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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Republican Presidential Primary News & Discussion Center 2012 (Page 48)

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Author Topic: Republican Presidential Primary News & Discussion Center 2012
Samprimary
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Small Government must never be so small as to not be able to occupy the uterus, evidently.
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Mucus
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Oddly, I suspect one could go to Canada, land of socialist medicine and big government, and simply pay for an abortion with less nanny state nagging and superior service with no mandatory wait time.
That amuses me in an awfully dark way.

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DDDaysh
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quote:
Originally posted by Samprimary:
Small Government must never be so small as to not be able to occupy the uterus, evidently.

While I'm actually quite conservative on the subject of abortion, this is hilarious!
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Blayne Bradley
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http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/03/17/a_tale_of_two_campaigns_113522.html

quote:

Twenty minutes later and 20 miles to the north, Rick Santorum took the stage before an equally large crowd. But Santorum was at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights -- an odd choice of venue, given that almost no one in the audience was eligible to vote. Sounding more like a social studies teacher than a presidential candidate, Santorum spent 15 minutes extolling the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and explaining why the two documents made America an exceptional country.

Adding to the peculiarity of the event, Santorum was interrupted mid-speech by an educator, presumably the principal, who declared that time was tight and there were a number of students with questions. It was clear from Santorum’s expression that he hadn’t been briefed about this part of the program, but he willingly obliged.

Maybe he shouldn’t have.

The first student asked why Santorum said he didn’t want people to go to college and how that compared to President Obama’s plan for full and affordable access to college. The second, clearly prepped by a Democrat (even if it was one of his own parents), asked why Santorum gave less than 2 percent of his nearly $1 million income last year to charity, and how a middle-class family could be expected to care for a severely disabled child like the Santorums do without going bankrupt -- unless we had the kind of universal health care that Obama signed into law.

The last student questioned Santorum on how his economic plan would help create jobs given that is was more or less an extension of George W. Bush’s plan to keep taxes low for the richest “one percent” of the country.

Chicago resident David Axelrod could not have written four more dutifully partisan questions. And Santorum suffered through them all before the principal put an end to the session and the former Pennsylvania senator waved goodbye and scooted out the side door.

When all was said and done, he had wasted more than an hour of his time (not to mention the effort his staff invested in advance work) at an event that in all likelihood moved him not a single vote closer to victory on Tuesday.

Hilarious.
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Lyrhawn
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This seems to happen a lot whenever GOP candidates try to address students, either at the high school or college level.

I don't really like the bias in the article though. First, they assume that high schoolers aren't smart enough or engaged enough to be able to ask those questions without coaching. Perhaps most aren't, but those are the ones unlikely to go to and volunteer to ask a question of a candidate. It's self-selection, which makes them more likely to be informed enough to ask such questions.

Second, I don't like the disdain that the author treats a presidential candidate addressing high schoolers. Sure most of them won't be able to vote in this election, but they will be in the next election. They all want jobs and education in the next four years, but are they to be ignored in the process? And if we engage our students, doesn't it make sense that THEY will become more engaged themselves? Certainly they won't be if we pretend they don't exist until they become 30.

So kudos for Santorum for engaging students...but don't be surprised when students are more liberal. Youth in general are morel liberal, but that doesn't mean you ignore them.

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BlackBlade
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The kids in my family all understand exactly what is at stake when your insurance can just drop you when you need it most. One of my sisters had to suffer for about a year until they figured out she was experiencing renal failure, and needed a kidney transplant. All told, the cost of the dialysis to keep her alive, (and she almost died, and had to go to the ICU twice) and the surgery was north of $100K.

You could have easily asked any of my siblings at any age when that was going on why Americans need these protections, and it would have been obvious. How much more so if my sister had come out of the ICU permanently brain damaged, and in need of therapy on top of the transplant?

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Lyrhawn
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I wouldn't have known that as a kid, but I would have been able to respond to some of the welfare state crap they've been spewing. We had to live off unemployment insurance and food stamps for awhile as a kid when my mom lost her job. Similarly, my brother and I knew all about college costs because we grew up knowing mom and dad couldn't afford a dollar to help us out.

I think there's too much media attention on the upper middle class, who I guess are insulated from a lot of this, and not enough on the lower middle class and the working poor, who know political issues all too well because we've lived a lot of them. I consider myself luckier than most, but my childhood wasn't perfect, and adversity teaches political awareness.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
You could have easily asked any of my siblings at any age when that was going on why Americans need these protections, and it would have been obvious. How much more so if my sister had come out of the ICU permanently brain damaged, and in need of therapy on top of the transplant?
B-b-but death panels!!! Like in the Netherlands!
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
I wouldn't have known that as a kid, but I would have been able to respond to some of the welfare state crap they've been spewing. We had to live off unemployment insurance and food stamps for awhile as a kid when my mom lost her job. Similarly, my brother and I knew all about college costs because we grew up knowing mom and dad couldn't afford a dollar to help us out.

I think there's too much media attention on the upper middle class, who I guess are insulated from a lot of this, and not enough on the lower middle class and the working poor, who know political issues all too well because we've lived a lot of them. I consider myself luckier than most, but my childhood wasn't perfect, and adversity teaches political awareness.

I'm solidly upper-middle class. I suppose I came by my feelings about these subjects by going to school with so many, *so* many, kids who were beaten down by life, by their parents, and by the system. I was rich for my area, from easily the wealthiest family in a small school district, and I saw, very very clearly, that I had opportunities and for-granteds that the others did not. Of the 30 or so of us who were in school together from 1st to 8th grade, I think 4 finished at university. It was the three wealthiest kids, and a good friend of ours, who payed her own way.

And I went to public university. It barely cost anything in comparison with what it could have. Many of these other people could have gone. But they didn't, and not because some of them weren't smart enough. But because every day growing up, I felt safe and secure and I was told I had a future, by parents who could envision it before I could. I came home every night to a big safe house with parents who weren't stressed by dangerous jobs, I ate healthy expensive foods, and had healthful, expensive hobbies and vacations. When I needed a computer to write, I got one (before that was strictly expected). I had Internet access years before it was common. I had everything I could use to be the best that I could be.

