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Author Topic: "You've got two, he's got none, give him one!" - Redistribution of Health  (Read 6960 times)
Reikoku
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July 05, 2011, 05:58:12 AM
 #1

Like the title? Left-liberals seem to have this view with most forms of property. They believe that if you have two houses, two cars or twice as much money as most other people, then if you find somebody who has none, you owe him something.

Their argument goes a little something like this: "Your marginal utility from that second house/car/hundred thousand dollars is far less than the utility which would be gained by that person from it, therefore you owe him something.

Well, I'm going to propose that to them with another possession they might have two of, that some people have none of:


This is a kidney, it's a well-known fact that you can live with only one of them, but you probably have two nonetheless. As you're a left-winger, can you please explain to me why:

  • It is morally wrong for me to make somebody sleep rough because I believe my right to the 14th bedroom of my mansion (I wish) is greater than his.
  • It is morally acceptable for you to make somebody die because you believe your claim to your kidneys is greater than his.

This definitely passes the marginal utility test above. This guy is going to die if you don't give it to him, not just have to go without satellite television. You have approximately a 1% chance of developing end-stage renal disease, so his utility outweighs yours by at least a factor of 100 to 1.

Why are you not advocating forced redistribution of health?

Either you must accept that our claim to our own property is greater than the claim of others who so desire it, or you must accept that your ideology is incoherent, or you must all go and give a kidney away. Your choice.

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July 05, 2011, 12:02:20 PM
 #2

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It is morally wrong for me to make somebody sleep rough because I believe my right to the 14th bedroom of my mansion (I wish) is greater than his.
It isn't. It is morally neutral. It would be a good deed to put up the person in your 14th bedroom but you don't personally have a moral obligation to do so. You are not actively making someone sleep rough - you are simply allowing them to do so. It is definitely morally wrong if you actively make someone sleep rough by, say, bulldosing their house. Everyone has a right to shelter and there is clearly a problem with society if some people have excess shelter and some people have none.

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It is morally acceptable for you to make somebody die because you believe your claim to your kidneys is greater than his.
It is morally acceptable. I am not making someone die, merely letting them die. It would be morally good to give them a kidney and morally bad to remove both kidneys from a healthy person causing them to die. In the case of kidneys, there is a better supply of them than from living humans anyway - from people who have recently died.

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Why are you not advocating forced redistribution of health?
I believe people have a right over their own body. If you force them to give up a kidney that is denying that right.  The operation would cause pain and suffering which should be avoided. Also, any corruption in the system would be much worse than just with money because it is dealing with health. Beaurocratic mistakes could be disastrous.

It should also be noted that there is a great difference between artificial property like money and land and true property - your life and your body. The artificial property is completely dependent on the society you live in. A society where these concepts don't exist is perfectly imaginable. However, your body is indisputably yours.

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realnowhereman
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July 05, 2011, 12:08:55 PM
 #3

Ha.  Love it.

The same argument would apply to eyes, skin grafts and probably a fair proportion of ones fingers.

I shall take great delight in using this argument on lefties who cross my path from now on.  Thanks very much.

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July 05, 2011, 12:48:37 PM
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No giving up one of my balls for anyone.  What does that now make me ?

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July 05, 2011, 12:49:15 PM
 #5

I can give one explanation.

Your organ example is one form of utilitarian paradox; we are indeed increasing the utilitarian good but at the same time do something that is intuitively wrong. One solution is grant basic human rights to everybody that are untouchable no matter what utilitarian good is achievable through sacrificing them. To me they could be right to basic physiological and mental principles. Utilitarianism is just one way to approach dilemmas which has its limits and nobody advocating anything of that sort will tell you to make it 'a golden rule'. Unfortunately your property is not entirely in the domain of basic rights from this approach.

