Book Club: On Inequality 1, Economic equality as a moral ideal

Time to get started with a new book! This time it’s going to be Harry Frankfurt’s On Inequality, an obviously current topic. Frankfurt, of course, is the author of a number of well received, often slim and incisive, books, most famously On Bullshit, where he clarifies, among other things, the distinction between a liar (one who knows the truth, and uses it to effectively deceive others) and a bullshitter (one who uses a chaotic mix of truths, half truths and lies in order to get whatever he wants — the current President of the United States arguably being the archetypal example).

Frankfurt divides On Inequality into two parts: economic equality as a moral ideal, and equality and respect. I will discuss the first part here and the second one in my next post.

The discussion of economic equality as a moral ideal begins with Frankfurt’s statement that the most fundamental social challenge in the United States today is not that people’s incomes are widely unequal, but that too many people are poor. In order to begin to back up this notion, he points out that, after all, we wouldn’t want to eliminate income inequality by making everyone poor. Frankfurt immediately acknowledges that there is a number of people in the US that have far more than is necessary to flourish, and whom he says are guilty of “economic gluttony.” Economic gluttony is a “ridiculous and disgusting spectacle,” but reduction in inequality would be a side effect of combating both poverty and economic gluttony, and should not be a primary goal in itself.

One of the reasons we need to rein in economic gluttony, argues Frankfurt, is that it carries a number of potentially anti-democratic effects, as when few very wealthy people essentially control political power through their money and influence. But, Frankfurt argues, many people seem to think that economic inequality is inherently morally problematic, a position that he regards as highly questionable. As he puts it:

“From the point of view of morality, it is not important that everyone should have the same. What is morally important is that each should have enough.” (p. 6)

Frankfurt writes that being preoccupied with how much money other people have is alienating, in the sense that such preoccupation distracts us from reflecting on what is it that makes our own life worth living, and therefore from which focusing on the resources we actually need to pursue such a life. The result is that:

“The doctrine of equality contributes to the moral disorientation and shallowness of our time.” (p. 14)

The chapter proceeds by considering a number of arguments often being made in support of the idea that inequality is undesirable. Frankfurt discusses several of these, aiming to show that economic equality only has value in a derivative manner, not per se. This strikes me as correct, but I also wonder who would, in fact, argue for an intrinsic moral worth — i.e., regardless of consequences — of equality.

One such example is based on the principle of diminishing marginal utility. The idea is that more economic equality maximizes aggregate utility, i.e. the aggregate satisfactions of members of society. This, in turn, derives from the rather hard to doubt notion that a marginal dollar brings less utility to someone who is already rich than to someone less wealthy.

But, Frankfurt counters, the demand for some kinds of goods will increase as a result of redistribution of wealth, because more people will want those goods, driving the corresponding prices higher. The outcome will be that any progress made by the most poor will be offset by a decreasing purchasing power of the middle class, thus — on average — nullifying the benefit of wealth redistribution.

Well, maybe. To begin with, it is not clear to me why one wouldn’t also see a countering effect due to the fact that at least some of the goods that come to be in large demand will be more efficiently produced, at increasingly lower costs. Moreover, this sort of conclusion cannot be reached simply on the basis of a qualitative argument. Detailed quantitative simulations, ideally backed up by empirical evidence gathered in the field, are necessary.

A bit later on (section IV of the first part), Frankfurt engages in one of those philosophical thought experiments which I increasingly think miss the point, and may arguably be misleading. He invites us to imagine an hypothetical situation where there is a limited number of resources, so that some, but not all members of a given population will survive. It is easy to contrive the numbers in such a way that forcing people to share equally — thus eliminating inequality — will result in everyone’s death. This is supposed to show that equality is not an inherent moral good.

No kidding, I would respond. First, again, I doubt anyone has sensibly suggested that equality is good per se (Frankfurt nowhere in the book provides direct evidence to back up this claim). Second — and most importantly — yes, in the highly artificial situation imagined by Frankfurt it would be grotesque to insist on equality. But no modern society is even close to being in such a situation, rendering the whole thought experiment rather silly.

