Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Challenge for Right-Wingers

[Update: Any right-wing visitors are encouraged to read the Friendly Version of this post.]

Are right-wingers evil or just ignorant? I've previously presented what I take to be knock-down arguments - which I'll review below - establishing that one or other must be the case. Unless, of course, I'm missing something, in which case I'd appreciate someone pointing out exactly where my arguments are flawed.

I'll take as my definition of "right-wing": anyone who opposes the institution of an unconditional basic income. That may seem a non-standard definition, but it's close enough for my purposes. After all, the UBI's enabling qualities suffice, I think, to ensure that no genuine leftist could possibly oppose it. Besides, the idea of redistributing money to everybody is intuitively attractive to leftists. What's more, it's just as obviously unattractive to the typical right-winger. I have a huge respect for the rare right-winger who is willing to endorse the UBI. So much so that I will temporarily cease to charge them with the epithet "right-wing".

Anyway, on to the argument. It takes the form of a dilemma, reflecting the two standard defences of free-market capitalism:

1) A right-winger may defend unfettered capitalism (i.e. opposition to the UBI) on either utilitarian or deontological (rights-based) grounds.

2) The utilitarian immediately faces the problem that a UBI could significantly relieve poverty and improve the lives of countless people. Perhaps if it were too large then the adverse economic consequences would outweigh these benefits, and eventually lead the whole system to collapse. But a small UBI would obviously have better consequences for human welfare than none at all. So the utilitarian has no basis for rejecting the UBI wholesale; he merely questions how large it should be.

3) The deontologist defends unfettered capitalism on the basis of "negative liberty", or one's natural right to non-interference. (He may, for instance, claim that "taxation is theft".) But my post on significant negative duties establishes that capitalists regularly violate their duties of non-interference towards others, and thus are obliged to compensate them accordingly. (Similarly, the Lockean proviso on initial acquisition entails that property owners owe rectification to the propertyless who are deprived access to resources that would otherwise be available to them.) The institution of a UBI is the simplest and most reliable way to effect this rectification.

Hence, whichever their ideology, the right-winger's own conception of justice commits them to supporting a UBI. If they don't support it, they're either being immoral by their own lights - which is as good a definition of "evil" as I've come across - or else they're ignorant of the sound arguments reviewed above. Perhaps if other bloggers help "spread the word", we can relieve this ignorance somewhat.

Unless, of course, you think there's a flaw in the arguments? In which case, I'm all ears...

P.S. I'd like to remind any hostile readers of Sterba's four principles of rational engagement. Thoughtful criticisms are most welcome. Knee-jerk dogmatism is not. Please take the time to read - and think about - my linked arguments in full before posting thoughtless comments. Otherwise your comments risk being deleted, as per my policy. Thanks.


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55 comments:

  1. First, why do you assume the right-winger would defend unfettered capitalism by either of the grounds you discuss? It is conceivable--to me at least--that a right-winger might find unfettered capitalism well suited to fostering a competitive social environment, which said right-winger values, either instrumentally or for its own sake.

    Second, your argument turns on the alleged conflict with the right-winger's 'conception of justice', one that is presumably preserved in either of his choices of normative theory. But mightn't a right-winger eschew normative theories altogether? More to the point, mightn't he deny there is any substantive property of justice at all? Or at least not one resembling the notion you are simply taking for granted? Of course he could, in which case he could believe whatever you believe about the economic consequences of UBI, about what follows from accepting certain deontological theses, while simultaneously standing beyond your definition of evil.

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  2. The problem is that your second prong -- "capitalists regularly violate their duties of non-interference towards others, and thus are obliged to compensate them accordingly" -- is unsubstantiated.

    1. The reference to Lockean initial acquisition is a propos of nothing. None of us are in that initial position, none of us ever were, none of us can remember any ancestors who ever were. It's a moot point.

    2. The post on "significant negative duties" seems unserious. In that post, you equate the a) obligation not to steal other people's stuff, with b) the "obligation" not to interfere with anyone who tries to steal your stuff. Did it ever occur to you that there might be good reasons for not thinking that the "obligation of non-interference" is the same in both instances? (I.e., the fact that the instances are not parallel?)

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  3. non-evil right winger4:52 pm, May 06, 2006

    (I tried posting a comment and it disappeared, so my apologies if this ends up appearing twice.)

    Is it possible that some conservatives simply recognize that any wealth redistribution scheme such as the one you describe will have unintended consequences?
    Let me ask you, what did you think of welfare reform in the 1990's? Did you think it was "evil"? Many liberals did. And many conservatives had been advocating welfare reform for years, enduring accusations that they were evil and inhumane in their motives. But who gets the better of the argument now?
    Personally, I believe the same (simplistic) argument could be made for liberals that you are making for conservatives. Are they evil or just ignorant? How about their naivite towards communism and the Soviet Union, for example?

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  4. Anonymous Grad Student4:59 pm, May 06, 2006

    I think there is another hitch in the UBI plan. With all the questions regarding immigration and the status of illegal immigrants in our country (which I do not plan to take a stand on in this post), it seems that a UBI could have serious negative financial and social consequences.

    Do we give a UBI to an illegal immigrant, those who often are most in need of financial help? Will this increase the amount of people illegally entering the country? Many right wingers believe that this is something to avoid. If this is something to avoid, giving illegal immigrants a UBI should also be avoided. However, if you do so, you are creating a substantial gap between illegal and legal immigrants and poor Americans. This could be viewed as a draw-back. Especially to compassionate liberals who don't like to turn illegal immigrants away from public services.

    It seems to me that your distribution plan is flawed. There is not a line that can be drawn to distribute UBIs to everyone who needs one without (a) possibly increasing the number of illegal immigrants in the country or (b) creating an even larger income disparity among groups of the poor.

    I'm not against the idea of UBI. I consider myself very liberal. But I do think that it's unrealistic to the point where it isn't a viable option for our country.

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  5. Why couldn't a liberal reject the UBI because they thought the difference principle was better?

    Or are you arguing they are compatible? I suppose they would be as long as the UBI is less than what the less well-off have, but then what's the point?

    Making it more than than the least well-off doesn't actually seem possible, since the difference principle only justifies inequalities that improves the lot of the least well off. A reduction in inequalities would lead to us having fewer resources to distribute to the UBI, leaving the less well of worse off under the UBI than under the difference principle.

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  6. Northerner...

    The initial acquisition is important because libertarians (at least, that seems to be what Nozick and Locke are saying) are arguing that market transactions are justice preserving.

    So, if the initial acquisition is unjust, then all property transactions resulting from that are unjust.

    Nozick argues for a one-off redistribution to get to the initial point, but it is questionable that this gets you anywhere.

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  7. Won't a utilitarian libertarian counter by denying the factual claim that "a small UBI would obviously have better consequences for human welfare than none at all"? Surely she will argue that a free market- which we don't currently have- will increase employment opportunities and make a state-supervised UBI unnecessary. The leftist may say that this is ignorance of economic facts- not ignorance of the argument you present. But a reasonable person could be uncertain about whether a UBI is necessary to achieve the enablement of the poor.

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  8. I wanted to quickly add that I would jump for joy if UBI-legislation could somehow be magically passed in the current political environment, but I think the attractiveness of the UBI is that it is a comparatively moderate redistribution when compared to Rawls' egalitarianism.

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  9. I am happy to say I am neither evil nor ignorant (thanks to good work by Grayshade RIP)

    > Do we give a UBI to an illegal immigrant, those who often are most in need of financial help?

    Yes (generally speaking), but if their status is "illegal" and you can give them money - why aren't you doing something about processing them? This could be a matter of what combination of laws you have as opposed to the choice of UBI or not UBI.

    Of course there is definitely an international leftist principle here in terms of trying to give benefits to the poor people from poor countries. One could argue that ideally NZ should give almost all its money away in a UBI to somewhere like the Congo or Nth Korea (trying to think of a really low utility place) or Vietnam (trying to think of somewhere it might be used effectively).

    > Won’t a utilitarian libertarian counter by denying the factual claim that "a small UBI would obviously have better consequences for human welfare than none at all"?

    Being devil's advocate - I think they might argue
    1)there is a cost to redistribution per dollar and a fixed cost per mechanism. So the profile could make a policy not work.
    2) that thee is a better solution (maybe some massive private charity)
    3) that human psychology revolves around critical points forcing action ("hitting rock bottom" and that this might just prop people up JUST over that point. Worse yet, that this might make that point just below this minimum.

