with these fears, since foreign tribes encroaching into our areas are a real threat if you are living off the land.

    There are a few famous thought experiments to demonstrate this. Would you jump in the water and ruin a $1000 suit to save a drowning child? Of course you would. Would you sell that $1000 suit and save the lives of two children in sub-Saharan Africa with that money? Ask anyone and their replies will likely be along the lines of "well, I do what I can . . . you know there's a lot of starving kids . . . I really do need a suit if I am going to make a good impression with my clients . . . I donate at church you know . . ." That's those mechanisms again, valuing the life of a nearby child far more than the life of a child 8000 miles away you have never seen.

    Would you throw the switch in the famous trolley problem, and sacrifice one to save five? Ask that and you will have a good discussion. However, modify that a little. Will you push the unsuspecting fat man next to you onto the tracks to derail the trolley, thus saving those five people? And here again, most people will say no, that's murder, I wouldn't want someone to do that to me etc etc. By positing the killing of someone near to you - someone you can see, who can react to your actions, who might be part of your tribe - the answers change dramatically. Of course you save the person near you even if five people far away die. Let them save themselves. After all, they are them, not this guy standing next to me.

    As we have moved from tribes to societies to city-states to countries, we have kept this "support my tribe and let that other tribe go to hell for all I care" approach to things. Leaders capitalize on this; it's called patriotism when applied to an entire country, with xenophobia being the converse when applied to others. I am sure I don't have to give examples of both approaches in our global society.

    And it's easy to expand that xenophobia to others even within our own society. We have seen it with democrats vs republicans, natives vs immigrants, Christians vs Muslims, black vs white etc. And once again, politicans find those natural responses and amplify them for the power that gives them over people.

    And it happens naturally with the homeless as well. "They" are lazy. "They" are mentally ill. "They" caused their own problems. "They" are not like me or my tribe and so helping them is not my job. (Note - not saying you do this, but that is often the messaging we see in media and politics.)

    So one solution is to wave a magic wand and expand those natural tribal protections we feel for our tribe to the whole world. Not going to happen, of course, outside of a few people who really seem to feel that way.

    Another solution - Greene's solution - is to consciously disregard those messages our lower brains are giving us and switch to what he calls "manual mode", a mode where we ignore those drives that evolution provides for us and use a more objective approach. He advocates for utilitarianism, which is a pretty simple approach that states that one should act to maximize goodness and minimize badness both for oneself and for others. Those extremes are generally defined as happiness vs unhappiness, eating vs starving, pleasure vs pain etc etc. It doesn't always give you the right answer immediately (i.e. should you give the drunk another drink even if it makes him momentarily happy?) but it does provide a framework for deciding what to do.

    And for the case of the homeless, utilitarianism would suggest that we spend as much money as we need to to help the most people we can, right up until the point that the amount of money we spend starts causing other people to starve, to become homeless etc. This is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, because why should they be 'penalized' (taxed) to take care of those not-my-tribe people who are too lazy to work? That's where Greene would advise shutting down that tribal response and instead thinking more objectively about the best way to reduce unhappiness and pain for everyone. Even if it takes a toll on the commons.
    James R likes this.
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  3. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I get the points that you are making. The reason I was thinking along those lines was the case in Seattle (and probably similar in San Diego). I moved here 30 years or so ago. It was a nice place, little crime, liberal in the sense that people cared about others and yet it didn't have a lot of the issues that one might associate with excessive liberalism.

    Let's just say that the government spent X amount on the less fortunate. Whatever that percentage was it was sustainable and no one argued about the need.

    You could walk around at night, if there was a "bad" section of town, it was small and not that bad. Drugs were not an issue, homelessness wasn't an issue, there were actually no-loitering laws at that time and the police enforced them even for traffic at a popular "cruising" site in West Seattle.

    I mention that just because it seems "quaint" today. Now you couldn't get the police to arrest anyone unless you saw a felony being committed.

    If you were female with kids, you got healthcare if you couldn't afford it yourself. You got assisted housing. Much of this you can still get I guess.