In section V Frankfurt rejects what he sees as the widespread moral intuition that inequality is objectionable in itself, and suggests that what people find problematic is, again, that fact that some have to little:

“Mere differences in the amounts of money people have are not in themselves distressing. We tend to be quite unmoved, after all, by inequalities between those who are very well-to-do and those who are extremely rich.” (p. 41)

The underlying idea here is that the two doctrines of sufficiency and equality are logically independent, and that one cannot simply deploy arguments in favor of one as if they were pertinent to the other. Frankfurt goes so far as accusing egalitarians of hypocrisy, pointing out that many are quite happy to accept large incomes that are not justified on the basis of their own theories. This, again, is what happens when one confuses sufficiency (which truly is desirable) with equality (which is not, except in terms of certain indirect consequences, such as disproportionate political influence).

The flip side of the coin when it comes to the “hypocritical” egalitarians actually reinforces Frankfurt’s point: these same people don’t seem bothered by the fact that others make a lot more money, so long as they make enough to be reasonably free to pursue their own goals. I certainly count myself in the latter group: I don’t care, per se, how much more money some people make compared to me, because I’m lucky enough to be able to live the kind of life I want to live. That freedom of mine, however, does not obtain for a lot of people who make less than I do. But here Frankfurt strikes me as being right: the situation of these people is problematic not because they make less than others, but because they do not make enough. Insufficiency, not inequality, is the problem.

Frankfurt is careful (p. 25) to stress that “having enough” does not just mean enough to survive, or to live a tolerable life. That, for human beings in modern societies, is not, in fact, enough. “Enough” means an amount of wealth sufficient to pursue the kind of goals one is interested in pursuing. In my case, for instance, living in a large cosmopolitan city, enjoying at least some of its offerings, and being able to devote much of my time to reading and writing.

Moreover, “enough” also doesn’t mean that the person in question couldn’t benefit from, or would not welcome, additional income. When the State of New York finally renewed its teachers’ contract (after five years of stalling), I got a significantly larger paycheck. I did not need it in order to live the life I want to live, but it was welcome nonetheless. The point, as Frankfurt articulates it, is that I did not have an “active interest” in getting a higher salary. When I got it, it was a nice bonus, which allows me to do a few more things. But I was not preoccupied in the least by the missing money (as much as it was ethically and legally due to me by the State of New York).

It was refreshing to see that Frankfurt — going against what I will call the Wall Street ethos, for lack of a better term — doesn’t think there is anything wrong with people who take my attitude toward money:

“There are quite reasonable people who feel that their lives are good enough, and that it is not important to them whether their lives are as good as possible. The fact that a person lacks an active interest in getting something does not mean, of course, that he prefers not to have it.” (p. 55)

In a sense, says Frankfurt, the situation is similar to a man who is deeply in love with a woman and is happy about his relationship. It would be perverse to criticize him on the ground that, if he really tried, he could do “better,” quite regardless of the fact that there obviously isn’t a single measure of “better” out there, and of the even more obvious fact that the amount of money in one’s bank account certainly is no such measure.

This leads us to the end of the first part of On Inequality. In the next post of this series I will tackle what Frankfurt has to say about the relationship between equality and respect.

144 thoughts on “Book Club: On Inequality 1, Economic equality as a moral ideal

  1. synred

    and if, moreover, it is actually easier to address X than Y, then it is a mistake

    So that is an empirical claim. I don’t think it true, but that X and Y are not conceptually related is irrelevant. It’s a question of strategy. It’s probably best to try both, but it is damned hard to fix injustice when the opposition is loaded.

    A proper scientific investigation is likely impossible (takes money for one thing), but the natural diversity of opinion means that both approaches will be tried. Both may fail, but over time there’s been some modest progress (now in reverse, but the struggle will continue and I suspect not end till the heat death of the universe).


    Liked by 1 person

  2. synred

    Attempt to post a comment on specific text of the book.

