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The most immoral thing today

Discussion in 'Ethics & Morality' started by LOVEthroughINTELLECT, Apr 1, 2015.

  1. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    I may be a lone wolf, but culture war issues like same-sex couples not being able to enter a government-sanctioned marriage contract are some of the last things on my mind. Sometimes I think that such issues are deliberately used to distract us from the real problems facing humans. And I think that when those issues are resolved the "progress" that people talk about is the biggest, most destructive illusion.

    The most immoral thing today is overconsumption in the West.

    I do not have actual numbers, but it would not surprise me to find that the U.S. middle class has been responsible for the overwhelming bulk of resource depletion. Extremely wealthy households consume a lot of goods and services, but there are not very many extremely wealthy people. I doubt that low-income households are enough in number and have enough income to consume as much as the middle class. Yet, we are told almost every day that if the American middle class does not remain intact the whole Earth will implode.

    And apparently there are growing middle classes in places like India that want the same standard of living as the American middle class. I do not see how it is ecologically possible for the American Dream to be globalized.

    Of course, somebody is going to bring up overpopulation. Well, fertility rates have declined in the West. So we have fewer people consuming a greater amount of goods and services. And in Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism Richard H. Robbins shows that the population explosion in the Third World is a myth. Fertility rates in the Third World have been steady, he shows. What has changed, I recall him saying, is that rates of consumption have increased.

    Americans, maybe the most self-congratulatory people ever, like to remind themselves how industrious, resourceful and innovative they are. Yet, sustainability, learning how to be happy with less, etc. are things that Americans seem to be incapable of attempting, let alone realizing. Consuming less is never part of the equation, no matter what problem, issue or controversy is being addressed.

    I have little power or clout, so I can't do much to address the problem. But I am doing my best to take responsibility for my role in the problem and minimize my contribution. It does not leave much time, money or energy for splitting hairs over things like abortion, same-sex marriage, evolution vs. creation, can there be morality without God, etc.
     
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  2. Paradoxum

    Paradoxum Liberty, Equality, Solidarity!

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    I care about personal liberty issues because to me they seem clear, obviously violations, and easily solved... so there's no reason not to solve them.

    I agree that lack of resources may be a future problem, but I don't know much about this. I tend to assume that science and technology will save us.

    :)
     
  3. TillICollapse

    TillICollapse Well-Known Member

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    Choices.

    I remember once a friend of mine who grew up very poor in Thailand, told me that it wasn't the luxuries and entitlement and wastefullness that he saw as the main problem with US culture, it was that they didn't know how to handle choices. Whether it came down to free speech, or which buffet to fight over, we didn't understand how to consider our choices and their consequences.
     
  4. keith99

    keith99 sola dosis facit venenum

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    Bolding mine.

    Doh! Fertility rate constant, more now survive to reproduce. Practically the definition of a population explosion.
     
  5. Jade Margery

    Jade Margery Stranger in a strange land

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    I don't know about immoral, but I do agree that it's a serious problem.

    I think it's weird that you're excluding extremely wealthy people from responsibility here. If we're looking at this on a per-person basis, wealthy people consume far more than others, often by owning more than one or two of an object or upgrading said objects frequently. How many automobiles does a movie star need? Honestly none, they could probably get someone else to drive them around if they wanted, whereas a middle class family might legitimately need two cars for both parents to get to work.

    And I don't think poor people can be excluded from this either. Yes, the value of the things they consume is lower, but the amount is higher because those items are more cheaply made and wear out faster. On the food side, when your choice for a meal is one dollar for an apple or one dollar for a hamburger, you're going to go with the hamburger, even though there's much more packaging and waste behind its creation and the only reason it's so cheap is because the ingredients are mass produced and low quality.

    Now, I'm not saying the middle class isn't part of the problem too - I'm just saying I find it odd that you're singling them out.

    Give Thomas Malthus my regards.

    There are actually many Americans trying to be sustainable and less consumptive. Unfortunately they (we) are often characterized as ultra-liberal anti-capitalist tree-huggers. Sustainability is something I would really like to see become more of a bi-partisan value, but it is undeniably an anti-business attitude.

    Our entire economy is built on consumption. Cover everyone's houses with solar panels that require very little maintenance and supply 90% of the power we need? Out goes our coal and natural gas industries. Encourage hydroponic gardens and locally sourced foodstuffs? There goes your food processing companies. Create a culture where everyone doesn't feel like they need a wider, flatter, higher resolution TV or phone? Goodbye Apple, Samsung, Android. Make people content with the the clothes and belongings they already have? No more Walmart, Target, or Khol's.