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  10. Also the right wingers may be doing what Gibbard suggested for utilitarian in your previous post. (in fact they could be [misguided] rule utilitarians)

    They foster in themselves a belief that benefits/egalitarianism are bad because they believe they are generally so (a wider debate, but defendable depending on how you define it and what alternatives you propose). They once were aware that there may be exceptions but they also knew that there will be a lot of dispute about where these exceptions lie and a set of rules with exceptions is hard to argue and hard to follow.

    Then the debate over whether they oppose a small UBI (marginal cost low marginal benefit relatively high) becomes irrelevant to them because it falls under the general rule "benefits bad".

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  11. the above proceedure is also handy for self justification to resolve cognative dissonance.

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  12. Just a quick problem with your definition of "evil".

    You wrote that we should consider someone evil who is immoral by his own lights. There is at least one prima facie problem with this quick definition:

    Someone could have beliefs about his obligations to others that are themselves immoral, and he might violate them in order to perform an immoral action. (To paraphrase Bennett's famous Huckleberry Finn example, someone might believe that blacks are inferior and so not deserving of respect from him, but he might nonetheless prevent some harm from coming to a black person and then curse himself later for his "moment of weakness".) It's not obvious that such a person is evil; in fact, I think his action at that moment was good.

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  13. Lots of good comments here!

    Joseph - you're right that I failed to consider (say) amoralists who "eschew normative theories altogether". For present purposes I'll also classify a disregard for concerns of justice as a form of "evil", though I grant that departs from the incomplete definition offered in the main post.

    It would be more of a problem for me if there were a plausible conservative theory of justice that I've failed to take into account here. (Did you mean for "fostering a competitive social environment" to be treated as a goal of justice? I'm guessing not, as it doesn't sound like a very plausible one. But even so, I'd point out that the UBI would plausibly contribute to conditions of fair competition, by improving the bargaining power of the worst-off, and encouring risks and entrepreneurship, for instance.)

    Northerner - Pat answered your #1 nicely. Re: #2, you don't appear to have made a serious effort to understand the arguments. I never "equated" two obligations. Rather, I begin by noting the fact of interference, or the conflict of negative liberties here (described in neutral, non-moral terms), and then I (following Sterba) argue that the only reasonable resolution of this conflict is to favour the liberty of those in need (at least when they have no other means available to them). See the linked post for more detail.

    NERW - I'm not sure of the relevance of your comments, since you don't actually tackle the substance of my proposals. I agree that conditional (means-tested) welfare schemes have all sorts of disastrous consequences, largely due to the creation of perverse incentives. The UBI avoids all this, as explained here. It may still have "unintended consequences" in the same way that blowing your nose might. Anything's possible. But I'm not aware of any grounds for being any more suspicious of this course of action than any other. Your "objection" looks like a stock excuse to not even consider any reforms, simply in virtue of their status as a 'reform'. It's hardly fair to completely ignore the substance of what's being discussed. (Even if "non-evil", this attitude plausibly counts as "ignorance".)

    AGS - I think the UBI is typically taken to be a benefit for citizens. One can then argue about whether illegal immigrants should be granted citizen status. But that seems a completely separate issue. For one thing, it seems to arise equally for all types of benefits, including whatever present ones your country has that the UBI might replace. Also, your response to inequality strikes me as illegitimate. You shouldn't want to keep your worst off citizens poor just so that they aren't better off than illegal immigrants. That's "leveling down" at its worst. (It also ignores the inequality between rich and poor, in order to focus on the - I'd have thought less pressing - inequality between groups of poor.)

    Pat - I'm not sure where the incompatibility you mention is supposed to come from, or what you mean in talking about the UBI being "less than what the less well-off have". Suppose a very poor person is living off $5k a year. A $10k basic income benefit is surely possible. And a $4k one is surely still good - almost doubling the guy's total income - and certainly better than nothing. But in any case, I'm happy to grant the possibility that leftists might think some alternative to be even better than the UBI. That shouldn't stop them from supporting the UBI now. (So I'm happy about the clarification in your later comment.)

    Anonymous - "a reasonable person could be uncertain about whether a UBI is necessary to achieve the enablement of the poor."

    Though a free market might be good, I can't see any reasonable grounds for denying that it would be even better if complemented by a (perhaps small) UBI. That may just be a failure of imagination on my part, though. So I'll grant that if solid utilitarian arguments could be given here, then the right-winger could escape my criticism. I'm skeptical of the antecedent, though.

    G. - see my response to NERW above. We have sufficient reason to believe that the UBI is far superior to other forms of welfare benefit, so I wouldn't expect much (sincere) "dispute" here.

    Bobcat - good point. The definition of "evil" was a bit rough and ready. Still, opposition to the UBI is a position condemned by every plausible theory of justice, including the right-winger's own. So this, if done knowingly, could plausibly qualify as "evil".

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  14. I'm a left-wing grad student in philosophy, but I've had the good fortune of having a conservative friend who is reasonable, articulate, and a great defender of some aspects of (social) conservatism, to the point that he's convinced me on a couple of issues.

    I make reference to this because I know how hard it can be to understand conservatives when you never encounter any in academia (the ones that are there will often censor themselves).

    I highly recommend to you, Richard, and to anyone else who feels like people on the right must either be evil, ignorant, or crazy, that you read this interesting article (pdf), entitled "When morality opposes justice: Conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize". This is its abstract:

    "Researchers in moral psychology and social justice have agreed that morality is about matters of harm, rights, and justice. With this definition of morality, conservative opposition to social justice programs has appeared to be immoral, and has been explained as a product of various non-moral processes, such as system justification or social dominance orientation. In this article we argue that, from an anthropological perspective, the moral domain is usually much broader, encompassing many more aspects of social life and valuing institutions as much or more than individuals. We present theoretical and empirical reasons for believing that there are in fact five psychological systems that provide the foundations for the world's many moralities. The five foundations are psychological preparations for caring about and reacting emotionally to harm, reciprocity (including justice, fairness, and rights), ingroup, hierarchy, and purity. Political liberals have moral intuitions primarily based upon the first two foundations, and therefore misunderstand the moral motivations of political conservatives, who generally rely upon all five foundations."

    I've written about this issue on my own blog. It's clear that you make exactly the mistake that a lot of people on the left--myself included, until recently--do about morality, that unless it's based on harm or rights, it's irrational. This is not necessarily the case.

    This researcher, Jon Haidt, is a really fascinating one. His work on moral psychology is highly worth reading, for instance, this (pdf). It challenges a lot of assumptions we, particularly philosophers, tend to make about how people engage in moral reasoning.

    (Brian Leiter, whose link I followed to get here, has also written about this moral reasoning issue, in reference to Nietzsche; he put a link up on his site recently. Based on that, I find it surprising that he so quickly dismisses conservatives as being either evil or ignorant, as you do here.)

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  15. But Richard, the linked post has the same false equivalence. It contrasts:

    (i) the liberty of the rich "not to be interfered with in using their surplus goods and resources for luxury purposes"; and

    (ii) the liberty of the poor "not to be interfered with in taking from the rich what they require to meet their basic needs."


    To the libertarian -- well, to most common-sense thinkers -- these two "liberties" are not at all the same. Under number 1, the "liberty" consists merely of everyone observing the status quo, and the only coercion (if any) consists of preventing private violence. Under number 2, the "liberty" consists of demanding someone else's stuff -- their car, let's say, or their house -- and the coercion involved consists of facilitating private acts of violence. Unless you begin with some sort of radical skepticism about the status quo, these two "liberties" are not at all equivalent or analogous or comparable or commensurable or any such thing.


    Brian Leiter, whose link I followed to get here, has also written about this moral reasoning issue, in reference to Nietzsche; he put a link up on his site recently. Based on that, I find it surprising that he so quickly dismisses conservatives as being either evil or ignorant, as you do here

    If you read much of Leiter's site, you'll see that "evil or ignorant" is quite a mild epithet for him to use when describing conservatives.

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  16. Northerner - how is the contrast I present any form of "equivalence", let alone a "false" one? I assert that there is a non-moral equivalence of sorts, in that both involve the same kind of physical interference. That much should be undisputable, however. (See my post and comments Poverty as Unfreedom, if you're having trouble seeing this brute fact.) But I never claim a moral equivalence, which seems to be your concern. After all, I end up arguing that (ii) trumps (i)!