    To do this I had make comment in word, and use ‘snip’ to extract the relevant quote. It may well be too awkward…but clicking on the link should bring it up.

    At least WordPress won’t be able to toss it away.


  3. Daniel Kaufman

    Massimo: I think it is a better reading of the case that you gave than yours. I’m sorry that irritates you, but that’s what I actually think. And it’s not some crazy view that I just came up with. It runs through Ross, Prichard, and other equally respected moral philosophers.

    I have no interest in “victories.” This isn’t a competition. I’m simply telling you what I think. And it’s not some random thought I just coughed up. This is stuff I’ve done quite a bit of work on and teach regularly — I just taught “The Right and the Good” last week. That doesn’t make my views are correct, of course, but it does mean that they deserve to be taken seriously and not just shrugged off.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Disagreeable Me (@Disagreeable_I)

    Hi Massimo,

    I didn’t say that fundamental values are immutable, only that they are not really amenable to being overthrown by philosophical argument or empirical evidence. I said they were more likely to be changed by personal experience.

    Finding that your child is homosexual is the kind of thing I would regard as in the category of personal experience. Calling it empirical evidence seems like a stretch, because it’s not necessarily that some empirical belief about homosexuals is being falsified (except I guess that one’s child is not a homosexual), it’s more that your personal experience of homosexuality in a loved one causes a change in your values. Again I would make a parallel to aesthetic appreciation. I didn’t like the taste of wine at all when I first tasted it as a child. Indeed it was shockingly unpalatable. But I quite like it now! I don’t think this is because empirical evidence overcame a value judgement. I think it’s because my personal experience with wine led to a process where my aesthetic appreciation of it changed over time.

    I don’t think your example of rap music is particularly convincing if you’re giving an example of listening to music with which you are not already acquainted, and then immediately deciding you like it on your first listen. If you are not already acquainted with a piece of music, your predicted appreciation of it cannot be fundamental but must be based on expectations set up by exposure to similar pieces of music — your prediction is therefore not a free-standing gut reaction but based on a falsifiable assumption that you will feel the same way about all rap music the way you have felt about all rap music you are acquainted with.

    If on the other hand you mean that greater exposure to a piece of music or genre you initially find distasteful can lead to an appreciation of that music over time, then I agree, but then that’s just the wine example again. It’s not that empirical evidence shows your initial reaction to be incorrect, but that personal experience can over time change our value judgements.

    Now, of course the claim “I will never like rap music no matter how much I listen to it” is of course falsifiable, but that’s not a value judgement, that’s an empirical claim. A value judgement is “I don’t like rap music right now”.

    Sorry but Ifind your numerical example so artificial that it is irrelevant. The reality is that there is a small percentage of people who are orders of magnitude more wealthy than the overwhelming majority of humanity,

    I don’t deny that, but that’s what I was trying to work with in my example. You think 97 isn’t enough orders of magnitude more than 1? OK, make the ratio between the wealth of the rich class and the poor class 1,000,000 : 1 instead. You think 3 poor people for 1 rich person is not enough? Fine. Say there are 1,000,000 poor people for every rich person. So, in a representative sample of 1,000,001 people, the total wealth is $2,000,000, and the total population is 1,000,001, so the average wealth is going to be about $2 per person however it is distributed.

    But if we redistribute the wealth so each person actually has $2, then the median wealth doubles from $1 to $2. The only part of my analysis that doesn’t generalise is the bit where I compared the relative effect on the rich person and the poor person — now the rich person’s wealth is divided by a factor of 500,000 and the poor people’s wealth is only doubled. So this part of the analysis is flawed and I should never have included it. I would still say the redistribution is justifiable because the fact that the rich person suffers such a big hit is compensated for by the increased fortunes of the million who benefit.

    No matter how you set up a population with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, massive equalising redistribution of that wealth will leave the averages the same while raising the median. There is no sense in which average standards can be said to decline. Standards will decline only for the elite. For everybody else, they will increase, not in spite of but precisely because there are so many poor people — so many people who will benefit from the redistribution.