    Except for a mattress, I haven't bought a new piece of furniture or clothing in over two years and I try to minimize my energy consumption. On the other hand, my job right now it to design and produce cheap pool toys and camping gear, stuff that is often thrown away after just one summer of use. I don't like it, but if I didn't have this job... if other people weren't willing to wastefully consume this crap... I wouldn't be able to eat or pay my (very modest) rent.

    So maybe consumption is like an addiction our society has. We've been on the drug so long, we can't survive without it. I would like to kick the habit as much as anyone, but the withdrawal could literally destroy our economy and wreak havoc on our society.

    I'm curious, what steps do you take to minimize your contribution?
     
  6. Golden Yak

    Golden Yak Not Worshipped, Far from Idle

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    Well, there you have it folks. If you make any effort to fight for human rights, you're just wasting time and distracting people from real problems.
     
  7. Ana the Ist

    Ana the Ist Aggressively serene!

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    Didn't you once say you make less than 20k a year??

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's great you're committed to not over-consuming...but it's not exactly like you're making a whole slew of sacrifices, is it? It's a bit like a man who cannot afford a car claiming he's "committed" to reducing his carbon footprint. It's not like he had was able to choose a hybrid over an H3 Hummer in the first place.

    I can see you don't want to discuss overpopulation, so I'll just make this one point....as long as global population is increasing, individual national population growth rates matter little.

    As for the middle class, the reason it gets the political attention it does is more of an economic matter than anything. The middle class pays an enormous amount of taxes, and if it were to disappear a couple things would need to happen to compensate for the loss of tax revenue. 1. The upper class would have to give a larger tax contribution to offset the loss of middle class tax revenue. 2. The "benefits" that the lower class rely on to survive would need to decrease significantly. 3. Of course, some combination of both 1 and 2 would be the most likely result of the loss of the middle class.

    Hopefully this explains why there is such political/social concern over the fate of the middle class. I've simplified the issue a bit, but the loss of the middle class would result in massive socio-economic changes in the U.S.. It's got little to do with middle-class consumption rates.
     
  8. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    Yes, it is better to address underlying causes than to spend all of our resources fighting over the color and shape of the band-aids for covering superficial and/or exaggerated symptoms.
     
  9. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    I am looking at it on the basis of the aggregate behavior of social/economic classes.







    Remember the thick print phone books back when everybody had a landline phone? I could probably fill all of the paper in one of those with things that middle class Americans consume but do not really need.







    I think that that wearing out fast and waste is part of the stuff that all Americans consume, not just low-income people.







    I keep hearing--almost every day--how bad the American middle class has it.

    Questioning that conventional wisdom is not singling a group out.







    I thought that Malthus was about population growth outpacing food production, not about excessive consumption per capita.







    Everything that I hear--from the left, the right, the center, Republican, Democrat, American, European--is about how we can both minimize resource depletion, environmental degradation, etc. and continue to enjoy all of the luxuries we take for granted. Learning to be happy (or happier) with less never seems to be part of anybody's equation.

    And I do not see how sustainability can be realized without sacrifices. On the other hand, maybe sacrifices is not the right word. Giving up Monday Night Football is not like, say, giving up a diet that provides adequate calories.







    Robbins concludes his book with ways that we can reduce our dependence on perpetual economic growth.







    A lot of us are in the same boat.

    The good news is that we do not have to be homo economicus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are plenty of things that economists or accountants do not measure that can offset or exceed that behavior that we do not like but we have to carry out.







    People would probably feel better. Less stress. Less use of antidepressants. Less hypertension. Better sleep. Better relationships. Less clutter. Cleaner air and water. More natural immediate environments.

    I am not an ecologist or economist, but I doubt that people learning to be happier with less would lead to ecological or economic collapse.

    On the other hand, continuing our present lifestyle is probably a recipe for collapse.







    I am trying to minimize my role as a consumer and maximize spending resources on functioning in other ways, such as spiritual and intellectual growth. Read even more than I already read. Write even more than I already write. Diversify and learn things like writing poetry, drawing, etc. Long, quiet walks. Volunteer work.

    In other words, spend as much as I can working on my own self, my relationships, my community, etc. and as little as I have to on being a consumer in the marketplace.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2015
  10. GrowingSmaller

    GrowingSmaller Muslm Humanist

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    This whole thread presumes moral knowledge is possible, but it it easier to point to (give an instance of) than define prescisely.
     