    The libertarian will of course want to argue the contrary, that the liberty in (i) takes priority over (ii). The problem, as I argue in the linked posts, is that they have no reasonable basis for doing so. You mention "violence", but as there is no factual (physical) difference in the kinds of interference involved in each case, you could only be presupposing that people have a right to the first liberty and not the second. Such a question-begging presumption obviously doesn't constitute any kind of rational argument.

    (I don't know what you mean by "radical skepticism about the status quo". Do you mean a willingness to question our current institutional arrangements, and the way they prioritize the liberty in (i) over that of (ii)? In that case I obviously am demanding such "skepticism", because - again - the alternative is complacent question-begging.)

    SoS - thanks for the links. I'm skeptical about how much social science can really tell us about normative ethics (as opposed to practical questions of implementation). Just because some people value "purity" doesn't mean they're rational to do so. There are good reasons to think that morality is about human flourishing -- anything else would seem arbitrary or fetishistic -- so you can't necessarily dismiss this principled position as a "mistake". It isn't clear that anything you've said here casts doubt on the conservative's moral ignorance. But I'll have to read those links.

    Something I forgot to address in my previous comment...

    NERW wrote: "Personally, I believe the same (simplistic) argument could be made for liberals that you are making for conservatives."

    What would be the point? My real purpose here is not so much to condemn right-wingers for their past mistakes as to provoke them into considering - and supporting - the UBI in future. I'm happy to join you in denouncing the Soviet Union. Look: "Stalin sucks!" Happy? Now, are you willing to join me in supporting the UBI?

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  17. Well, if Haidt's thesis is compelling, it means that liberals are the ones who are actually morally ignorant, because they don't even recognize some of the major components of morality as being moral.

    Nevertheless, I take your point about the normativity issue. However, I don't subscribe to a strict normative/descriptive distinction and, in fact, I find moral psychology far more interesting than normative ethics because the latter seems to consist of so much a priori bickering with no real way to resolve the differences. At least hypotheses in moral psychology can sometimes be empirically tested.

    This is why Haidt's research on moral intuitions--and other recent research in empirical moral psychology--is so fascinating. Somewhere along the line, intuitions have to come in for even, say, the most stalwart Kantian. Consider the feeling that we have when something just seems "right" or seems "rational" or "obvious."

    In the case of Kantians, think of the different and sometimes incommensurable ways in which to apply the categorical imperative in specific instances.

    In the case of rights theories, more generally, what determines whether something is or is not a right to begin with? And what determines whether a specific type of action falls under a category of right?

    For utilitarians, there are always the thorny issues of trying to compare pleasures and pains, difficult enough within people, let alone between. I highly doubt there's an objective way to measure this, even, say, neurologically; and even if it's in principle possible, we don't have anything close for the time being.

    More centrally, and as has often been maintained against Rawls, the idea of "reasonableness" is itself very debatable. You don't have to be a moral relativist or subjectivist to see the force of this point. In the very least, you must recognize that we can't argue without the use of unsupported premises at some point.

    If it's the case that we're relying on intuitions at base, then what's wrong with an intuition favoring social cohesion, or a more "traditional" value system? If post hoc rationalization is indeed essential to moral argumentation, normative ethics starts to seem like nothing more than a concerted effort to cover one's rear.

    Lastly, I'd make reference to theorists like Nussbaum and Bernard Williams, who challenge the value of theory as the basis for practical morality. One doesn't have to be an immoralist or relativist or irrationalist to reject the value of theory. Rawls' notion of "reflective equilibrium" is one attempt at trying to navigate this kind of problem.

    (I'm sorry these criticisms are not more systematic. If something is unclear, I can try to clarify.)

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  18. > We have sufficient reason to believe that the UBI is far superior to other forms of welfare benefit

    Actually I agree, and yet we don't have a UBI - which makes me think that someone MUST sincerely disbelieve (I find it hard to imagine it is shear evilness that is killing the concept) and that there must be a rational counter argument (even if it is weaker).
    besides your claim is quite a strong one - such strong (and aggressive) claims tend to turn on my skepticism.

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  19. by the way I look forward to anyone having substantive objections to the UBI so I can argue in favour of it as I do from time to time.

    SoS,
    your critique doesnt really defeat any of those arguments.

    just because you have found a measure that is "real" doesn't mean it is a good measure* any more than knowing that a ruler exists makes it a good measure for time.

    Conversely the fact that it is hard to get agreement on a measure doesnt mean it is the wrong or that we should not try and take what we can get.

    We could easily define morality as "that thing we tend to do" (or the rules we live by) but in that case it will be identical to our actions and be useless for most purposes.

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  20. In response to Northerner Richard writes,

    'The libertarian will of course want to argue the contrary, that the liberty in (i) [property rights] takes priority over (ii) [the right to live well even if this means violating others property rights]. The problem, as I argue in the linked posts, is that they have no reasonable basis for doing so. You mention "violence", but as there is no factual (physical) difference in the kinds of interference involved in each case, you could only be presupposing that people have a right to the first liberty and not the second. Such a question-begging presumption obviously doesn't constitute any kind of rational argument.'

    There is a relevant difference between the liberties contained in 1) and ii). The inviolability of the libery described in i) is guaranteed by its origin, which is the right to own our body and the products of our work. There are all sorts of reasons to think i) is inviolable (See Locke, Nozick, Kant, even Mill- a rather non-evil group) The right reffered to in ii), in contrast, would seem to require violations of the property rights of others. Moreover the "right" referred to in two seems more supererogatory than you make it out to be. Yes, a UBI would be a good thing, maybe it would be nice if everyone donated money to the poor and working poor, but I see no non-question begging reasons to conclude that we have a duty to implement such charity. Your claim that there is no physical difference in the kinds of interference involved in guaranteeing one and two is irrelevant. Libertarians differentiate the interference by arguing that coercion in defence of the liberties contained in i) is coercing people into not violating the rights of others, while coercion in defence of ii) is forcing people to act nicely, i.e. you are violating people's rights in order to enforce a public good.

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  21. Antti Kauppinen11:19 am, May 07, 2006

    Haidt's paper really seems non sequitur. It's not as if liberals don't know that conservatives have different moral beliefs/attitudes (misleadingly labeled 'intuitions' by Haidt) - that's the starting point of the whole debate! And it's not as if liberals don't recognize the underlying natural motivational tendencies - favoring the ingroup, maintaining 'purity', and respecting authorities, religious authorities included. But it is fundamentally important to distinguish between a) what some people treat as morally significant and b) what is morally significant. Not all moral concerns are legitimate moral concerns. (Haidt's key equivocation is the failure to recognize that we use the phrase 'moral concern' for justified moral concern as well as purely descriptively.) Sure, it's worth remembering when arguing with a conservative that she probably genuinely thinks banning gay marriage is morally required. (How could anyone forget that in the first place?) But at the end of the day, so what? That's just the attitude we want to persuade her to change.

    Nor does the existence of such attitudes speak against the hypothesis of motivated social cognition, unlike Haidt claims. For even if we accept the thesis that these are all natural ('innate' in some sense of the term) motivational tendencies, it leaves open the question why some people end up endorsing and embracing, say, purity, when others grow out of it, at least in the sense that they recognize that feelings of disgust often aren't merited. It's entirely possible that a liberal feels queasy when he watches some of the scenes in Brokeback Mountain. But he recognizes that there is no moral warrant for this reaction and doesn't go out to make life even more difficult for gays. Coming to take such reactions for what they're worth can be seen as a process of moral learning. The opposite process needs some other explanation, and that's just what the hypothesis of motivated social cognition does.

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  22. Anonymous - Yes, I suppose "propertarianism" (taking self-ownership or property rights as fundamental rather than liberty) is a third basis of Rightism that I didn't explicitly mention in the main post. But note that it's covered by my discussion of the Lockean Proviso. You can't get from self-ownership to inviolable property rights, because material property is not purely a product of our work, as we lack the power to create material ex nihilo. One thus has a duty of rectification to others for depriving them access to the natural materials one appropriates. Hence the UBI.

    (Though, for the record, I think propertarianism is completely untenable, for the host of reasons reviewed here.)

    P.S. I ask that anonymous commentators choose a unique pseudonym, or number yourselves or something (e.g. "anon2"), so I can tell you apart.

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  23. (And of course if the rich don't have an absolute right in their holdings, then the liberty in (ii) need not involve any "violations of the property rights of others" at all. Hence my earlier charge of question-begging: whether the rich have a right to that property -- i.e. a right to interfere with others who would take it to meet their basic needs -- is precisely what's at issue!)