I think you'd have to be delusional to have actually *known* people, and grown up around them, and seen that your lot in life was better, and *still* insist you've had the same opportunities, or that your advantages were as nothing. That's horseshit. I don't think I would be 10 times the man I am if I had Trump money, but I damn well wouldn't be where I am if I didn't have what I did. I know people who strive *because* they come from adversity. Great. But that's exceptional. Should be plan on people being exceptional, when most f us are not? Without my advantages, I wouldn't have succeeded the way I have. And for a lot of people, that's true.

[ March 19, 2012, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Rakeesh
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Part of the trick is not to grow up around them.
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Orincoro
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Clearly. I suppose implicit in what I'm saying is that having been quite inordinately lucky in life, I am aware that a) I have been lucky, and b) others have not been.

The double think of the modern conservative movement that baffles me is that they seem to acknowledge this is true, and yet not grasp the deep relevance of this phenomenon. As if because it is not a true binary, it doesn't rate. As if, we're one to acknowledge that luck is a mistress of success, one must abandon any claim of responsibility for one's successes, and vice versa, if luck is a mistress of failure.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Part of the trick is not to grow up around them.

Almost everyone knows some people who are less fortunate than they are and some people who are more fortunate than they are so clearly just knowing people who are less fortunate isn't enough.

I know people who grew up poor and succeeded against the odds who have enormous compassion for the underprivileged and others who figure if they did it, the poor have no excuse. I know people who grew up in the top 5% and are convinced they are self made men who deserve even more than they have and others who recognize that they've been extraordinarily lucky. The difference is due to more than just exposure.

I don't know exactly what causes the difference but I think an awful lot of it relates the the values we are taught as a child. Success almost always requires a mix of good luck and personal merit but we differ in how we see the balance.
There are big differences in what people see as luck and what they perceive as merit. For example, if you've got natural talents (high intelligence, athletic ability, musical ability etc), are you more deserving than others or luckier?

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kmbboots
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I probably did know people less fortunate but certainly wasn't aware of them. I grew up in an afluent suburb that was really beyond our means so almost everyone I knew was considerably better off than we were. I didn't really have much contact with people in actual need till I got a job in the city working as a school librarian for an inner city school. That was a real awakening.
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advice for robots
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Depends on what you do with those advantages, IMO. Luck is what you start with, maybe, but it certainly doesn't determine your success. You do that yourself based on how you use what you've been given. It also depends on how you define success.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
I probably did know people less fortunate but certainly wasn't aware of them. I grew up in an affluent suburb that was really beyond our means so almost everyone I knew was considerably better off than we were. I didn't really have much contact with people in actual need till I got a job in the city working as a school librarian for an inner city school. That was a real awakening.

By "considerably better off" are you thinking strictly in terms of money or are you also considering things like natural ability, involved parents, your family's cultural values, and social capital?

It's pretty unusual for anyone to be worse off than their neighbors in all of those respects. When a family chooses to live in a neighborhood that is beyond their means, it says something about what the parents value. I have no idea why your family made that choice but very commonly parents choose to live in a neighborhood that's more expensive than they can readily afford so their kids can attend a better school and live in a safer area. Sometimes families do it because they (or their family) owned the property before the neighborhood went upscale or because they were more affluent when they bought the house than they are now. Those things are all advantages that not everyone gets.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
Depends on what you do with those advantages, IMO. Luck is what you start with, maybe, but it certainly doesn't determine your success. You do that yourself based on how you use what you've been given. It also depends on how you define success.

Yes and no. Luck and effort both contribute to success but luck isn't just a matter of what you start with, there is luck in every decision people make. You don't have to look very far to find people who've worked hard and made reasonably sound choices and yet are failing financially due to factors beyond their control. Maybe the company they worked for went bankrupt so they lost both their job and their pension. Perhaps they had a major illness or a child with serious disabilities that interfered with their career. I know a lot of people who bought houses 7 or 8 years ago that are now worth a fraction of what they owe. They didn't get ridiculous sub-prime loans or buy a house that was beyond their means but if they had to sell their houses today because of a job change or a divorce, they'd go bankrupt. I know a couple of people who are in that exact situation.

You also don't have to look too far to find people on the other side, who are unusually successful because of a series of unusually good luck. I have a friend who took a job with a start up company right out of high school that offered him stock options. The salary was really low but he took the job because he didn't have any other offers because there was a recession at the time. If he'd graduate a couple years earlier or later, he would have had several better offers and he never would have taken the job. That company is now Micron and he is a multi-millionaire. You can say he's rich because he made a good choice but I way, he got lucky. For every person like him there are hundreds who own worthless stock options in companies that never went public. The only thing that really distinguishes him from them is luck.

I think its possible for people to fail solely because of bad luck. You can work really hard and make reasonable responsible choices and still fail utterly because of bad luck.

On the other hand, I don't think its possible to be highly successful without having unusually good luck. You can be moderately successful if you work very hard, you make consistently reasonable, responsible choices, and you have average luck. But to be highly successful, you also have to have unusually good luck.

[ March 19, 2012, 06:32 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Maybe the company they worked for went bankrupt so they lost both their job and their pension.

It's interesting to me how different people can define "luck" different ways, and some people can attribute the same factors to "decisions."

For example, if you're at a company that went bankrupt, and you financially suffer because of this, there are lots of ways you can argue this likely has little to do with luck.

(Using a general "you" here, "you" being the guy who got lucky or not.)

For example: Why did the company go bankrupt? If it was a failing company, then perhaps you weren't working as hard as you thought. "Hard" work is sort of a sticky concept anyway; hard work isn't inherently valuable. Hard work towards a valuable goal is. If you worked really hard but your company made a product no one wanted, it makes sense you went bankrupt, and that's not luck. That's you making poor predictions about what will be a valuable product.

Perhaps you don't have that much control over the company's decisions, though. You're just a grunt, not someone setting the policy, so you worked hard at the job the company said was valuable and then it turned out it wasn't. Bad luck, not your fault, right?

But why were you only a grunt, and unable to effect policy? Because you chose not to pursue a higher role in the company? Now we've back to a decision you made, not bad luck at all. But maybe it was a repressively bureaucratic company with byzantine hiring standards (or maybe your immediate manager was racist) and you weren't able to advance through no fault of your own. Bad luck!

But why did you stay at a company where you couldn't advance and couldn't have any say in the policies of the company? Why not find a new job, or start your own company?

Certainly some things really are luck based, but I think the line between "luck" and "choice" may be more blurry than you think.