  11. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    :scratch:

    People with low incomes can't give up things that they do not really need?

    People with low incomes do not suffer the social consequences of refusing to play the role of consumer of a perpetual supply of needlessly commodified useless junk?

    I could consume all of the credit that most Americans consume, but I am trying to live well within my own financial means and well within our collective ecological means. Student loans, home loans, car loans--it does not matter what the purpose is, it is all spending money that exceeds the value of the present supply of commodities and can only be paid back by commodifying more things, depleting resources even further, and doing further irreparable harm to the environment.

    Giving up all of the worthless entertainment that I do not really need, such as the National Football League, does not count?

    Being marginalized in the dating/marriage market because almost all of the available women want to live a life of extravagance does not count?







    I don't care. Please discuss overpopulation. I want the truth.







    All of that is further evidence that the middle class in the U.S. is not sustainable and that expectations are going to have to be lowered, it seems to me.
     
  12. Strathos

    Strathos No one important

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    So you you mean you have blind faith.
     
  13. Paradoxum

    Paradoxum Liberty, Equality, Solidarity!

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    Science and technology have shown they can solve problems, and solving this problem make sense based on what we know now.

    So I'm perhaps wrong to say I'm merely assuming. It's an reasonable expectation based on what we know.

    But perhaps we should do more. :)
     
  14. Ana the Ist

    Ana the Ist Aggressively serene!

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    "People with low incomes can't give up things that they do not really need?
    "

    Well in order to be considered a "sacrifice" the thing sacrificed needs to be available in the first place. If I told you I sacrificed flying around in a private jet because it's ecologically damaging isn't exactly a meaningful sacrifice, is it? I'm not saying that someone making less than 20k a year can't make socially responsible choices with how he spends that 20k...I'm just saying those sacrifices don't add up to much.

    "Giving up all of the worthless entertainment that I do not really need, such as the National Football League, does not count?"

    I'm not sure what you mean by this....are you saying that not watching football constitutes some sort of socially responsible resource management?

    "Being marginalized in the dating/marriage market because almost all of the available women want to live a life of extravagance does not count?"

    Count as what? A sacrifice? It sounds like you're trying to paint your difficulties in dating as some sort of result of your choice to consume less. Is that about right?

    "Please discuss overpopulation. "

    Ok. I think that a lot of our problems related to overconsumption are a direct result of overpopulation. Even if we could reduce consumption on a global scale (and I doubt we can) I think the best we could hope for would be a slowdown in the kinds of problems caused by overconsumption...not a solution.

    All of that is further evidence that the middle class in the U.S. is not sustainable and that expectations are going to have to be lowered, it seems to me.[/QUOTE]

    The middle class is a reference to an income range...not a lifestyle. One could be middle class and drive a bmw or riding a bicycle. I would say that a middle class is entirely necessary to a functional republic.... without it our system of government would inevitably fail.
     
  15. Booko

    Booko Poultry in Motion

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    It may become more of a generational issue. Millenials seem to have learned something from the excesses of their Boomer parents and are looking to live more simply. Hopefully the attitude spreads.

    I don't see sustainability as anti-business. It may be anti-excesses-of-capitalism.

    Yes, and people will find other useful things to do.

    The big companies may lose business, but smaller more local businesses will add. We get a CSA bin and those are real jobs, and it encourages farmers that work for themselves and not agribusiness. We don't actually do it for societal reasons as much as a medical need to not eat more of the poisoned foodstuffs agribusiness churns out than we absolutely have to. But I'm certainly not going to complain about supporting people in local and regional jobs. It's a nice benefit.

    Stores like that would still exist. Just fewer of them.

    And there might be more second hand stores. I see that as a solution, not a problem. We did live this way up until the 60s when the throwaway society caught on. And there was business before then.

    It's been more like 10 years for us, and I've managed to get what I need second hand. I save money. Someone gets rid of something they don't need anymore. The landfill is not full of perfectly serviceable items. And sometimes I get to be a bit creative with those used things, which is just fun.

    It is an addiction. We can survive without it. The Great Recession was our first shock. We'll see how many more we get until we figure it out.

    It doesn't have to be a sudden withdrawal though. It could be a gradual shift over several generations. That's more than enough time to adapt.

    Quite frankly, we have the means to produce what we need with people working less than a 40 hour week. Wouldn't it be nice for people to live a less stressful and hectic lifestyle and have time to spend with family and community?