    The point is there was money for the less advantaged in the "natural" population. Most people here had good jobs (due to all the tech companies) and even those not in those industries generally had decent jobs. It was an educated population. It all worked. The parks were very nice. Everyone got along, volunteered, all the things you would expect from a "community"

    Over time the population changed. There were many people moving here. Most that moved here had tech skills so no problem there. I can't say for sure but it seems like a lot of people moved up here that had no skills and perhaps came for the benefits. Suddenly there were a lot of people from the Middle East.

    I can almost picture (rightly or wrongly) some guy from Iraq with 5 kids living in Section 8 housing calling his brother back in Iraq and telling him to move to Seattle as well (with his 4 kids). Telling him you will be treated well even if you don't have a job and if you want you can walk to the Mosque and pray 5 times a day and just forget about finding a job and your life will still be much better than in Iraq.

    Now the place is covered with criminals, drug addicts, homeless camps and nothing is done about any of it other than to talk of raising more taxes.

    Several thoughts came to mind (earlier today as an analogy. A mom telling her kids "this is why we can't have nice things"

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    and it also brings up a visual image of living in Phoenix in the summer, having air conditioning but then leaving the door open and expecting to cool the whole city.

    This is why I brought up the Tragedy of the Commons. Seattle was caring about the less fortunate, spending a sustainable amount for the common good but it's not possible for a small area to fund the world. It just destroys that small area after while and no one benefits.

    Higher union wages benefited Detroit until it didn't and now Detroit is basically "destroyed". There are repercussions for ill thought out policies. We have inflation now because the money supply was doubled in a short period of time and yet people want more government handouts to combat the inflation that government handouts caused.

    Although it's a small point, in your example with the expensive suit and the local child falling in the river. Yes, most people would jump in and save it. Sending money to African to save a small child isn't as direct. Not just because of distance but because money doesn't directly save anyone. Otherwise, everyone should send every penny we have to Africa, from a moral perspective but that's why philosophy is often logical but nonsensical.

    Most people, on a business trip to some country in Africa, upon seeing a small kid fall into a river would still jump in to save them.

    My larger point and the reason for my question to you about the "Commons" and given your answer the only point where I disagree with you, I think, is that one person or one small area can't save the whole world. All that happens in that case is that you bring everyone down.

    Mathematically it works, I guess, if the average wealth in the world is having a net worth of "$"100 and if you want to reduce the average net worth in the U.S. to "$"100 as well. Otherwise, it's not practical or even desirable. You just end up like Detroit, IMO. You end up with a world in which everyone is poor. That's not how you bring everyone up. It's not by giving money ultimately. You teach a man to fish rather than giving him a fish, right?

    Seattle is much worse off than it was 30 years ago and the citizens of the world aren't statistically any better off.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2023
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  5. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Here's the thing: Nobody actually thinks you're really that stupid. Compared to your posts, do you really not know?

    You asked↑, "Why should those who are being responsible have to pay even more in taxes to pay for housing and 'basic income' to someone who chooses to take drugs?" and we must remember that there are many homeless addicts who actually did try be responsible, as you would have it, only to be ruined by irresponsible behavior of wealthy interests. It's also true of addiction: Go to Scott County, Indiana, and tell those folks to grow up. How many of those addicts fell in because, between monied interests in healthcare provision, health insurance, and pharmaceutical manufacturing—i.e., capitalistic priorities—their doctors started prescribing a whole lot of opioids.

    And we should observe that while the pharmaceutical contribution to the opiod crisis does not speak for every junkie, or every addict; and also note that we make this particular point because you tend toward melodramatic simplification: No, it's not that most people are addicts because of Sackler, but, rather, the insensitivity and ignorance of your narrative about addiction, just like, no, "most poor people" are not poor explicitly "because of Bear Stearns and Enron", and, let's face it, for someone who has as much to say as you do, your apparent ignorance of history is one of those things that starts to stand out.

    It's one thing if you seek satisfaction in judging other people unsatisfactory, but as you carry on this way, people do notice. The general form happens a lot: A person says something, is shown a problem with what they said, and suddenly cannot figure out what the two points have to do with each other¹. It happens; there is actually quite a bit of it in American politicking, but it also starts to stand out if an argument seems to rely on pretenses of ignorance and confusion.