[ March 19, 2012, 06:41 PM: Message edited by: Dan_Frank ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
Depends on what you do with those advantages, IMO. Luck is what you start with, maybe, but it certainly doesn't determine your success. You do that yourself based on how you use what you've been given. It also depends on how you define success.

Just kicking the can down the road a piece, really. You can say this, and it's true, but that doesn't make it what you might want it to be.

If you just look at statistics, then, no, you're entirely wrong, luck of the draw has *everything* to do with your chances of success. Statistically. Of course, we are not statistics, and treating people as if they are is problematic. But you're just begging the question: how does one make the best of what one has? Is not the influence in one's life saying: "make the best of this," a part of that luck and circumstance?

I just wish we could embrace the ambiguous view here. It is not all luck. It is not all individual. Humans don't fall into static metrics- that's why IQ is meaningless, and every other measure of "potential" has everything to do with what *has* happened to a person, and nothing to do with what a person *might* do. But we need to be responsive to this flaw in our wordview. We need to understand that, implicit in our awareness that we can measure potential according to what *we expect*, we can, and we can *only* find ways of helping people to achieve the type of success that we find valuable to *us*.

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advice for robots
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Yeah, there are definitely circumstances beyond your control at just about every turn. I'd say most everything that goes on is beyond your control as an individual or family. You might end up fairly frequently at a point where you have to assess what you have and what you're able to do based on circumstances. How you define success from there defines what luck is.

I agree with Dan to a point. You make choices that make certain circumstances possible and make you vulnerable in certain ways—like choosing a particular career or buying a home. That determines to some extent what can happen to you. You're also aiming toward certain goals. Some things that others would deem success or failures won't be to you, and vice versa.

But depending on your present situation and how many choices are available to you, you're pretty much in charge of determining what success is and how you'll use what you have to get there.

ETA: Orincoro, I'll have to think about that a little more, but I generally agree. The way we define success is based on the circumstances we've been given, at least at first. Our perspective of the world. It might take a big shakeup in our worldview, like Kate was talking about, to get us to redefine what we're aiming for.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Certainly some things really are luck based, but I think the line between "luck" and "choice" may be more blurry than you think.
No, my point was that the line between good choices and luck is too blurry to justify any confidence that you succeeded because of the inherent merit rather than luck. You have have an irrational faith that the market will reward quality work which is simply not justifiable from the data.

Businesses, like individuals, fail all the time as the result of factors that have nothing to do with the business itself. Making a successful business plan involves predicting the future and that is something no one can do accurately. Some luck is always involved.

It isn't possible for everyone to be a decision maker in a major corporation. Some people will always have to work in positions where they have little input into the decisions that influence their life. That's a fact of life.

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Dan_Frank
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Many, many people would rather have a job with clearly defined expectations and success criteria, where they don't have to make major decisions about the company. Presumably because they like the feeling of stability that brings, or for some other reasons.

So yes, some (many!) people will work in such positions. That is, currently, a fact.

Do they have to? Well, no. They could do something else. They are choosing to work there because they like it compared to the alternatives that they can imagine.

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Dan_Frank
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Also: I'm pretty sure I didn't indicate anywhere that I have some sort of blind faith that the market will reward "quality work," especially since I explicitly stated that terms like that (I used "hard" work) are so misleading.

I do think that a market will generally reward work that said market considers valuable, which is very different.

And yeah, of course there is a predictive quality to determining what's valuable, and it's hard to predict that with accuracy. But some companies do this with some consistency, right? So clearly it's not just magical inexplicable luck fairies.

(Again, nowhere did I say that luck was never involved, so statements like "some luck is always involved" aren't really in dispute. I'm just questioning the extent to which you characterize all this stuff as luck.)

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The Rabbit
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quote:
So yes, some (many!) people will work in such positions. That is, currently, a fact.

Do they have to? Well, no. They could do something else. They are choosing to work there because they like it compared to the alternatives that they can imagine.

You aren't being realistic. What you say may be true for an individual, it can't be true for all individuals.

The market is always going to favor big businesses over small businesses whenever there is an economy of scale. Big businesses by definition have a lot more grunts than decision makers. Market forces mean that most people won't be able to survive being self employed. There are only so many small business the market will support. To survive, every small business to has to beat the odds. Skill and hard work increase your chances of beating the odds, but the odds still dictate that most people are going to loose.

For most people, it's not a choice between working as a grunt for a big company and starting their own business where they make all the choices. For most people, the choice is between working as a grunt for a big company or not working. There will always be lucky individual exceptions but market forces dictate that those will always be exceptions.

Realistically as long as we are talking market economics, most people won't be able to work for small independent businesses where their influence the major decisions. Realistically, most people can not have any real say in the economic decisions that effect their lives.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
For example: Why did the company go bankrupt? If it was a failing company, then perhaps you weren't working as hard as you thought. "Hard" work is sort of a sticky concept anyway; hard work isn't inherently valuable. Hard work towards a valuable goal is. If you worked really hard but your company made a product no one wanted, it makes sense you went bankrupt, and that's not luck. That's you making poor predictions about what will be a valuable product.
I've got to admit, I experienced a pretty strong surge of disapproval and even dislike for some of the ideas expressed here, as I understand them. I'll explain, and hopefully that will illustrate how this is for the ideas themselves.

One, the notion that an individual employee-for a large company, mind, not say a small business-can have, by their own adequate or even above-average quality of their work, an impact on whether the entire company succeeds or fails is baffling to me. So strange that it smacks of just a big disconnect. Even if you're really slacking off, if your work is universally sub-par, how will that manage to impact whether the entire company continues to exist or not? They'll just fire you. The quality of your work will generally have an impact on your own financial success, but a large corporation or even just a large company? Seems like nonsense to me.

As for hard work at a company whose offerings simply aren't in demand, well, that depends. Did you take on student loans to train for and stock to invest at a buggy whip company? Then sure, you've made a crappy judgment and your financial failure when that company falters isn't luck. Or did you, say train as an architect or even some of the more skilled end of construction, sinking a lot of your time and money back into making your business more profitable when for all of your adult life, nearly the entire country was swept up in real-estate. You didn't build crappy homes or involve yourself in any way in toxic mortgages, but then one day Wall Street just loses its freaking mind (predictable from a macro view, overall, but then you weren't involved in that-you always did good for a fair payment), and suddenly you're competing with ten desperate contractors for a given job whereas before you had maybe one or two, and that's when people want to hire you to build something at all, rather than just stay where they are or buy something already built. Bad luck, or did you simply make a poor decision about macroeconomics and the national construction business's interaction with major banks? Because you're expected to factor that in too, as well as being good or even great at your actual job.

