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Monday, June 25, 2012

Selfish and Greedy

The question is, are people, generally speaking, selfish or selfless?

A one word answer was requested.  I had to answer "Neither."

The very question demands moral absolutism, which is absolutely crazy, In My Humble Opinion.  I don't think I can completely agree with moral relativism either.  For a good read on the two and the middle ground I am likely to stand on, read this blog post.

One thing from that blog post I'd like to comment on :
Immanuel Kant might seem to come close when he argues that you should be honest even when an enraged killer asks you where your dad is.
I believe in being honest at all times.  I think the above framed question claims a dual option - either you lie to the killer or you tell the killer where your dad is.  My response is neither.  "I'm not going to tell you," satisfies both protecting your dad and being honest.  "I don't want to tell you," may, in some cases, be more honest.  "I don't know," can be an honest answer even if you know he is upstairs - you don't know what room he is in, although you could probably guess.

I suppose what I am trying to impart is that Morality is like an Onion.
It stinks?
No!
Oh, it makes you cry!
No! 
Oh, you leave it out in the sun and it gets all brown, start sprouting little white hairs.

No! Layers! Onions have layers. Morality has layers! They both have layers!!!

Like morality, Selfishness or greed has layers too.  At the very core, most people have the selfishness of "I don't want to suffer."  However, there are people who will protest the bad treatment of others by setting themselves on fire. Some don't even move while burning.  You also have stories like
One example is Tom Hsieh, whose Bolder Giving story begins with disarming humility: “When I graduated from college, God pointed out to me: 1) He has a heart for the poor, and 2) I didn’t.” This revelation led Hsieh to work with an international missions and development group and to start the habit of giving away whatever money he didn’t need. Now in his mid-30s and an executive with a technology firm, Hsieh and his wife have committed to living at or below the national median income (which last year meant living on $38,000 and giving away the rest of his $200,000-plus salary). They live in the second-poorest neighborhood in Los Angeles County, a context that Hsieh notes makes giving easy, as the reality of the needs of the world are at their doorstep.
and records of when people realize that being selfish won't bring happiness.

Extreme? Maybe, but so is suggesting that all people are selfish (especially when your 'reasoning' is that the bible says so.)  

"Most People" are going to be somewhere in the middle. 45 to 55% "selfish" is likely to be the norm. "Most people" are not

Then again, maybe I am selfish.  Maybe I just want other people to have enough to eat, job training, financial training, a job to go to, a place to live and all that JUST so that I will feel better or I will have better opportunities or somehow will benefit from it.  Maybe it is just a matter of if everyone else does good, then I'll do even better.

Some consider taxes to be stealing.  I suppose they want to directly pay for roads to be built, medical research, educating their kids, technology research and to hire their own security guards and soldiers.  Call me selfish, but I'd rather pay a little taxes and not have to worry about all the details.  I don't want to have to pay if firefighters have to come save my house.  If taxes help some families stay fed and housed, then I am all for it and glad to do my fair share - without having to spend my time doing it.

I am willing to pay taxes to be able to have downtime and the convenience of roads, police, firefighters, teachers (even though I don't have kids) and all the government funded research into cool new things.  I wonder how many people would be more willing to pay taxes if they were suddenly unable to access all the things taxes pay for.  I'd love to see them move to a low-tax area like maybe Mexico.  Any good road is a toll road.

Of course, if you want to escape high taxes ... 
Surprise! Despite endless American complaints about over-taxation, the U.S. has one of the world's lowest marginal income tax rates, at 27%. Along with what, by comparison with the high rates cited above, seems a relatively low rate, the U.S. has the world's biggest economy, with a GDP of over $1,400 billion.
Talk about Dogma vs Reality!! Its kind of the same thing with our Corporate Tax Rate - the stated rate is really high - the rate they actually pay is very low.