[ExI] Status, Envy, and Economics

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Wed Feb 13 20:35:54 UTC 2008

Rafal writes

>> But I guess it depends on your values. If inequality is more important
>> than actual wealth (beyond food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment,
>> I presume), then it will make a number of people ill to even think
>> about the disparity.
> ### That refusing the deal would be destructive (in the sense on
> causing the continuation of literally billions of premature deaths,
> suffering from malnutrition, curable disease, etc.) is a fact, quite
> independent of values.

Yes, that does seem inarguable. Richer societies have to be healthier
ones, within a huge range of inequality.

> I make a motion that choosing such immense atrocities be made
> criminal. Choosing that we live in misery and die wretchedly
> instead of luxuriating in material paradise would be, for anybody
> who cares the least whit about other humans' wellbeing, irrational
> in the extreme.

I have a problem with the word "irrational" here.  I hope you understand.
(For one thing, you can't have a satisfactory discussion with people if
your thesis is that they are irrational.  Besides, it's simply false.)

> Lee, don't try to understand envious people - they are different from
> you and me :)

The envious? Yes, they're different.  Since the proper memes are now
freely available, they have no excuse for their envy.  They just have
to work at it.  I am not without envy.  But I keep it under very, very
tight control, and it does rarely affect my decisions and never does it
affect my stances.

But those who simply see inequality as a very big and dangerous
evil, are quite like me in the sense that they would prefer societies
to avoid dangerous developments---even though we probably
disagree about exactly how dangerous inequality is, and how
successfully it may be possible to combat its effects.

Action items:

1 -  if you are envious, get a grip, and encourage others
      around you who are envious to do the same
2 -  continue to point out to others, whenever the opportunity
      arises, that the situation is as Rafal says:  ### Choosing
      less overall wealth for a society is criminal and will result
      in curable diseases going untreated and in some places
      malnutrition and infant mortality---mere inequality is by far
      a lesser evil


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