Where does it end? Just because there turns out to have been a way a disaster or mishap could've been avoided in hindsight doesn't mean being a victim of it isn't just bad luck. People from New Orleans, for example. In hindsight (and even in foresight, for those of us outside the situation), sure, don't live there. Flood eventually. But the people who have lived there for generations, where all their family and personal history says 'we don't have those city-wrecking floods', well why would they question that? All of those people in Japan, well earthquakes are not uncommon. Statistically, there will eventually be one that kills thousands, even hundreds of thousands or who knows, millions. It could be predicted. Do we say to someone whose home was flattened, "This isn't bad luck, this is you making a poor decision about where to live," or do we just skip the damn finger-pointing sometimes and help out, so that a disaster for one family doesnt begin a legacy of misfortune for their descendants? Or perhaps throw up our hands and exclaim that it could've been helped, and helping afterwards, well, they won't learn nothin'.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
And yeah, of course there is a predictive quality to determining what's valuable, and it's hard to predict that with accuracy. But some companies do this with some consistency, right? So clearly it's not just magical inexplicable luck fairies.
For every company that does, how many are left dead by the wayside for having failed to do so? It isn't, I think we'll agree, an equal number. Not two to one, not five to one. And I don't even mean successes versus failures and mediocre treading-waters, I mean successes versus simply didn't succeed at all, had to quit the field entirely.
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Dan_Frank
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Rakeesh I think you're making a lot of assumptions about what I'm saying, including apparently inferring that I think there's no such thing as luck or happenstance. But that's not the case.

I just think that choices have a lot more to do with peoples' lives than some people credit. If you've got an architectural degree and mountains of debt and the market has dried up, that sucks! Maybe it's time to learn how to code, or to open a restaurant (pro tip: don't open a restaurant).

And (again, 'cause I really think I said this already...) I don't deny that you can work in a company so large that your job has a literally negligible effect on that company. But what I said is that if that's the case, and you don't like that, then clearly that isn't the job for you.

And yes, many companies are that big, but there are also many that... aren't. It's really not hard to find a job where your contributions can have a noticeable, measurable effect on the company's trajectory, if that's important to you. And if it's not important to you, then that's also a decision you made.

Luck and choices both effect where people end up, but their choices, specifically, have a huge effect on what random situations they become exposed to, and how they deal with those situations. So, one last time: I do think that luck obviously effects our lives.

But I also think that lots of people use bad luck as an excuse not to make decisions, or to make (easy) poor decisions. Its a really common trap that many of us find ourselves in at one time or another, and I think it's worth it to try to be aware of this, and take as active a role as possible in improving our situation despite bad luck.

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
And yeah, of course there is a predictive quality to determining what's valuable, and it's hard to predict that with accuracy. But some companies do this with some consistency, right? So clearly it's not just magical inexplicable luck fairies.
For every company that does, how many are left dead by the wayside for having failed to do so? It isn't, I think we'll agree, an equal number. Not two to one, not five to one. And I don't even mean successes versus failures and mediocre treading-waters, I mean successes versus simply didn't succeed at all, had to quit the field entirely.
Oh, absolutely, predicting customer needs can be really difficult! I'm not sure if this was meant as a criticism of something I said, or if you're just making an observation.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
So yes, some (many!) people will work in such positions. That is, currently, a fact.

Do they have to? Well, no. They could do something else. They are choosing to work there because they like it compared to the alternatives that they can imagine.

You aren't being realistic. What you say may be true for an individual, it can't be true for all individuals.
It doesn't need to be. Does it?


quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
The market is always going to favor big businesses over small businesses whenever there is an economy of scale. Big businesses by definition have a lot more grunts than decision makers. Market forces mean that most people won't be able to survive being self employed. There are only so many small business the market will support. To survive, every small business to has to beat the odds. Skill and hard work increase your chances of beating the odds, but the odds still dictate that most people are going to loose.

For most people, it's not a choice between working as a grunt for a big company and starting their own business where they make all the choices. For most people, the choice is between working as a grunt for a big company or not working. There will always be lucky individual exceptions but market forces dictate that those will always be exceptions.

You do realize that there are several huge subsets of jobs between "working for a huge corporation" and "working for yourself," right? Whatever level of autonomy vs. oversight you prefer, there are lots of jobs that have precisely your preferred level of management.


quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Realistically as long as we are talking market economics, most people won't be able to work for small independent businesses where their influence the major decisions. Realistically, most people can not have any real say in the economic decisions that effect their lives.

You don't necessarily have to be able to influence major decisions to have a noticeable impact on the trajectory of a company. There are lots of jobs where you have no decisions regarding policy but your contribution to a product could nevertheless make or break that product.

It just seems like you're making some massive sweeping generalizations about what people have to do, and I don't agree.

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Rakeesh
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Dan,

Well, you're sending some mixed messages here. On the one hand, luck plays a factor but on the other hand someone who works in a big company that looks solid to most without specialized economics knowledge (or, I don't know really, you weren't very clear)-when that company goes belly up, hey, they could've known better. Not luck.

quote:
I just think that choices have a lot more to do with peoples' lives than some people credit. If you've got an architectural degree and mountains of debt and the market has dried up, that sucks! Maybe it's time to learn how to code, or to open a restaurant (pro tip: don't open a restaurant).
So...don't involve yourself in business where distant macroeconomic factors may actually kill you economically? That wouldn't be bad luck and misfortune, that's bad judgment? I really don't understand what you mean by luck, then. Unless you're killed by a dang falling meteor, chances are there were a variety of things you could've done to save your life: drive more defensively, don't walk through that neighborhood, don't eat too much fish because it might have too much mercury, don't live within a hundred miles of that nuclear plant, don't live near the coasts for hurricanes and flooding, and on and on and on.

quote:
And (again, 'cause I really think I said this already...) I don't deny that you can work in a company so large that your job has a literally negligible effect on that company. But what I said is that if that's the case, and you don't like that, then clearly that isn't the job for you.