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  24. You could jsut set up tax differently - ie you treat all land as rented in some way and then rent it at a high enough rate and use that to pay a UBI. Or mark down use of roads and footpaths as limited to those who sign a paying tax contract (kind of like how SAP sells it's goods).
    Would any of that deny your propertarian rights?

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  25. Even the reform party at one point supported the idea of a guaranteed annual income, and you would hardly be able to describe them as not "right wing".

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  26. As someone who's doing some work in moral psychology, I have to agree with Richard for the most part. Normative and descriptive ethics are different. It has been argued, by William Casebeer for instance, that recent neuroscientific and psychological research on the importance of moral intuitions and heuristics supports a "naturalized virtue theory" of normative ethics. The basic argument is that the evidence shows the human brain processes moral information in a particular way, and that this constrains the types of normative theories we can propose. If people process things in a way that best fits with a virtue ethics approach, while consequentialism is much more difficult for people to learn, reason with, and act upon, then we should adopt a virtue ethics approach. Others, particularly Joshua Greene, have criticized this argument on two grounds:

    1.) We don't really know enough about moral psychology, particularly the neurobiology of moral judgements, to make this argument.
    2.) People's moral intuitions may not lead to good outcomes (in fact, they obviously don't in many cases). Greene calls Casebeer's argument a leap from "neural is to moral ought."

    In the end, I think it's important to consider how people process information in moral reasoning when producing normative theories, but we shouldn't feel compelled to build normative theories around people's moral intuitions.

    Antti, I think you're being a bit unfair to Haidt. First of all, he didn't say that liberals don't recognize that conservatives have different moral principles/intuitions, though it's clear that some liberals either don't recognize this or dismiss it out of hand (as you seem to be doing, in fact; Haidt states that doing so is against liberal moral principles). His point is that many (perhaps most) liberals don't understand just what those moral principles/intuitions are, and because of the connection between morality and politics, liberals will have a difficult time communicating with large portions of the electorate until they understand the sources of their moral intuitions. He's making a point similar to Lakoff's (Haidt is a big Lakoff fan), which is basically that you have to understand how people think about x to be able to convince them to see x in a certain way. He's not really arguing that conservative moral intuitions should be considered valid, simply that they should be considered.

    Also, he's not arguing that conservativism is not, at least in many cases, motivated social cognition. In fact, he explicitly says it is. He's arguing a.) that's not all it is, and b.) liberalism is also motivated social cognition in many cases. It's hard to argue against either of those positions, especially when considering actual research on motivated cognition.

    I am a bit confused about his position on disgust in this article, in which he relegates it to one moral category (purity). It's pretty clear--both from empirical work and simple observation--that disgust is an important part of liberal moral reactions, too (e.g., I'm disgusted by the very idea of torture). In fact, disgust, at least as a moral emotion, may be as much a product of our moral intuitions as it is a determiner of them.

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  27. And actually commenting on Richard's post, my own experience with right-wingers, and libertarians, has been that they deny to utility of the UBI, as others have noted. And really, the utility of the UBI is an empirical question. They would argue that the best (in terms of utility) way to distribute wealth is through the free market. Of course, I think that's incredibly naive, but like I said, it's an empirical question, and I don't think it's one that's been definitively answered.

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  28. non-evil right winger2:58 pm, May 07, 2006

    Richard,

    I'm the NERW who posted earlier.

    You say this: "My real purpose here is not so much to condemn right-wingers for their past mistakes as to provoke them into considering - and supporting - the UBI in future. I'm happy to join you in denouncing the Soviet Union. Look: "Stalin sucks!" Happy? Now, are you willing to join me in supporting the UBI?"

    I wasn't aware that this was your 'real purpose.' If you want someone like me to support UBI or whatever else you advocate, I don't recommend the approach of calling people who think the way I do "evil" or "ignorant," with no third possibility offered. I'm very busy right now, so I don't have time to read everything you've linked to about your previous descriptions of UBI and responses to criticisms. I'm only doing this on break time. Despite being a right-winger, I often read Prof. Leiter's site, which brought me here. Maybe soon, when I will have more time, I will read your UBI posts and comment more substantively.

    But Richard, when you ask whether right-wingers are "evil" or "ignorant," should you really be shocked when they don't respond to the substance of your proposals? I think people you define as right-wing will first take the approach of explaining why they are not either "evil" or "ignorant" in the first place. Suffice it to say that I don't consider myself "ignorant" on economic matters. You don't know what I've read, or what I've learned, or what I once believed and then reconsidered in the light of research and human experience. Yet in an earlier comment you said my attitude plausibly counts as "ignorance." What if I'm not really ignorant, but I simply disagree in general with your main thesis, not just about economics, but about your two possible choices to describe right-wingers?

    I specifically named "naivete" (spelling error the first time) towards the Soviet Union and communism as an example of how liberals could be accused of being either "evil" or "ignorant." (Just look at their attitude towards Cuba now, or their idolizing of Che Guevera. Is that evil, or just ignorant?) But I also indicated that I believe such a choice is overly simplistic. Of course you can say "Stalin sucks." But did the whole system suck? Did the whole ideology suck, from the very beginning? I hope you would say "yes." And right-wingers were correct about that for a very long time - they were not evil, they were morally righteous (if you can read that without smirking); they were not ignorant, they were very insightful and perspicacious.

    Again, my point, Richard, is not to refute you about UBI, or acknowledge that you are right and throw up the white flag. I am addressing the main perspective of your article: that right-wingers are either "evil" or "ignorant," and their reaction to UBI (unless they agree with you) proves it.

    No, Richard, sorry to tell you, right wingers are not necessarily evil or ignorant. They have come to their conclusions, including on economic matters, the same way (perhaps) that you have come to yours: through knowledge, and human experience, and consideration, and reassessment. Their views are not evil or ignorant any more than yours are. They are legitimate, profound, sophisticated, and worthy of genuine debate, despite the shallow and simplistic presumptions and accusations directed their way from morally and intellectually superior left-wingers like yourself.

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  29. Did the whole ideology [communism] suck, from the very beginning? I hope you would say "yes." ... And right-wingers were correct about that for a very long time.

    At the risk of taking this thread of topic, sorry NERW, many of Marx's insights/critiques re:capitalism (though not perfect) are accurate and as valid today (maybe more valid). Taking the failure of the Soviet Union as proof of the contrary is logically fallacious. Similarly, the genocide of Native Americans, countless wars of aggression, and slavery do not "prove" that democracy "sucks." Nor does the Spanish Inquisition (or the Crusades) prove that Christianity "sucks."

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  30. Antti Kauppinen3:51 pm, May 07, 2006

    Chris, thanks for the response. I'm not persuaded yet that I'm unfair to Haidt, however. Here's a quote from page 2 of the pdf: "Conservatives have many moral concerns that liberals simply do not recognize as moral concerns." That quite literally contradicts what you attribute to him ("he didn't say that liberals don't recognize that conservatives have different moral principles/intuitions"). Also, it manifests the dangerous ambiguity of the phrase 'moral concern' here. Taken descriptively, it is false, I would claim: liberals do generally recognize that right-wingers treat flag-burning, for example, as a moral issue - that is, they have different moral concerns-D. Taken normatively, it is true but trivial: liberals do not recognize opposition to flag-burning as a valid moral concern - that is, it's not a moral concern-N. (I am obviously using the terms 'liberal' and 'conservative/right-wing' to refer to stereotypes that may be rare.)

    As to the motivated social cognition point, you're right that he (and co-author Jesse Graham - surely he deserves one mention in this conversation!) don't deny that such an explanation can be given for conservative attitudes. What I said was incorrect to that extent. The problem I see, however, is the symmetry claim. This is obviously a deep question in moral epistemology and metaphysics, but if we're not moral skeptics, the default explanation for broadly correct or acceptable moral convictions is that they arise from a process of coming to learn what is in fact morally wrong and right. Given that, say, bigotry and ingroup favoritism are morally wrong, such an explanation isn't available for those who embrace such attitudes. Then you need some other explanation, such as motivated social cognition. It goes without saying that commitment to asymmetrical explanations involves taking a moral stand, but so does commitment to symmetry. It's the skeptical stance that manifests itself in the scare quotes Haidt uses to refer to 'good' and 'bad'. But if moral facts play a role in the true explanation of why people believe correctly, assuming that you can symmetrically explain correct and mistaken moral attitudes is bad science.