    Well, you did complain:

    No, it wasn't so long a response.


    "Market wages" is a relativistic article of faith; at least you're straightforward about living wages not being an employer's responsibility; putting all that onto the employees actually reduces work quality as they devote more personal resources toward all that; "expensive tastes" is a solipsistic fallacy, feelgood moralism achieving nothing better than personal satisfaction in having said so.

    One of the most noticeable aspects of your narrative is how much it relies on strange pretenses of idyll. Market wages, for instance. Politically, it's a useful phrase, but it describes the needs of employers without regard to employee sustenance. It's easy enough to stand on my point: If the full-time employees cannot make a living, we can wonder what passes for being successful. If the living solution for those employees is taxpayer assistance, we have a civic responsibility to wonder about the business model by which a company cannot be successful without taxpayers carrying its employees.

    Oh, and while we're on the subject of your narrative reliance on strangeness, and so that we need not waste another post on the point:

    When was Seattle ever good at "caring about the less fortunate", or "spending a sustainable amount for the common good"? And don't get me wrong, there are plenty in town who will do their part, but the city itself, is notorious for its insincerity and inefficiency in dealing with homelessness and housing.

    Moreover, it's not supposed to be just the city, or the county. This is a societal question. Take Christians as an example: As it is, fulfilling the Christian obligation can destroy a person; there is just too much for any one person to attend. However, if every Christian did their part, no Christian would have to Christian themselves to death for the poor. And, remember, that's even without the larger context of a diverse society and the measure of how we treat our vulnerable.

    Meanwhile, people in economic need often gravitate toward economic centers because that is where the economic resources are; this is so basic that we sometimes forget to account for it explicitly. As a societal question, the way to alleviate the need for Seattle to carry so much burden is to alleviate the demands drawing people of such need toward the city. There are a couple ways to do so, at least, but the first part is to get some of those resources into other areas, so that people who need certain help don't need to make their way toward Seattle to find it; the longer endeavor is to alleviate the circumstances requiring that certain help. Some particular needs will persist; there will always be the neurologically and cognitively disrupted, and there will always be addiction and drug-related disruption. But the part where someone becomes homeless because their capitalist employer laid off workers to pay for executive failures, and their capitalist landlord raised the rent because real estate values keep rising² reminds the point about definitions of "freedom".

    Same thing with the Covid evictions in Texas, despite a federal moratorium. Y'know, "freedom".

    One of the most obvious problems with "political 'solution'"↑ that is no solution, and even the beginning of a new problem, is that it never intends to solve a problem. No, a city cannot solve the problem on its own, and such problematic political solutions often hinge on compromises intending failure↗.


    ¹ That's why I pointed↑ to #28↑; you claimed a lack of evidence, were reminded↑ of two large and obvious examples and why they were relevant, and the best you could manage was to complain that the examples make no sense. You're hardly the only one to behave this way, but the more you do it, the more suggest your own ignorance. There is also the "House speaker" thread, when you complained↗ about implications of stupidity, but not only did you lie about what someone said, you invested that misrepresentation in ignorance. While "trying to reduce debt" makes a nice talking point, the history of the issue clearly reminds the HFC isn't really about trying to reduce debt. Like I said, if the last twenty-two years haven't made the point that Republican bawling about debt is just a façade, it is unclear what will. But it's hard to believe you are so ignorant of the history. Maybe you really don't know; or you do know but are bullshitting everyone just because. But you complained about the implications, were answered on that point, and fell back to confusion↗, that it "makes no sense". Like I said↑, that you might be so easily confused is useful to know. Stop and think, though, about how mean or unfair you might think such lines are, because the alternative is that you do know, that you're not really confused, or not really so ignorant, but choose this truculent pretense of ignorance for whatever reasons.

    ² Nor does it help if real estate appraisals are artificially inflated, as has happened, before, in Seattle.​

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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    It's one thing to suggest that poverty should be impossible, but Wilde↱ was also making a comparative point:

    The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism – are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man's intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.

    They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.

    But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim.