  5. brodix

    Back to the economy;

    The function of the economy is to cooperatively work toward a generally secure and stable life for the community. This generates capital, in the form of reserve assets. These will not necessarily be distributed evenly and that, in many cases might not be productive, in that some people might be better at increasing the overall capital than others. Ref; The parable of the ten talents. So while equality might be a pleasant debate, it is fairly meaningless to the effective functioning of the economy.
    The broader issue is how this plays out over time, as successful pursuits and enterprises will degrade over time and others will rise to the fore.
    So to propose feasible oughts from this is, one needs to understand how and why this cycle plays out. For one thing, what will invariably prevail are the most organized and focused groups of people, even if their goals are otherwise unintelligible. Take the US military, for instance; It evidently has no real, pressing function, given the amount of effort currently being put into resurrecting the Soviet Union as a boogeyman. Yet it is the premier jobs and industrial program this country has and that is what drives it to the top of the pile of state largess.
    A significant reason for this is the financialization of the rest of the economy, where every possible ounce of value is drawn out and levered up to the maximum amount of notational capital, necessarily squeezing the actual funds flowing through society.
    Resulting in an economy where the military is a major jobs program and weapons industry that has very sufficient funding, compared to most.
    What does make the cycle complete though, is that that accumulated store of notational wealth needs to find some use, as the investment world is flooded with money seeking returns. So the government borrows up large amounts of this underemployed capital and uses it to put underemployed people to work.
    Which makes our bloated military the piggybank of our bloated financial elites.
    Is this sustainable? No. Way. What is going to happen, if not war?
    When the bubble of debt can no longer keep growing, then investors will “run for the exits.” Given this has been sustained for the last thirty years with ever looser interest rates, it is not likely the Fed is suddenly going to grow a spine and try to prevent the collapse of the dollar, by letting the stock market collapse. Logically resulting in serious inflation, that will mostly affect those remaining in the middle, as their commitment the system is most encompassing.

    One suspects disaster capitalism will come home to roost, as neo-feudalism.

    Suffice to say, equality is not going to play a large part in this, other than within whatever social units coalesce within the mess.

    Though after the dust starts to settle, in another twenty or thirty years, maybe humanity will realize Mother Nature still rules and we might better learn her rules. What goes up, will come down and you don’t want to hit the end of your chain at a dead run.


  6. Massimo Post author


    Yes, that one is an empirical claim, and I think likely correct. But it wouldn’t even get off the ground if one did not agree with the logical premise that the two are conceptually independent.


  7. Massimo Post author


    I’m not irritated at all, I just think you and the philosophers you mention are wrong, after giving it much thought myself.

    The reference to a Pyrrhic victory was not meant to imply that you want to win, of course it’s not a competition. But that phrase is standard usage to indicate making a point that becomes self-defeating:


  8. Massimo Post author


    Thanks for the valiant attempt, but I just boarded a flight to Italy and I’ll soon be sipping some good wine with my dinner. As often, I find your arguments clever, but ultimately unconvincing. But I thank you for the earnest exchange.


  9. synred

    the logical premise that the two are conceptually independent.

    Well, I’ve granted that all ready…I’ve shifted my understanding of ‘conceptually independent’ means.


  10. Robin Herbert

    The problem with too much inequality is, as I understand it, that the market in general is setting prices and a disparate income level with raise the poverty line.

    For example the price of a standard basket of groceries will depend upon what most people in the market can afford to pay, and companies have to pay market salaries and provide income streams to their investors that match the expectation of the general investor.

    So when there is too great a disparity of income levels there will naturally be an increase in the number of people who can’t afford, or struggle to afford that standard basket of groceries.

    And obviously the same goes for all other goods – housing, medicine etc.