And yes, many companies are that big, but there are also many that... aren't. It's really not hard to find a job where your contributions can have a noticeable, measurable effect on the company's trajectory, if that's important to you. And if it's not important to you, then that's also a decision you made.

Well I'll just respond to that with this: it may very well not be the job for you. Could very well be the job-for-healthcare-benefits-for-sick-child, though. Or hey, sick parent-it's their decision to get that job, right?

quote:
Oh, absolutely, predicting customer needs can be really difficult! I'm not sure if this was meant as a criticism of something I said, or if you're just making an observation.
It was meant as a criticism of your rather cavalier dismissal of the inability of working stiff who nonetheless work faithfully and well to perform this very trick task that even trained professionals regularly fail to perform.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
Dan,

Well, you're sending some mixed messages here. On the one hand, luck plays a factor but on the other hand someone who works in a big company that looks solid to most without specialized economics knowledge (or, I don't know really, you weren't very clear)-when that company goes belly up, hey, they could've known better. Not luck.

I think the reason you're getting mixed messages is because you're not taking my posts (particularly, you know, the original one, that upset you) in total, but instead focusing on specific passages. The problem is, those passages aren't accurately reflecting the aggregate of what I'm saying.

So! It's not just that I think that luck and choices both play a factor. It's that I think the majority of the time they play a factor in concert.

I'm not saying that the architect exercised poor judgment getting that degree at all! But what might be poor judgment would be if, after the architect jobs dried up, he just kept beating his head on that wall and scrabbled for vanishing contracts at vastly lower bids than he expected.

A better decision might have been to move on to a new career, perhaps one that takes less schooling than architecture, since he needs those student loans paid off ASAP. Or move. Or whatever! He needs to reassess the situation and make the best decision possible.

When bad things happen to you, you are in control of how you react and adapt to those changing circumstances. Obviously some things are so bad that you can't adapt, probably because you're dead, and that's really tragic! But in general, my only point was that often times people will make sub-optimal decisions in the face of bad luck and then place all of the blame for the situation on luck as opposed to taking responsibility for the part they played.

Hopefully that cleared up my messages.
quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:

quote:
Oh, absolutely, predicting customer needs can be really difficult! I'm not sure if this was meant as a criticism of something I said, or if you're just making an observation.
It was meant as a criticism of your rather cavalier dismissal of the inability of working stiff who nonetheless work faithfully and well to perform this very trick task that even trained professionals regularly fail to perform.
Sure, and lots of people don't have to do that.

In fact, this is why I mentioned to Rabbit that many people choose to work in a job where they don't have to make decisions like that. But that, in itself, was a choice that had a lot of impact on that person's future, right?

To push it into a more stark analogy: If I agree to let you make all my financial decisions, Rakeesh, and then you blow all my money in the stock market, I bear responsibility for my decision, right? (In case it isn't obvious, I also think you bear responsibility for your decision, but that's a separate issue.)

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Sure, and lots of people don't have to do that.

In fact, this is why I mentioned to Rabbit that many people choose to work in a job where they don't have to make decisions like that. But that, in itself, was a choice that had a lot of impact on that person's future, right?

You are still being highly unrealistic about the kinds of options most people have. Based on our many past discussions, you grossly underestimate the coercive power of the market place. Finding a job, any job, is not easy. Most people work where they work because they don't have any other practical options. When you have bills to pay and children to feed you can't just wait for a perfect (or even a good) job to come along. You have to take what you can get now.

There may be lots of great opportunities in the world, but you have to be really lucky to have one just fall in your lap. Finding and pursuing an opportunity usually takes a lot of time and effort so people have to make hard choices. Any time and effort you put into finding a new job is time and effort you can't put into advancing in your current job.

Most people make their most critical career decisions when they are in their teens and early twenties before they really understand the options or know what kind of work they will actually enjoy. Starting over again isn't an option most people have once they've acquired debts and family obligations.

Yes you are right that the choices we make play a large part in whether or not we succeed or fail, but making good choices requires at least as much dumb luck as skill.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Starting over again isn't an option most people have once they've acquired debts and family obligations.

This is so profoundly true, in fact, that economists predict that there will be a persistent economic lassitude in the age cohorts who were seeking employment out of university in 2008-2011. This will have statistically significant effects for the length of these people's lives. It's a generation of people, millions of people, who left school, had debts, wanted to start their lives, and needed to take what they could get, if they could get anything. And that will have negative impacts on them forever. It will never really go away.
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Blayne Bradley
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Why Conservatives have "always" been crazy and consistently so.

The emerging demographic crisis for Democrats

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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Starting over again isn't an option most people have once they've acquired debts and family obligations.

Of course it is.

Setting aside how difficult it may be (and it can certainly be very difficult!) many people "start over" after losing what they thought was a secure career, despite mortgages and kids' college funds and all the rest. And just like any statistical group of people, lots of them fail! Nowhere did I say that people who try are guaranteed success.

But to flatly state that it's not an option flies in the face of obvious fact. This is the kind of language that I'm objecting to.

[ March 20, 2012, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: Dan_Frank ]

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Rakeesh
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She said 'for most people'. Are you saying that for every single person who has to 'start over' (let's say with the ultimate goal of paying off debts, whether business or medical or what have you, ensuring their children are safe, healthy, and have an solid opportunity to succeed in life which includes things such as a stable, decent home in a safe neighborhood), doing these things while also maintaining their own health and ability not to eat cat food when they retire...for every single person there is a way, some way, that this can be done?

I simply don't buy it. It flies in the face of my (limited) understating of the world: that sometimes, life isn't fair. And not just unfair in the sense of 'geeze, I really gotta grab hold of my bootstraps!' but unfair in the sense that some people, even when they do all of the things right a reasonable, prudent person would (not what turns out to have been best in hindsight!), sometimes people just don't make it. I'm not saying that's what happens most of the time when people don't make it, but I don't see how anyone could deny that it does occur.

You can retain some optimism (as unhelpful as that is, really) and still recognize that sometimes things aren't going to work out, and it couldn't be avoided.

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Dan_Frank
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Rakeesh: You're asking me if I think that some people who "start over" will not succeed, and not be able to pay off their debts, and generally just end up in a crappy situation because they tried?