    In our American present, what this means is that there is in fact a context in which liberalism is a fundamental part of our societal problem, but that context does not mean we must shift rightward; rather, it means our liberals are too conservative. Their unhealthy and exaggerated altruism is a result of conditioning themselves to accept and justify these compromises. It's kind of like watching liberals figuring out how to pitch the individual mandate. Single-payer would have been better, but is generally excluded from consideration because, well, something about "freedom". So, they went with what they could get, and it turns out they were mistaken to do so; even the people who originally pushed and even achieved that solution didn't like it. The inefficiency of this government policy is explicitly derived from the compromise of agreeing to fail because freedom requires significant exclusion. And now society is left trying to manage the "aggravation of the difficulty" against the potential for catastrophic inflammation of the difficulty.

    Or, yes, ineffective government as an outcome of a definition of "freedom".

    Rinse and repeat.


    Wilde, Oscar. "The Soul of Man Under Socialism". 1891. 5 February 2023.

    cluelusshusbund likes this.
  8. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    You don't like capitalism. What system do you find to work better? It's helpful to be more specific, ya'know?
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    One in which poverty is impossible.

    How did you miss that?

    Oscar Wilde calls it "socialism"; you can even see that in the notes. Socialism, communism, hell, even statist capitalism; the more important part is that it does not require poverty.
  10. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Nothing requires poverty. Which example (country) do you prefer?
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

    There is no system in which poverty is impossible. The best any system can do is redefine poverty so that no one meets the definition, but that's sort of a copout.
  12. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    It's like reducing "inequality". If you make everyone poor, there is less inequality. That's not an optimal choice however. Sometimes it's OK for a system to be "messy" even though it may bother those looking for a more black and white solution.
  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    By natural do you mean the people who have been here forever? The Chehalis, Colville, the Cowlitz, the Nisqually, the Puyallup and the like? Or do you mean the people who moved to Seattle in 1970?
    And I can imagine a guy who works at Wal-Mart in Bellingham who hears about how much fun Seattle is, and decides to move there and work at Wal-Mart there. He moves, but housing is sorta expensive so he stays with a friend while he looks for housing. And prices just keep going up. His friend moves and now he doesn't have a place to stay so he lives in his car. He starts to meet other people in the same situation. Eventually he starts to stink and gets fired from Wal-Mart. Then he loses his car. So he lives in a tent he stole from someone else, in that community he's discovered under a bridge in Seattle.

    Seattle, like the Bay Area, Kalispell and San Diego, are victims of their own success. They do well and people move there. High tech companies open and employ lots of well paid people. Service industries grow up to support them. All those well-paid people pay top dollar for housing, thus pricing the service industry people out of their homes. Some move to another city. Some move far away and drive 90 minutes a day to make it to their job at Wal-Mart, paying gas bills that leave them functionally in poverty. Some lose their jobs. Some live in their vans or cars. And some live under a bridge somewhere.

    As discussed above, there are a lot of potential ways to help these people. None are simple or quick. Some are worth trying.

    Yep. And since then, Seattle (and San Diego, and a dozen other cities) have gotten at least twice as big - and so those bad sections of town are at least twice as large. Even larger, since they are the last affordable places that low income people can stay, and they have to keep it "un-gentrified" if they want it to stay that way.
    It actually does. I've seen it happen. But it's easy to rationalize that away; find a charity that embezzled money and say "see? I can't help those people because someone else ruined it for us. Their fault for embezzling, not mine for not contributing. Blame them."
    Well, I probably would. And perhaps that's why I contribute money to charities that concentrate on third world countries, because I have seen firsthand how much that helps them. It also has a lot of drawbacks; make no mistake about that. But better to save that life today and fix the problems caused by saving them tomorrow. (True for both the guy jumping in the water to save the kid and for the guy supporting charities.)

    However, many of those local people would NOT jump into a river to save the kid. Because they live in a different world. They live in a world where if they find a kid unconscious (and perhaps dead) in the street they don't try to help them, because they are probably just as dead as the kid they found the day before, and if not they probably have something contagious. And jumping into that river could be a death sentence, if they catch the latest waterborne disease and the local clinic doesn't have the appropriate antibiotics/antiparasitics.

