Capitalism=Greed?

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby DoingHomework » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:15 pm

stannius wrote:I think y'all are being too harsh on charitable giving.

As a society, 20 members of said society getting a meal is better than one member getting a round of gold. When resources are spread around a bit, they get the most marginal utility.

Therefore, the cultures and/or human DNA's in which charitable giving was present, tended to do better.

Therefore, we are bred to feel good when we give to others. So I think there is plenty of selfish motive for donating to charities etc., even if you don't believe in altruism.


Perhaps. But what if the giving just causes the person to be more dependent on future handouts?

I'm not against giving and actually give quite a bit to a couple of charities. But I tend to focus on helping educational causes (museums etc.) and organizations that help truly innocent victims (like homeless teens). I have a really hard time supporting people that really just need to get their act together...

But in general I think people have blindly accepted that helping others is good without actually questioning whether it is in every case.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby bpgui » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:23 pm

stannius wrote:As a society, 20 members of said society getting a meal is better than one member getting a round of gold. When resources are spread around a bit, they get the most marginal utility.

I don't think that is always the case. I think a lot depends on who is doing the spreading. If everyone is voluntarily spreading their resources, I would agree. Presumably, the givers are getting more utility in the form of the warm fuzzy feeling (or whatever) that accompanies giving than they would have by otherwise using those resources. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. The givees are getting the utility of whatever they are using the resources for.

On the other hand, if someone is forcing the givers to give against their will, the givers are getting less utility than they would otherwise have while the givees are gaining the same amount of utility.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby bpgui » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:27 pm

DoingHomework wrote:But in general I think people have blindly accepted that helping others is good without actually questioning whether it is in every case.

I think this is my problem with many charities and proponents of charitable giving. I think there are plenty of people that simply don't deserve the help, because even though they are capable, they have done nothing to help themselves and attempt to improve their situation. A lot of charities I've looked into don't distinguish between those that really need help and those that are simply too lazy to do something for themselves.

Edit: I do give some (I wouldn't call it a lot) to charity, but only to those I think help people who truly need and deserve it.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby DoingHomework » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:43 pm

bpgui wrote:On the other hand, if someone is forcing the givers to give against their will, the givers are getting less utility than they would otherwise have while the givees are gaining the same amount of utility.


Do you mean, for example, by using tax dollars to feed the hungry or support art?

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby NoBoB » Mon Jul 11, 2011 9:11 pm

DoingHomework wrote:
bpgui wrote:On the other hand, if someone is forcing the givers to give against their will, the givers are getting less utility than they would otherwise have while the givees are gaining the same amount of utility.


Do you mean, for example, by using tax dollars to feed the hungry or support art?

I don't know for sure what the good counselor was meaning, but I'll raise my hand here, at least referring to taxes at the federal level.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby stannius » Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:12 pm

bpgui wrote:I don't think that is always the case. I think a lot depends on who is doing the spreading. If everyone is voluntarily spreading their resources, I would agree. Presumably, the givers are getting more utility in the form of the warm fuzzy feeling (or whatever) that accompanies giving than they would have by otherwise using those resources. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. The givees are getting the utility of whatever they are using the resources for.

On the other hand, if someone is forcing the givers to give against their will, the givers are getting less utility than they would otherwise have while the givees are gaining the same amount of utility.


Sure, which is why we've (most of us) evolved to voluntarily give - thus getting more utility out of the spreading.

But also, consider the marginal utility of a unit of goods or stuff that can be traded for goods. A rich person (caveman or investment banker) can only get so much out of another hunk of mammoth or round of gold, respectively. But if he gives it to his fellow man, that would have starved to death otherwise, his fellow man can stand beside him when the sabre tooth tigers attack.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby bpgui » Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:27 am

DoingHomework wrote:
bpgui wrote:On the other hand, if someone is forcing the givers to give against their will, the givers are getting less utility than they would otherwise have while the givees are gaining the same amount of utility.


Do you mean, for example, by using tax dollars to feed the hungry or support art?

Somewhat, I am mostly thinking of using tax dollars to support charities.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby bpgui » Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:58 am

stannius wrote:But also, consider the marginal utility of a unit of goods or stuff that can be traded for goods. A rich person (caveman or investment banker) can only get so much out of another hunk of mammoth or round of gold, respectively. But if he gives it to his fellow man, that would have starved to death otherwise, his fellow man can stand beside him when the sabre tooth tigers attack.

Possibly, but how do we know how much utility the rich caveman is getting from his extra hunk of mammoth, how much he'll get by giving it to the poor caveman, or how much the poor caveman will get (perhaps, only the utility a meal)? Perhaps the poor caveman will simply eat the hunk mammoth, ask for more, and become more and more dependent on the rich caveman's generosity, or perhaps the poor caveman will use the energy obtained by eating to attempt to collect his own food or otherwise better his position. How do we know the poor caveman will stand beside the rich caveman gets attacked by the sabre tooth tigers, rather than run out of fear, or even try to hinder the rich caveman's escape in the hopes of him being killed and taking his remaining stockpile? (Just as an aside, if the poor caveman is incapable of getting his own food, how much help would he be in fighting off sabre tooth tigers? :D) And who should decide whether or not the rich caveman gives his extra hunk of mammoth to the poor caveman?

My point is it makes a difference whether the transaction is voluntary or coerced. If it is voluntary, the rich caveman is presumably getting more utility by doing so than by keeping the extra hunk of mammoth. If it is coerced, that may not be the case, and then the rich caveman no longer has any incentive to obtain that extra hunk of mammoth. There is no longer any reason for him spend the resources (time, energy, weapons, etc.) and take the risks (injury or death) to obtain that extra hunk of mammoth that will now just be taken from him. He's much better off simply using those resources for something else that benefits him.

I recognize there is some overlap, and some coerced donations may have been made anyway in the absence of coercion.

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Re: Capitalism=Greed?

Postby stannius » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:59 am

Also, just as societal evolution has promoted altruism, individual evolution has created people who fill the niche of "taking advantage of the tendency towards altruism."


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