Yeah, absolutely. I don't think I ever said otherwise, but clearly I used ambiguous language, so: Yes. I think that's true. Some (many!) people who try to start over will fail.

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Dan_Frank
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Someone earlier talked about criteria for success, which I think is interesting and gets to some of what you and Rabbit and Orincoro have said.

If someone has a degree and can't do anything with it, did they fail? And if they instead get a job fixing cars, which they could've done without the college degree, does that mean they failed? What if they're able to feed their family with that job, and they find that they actually sort of like it? Still failure? Or did they change their criteria for success?

I think a much bigger failure would be someone who kept trying to get a nonexistent job with their now-worthless degree, and sunk further and further into debt, because they weren't willing to adapt to their new situation.

I'm not saying everyone should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, Rakeesh, nor do I necessarily think that they can. But lots of people make bad decisions, ignoring things like opportunity costs and overvaluing things like sunk costs. Ultimately, whatever luck befalls you, you're still responsible for the choices you make, and those choices drastically effect the quality of your life.

It seems like you keep thinking I'm saying something beyond this, that I'm making some sort of policy endorsement or something, but I'm not.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:

Yeah, absolutely. I don't think I ever said otherwise, but clearly I used ambiguous language, so: Yes. I think that's true. Some (many!) people who try to start over will fail.

Then what was your point? That there's a difference between technically possible and feasible? Does that point need making? Are we at the stage where it is important that we point out that it is still concievably possible to start over in life under enormous debt and with young children, and maybe with no education, or maybe we throw in a nice debilitating disease? Still technically possible.

Eh, see it just strikes me as disingenuous, to say that anybody *can* do something, as a defense (implicit or otherwise, most of yours being implicit), of the status quo; when that status quo is quite obviously favorable for some, and disfavor able for others in very glaring ways. And not like, I'm rich and your not, but like: I'm rich, and you eat gristle and Cheerios and have rickets.

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MattP
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Dan, where do you stand on the just world hypothesis? Do you think you are affected by this bias?
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Dan_Frank
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I think it makes sense as a description of a perception that many people have to some extent or another, sure.

Consciously, no, I don't think the world is somehow fundamentally just or that bad things only happen to bad people or anything like that. I grew up believing in karma, because my parents are Buddhists, but I haven't believed in it for a long time. I don't feel the need to make a victim into a bad person in my head for the world to continue to make sense.

Of course, the rub with any psychological bias is that it doesn't matter what I think, psychologists (and armchair psychologists) can decide what my unconscious biases are regardless, based on how they interpret my words and actions.

That's my answer to your question.

Your question made me think about this related statement that goes back to my previous comments:

I think that people are 100% responsible for their actions and choices. That doesn't mean that they are 100% responsible for things that happen to them. But it does mean they are responsible for how they react.

It often seems to me that people view responsibility as a fixed resource that is divvied up between various actors and external forces. So, if a guy with a good job who was beaten as a kid robs and kills someone, he is maybe 90% responsible and his upbringing is 10% responsible. And if a desperately poor person robs and kills someone, he is, say, 60% responsible, while his situation and environment is 40% responsible. Modify the percentages as you see fit.

I don't agree. Despite the fact that horrible things happen to people, because people are thinking beings they can decide how they are going to react to their circumstances. They are thus responsible for their actions. It has nothing to do with the world being just or not.

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Orincoro
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Well, you've established that you're hostile to people "deciding" what your biases are. Which reveals a rather powerful bias, by the way.

But anyway, you're sort of ignoring the heart of the issue here. The just-world hypothesis posits that we *derogate* those who are *victimized* in ways that are out of their control. We may do this to preserve a sense of order and compel ourselves to maintain a social contract, despite the existence of abhorrent results, that are *not* explained by people's choices in a rational way.

So you talking about what *is* within somebody's control is rather avoiding the meaty bits. The bias only comes in when something goes wrong- out of the victim's control.

For instance, one experiment involved a set of stories read by test subjects. They describe a normal social encounter. In the control group, the social encounter ends naturally and the group is asked to talk about the people involved; their conduct and their decision making.

Then a second group reads the same story, but in this story, the social encounter ends with a rape. In this group, the responses to the same questions show the victim of the attack derogated by the readers.

What is significant here is that people view choices as negative when the results are negative. And this leads us to hold responsible for their choices, the same people who we would laud for those choices, if they did not end in failure. This encompasses a huge range of decisions: walking to your car at night, to making a financial investment, to getting married. You can talk all you want about how people are responsible for their choices, but we only hold people "responsible" when the outcome is a bad one. Even when that outcome might not have been either foreseeable, or even likely.

I mean, you say something like: a person is 100% responsible for his choices, but not for what happens to him... So: I run across the street, and a loose cobble stone trips me, I hit my head on a tram track, a car comes around a corner, and runs me over. My fault? I am 100% responsible for my decision to run across the street. If I didn't do it, I wouldn't be dead.

Is there not a decision in life of any accident victim that could save them their suffering? Not turning left, not leaving the house 5 minutes early, not 5 minutes late, not picking a particular train, driving in the rain... on and on. What does this idea of responsibility *mean*?

ETA: I don't want you to get all insecure about this and hit the panic "You're Saying No-One is Responsible for Anything" button. I'm not saying that. I'm saying an evolved human being *examines* his willingness to blame and derogate others because he worries about the nature of the universe in which he lives.

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The Rabbit
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Dan_Frank, I'd like to apologize for implying you had "blind faith that markets rewarded people fairly". That didn't come out the way I intended. You and are on the opposite extremes of the spectrum in our opinion of free markets and we both know that. It doesn't need to be said that I think you put more faith in market fairness than I believe is reasonably justified, just like it doesn't need to be said that you most likely think that my distrust for markets is unjustified.

I didn't make the comment to insult you or even rebut what you were saying. I made it to point out that your arguments were begging the question. Given the divide between us, it isn't sufficient for you to simply say "It's not luck, it's a matter of making good choices". That is the root of our argument. If you are trying to persuade me that its probably your fault if you work for a company that fails, you've got to back it up with more than an unsupported claim.

As I understand it, the question we are discussing is why some people are more likely to see success or failure as deserved while others put more weight on the role of good fortune.

What I've learned from your points is that a person who believes that markets are usually fair is much more likely to also believe that most people get what the deserve in a market system, but that's just a circular argument. Why are some people more likely to believe that our system rewards people fairly while others are more likely to see unfairness.