    But again, I live in a different world, where I can (almost) always get whatever I need to fix whatever medical problem I have.
    Every single thing we do as a society - from the Apollo program to sewers to public roads to the military to helping the homeless - "brings everyone down." We do them because the benefits of doing it outweigh the costs of not doing it. We should make similar decisions on the homeless.
    No one is suggesting anything like that, nor does that even make any sense.
    James R likes this.
  14. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Yes, it doesn't make sense but the trend is that way...defunding the police is an example.

    Regarding my use of the word "natural", yes the group of people who grew around here slowly and were accommodated successfully.

    Regarding the guy from Bellingham who moved to Seattle, encountered problems and is now living under a bridge. If that realistic? Is that what you would do or would you just move back to Bellingham?

    You could just decide to start using drugs and then you might end up under the bridge I guess. That's the case where I said that maybe they should just "grow up".
  15. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Do you find that capitalism has not worked out well for you?
  16. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    At best, that is surrender. Beyond that, it is malice.
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

    ?? That is doing the opposite - reducing funding of social services to let people (especially the well-off) "keep their hard earned money."
    OK, so people who got to Seattle between say 50 and 20 years ago. I would suggest that the people who have been here longer have seen even more dramatic changes than you have.
    It happens here, yes. I would be amazed if it did not happen in Seattle.
    ?? I wouldn't work for Wal-Mart to begin with, and if I lost my job and couldn't afford to stay in one area I'd move to another. But I do not fool myself that everyone has my (or your) advantages.
    Yep. Or you could just start drinking a little more as each new defeat emerged until you were an alcoholic and could no longer function - or even wean yourself of alcohol safely. Or your demons could just get to you, and after one too many psychotic episodes with your landlord/your family/the police you might find yourself there as well.

    Once again, there are a lot of reasons people end up under that bridge.
  18. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Defunding the police isn't an example of rich people trying to save more money. It's an example eof a stupid policy. It's those on the far left who think that there will be less police violence if "we" defund them and hire more social workers.

    What happens is that they have to stop sending the social workers in as it's too dangerous and then crime goes way up and then it's hard to attract more police to want to work in Seattle and there has to be high signing bonuses and over all the results are just as stupid as you would predict from the beginning.
  19. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Sorry, you're completely in the weeds here. Defunding the police is in fact a reduction in the funding of social programs, and in fact reduces expenses to a government. Those are facts. I think it's also a dumb plan. But that doesn't change the facts.
  20. Seattle Valued Senior Member

  21. ThazzarBaal Registered Senior Member

    As opinion pieces go, this one touches on the home front in many cities. Pharmaceutical companies, bug money, big business, and very few Americans who don't partake in the prescriptions, many of which are for mental and/emotional conditions. That's America. Drug addiction is another point you made. Hmm, well ... Umm ... Pharmaceuticals .... Or nothing or herbals .... Or illicit more hard core drugs ... Heroin, cocaine, meth, etc. Adduction reaches far far far beyond our homeless communities, as does mental conditions. It appears you have a few double standards that need working out. Biased I may be, but I'm not so blind I fail to recognize the larger drug issue In America.
  22. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    What are the double standards that you say that I have? You may be right but you should point them out if you are going to make that comment, don't you think?

    I was talking about the "homeless" problem as it related to camping out in the parks and streets.

    I didn't say anything one way or the other about whether there was addiction in the broader population. That's a separate issue. That's more of a personal issue.
  23. ThazzarBaal Registered Senior Member

    That was the point and the double standard. You target homeless, would treat them as criminals, and based on your view that they are all mentally ill addicts. My point was the addiction and mental illness reaches far beyond the homeless profile, and much of it validated by prescription drug sales alone. Both adduction and mental illness if you choose to view it this way.

    You mention roundups and housing and motivating departure from communities, as if all homeless people are criminals. If you're truly looking to find and deter criminal behavior, you might start looking at corporate America or at politicians and city councils and police departments, but hey ... These authority figures are tried and trusted right? Oh, how about the church? Yest another tried and trusted authority figure, although under the scrutiny of a microscope present day, figuratively speaking. Alas, homeless people are the problem. Right? Hmm?
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2023

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