    I'm not saying that methodological moral skepticism is always a bad idea in doing moral psychology. But unless you're a committed skeptic, there's no reason not to do research on ingroup, hierarchy, and purity orientations with the presumption that there's a non-moral explanation for why people have them. Again, as I said before, this is compatible with recognizing the existence of innate dispositions to adopt moral or perhaps quasi-moral attitudes in these areas. (The talk of 'five moral foundations' here is as confusing as talk of 'moral intuitions' and 'moral concerns'.)

    Finally, it should also go without saying that in moral and political debate, appeal to motivated cognition would be begging the question. To that extent, I think, I'm agreeing with Haidt. The same goes to dismissing somebody else's moral concerns-D as unwarranted out of hand; it's perfectly fine to reject them as moral concerns-N, but in a genuine moral argument, that should emerge as a conclusion rather than being assumed as a premise.

    By the way, I've very much enjoyed your blog posts on these topics, Chris - very well informed and informative. (This is not to implicate I don't find Richard's blog enjoyable, but I only read it for the first time today!)

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  31. non-evil right winger4:02 pm, May 07, 2006

    a-train, very well, we'll leave the Soviet Union out of a critique of Marxism. How about Mao's China? How about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot studied Marx at the Sorbonne in Paris). How about Shining Path in Peru? Have you ever been to a foreign country (as I have) with an active Marxist insurgency, and learned first-hand about their tactics and their impact?
    You're dry language supporting Marx's validity, is it evil, or just ignorant?
    For the record, I would say neither, because those two choices are too simplistic.

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  32. Northerner - how is the contrast I present any form of "equivalence", let alone a "false" one? I assert that there is a non-moral equivalence of sorts, in that both involve the same kind of physical interference. That much should be undisputable, however.


    I said nothing about "moral" equivalence. What I said was that your previous falsely presumes that both choices are equally situated such that they can be balanced, such that they are commensurable. I don't accept this, and you haven't yet given me a reason to do so.

    You present the choice as: Do I have the liberty to keep my money (and to call in state coercion if you privately interfere, i.e., steal it), vs. 2) Do you have the liberty to steal my money without state interference (and presumably without MY private interference via my shotgun).

    To me, and to many other people, your post is roughly equivalent to the following:

    We have to choose which liberty we should favor: 1) Jack wants the freedom not to be punched in the nose by Jill, vs. 2) Jill wants the freedom to punch Jack in the nose, without state inferference. In either case, there might be "interference" of some sort. Thus, the only question is whether it is unreasonable to expect Jack or Jill to give up their respective freedoms.


    To which one might respond, "Whoa there, whatever the theoretical problems with the right not to be punched in the nose, surely you aren't contending that such a right has no more prima facie validity than the right to punch someone else in the nose? If you are, please explain why. Why should we begin the discussion by adopting such agnosticism between the two 'rights'?"

    Same for the discussion here. I freely contract with an employer, and I get paid a certain amount of money. I want to use this money to pay for my house, to buy groceries, to buy a car, etc. Then you show up at my door and demand 10% of my salary -- just because you believe that you deserve a UBI without having to do anything in return. Why is my "right" to say, "No, please try to find gainful employment before asking me for money" to be weighed in the balance against your "right" to take 10% of my money without state interference?

    Note: We're not in a Lockean state of nature here; I didn't just stumble across the money lying on the ground and seize it right before you got to it. I earned it through my labors. Why is your "right" to it something that can be balanced against MY right to it?

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  33. Richard,

    I haven't thought too much about your idea, but it sounds similar to what two protypical "right wing" libertarians -- recently Charles Murray, and before him Milton Friedman -- have proposed: The negative income tax. Government pays all citizens a certain baseline amount every year, and in return we abolish all welfare and entitlement programs.

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  34. The first flaw of the argument is that it's circular. You have choosed a definition to suit your conclusion.

    The second is that the statement "a UBI could significantly relieve poverty and improve the lives of countless people" can easily be challenged by arguing that there are better methods of achieving such a goal. (The conditional leaves a very large whole as well).

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  35. Northerner - your example of Jack and Jill does indeed also exhibit a clash of negative liberties, and thus anyone who takes negative liberty as fundamental will need to resolve this by appeal to Sterba's Conflict Resolution Principle, i.e. asking which moral resolution could be reasonably accepted by all involved. And again, this obviously gives the correct result: it's reasonable to ask those with wandering fists to give up type-2 freedom for the sake of type-1 (as evidenced, for example, by the fact that any rational agent would choose this option from behind a veil of ignorance). There's nothing "incommensurable" about them, since I just did compare them, and found Jill's liberty-2 to be wanting. Further, there's no need to resort to question-begging claims of "prima facie validity" of one right over another. We can provide reasons. That's a much better way of doing philosophy. (It allows us, for example, to distinguish justified rights/intuitions from baseless prejudice.)

    'Why is my "right" to say, "No, please try to find gainful employment before asking me for money"'

    You clearly didn't read my posts carefully enough. One of the caveats on the argument is that the poor must have exhausted all other acceptable means to meeting their basic needs. (Otherwise it could be more reasonable to ask them to sacrifice their liberty (ii) for the rich man's (i). It's not like they need (ii) to survive in this situation.)

    See also my above responses to "anonymous" re: propertarianism (which seems to be your view).

    Finally, I'd note that even those who don't accept liberty as fundamental, and thus can try to resolve the conflict on other grounds, are still bound by the Conflict Resolution Principle, for this is a fundamental constraint on any moral theory. It's surely undeniable that the demands of morality must be reasonable demands. And it's equally obvious that to ask a poor man to sit back and starve (recall, we're considering the situation where he has exhausted all other avenues besides appropriating the surplus of the rich) would not be a reasonable ask. He cannot be morally required to do this. Thus the rich cannot have any absolute property right that would entail such a duty. Any theory which claims otherwise violates CRP and thus disqualifies itself as a moral theory.

    Jonathan - that's right. Like I said, I have a lot of respect for such right-wingers, so much so that I'm willing to count them as honorary "leftists" for the purposes of this post ;-).

    (Really my target is not "right-wingers" per se, but simply anyone who opposes the UBI. It just so happens that the two classes significantly overlap, so I use the more familiar category as a shortcut.)

    Neil - that isn't circular. Again, my arguments make no pretense to be speaking of all right-wingers, in the everyday sense of the term. I'm just using the term as convenient shorthand for "anyone who opposes the UBI". That's clear from my explicit definition. Hence my conclusion, properly understood, is that "anyone who opposes the UBI must be evil or ignorant". Nothing circular about that.

    "can easily be challenged by arguing that there are better methods of achieving such a goal."

    1) Like what?
    2) Even if so, one plausibly still ought to give the UBI their tentative support, so long as it is an improvement on the status quo (and wouldn't make further improvements terribly more difficult or unlikely). See my response to Pat above.

    NERW - of course I was just being provocative. Did you not notice that this post is filed under the category "fun"? Though even so, my claims were not all that outrageous. The main disjunct of my conclusion was that right-wingers are "ignorant of the sound arguments reviewed above" -- which isn't necessarily their fault, after all. (No doubt I too am "ignorant" of all sorts of arguments, in this weak sense of the term.) But I do want to do something to remedy this situation, and this post seems to have had more of an effect so far than any of my (more dry and serious) previous ones. So I'm dubious of your tactical "recommendations". Note that the cheeky presentation hasn't prevented the other critical commentators from considering and responding to the substance. I look forward to your doing likewise.

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  36. And it's equally obvious that to ask a poor man to sit back and starve (recall, we're considering the situation where he has exhausted all other avenues besides appropriating the surplus of the rich) would not be a reasonable ask. He cannot be morally required to do this. Thus the rich cannot have any absolute property right that would entail such a duty.

    We're considering ONLY the situation wherein a particular poor person has exhausted ALL other avenues of getting money? Well, then, we're no longer talking about a UBI for everyone. Not nearly. By far, most of the people who would take advantage of a UBI would not literally have exhausted all other opportunities.

    That's what I find objectionable. You begin by purporting to prove that everyone should have a UBI. But then, to prove this, you resort to a moral theory that does not readily apply to everyone, including the able-bodied person who rationally is eager to gain money without having to work for it. So then, you beat a hasty retreat and insist that you're really just talking about the person lying in the streets about to starve, having exhausted all conceivable opportunities to get money (and food, etc.).

    You're equivocating.