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Dan_Frank
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Huge post just got eaten. Probably try to retype it later.

Grr. My own stupid fault. Meant to hit ctrl-tab and hit ctrl-r instead.

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Dan_Frank
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Here's the second attempt at this post. Still frustrated at losing the last one.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Well, you've established that you're hostile to people "deciding" what your biases are. Which reveals a rather powerful bias, by the way.

[Roll Eyes]

I wouldn't say I'm hostile.

However, I do consider large swathes of psychology to be basically hogwash. Particularly whenever it gets bogged down in behavioral genetic determinism, endorses violation of liberty, extrapolates all sorts of causation from a few correlations, and generally just engages in thoroughly awful epistemology.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
But anyway, you're sort of ignoring the heart of the issue here. The just-world hypothesis posits that we *derogate* those who are *victimized* in ways that are out of their control. We may do this to preserve a sense of order and compel ourselves to maintain a social contract, despite the existence of abhorrent results, that are *not* explained by people's choices in a rational way.

So you talking about what *is* within somebody's control is rather avoiding the meaty bits. The bias only comes in when something goes wrong- out of the victim's control.

I wouldn't say I've derogated anyone, and I think this gets to the crux of the misunderstanding.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
For instance, one experiment involved a set of stories read by test subjects. They describe a normal social encounter. In the control group, the social encounter ends naturally and the group is asked to talk about the people involved; their conduct and their decision making.

Then a second group reads the same story, but in this story, the social encounter ends with a rape. In this group, the responses to the same questions show the victim of the attack derogated by the readers.

I spent a lot more time on this analysis in the last post, but I'm too burnt out to try and recreate it in full. Here's my best attempt:

I don't know much about the experiment in question, so if my theorizing below is wrong, that's fair.

Studies and experiments don't generally provide explanations for human behavior, they provide raw data. Trying to create explanations about that data is where psychologists often go wrong.

You don't explain how the victim was derogated by the readers. In this case, while there are absolutely awful misogynistic people who will say the woman was "asking for it" or some similar garbage, I'm going to set that aside for now. If they were instead pointing out behaviors the victim engaged in that could have made her more vulnerable (e.g. leaving a drink unattended) then I don't necessarily think this illustrates the just-world perception you think it does.

Their observations after-the-fact are going to be influenced by the most important events in the story. When there is no rape, the priority of observations will be very different than when there is a rape. An unattended drink, for example, is normally totally unremarkable. But if there was a date rape, suddenly it's quite relevant and worth mentioning.

Heck, it relates to what you said here:

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:

What is significant here is that people view choices as negative when the results are negative.

Except I wouldn't say they view choices as negative, I'd say they are more likely to notice negative choices.

I'm going to go into this further below, so stay tuned.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
And this leads us to hold responsible for their choices, the same people who we would laud for those choices, if they did not end in failure. This encompasses a huge range of decisions: walking to your car at night, to making a financial investment, to getting married. You can talk all you want about how people are responsible for their choices, but we only hold people "responsible" when the outcome is a bad one. Even when that outcome might not have been either foreseeable, or even likely.

This is patently false.

We still hold people responsible for such choices, we just don't use that word. We usually call it "credit."

Means the same thing, though.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I mean, you say something like: a person is 100% responsible for his choices, but not for what happens to him... So: I run across the street, and a loose cobble stone trips me, I hit my head on a tram track, a car comes around a corner, and runs me over. My fault? I am 100% responsible for my decision to run across the street. If I didn't do it, I wouldn't be dead.

Is there not a decision in life of any accident victim that could save them their suffering? Not turning left, not leaving the house 5 minutes early, not 5 minutes late, not picking a particular train, driving in the rain... on and on. What does this idea of responsibility *mean*?

I'll dispense with the rape example for now, because rape is a very sensitive subject and comes with a lot of baggage (again, due to seriously messed up people who genuinely think women ask for it and men are to be excused for committing it, which has nothing to do with the just world bias). I'll shift the example to something less controversial. If you object for some reason, let me know.

Nobody chooses to be robbed. But people often make choices that increase their vulnerability to robbery. We do this every day, to some extent or another. This is simple risk assessment. If someone robs me, they are responsible for the robbery. I am responsible for my vulnerability to robbery. Neither invalidates or absolves the other. He's still the one that committed a morally evil and legally proscribed act, and no matter how vulnerable I made myself that isn't going to change.

I don't think that people should live in fear of robbery and take unnecessary precautions. Actually, I think that the most prevalent attitudes in our culture re: robbery are a pretty good framework for that risk assessment. Do the basic stuff like lock your doors, don't leave a laptop unattended in the passenger seat of your car, don't go wandering alone down dimly lit alleys in bad parts of town, etc. A common sense approach to robbery prevention seems like the best approach to me, so there's no reason to criticize such behavior. So if someone gets robbed, and they didn't make any egregious mistakes causing excessive vulnerability, there's not much point in discussing that aspect. It's still there, but so what?

By the same token, I think most people take reasonable precautions to avoid being hit by cars most of the time. If they are hit anyway, it's probably not worth it to criticize them unless they did something unreasonable to expose them to great risk (like sprint across the street during rush hour).

Conversely, I have a lot more problems with the prevailing cultural attitudes surrounding issues like financial planning, career and education expectations and development, and similar issues. I see a lot more to criticize in the typical ways people approach these issues, so I will do so. That doesn't change the fact that if some external force acts against them, they didn't cause that. It's not their fault if the stock market crashes. But if they had all of their money in the stock market, it may be worth observing that they exposed themselves to considerable vulnerability.

None of these potential criticisms preclude sympathy, by the way. You can be kind and sympathetic to someone's plight while still mentally observing ways they can improve for future reference. You need not point them out to them if they don't want you too, either. Unsolicited criticism rarely helps improve someone.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
ETA: I don't want you to get all insecure about this and hit the panic "You're Saying No-One is Responsible for Anything" button. I'm not saying that. I'm saying an evolved human being *examines* his willingness to blame and derogate others because he worries about the nature of the universe in which he lives.

I agree that blaming and derogating others is not usually valuable.