One of the arguments that libertarians use is that one owns his or her body, thus one must own the fruits of his labor and by that line of thought pretty much everything one has acquired. I find this argument circular as you need to own the property you start with to truly claim the result as yours. Thus you have argument in which legitimacy of your property depends on legitimacy of your property... (Homesteading is of course one arbitrary way to explain this, but it is as absolute measure of property as to say: "you must not lie" is as a moral rule)

We have obviously a disagreement of values here. The stronger side (or the one with biggest guns in libertarian rhetoric) wins so I guess we won't see taxes going away for a while. Sad thing is that the result hardly matches anyones preferences.
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July 05, 2011, 12:49:39 PM
 #6

No giving up one of my balls for anyone.  What does that now make me ?

A male  Tongue

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July 05, 2011, 12:50:58 PM
 #7

No giving up one of my balls for anyone.  What does that now make me ?

A male  Tongue

Fair play

Reikoku
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July 06, 2011, 03:36:07 AM
 #8

It isn't. It is morally neutral. It would be a good deed to put up the person in your 14th bedroom but you don't personally have a moral obligation to do so. You are not actively making someone sleep rough - you are simply allowing them to do so.

This is my position, but many lefties don't agree with it. They would argue that because that 14th room of my mansion is not in use, that I have no legitimate claim over it.

It is definitely morally wrong if you actively make someone sleep rough by, say, bulldosing their house. Everyone has a right to shelter and there is clearly a problem with society if some people have excess shelter and some people have none.

Again, I entirely agree with you.

It is morally acceptable. I am not making someone die, merely letting them die. It would be morally good to give them a kidney and morally bad to remove both kidneys from a healthy person causing them to die. In the case of kidneys, there is a better supply of them than from living humans anyway - from people who have recently died.

I agree again, but then I'm not a crazed left-winger.

It should also be noted that there is a great difference between artificial property like money and land and true property - your life and your body. The artificial property is completely dependent on the society you live in. A society where these concepts don't exist is perfectly imaginable. However, your body is indisputably yours.

That simply isn't true. As much as the 'artificial' properties you mentioned, self-ownership is a social construct. There are societies where, for example, a woman does not have the right to self-determination. There are many societies where we still don't have the right to willful self destruction (use of drugs, assisted suicide) and of course in the past, there were societies where one man could literally own another.

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July 06, 2011, 03:47:34 AM
 #9

That simply isn't true. As much as the 'artificial' properties you mentioned, self-ownership is a social construct. There are societies where, for example, a woman does not have the right to self-determination. There are many societies where we still don't have the right to willful self destruction (use of drugs, assisted suicide) and of course in the past, there were societies where one man could literally own another.

Have to disagree on one point here.

It's not 'we don't have the right to'. It's 'Our right to is being violated'.

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July 06, 2011, 03:51:27 AM
 #10

This issue would be eliminated if people could rent their bedrooms and sell their kidneys with no authority standing in the way. 
Reikoku
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July 06, 2011, 04:16:55 AM
 #11

This issue would be eliminated if people could rent their bedrooms and sell their kidneys with no authority standing in the way.  

I completely agree with this, not because I'm particularly willing to sell a kidney but because I accept the human right to self-determination, which includes the right to self-destruction.

Have to disagree on one point here.

It's not 'we don't have the right to'. It's 'Our right to is being violated'.

I'm talking about rights in the legally observed sense, not in the natural sense. Government has never been particularly good at observing our natural and deserved rights.

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Mittlyle
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July 06, 2011, 05:55:07 AM
 #12

Left-wing ideology shouldn't be reduced to mere 'utilitarian egalitarianism'. As I previously argued paradoxes with intuitive rights can be overcome by simply granting those rights status of untouchability but I'd like to add one important aspect here:

Your moral examples aren't really equal and thus comparable for at least three reasons:

(1)Reason of poverty and excess wealth in aggregate can be accounted for systemic unfairnesses in the economy. Interest is one mechanism that greatly favors those already wealthy. Reason for kidney failure, on the other hand, is mostly sheer bad luck.
(2)Transfer of wealth can be done equally among certain group, organ transfers can't. Thus forced kidney 'donation' is against the principle of equality as all equal individuals don't have to donate a kidney, but one would have to go with random donors.
(3)Forced transfer of wealth has support of the majority, forced transfer of kidneys don't.