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  37. No, you simply aren't reading my previous posts, where I've explained all this already. The CRP establishes that the hapless poor have a right to their liberty in (ii). But then pretty much any luxury spending on the part of the rich would violate this liberty. So the rich will need to pre-empt the poor's negative welfare right by establishing positive welfare institutions which ensure that no-one is ever in a position to be able to claim such a right over them. (That's the only way they can escape risk of wrongdoing in their non-essential spending.) The UBI is the best, most reliable, such institution. Hence the rich should establish and support the UBI.

    And recall that's just one argument of several I've presented. The Lockean Proviso argument more directly establishes a UBI by right for all.

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  38. ""a UBI could significantly relieve poverty and improve the lives of countless people"

    Well, I think this is clearly debatable. For one thing, the utilitarian argument produced would need the claim that the improvement of countless lives is not just for individuals living in the present day (the initial recipients of the UBI), but individuals living in the future. It can't be voila poor people have more money today, so they are now better off. Will poorer people remain better off in the future? This payment will affect behaviour, affect economic choices, etc. So in the future poorer people may in the end turn out to worse off. To say that they will still be better off necessarily turns on economic arguments, which are experimental (if that), and cannot be assumed a priori. In any case these arguments do not seem to me to be obvious.

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  39. Richard,

    Your enthusiasm is admirable, but your confidence concerning the soundness of your arguments is not contagious. With respect to the consequences of UBI, the matter is primarily empirical, turning on currently un-confirmed (and un-tested) hypotheses about counterfactual circumstances. Such materials do not a sound argument make (or, to make the point unecessarily weaker, not an argument whose soundness is presently demonstrable).

    On somewhat firmer ground rests the more philosophical elements of your argument, namely the logical or conceptual relations that obtain among certain beliefs. The difficulty here, of course, nicely pointed out by Chris, above, is that neither you or anyone else is in any position to establish the truth of your most basic (or not so basic, for that matter) philosophical theses. It was for this reason that I offered you the person who rejects the intelligibility of justice (as you understand it) or any other normative notion.

    Such a position might not strike you as either very interesting or plausible, but that merely goes to show just how much you (and most others participating in this discussion) take the intellibility of normative phenomena for granted. More than once in the present discussion we have been cautioned not to confuse the descriptive with the normative. But this obviously assumes there is a normative dimension that exists and is distinct from this other 'descriptive' one and that is not an assumption everyone shares. Once you construct a demonstation of the existence of normative phenomena--aside from becoming rich and famous--you will then be in a position to talk about sound arguments from deontological (or other) claims and about who is 'evil'.

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  40. You may have kicked PC's tail, but there's more right-wing fire power than you've yet encountered.

    One of these days..

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  41. I would agree that the UBI would benefit many people. But just because something has a desirable outcome doesn't make it right, just or moral. I suppose, with respect to fiscal matters, you could call me a "right-winger." I believe in property rights.

    I'm frankly a little surprised at the unabased display of socialism I'm witnessing here. It appears that I don't really own anything. I'm just "borrowing" it from society and should reimburse my fellow citizens for the sheer audacity I've shown by having a possession.

    At what point to we draw a line for UBI? Wouldn't we all be better off if we just collected every dollar made and then divide the total up like a split pot in poker?

    At the end of the day, I either have ownership of my property or I do not. If I do, then you can't steal it from me and give it to someone else. If I don't, then there is nothing to stop the state from taking everything that I have.

    I strongly believe in helping others who are less fortunate. Many people fall on hard times through no fault of their own, and we are morally obligated to help them. If I am walking down the street and see a homeless man in need of money for food, it is right and good that I give him a $20. It is wrong and unjust if I take the wallet from your pocket, open it up and give the man a $20 from it. One is charity; the other is theft, however good my intentions.

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  42. Inquisitor, it might help to read the Friendly Version which makes more of an effort to explain to right-wingers why they should accept the UBI by their own lights.

    Now, you're clearly a deontologist rather than a utilitarian. So what do you make of the arguments presented in section (3)? Most pressingly, how do you address the problem of initial acquisition? If you believe in property rights, you must believe that they originate somewhere. But surely you can't believe in a right to make others worse off (say by claiming all the world's unowned natural resources for yourself). Further, even if just initial acquisition is *possible*, it certainly isn't the *actual* origin of our current property rights. Most of them derive from large-scale historical theft and violence. And you can't (justly) inherit a title to stolen property. So, as explained here, the propertarian cannot rightly support the current pattern of unjust holdings. (Hence even the arch-libertarian Nozick supported a once-off egalitarian redistribution, to rectify past injustices.)

    "At what point to we draw a line for UBI? Wouldn't we all be better off if we just collected every dollar made and then divide the total up like a split pot in poker?"

    Obviously not (at least not if you mean for this to recur on a regular basis), since there would no longer be any incentive to work. The pot would become terribly small indeed. (And seriously, when have you ever heard of a liberal supporting 100% tax rates!? Total straw man.)

    Where the draw the line will depend on our justification for the UBI. As a utilitarian, I say draw it whereever it would do the most good. Deontologists will say: draw it whereever is sufficient to compensate for the injustices I've pointed to, but no more.

    "At the end of the day, I either have ownership of my property or I do not. If I do, then you can't steal it from me and give it to someone else. If I don't, then there is nothing to stop the state from taking everything that I have."

    What an absurdly myopic false dichotomy! Here's an obvious alternative: people have rightful ownership over part of their earned holdings. Perhaps your holdings may be rightly taxed to some moderate degree, but after that your post-tax holdings are inviolable. That's a perfectly coherent position (indeed, far more plausible than either extremism you mention), and you refuse to even consider it! For shame.

    But again, see my 'Friendly Version' for an explanation of why you should support the UBI for the sake of property rights. And then please address the specific arguments I've offered, rather than mindlessly repeating generic right-wing tropes.

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  43. Your UBI proposal is based on an unobtainable goal: restitution for past wrongs. Yes, it is possible that my 1/2 acre of land was once owned by Ug the caveman, or a native American, or many others since I live in Texas and it has been through many hands. But if you take my property because it might once have belonged to someone else, then you are punishing me for something that might have occurred before I was even born. How is that justice? Do we as a society punish people for their own misdeeds or the mistakes or their long dead ancestors?

    I have no problem with taxes. But only taxes that provide me and everyone else a service equally, such as national defense, fire and police departments, road construction, etc. Wealth redistribution is stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It may give you a warm fuzzy, but it is still theft.

    I have heard of liberals who propose a 100% tax; they are called socialists. My point was that what you suggest is a very slippery slope.

    I notice that you lack many specifics. Like any thief, he will let you know when you've given him enough of your money. Once something like the UBI is in place, it will only get larger. It will and must lead to socialism.

    And what part of my holdings do I own? That is no different that me saying, "You can keep most of your freedoms, but I will decide which ones to take away."

    If a government cannot or will not protect private property, then it has ceased to have the right to exist.

    What you desire, offering assistance to the less fortunate, is a noble goal, worthy of everyone's respect, but the ends cannot justify the means. Voluntary charity can provide the safety net you for which you ask. Using the state to enforce charity isn't morality, it is tyrranny.

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  44. You haven't actually addressed my arguments, and you clearly didn't bother to read the link I offered explaining the problem of unjust origin. (See also Pat's second comment at the start of this thread.) And the silly "redistributive taxation is theft" trope is thoroughly refuted here. Since you aren't engaging with my arguments, I won't waste any more time on you.

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  45. Inquisitor

    Fortunately I am here and I am much harder to frustrate than Richard!

    > Your UBI proposal is based on an unobtainable goal: restitution for past wrongs.

    In the whole neither Richard nor I want to fix past wrongs. Generally speaking the UBI isn't about that.

    > Then you are punishing me for something that might have occurred before I was even born.

    Did anyone’s suggest taking land by force?

    > But only taxes that provide me and everyone else a service equally, such as national defense, fire and police departments, road construction, etc.

    It is hard to see why equality is relevant here (that sounds socialist anyway!). It doesn’t matter that you might enjoy a pizza more than me that doesn’t mean pizza shouldn't exist.

    Besides a UBI DOES benefit equally! (in monetary terms)

    > Wealth redistribution is stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It may give you a warm fuzzy, but it is still theft.

    It is easy enough to structure a tax to be you paying for a service. For example the government owns roads (and maybe the air and so forth) - they charge you a certain percentage of your income (a bit like SAP) for you being able to use those roads.

    > I have heard of liberals who propose a 100% tax; they are called socialists. My point was that what you suggest is a very slippery slope.

    I have heard of people who propose no tax at all - they are called anarchists - its also a slippery slope.