I also think that an evolved (rational) human being should examine his willingness to deflect responsibility and rationalize his mistakes.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Setting aside how difficult it may be (and it can certainly be very difficult!) many people "start over" after losing what they thought was a secure career, despite mortgages and kids' college funds and all the rest. And just like any statistical group of people, lots of them fail! Nowhere did I say that people who try are guaranteed success.
You are completely misinterpreting what I meant by "having the option of starting over". If you just lost everything, you don't have the option to start over, you are being forced to start over.

What I was talking about was this hypothetical guy who is working as a grunt for a big corporation and who you say has all kinds of other options. His choice is between staying with his current less than satisfying job or starting over somewhere else. As you noted, starting over somewhere else is always risky. Its going to fail a lot of the time, but sometimes it can pay off big. It isn't just a question of whether he's willing to take risks because the consequences of failure aren't the same for everyone. The consequences of failing are going to be a lot more severe for a guy who has debts to pay and children to feed than for the guy who has a hundred thousand dollar trust fund he can fall back on if needed. Legally, the two guys both have the same options. Practically speaking, the guy with few responsibilities and safety net has a lot more options in life than the guy with debts to pay and kids to feed.

Economic circumstances have the same coercive power as governments. The law doesn't physically prevent me from robbing a bank, it just increases the risk of failure. If we are being hyper-literal, bank robbery is one of everybody's options but for most of us the risk of getting caught and the associate penalties take that option off the table. Economic circumstances limit peoples options in exactly the same way as laws -- they change the consequences of failure.

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Destineer
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Well said, Rabbit. I completely agree.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
We still hold people responsible for such choices, we just don't use that word. We usually call it "credit."
Dan, What I'm getting from what you've said is that you think that as long as people are free to choose, whatever results from their choices, good or bad, is mostly fair. You seem to be saying that as long as your lot in life is the result of your choices, you deserve what you get to at least some extent. Am I understanding you correctly?

Let me give you an example. Suppose three people, Bob, Sue and Joe, each inherit $100,000 from a wealthy uncle. Joe put the money in a CD that earns 2% interest. Bob and Sue risk the full amount playing roulette. Bob bets on even, Sue bets on odd. Sue wins and walks away with $200,000. Bob looses and walks away with nothing. Do you think that its reasonable to say that to at least some extent they all got what they deserved? How much difference would it make if Bob and Sue had gambled the money playing poker or betting on the NCAA tournament instead playing roulette? What if they'd put the money into a high risk investment? If it makes a difference whether the choice involved any skill, how much skill would you say is needed to conclude that its fair that Sue won and Bob lost?

If you think the outcome at the roulette table was fair and that Bob, Sue and Joe all got what they deserved (to any degree), I think you've stripped the words "fair" and "deserve" of any real meaning. Deserve implies an equivalence between the intrinsic virtue of an action or a person and the reward. To say one persons choices deserve more reward than another necessarily implies that person is, by virtue of their choices, intrinsically more valuable than the other. If the difference between two peoples choices is the result of differences in their character -- things like hard work, dedication, creativity or their willingness to take risks, then saying one chooser deserves more than the other has some meaning. But if the differences between their choices is random chance or the result of factors beyond the choosers control, then saying one chooser deserves more than another is saying that what a person deserves has little or nothing to do with their character.

Fairness implies, at least to me, a level playing field. It implies that everyone has the same options to choose from and that the real consequences of any choice are the same for everyone. It implies that everyone faces the same rewards and penalties for making a "good" or "bad" choice.

Perhaps in this case that seems true to you. Bob, Sue and Joe all risk loosing or gaining $100,000 at the roulette table. But that ignores the very real fact the benefits and costs of gaining $100,000 dollars are not the same for everyone. Suppose in our example that Bob is young and single. Bob's wealthy influential father was able to help him find a job where he earns $200,000 a year and has given him a trust fund worth $1,000,000. If he looses a hundred grand, he can take it out of his trust and he has plenty of time to make it up before he retires. Loosing or winning a $100,000 isn't going to make any real difference in his life. It won't open or close any doors.

Sue has a job earning $50,000 a year, no savings and two kids that are almost college age. A hundred thousand dollars would make it possible for her to send her kids to an elite University. Another hundred thousand would allow her to start her own business, go back to school or save for a better retirement. For her, that money could make a huge difference in her life but without it she'll still be OK.

Joe also works earning $50,000 a year, has two kids and no real savings. One of his kids has a serious illness and has run up $90,000 in unpaid medical bills. Because of that, Joe's salary no longer covers all his bills. Without the hundred thousand dollars, he's facing loosing his house. Just like Sue, an additional hundred thousand would open up lots of opportunity for Joe, but without the first hundred grand his family is going to end up homeless.

To me, saying the outcome of this scenario was in any way fair because everyone had the same options ignores the fact that these people were absolutely not faced with the same choice. The consequences of winning or loosing were not the same. The rewards of winning and the penalty for loosing were not equal for these three people. Even if all three people have the same basic willingness to take risks and the same understanding of the risks, they aren't faced with making the same choice.

Their choices are going to say more about their circumstances than their character, and that is the opposite of what I mean by "deserving" and "fairness".

[ March 21, 2012, 11:04 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Without the hundred thousand, she can keep living a OK middle class life but a hundred thousand dollars would make it possible for her to send her kids to an elite University.

[nitpick]

What elite university costs $12,500 a year? (Two kids, so 8 years.) Most state schools cost almost that much these days.

[/nitpick]

(I heartily agree with your larger point, though.)

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Without the hundred thousand, she can keep living a OK middle class life but a hundred thousand dollars would make it possible for her to send her kids to an elite University.

[nitpick]

What elite university costs $12,500 a year? (Two kids, so 8 years.) Most state schools cost almost that much these days.

[/nitpick]

(I heartily agree with your larger point, though.)

[nitpick]

Yes, I know attending an elite privite school like Stanford, Cal Tech or Harvard will cost a lot more than the $12,500 per year, but I didn't say that $100,000 would pay the full cost of sending two kids to an elite University. I said it would make it possible. I don't think its that outlandish to think an extra $12,500/year per kid would make that difference for a lot of middle income people.
[/nitpick]

(If your point was that a college education, even at state schools, has become exorbitantly expensive for most middle income people, I hardily agree.)

[ March 21, 2012, 11:44 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Orincoro
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It's become *scandalously* expensive to attend: "public" universities. Even more so for people who are expected to fork over half or more of their family's disposable income, just because they technically can.
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