As a western European I've never heard the argument that you wouldn't have legitimacy over property you don't use. Not really even by the insignificantly small (0.3%-0.5%) communist minority (and by communist I mean real communists, not the 'has-a-flavor-of-red-communist' you see thrown around in these circles. They, as you might imagine, have their own ideas of property). Thus I consider your original argument be bit of a straw man so I took the right to speak for transfer of wealth in general.

So, in conclusion we can say that transfer of wealth has legitimacy because (i) the systemic problems that lead to poverty can be attributed to every individual ('caused by the collective'), (ii) according correction can be done collectively ('fairly') and (iii) majority thinks its reasonable policy. Forced kidney donations don't have legitimacy because (i) kidney failure is unrelated to other people, (ii) the forced donation can't be done according to principles of equality and (iii) it is against majority's opinion of what is right.

Left-wing ideologies tend to emphasize democracy and so I think from this perspective its unfounded to use anything as counter-example that wouldn't pass for majority opinions. It is of course valid point to ask if something is right because majority thinks so, but currently it grants legitimacy.

Edit: To summarize, I'd would say OP made a straw man on that left-wingers are all about marginal utility.
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July 06, 2011, 06:00:40 AM
 #13

Forced transfer of wealth has support of the majority, forced transfer of kidneys don't.

The majority also once supported ownership of black people. Popularity means nothing. QED.
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July 06, 2011, 06:17:57 AM
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Forced transfer of wealth has support of the majority, forced transfer of kidneys don't.

The majority also once supported ownership of black people. Popularity means nothing. QED.
I agree, but the legitimacy of majority is significant here as it tends to be premise of left-wing ideologies and also is currently the leading paradigm.

If ideology states that transfer of wealth is okay, and then you argue that you should also agree kidney transfers by the same logic, you have a straw man if de facto the ideology really doesn't agree that. In that case premises of the ideology you used would be wrong. To make a valid argument you would have to formalize the real premises that agree with reality. If you can show incoherence in those premises (compared to some moral framework or the ideology's de jure premises), then you have a valid argument against the ideology. In this case you could criticize democracy as a valid way of governance. I never claimed majority's opinion is what makes transfer of wealth really legitimate. In our system it just happens to be enough and makes a difference. The two others were my main argument which stand regardless of democracy, albeit enforcing them without similar system is probably not possible.

Edit: You can remove all points with (3) and (iii) and the argument is still valid. This actually was the format I was originally writing.
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July 06, 2011, 06:45:58 AM
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If ideology states that transfer of wealth is okay, and then you argue that you should also agree kidney transfers by the same logic, you have a straw man if de facto the ideology really doesn't agree that.

The original poster is trying to argue that certain people are being inconsistent so of course the majority disagrees with that.

The two others were my main argument which stand regardless of democracy, albeit enforcing them without similar system is probably not possible.

Alright, let's talk about those too then.

Reason of poverty and excess wealth in aggregate can be accounted for systemic unfairnesses in the economy. Interest is one mechanism that greatly favors those already wealthy. Reason for kidney failure, on the other hand, is mostly sheer bad luck.

What do you mean by unfairness? Is it fair that some people are smarter than others? Is it fair that some people can make millions of dollars because they are good at tennis? I agree but why is anyone owed anything because of this? Maybe you mean some other kind of unfairness.

Transfer of wealth can be done equally among certain group, organ transfers can't. Thus forced kidney 'donation' is against the principle of equality as all equal individuals don't have to donate a kidney, but one would have to go with random donors.