    > If a government cannot or will not protect private property, then it has ceased to have the right to exist.

    In which case that is bad news for those who want the protection of the government to guarantee their ownership of property.

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  46. "You haven't actually addressed my arguments..."

    And you haven't addressed mine. I have suggested that the safety net you desire can be achieved through private, voluntary charity. Surely that would be better than taking money from the people that have earned it.

    You seem to naively believe that if someone reads one of your articles that they will instantly see the unassailable wisdom of your ideas and switch to your point of view. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. I read your suggested articles and I do not agree with them.

    The fact that you have a "friendly" version implies that this one is an unfriendly version. Your assertion that anyone who disagrees with you is either evil or ignorant only serves to demonstrate your arrogance. Telling those you wish to convince that they are mean or stupid is not the way to succeed.

    We agree on the goal, helping those less fortunate, but we disagree on the best course of action. That disagreement doesn't make me evil or ignorant any more that it makes you.

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  47. Genius,

    First, thanks for showing the maturity necesary to actually debate these ideas.

    On the issue of restitution, the UBI appears to be an effort to return property to those from which it was stolen. The inequity of wealth is evidence that someone stole something sometime and you need to fix that. This line of thought reminds me of the concept of slavery reparations. No American alive today has owned slaves and no one has been a slave. If I stole another's property, then punish me. If someone I've never meet stole it 400 years ago, why am I to blame?

    And while I agree that you are not sugesting taking land by force, the money in my bank account is just as much my property as my house. How is 20% of my annual income different from 20% of my land?

    Let's explore your pizza analogy. I'm not saying that the pizza shouldn't exist. I'm saying that I shouldn't be forced to pay for it if I am not allowed to eat some of it. I can call the police. The fire department will show up if my house is on fire. I can drive on public roads. The military protects me from foreign invaders. But your UBI only benefits a small segment of our population. You take from some to give to others.

    Anfd the UBI does not benefit equally. If I pay $20,000 in taxes and get a $10,000 UBI, haven't I just lost $10,000? Does everyone lose $10,000? If not, then it is not equal.

    I agree that I should pay taxes for roads, but anyone can use and benefit from them. This does not apply to the UBI.

    I also disagree with the anarchists. Government exists ONLY to protect our rights. And that protection must be paid for, but it is also beneficial equally.

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  48. The main goal of the UBI as we see it is utilitarianism" we see a person suffering and we know that through a small act we can reduce/eliminate that suffering probably with no major side effects.

    I strongly support your idea that people should not be held responsible for the actions of their ancestors. And I argue that regularly as it applies to Germans, Jew, Palestinians, and Maori, blacks, whites, American Indians and aborigines. I am strongly opposed to affirmative action and I believe richard is also. "need, not greed".. er sorry I mean "need, not race"

    So if there was someone hanging from the side of a cliff we might tell you have a "good Samaritan" obligation to take reasonable steps to help them (without overly endangering your own life). We don’t care HOW he got there (except in that if he jumped it might reduce the usefulness of pulling him back up) all that maters is that he IS there.

    I hope that you too at least support the idea of having emergency services like fire fighters and ambulances that will help people who are injured even if they are incapable of naming their insurance company.

    > The money in my bank account is just as much my property as my house. How is 20% of my annual income different from 20% of my land?

    We give you the choice regarding how to pay for the services rendered by the state. They may over charge in your mind - but it is a limited resource so they can get away with it.

    > I'm saying that I shouldn't be forced to pay for it if I am not allowed to eat some of it.

    You are eating some of it so you benefit in the "small picture". In the "big picture" the UBI is like an insurance policy - it is also designed not to destroy incentives to work while helping people into a position where they can enter the workforce (compared to other benefits). Destroying incentives hurts the rest of society as opposed to the person who receives the money. anyway this is fleshed out in the following section.

    > If I pay $20,000 in taxes and get a $10,000 UBI, haven't I just lost $10,000? Does everyone lose $10,000? If not, then it is not equal.

    One of the basic ideas is that your $20,000 is worth less to you than their $10,000 to them. So it depends on how you measure equal.

    Also such policies have wider impacts.

    1) Let’s take a world in which there is redistribution already...

    IF a certain benefit has a positive impact on incentives to work (i.e. a UBI vs. a normal benefit) then the net effect is not "you loosing money" but instead "you getting paid more in your job" (because the economy works better). We are worried about the big picture not the small one.

    2) Now let’s consider one where there is no redistribution...

    There is a certain benefit in NOT making people desperate. Desperate people (regardless of why they became desperate) are dangerous - you can’t keep them in the system. A starving man will probably kill you if that is what it takes to stay alive - you don’t want to force him into that corner.

    I don’t want to pay poor people because I want equality – I'd pay them because I want a better society.

    I'd rather have a system that convered bad citizens into good ones than a gas chamber where we kill off all the bad ones.

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  49. In a further appeal to fairness, I propose assuaging the utilitarian fears of any right-wingers by funding the UBI with a fully dedicated one hundred percent inheritance tax.

    After all, every child deserves a fair start in the "Race for the American Dream". Surely, for the sake of consistency, no one would agree to allow rich parents to purchase a head start for their child in the Olympic sprints?

    And once you're dead, you aren't planning on using it any more, right?

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  50. Genius,

    I agree that we are all obligated morally to help others in need. But being forced by the state to do so is not an expression of our own charity. It is simply the state imposing it's own ideas of charity on the rest of us.

    Let me give you what I call the hamburger analogy. You are coming home from work and stop to get dinner for your family, four hamburgers, fries, and drinks. On the way home you see a homeless man along the side of the road. We can all recognize the charity you would show by giving the man some of your food, whether it be the fries, a drink, or even your own hamburger. This is not what you propose. You want a police officer to force you, under threat of arrest, to give your hamburger, fries, and two of your drinks to the homeless man. Have you promised to bring home dinner? Sorry, doesn't matter. Will someone in your family not have a drink? Too bad. And if there is a whole group of homeless men, might that cop then decide that you should give up all the food since you have other food at home?

    If what is mine isn't under my total control, then it must, by definition, belong to another. And that other in your proposal is the state.

    I agree that services that benefir all equally are appropriate. The UBI doesn't do that. Many will not be benefited at all.

    And I have NO choice about how the state takes my money. I can either do it or go to prison.

    And a limited resource should play no part in what the government can take. If I have the only copy of a great painting, and the government thinks everyone should be able to see it, can they take it because it is the ultimate limited resource?

    No, I want to eat some of that pizza. I paid for it, didn't I? You're saying that my reward is the joy of watching others eat the pizza that I helped pay for. I would prefer to volutarily provide pizza on my own terms and then ensure that everyone has the freedom to go out and buy their own pizza.

    No, my $20,000 is worth more that their $10,000. Why does this liberal philoshphy force us the give up simple and basic mathematics? If we allow the state to bend or break the meaning of equal, then there are no rules and they can do whatever they want.

    I want exactly what you want. A better society where there is a safety net for those you fall on hard times. Where we all care for our fellow men and women. I just can't agree that theft is the only way to bring this about. For most of human history, we took care of our own. When parents became to old to care for themselves, their children took care of them. A community took care of those the infirm or disabled. Now, you are telling me that the state should do all this. The state sucks at almost everything it does. It is inefficient and prone to excess. I don't trust it. I trust children who love the parents and people who care for others because they want to. I favor charity.

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  51. "I propose assuaging the utilitarian fears of any right-wingers by funding the UBI with a fully dedicated one hundred percent inheritance tax."

    Spoken like a true Marxist.

    This proposal means that what you spend a lifetime earning is really the property of the state. How nice! If one parent spends his money on drugs, booze and lottery tickets, he is treated the same as another parent who works hard and saves money for their children and grandchildren. What a wonderful incentive to live a beter life and plan ahead to help your family!

    Yes, sometimes children suffer because of the misdeeds of their parents. I have to disagree that that the answer is the screw everyone equally.

    We as a society can only benefit when we reward good behavior and punish and/or discourage bad behavior. Your answer is to make all behaviors equal. So it doesn't matter how we behave since the outcome is the same.

    Are you sure that this is the world you want to live in?

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  52. > But being forced by the state to do so is not an expression of our own charity.

    Why do we care about charity and not "the effects of charity"?
    If you were hanging off the edge of a cliff would you prefer the rescuers sent you letters of condolence or just pulled you up?