    And before anyone chokes on the notion of working less than 40 hours a week, remember we've been down this road before, around a century ago. And here we all are, doing just fine with full time defined as 40 hours a week. The warnings back then about how reducing full time to a mere 40 hours a week were dire and they all turned out to be nothing.
     
  16. Booko

    Booko Poultry in Motion

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    I hear this so much, but men are always so surprised how expensive it is to be a woman compared to being a man. When they bother to take the time to learn, that is.

    Men call it "extravagance" when the reality a woman lives is if you want to hold down a job, you will need far more of a wardrobe than any man. It will change frequently, it will cost more per item, and the workmanship will be shoddy. We may need to buy hundreds of dollars of cosmetics no man will ever have to pay a penny for. We'll be expected to sport hairstyles that are pricey in order to "get ahead" in our jobs, where men need not bother. For African-American women we're talking thousands of dollars to have "good hair." You need razors...so do we. The same razor, colored in pink and stocked in the women's section, costs more. I buy razors in the men's section for a reason. The same dry cleaning costs women more, unless they complain. You may or may not get anywhere demanding the same rate a man pays. There are other realities of being a woman that also cost us more. Unless we go back to my grandma's day when rags were left out on shrubs in the sunlight to bleach.

    I am just getting started.

    I don't doubt there are extravagant women out there. I've met them. But "almost all"?

    Walk a mile in our moccasins and get back to me about how extravagant we all are.

    I don't need to be enslaved by a house full of Walmart junk. I will happily lower my expectations there.

    I would be more than happy to go back to a time when things were made to last and did last and we had to have fewer of them.
     
  17. Ana the Ist

    Ana the Ist Aggressively serene!

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    I've heard different explanations for the disparity in women's pay vs men's pay...but for the life of me, I've never heard of a job where a woman actually gets paid less for the exact same position. Are you aware of any?
     
  18. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    It sounds like what is being said is that low-income individuals and households have nothing to lose.

    I would argue that they have already lost everything. The middle class will be joining them if it disintegrates.







    Giving up a luxury and turning one's focus to unmet needs can't be seen as a more sustainable use of resources?







    If I did not want to live a simple life in a material sense, I would have more choices in the dating market.







    What is the cause of that overpopulation? Fertility rates? Mortality rates?

    Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat







    Then maybe our system of government is not sustainable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2015
  19. LOVEthroughINTELLECT

    LOVEthroughINTELLECT The courage to be human

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    If a woman wants to regularly vacation at beach resorts and I do not want that lifestyle, we are not going to be a match. Your analysis does not change that.
     
  20. Ana the Ist

    Ana the Ist Aggressively serene!

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    "It sounds like what is being said is that low-income individuals and households have nothing to lose."

    That's not what I said at all. Go ahead and reread what I wrote, if you're still having trouble with it, I'll try explaining it again.

    "Giving up a luxury and turning one's focus to unmet needs can't be seen as a more sustainable use of resources?"

    It could, but that wasn't what you said. You simply said you gave up football...which didn't make much sense. If I'm watching the food network, does that mean I'm giving up the golf channel?

    Arguably, entertainment is an important resource. Lowering stress has all sorts of health benefits, so while I haven't seen a direct study of it...I could see the possibility that people who find an entertaining way to unwind may end up using far less health resources than the person who focuses entirely upon work.

    "If I did not want to live a simple life in a material sense, I would have more choices in the dating market. "

    Sure...I guess? I'm not sure why you'd want to attract more women who are interested in you for your money...but I guess there's no arguing that by attracting gold-diggers you'd have a larger pool of women to choose from.

    The article is interesting... and I'm not saying that consumption isn't a more pressing issue....but ultimately, dealing with consumption without dealing with population growth is just a matter of kicking the can down the road. To illustrate, the article claims the lowest consumption rates are a mere 7% of the highest rates. Supposing that we could somehow magically reduce consumption to the same levels as the lowest peoples... what happens when that population inevitability grows to 14x their current size? Even at the consumption rates of the lowest consumers....we'll be consuming the same amount of resources we currently are. Whether population growth is high or low...as long as population is increasing and not decreasing... the problem remains.

    "Then maybe our system of government is not sustainable.[/QUOTE]"

    I think it's our economy that isn't sustainable. I'd rather sacrifice my opportunity to become insanely wealthy and keep a government which represents the needs of the people than keep the slim chance of astonishing wealth and live according to the whims of a few wealthy elite.
     
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