I don't understand what you're saying. Some people have to give more money than others, some none at all. Some people have to give kidneys and others don't. There's nothing exactly equal in either case.
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July 06, 2011, 07:45:15 AM
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If ideology states that transfer of wealth is okay, and then you argue that you should also agree kidney transfers by the same logic, you have a straw man if de facto the ideology really doesn't agree that.
The original poster is trying to argue that certain people are being inconsistent so of course the majority disagrees with that.
Some left-wingers definitely are inconsistent. So are some libertarians. Whats the point of arguing against those who by definition are, well, straw-man of the ideology. The point we should look at is if the left-wing ideology is consistent, not whether some random individual is. If the point of this thread is that some left are inconsistent then my point has been that not all are and thus this thread has little significance.

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Reason of poverty and excess wealth in aggregate can be accounted for systemic unfairnesses in the economy. Interest is one mechanism that greatly favors those already wealthy. Reason for kidney failure, on the other hand, is mostly sheer bad luck.
What do you mean by unfairness? Is it fair that some people are smarter than others? Is it fair that some people can make millions of dollars because they are good at tennis? I agree but why is anyone owed anything because of this? Maybe you mean some other kind of unfairness.
If somebody is good at tennis and other isn't, I do not define that really unfair. If the referee would be consistently partial then thats unfair. Same in here: problem isn't that some are naturally more talented than others, or even that they have more wealth. It is that your wealth determines the rules you play by. If poor, you pay interest for being that way, if you are affluent you are paid. In other words you get different amount of wealth relative to your contribution to the economy (~your skill in the game). Economics is just an arbitrary construction so why not fix it with another one so what you really contribute matches better to what you get.

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Transfer of wealth can be done equally among certain group, organ transfers can't. Thus forced kidney 'donation' is against the principle of equality as all equal individuals don't have to donate a kidney, but one would have to go with random donors.
I don't understand what you're saying. Some people have to give more money than others, some none at all. Some people have to give kidneys and others don't. There's nothing exactly equal in either case.
First think of two groups, one with 2 functioning kidneys and second smaller group with no functioning kidneys. To redistribute the 'health' one has to arbitrarily pick the donors and that is not equal because someone in equal position didn't need to give a kidney. Now think of two groups, one wealthy and one poor. To do a transfer of wealth we can share the burden of wealth-loss equally among the wealthy group. Thats equal in that group. When I say 'Transfer of wealth can be done equally among certain group' I mean that in certain income-class the burden is shared equally. Of course your wealth determines how 'responsible' you are under such system. Somebody earning twice what the other is paying more but their position is not equivalent in the first place.
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July 06, 2011, 08:30:52 AM
 #17

You imply that wealth is limited.
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July 06, 2011, 08:33:50 AM
 #18

You imply that wealth is limited.
Atlas, Wealth is unlimited, because it's subjective.

Capital is not, because it's objective. (yes, that limit is far from being reached. Still there, though)

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Reikoku
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July 06, 2011, 08:36:29 AM
 #19

All left-wingers propose an incoherent worldview, because they support egalitarianism of finance only. If they truly believed in 'equality', they would support things like the redistribution of body organs. Unfortunately, despite claiming a wish to improve the condition of humanity, most of these 'caring people' simply propose egalitarianism in self-interest, that is taking away the gains of those whom they envy the most (the wealthy, the successful).

Also, argumentum ad populum is an absurd retort to my argument for the reasons already covered by bitcoin2cash.

“Social Security is a government program with a constituency made up of the old, the near old and those who hope or fear to grow old. After 215 years of trying, we have finally discovered a special interest that includes 100 percent of the population. Now we can vote ourselves rich.”
- P J O'Rourke.

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July 06, 2011, 08:38:48 AM
 #20

“Social Security is a government program with a constituency made up of the old, the near old and those who hope or fear to grow old. After 215 years of trying, we have finally discovered a special interest that includes 100 percent of the population. Now we can vote ourselves rich.”
- P J O'Rourke.

Score one for the Obby!

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