    The question to which I am sympathetic is "is the state the best party to make these decisions?" maybe we should privatise the defence of the country or the emergency system - I dont think it would work well but, if you can prove it will, I would consider it.

    Although I suggest usually charities are inefficient (maybe a few cents in the dollar gets to those who need it) and approach things in poorly thought out ways.

    > And a limited resource should play no part in what the government can take.

    What I am doing here is turning the logic around to where it is the government (or more generally the owner of goods you need for your goods to be worth anything) who owns the property.
    The GOVERNMENT owns the roads and the water system not you (maybe you could dispute that?) and presumably have an absolute right to deny you the use of them if you were to refuse to, in exchange, sign a sort of social contract.

    > No, I want to eat some of that pizza. I paid for it, didn't I?

    Yes and you should be able to. Taxes should not be surprises (or 100%) any more than interest on your mortgage is. you could say the bank is stealing your pizza but you probably wouldn't.

    > You're saying that my reward is the joy of watching others eat the pizza that I helped pay for.

    No the only reward we want is a better society. I'm not sure you fully understand utilitarian. If we had a choice between saving two rich people or one poor person we would save the rich people without a second thought. This is not communism here.

    > No, my $20,000 is worth more that their $10,000.

    Let’s say you spend your last $20,000 on a painting and your first $10,000 on food shelter and medicine. Can you really say the two outcomes were equal?

    > I just can't agree that theft is the only way to bring this about.

    There are many tools one can use to achieve things, for example if I was carving a piece of wood I might use sand paper and a sander and a chainsaw etc... I wouldn't try to do everything with just the sandpaper just because the other tools have down sides. To get the best outcome you combine all the resources at your disposal.

    >For most of human history, we took care of our own.

    People didn’t live very long then and they didn’t have particularly great lives in general. But if you want that sort of lifestyle probably exists in places like Papua New Guinea.

    > The state sucks at almost everything it does. It is inefficient and prone to excess.

    It sucks at many things, but not everything.

    > Yes, sometimes children suffer because of the misdeeds of their parents. I have to disagree that that the answer is the screw everyone equally.

    You seem to be arguing that children should benefit from the good deeds of their parents but not suffer from the misdeeds?
    I agree that the problem with the theory is the incentive you would need to consider what behavior it would promote. That would have to be carefully thought through - but some sort of inheritance tax seems reasonable.

    > Your answer is to make all behaviors equal.

    No we don’t want to do that. Actually we want to place all the incentives in all the right places. I suggest your theory doesn’t do that.
    I note that in addition to the UBI many other policies would be changed.

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  53. Richard

    Your argument is encapsulated here.

    "The deontologist defends unfettered capitalism on the basis of "negative liberty", or one's natural right to non-interference. (He may, for instance, claim that "taxation is theft".) But my post on significant negative duties establishes that capitalists regularly violate their duties of non-interference towards others, and thus are obliged to compensate them accordingly. (Similarly, the Lockean proviso on initial acquisition entails that property owners owe rectification to the propertyless who are deprived access to resources that would otherwise be available to them.) The institution of a UBI is the simplest and most reliable way to effect this rectification."

    Ok, First you assume that the “deontologist defends unfettered capitalism on the basis of "negative liberty", or one's natural right to non-interference.” This is simply false this is one way a deontologist could defend the view but not the only way. For example, one could defend it by appealing to the distinction between perfect and imperfect duties (alla Kant or Donagan) or by appealing to a duty to not engage in aggression against others.

    Second you state

    “But my post on significant negative duties establishes that capitalists regularly violate their duties of non-interference towards others, and thus are obliged to compensate them accordingly”

    Here we need to address your sub arguments

    (a) The core problem is that any action will interfere with others to some extent. So appeals to merely "negative" duties won't really restrict the scope of our obligations all that much.

    You state that any action will interfere with others to some extent. That’s true, but the conclusion you draw follows only if negative duties are duties to not interfere with others to some extent. That’s not what libertarians claim however, they claim one has a duty to not interfere by initiating force against another. One can interfere in otherways just not this way. Hence its not enough to say they interfere in someway one needs an argument that they interfere in this particular way.

    (b) you state

    “their enforcement is itself a form of coercive interference. So there is a conflict between (i) the liberty of the rich to use their surplus resources for luxury purposes without interference, and (ii) the liberty of the poor "not to be interfered with in taking from the rich what they require to meet their basic needs."

    Here you appear assume negative that liberty is a liberty from coercive interference. But libertarians do not understand it that way, they understand it as a freedom from the initiation of coercion. In this instance enforcement is in retaliation against someone else’s initiation and hence is not initiation as libertarians understand it.

    What is needed here then an argument that property owners not just interfere or prevent people doing things but that they initiate force against others. They initiate the taking of someone else’s life liberty or property without that person’s consent. You have not offered such an argument.

    (c) You appeal to your post on initial acquisition where you state

    “The problem for the libertarian here is that any such appropriation necessarily violates the liberty of others, for it prevents them from making use of what they previously had free access to.”

    Here the unstated premise is that, being prevented from something which you had free access to violates a persons freedom. But that is not true on a libertarian account of freedom. It would be true only if you owned the thing you had free access to, and in the scenario, the thing is unowned.

    “For example, if I appropriate the only local food source, and refuse anyone else access to it, then my actions have clearly harmed them -- indeed, a consistent libertarian ought to say that I have violated their rights.”

    Again I think this is mistaken, a libertarian would not understand this as a violation of anyone’s rights. Being prevented from accessing something which you did not own would not violate any liberty right at all.


    Matt

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  54. It's probably way too late to comment, but...

    "I'll take as my definition of "right-wing": anyone who opposes the institution of an unconditional basic income."

    I think everyone should be endowed with 24 hours of time each and every day that they can then allocate or squander as they please, or exchange for other things, like, say, goods and services with anyone who wants to make a trade. And I think that they should be free to keep ALL of the proceeds of any trades that they make. Since you didn't say the UBI has to be administered by an institution of humans, or deliver that income in the form of money, I guess I'm off the hook?

    On to your argument: this is a false dilemma. One possibility is that right-wingers oppose a UBI for utilitarian reasons because they don't trust any government of mortals with the powers needed to administer such a thing. Or they believe there is an unacceptably large risk of creating a culture of dependency. I notice you overlook the whole public choice literature and accompanying consequentialist objections. Or the opponents of a UBI oppose it according to some deontological theory besides yours or Locke's. Or we might accept your deontological theory and still suspect that the leap from there to a UBI is a non sequitur. Supposing arguendo that capitalist A violates some duty to others B and C, then A should be held liable for restitution to B and C in proportion to the damage he does. But making restitution for prior wrongs is conditional (A is only obligated to give restitution to B on the condition that A has wronged B.) so that can't be a basis for an unconditional basic income.

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  55. A vastly larger fraction of libertarians support UBI than the relevant fraction of self-described left wingers or right wingers. Almost all people on the right or the left oppose UBI. This seems to me to make UBI an impractical basis for designation of "right" and "left". I treat the left/right distinction somewhat differently here.
    http://ieet.org/archive/vassar.mp3
    My guess is that you have been "steelmaning" (opposite of strawmaning, e.g. making up pseudo-plausible justifications for insane attitudes) both right-wing and left wing positions, and thus have massively mis-predicted the response to basic income from both sides.
    I definitely support UBI, but I see it as much less effective than I would like it to be because in fact our market is sufficiently far from perfectly free and competitive that in practice I would expect it to largely constitute a wealth transfer to those wealthy people who have monopoly power and supply necessities to poor people. In other words, when I got the check my rent would rise by a similar amount, or the price of gasoline would, or possibly medical insurance, and definitely college tuition would rise and financial aid would fall.

    In practice, almost no-one is explicitly interested primarily in utilitarian or dentological arguments, distinguishes between the two, or is even implicitly influence primarily by those two classes of argument. Haid's typology, much discussed on your comments thread http://www.believermag.com/issues/200508/?read=interview_haidt
    seems closer to empirically valid than the assumption that everyone is even approximately a philosopher, though I would add lawfulness and tradition, honor and fear, non-contradiction and logic, knowledge and flourishing, and probably several other possible dimensions of moral perception to Haidt's five, even if they are understood quite generally. Practically speaking, it's fine to reject Haidt's and other ethica principles as non-normative and even to call their adherents evil, but it's really really useful to
    a) note that Utilitarians don't generally distinguish between 'evil' and 'non-evil' people, and
    b) almost everyone is, by this light, shamelessly evil and unaware of the possibility of non-evil

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