    So, while it is true that the problem is poverty and not inequality per se, too much of the latter leads to an increase in the former.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. synred

    I propose to deal further, in this section of my
    book, with issues that pertain to the alleged moral
    value of equality. So far as I am aware, nothing I
    shall say concerning these issues implies anything
    of substance as to the kinds of social or political
    policies it may be desirable to pursue or to avoid. My
    discussion is motivated exclusively by conceptual or
    analytic interests. It is not inspired or shaped by any
    social or political ideology.

    Page 65.

    =>This would seem to indicate that what Frankfurt is interested in is largely irrelevant to the issue of “What is to be done?.”

    PS. I learned how to use OneNote to transform an image into text. A workable solution. While still a bit awkward for me, it at least allows quotations from the book to be posted in the usual manner.


  12. Robin Herbert


    So you and Coel keep saying, despite both very good arguments and even empirical evidence against that proposition.

    There may be. I haven’t seen any. I am not sure what sort of empirical evidence or reasoning would show that there is a form of moral reasoning that did not depend, ultimately, on intuition or desire.

    I do recall that when I asked the question that, as it seemed to me, exposed where the desire and intuition came into Utilitarianism I was told that I should not even ask that question, that it was “going meta” and that meta ethics were not relevant.

    But in order to maintain that Utilitarianism, for example, does not depend upon intuition or desire, it is necessary to avoid asking the question of why the Utilitarian, at each decision, chooses to apply the Utilitarian principle rather than, say, self interest.

    Because what other reason could there be than that the Utilitarian either has an intuition that the benefits to society in general outweigh his self interest, or else that he prefers to do things that benefit society in general rather than benefiting just himself?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. saphsin

    I understand that you wrote proficiently on ethics and wrote a book and blog posts. I don’t see the relevance however as I wasn’t bragging, I was saying that I brought it up multiple times and I didn’t feel it was take into account and addressed.

    As for whether we should bring up people’s direct needs rather than systematic problems of inequality, I probably agree on its greater effectiveness. Actually that’s what Bernie Sanders did with his discussion of wealth inequality, he explicitly condemned wealth inequality, but tied it to social secuirty, medical care, college tuition, etc.

    I understand the point, I just think systematic structures can also be considered unjust. They’re immoral because they’re intentionally designed systems that inflict injustice. I honestly don’t see why logical independence is a problem. From what I quoted before.

    “On Inequality is a case against the intrinsic moral value of equality. The word “intrinsic” is vital to Frankfurt’s approach. Without it, his argument is obviously false. With it, however, it is not clear what his argument is against. What does “intrinsic” mean here?

    Often, Frankfurt’s demand for a defense of equality’s “intrinsic” moral value is a request for a defense of equality that does not appeal to any other values. It’s not clear why this demand should matter: Sufficiency can’t meet this standard either. Its moral value derives from its relationship to happiness, but that doesn’t trouble Frankfurt. If that approach to justification is appropriate, egalitarians can defend their view by demonstrating that equality is morally valuable because equality is constitutive of a more basic moral value. ”


  14. synred

    I categorically reject the presumption that egalitarianism, of whatever variety, is an ideal of any intrinsic moral importance. This emphatically does not mean that I am inclined generally to endorse or to be indifferent to prevailing inequalities, or that I oppose efforts to eliminate or to ameliorate them. In fact, I support many such efforts. What leads me to support them, however, is not a conviction that equality of some kind is morally desirable for its own sake and that certain egalitarian goals are therefore inherently worthy. Rather, it is a more contingent and pragmatically grounded belief that in many circumstances greater equality of one sort or another would facilitate the pursuit of other socially or politically desirable aims. I am convinced that equality as such has no inherent or underived moral value at all.

    From page 65-66.

    I have no serious problem with this paragraph. I don’t care whether or not ‘moral value’ is derived or not.

    However, it does seem to contradict earlier statements which rather explicitly discourage the pursuit of equality on the basis that it’s better (more effective?) to attack the root problem. That may or may not be so.

    And also is in conflict the places where he accuses us ‘egalitarians’ of hypocrisy for positions we don’t advocate.

    I feel that unequal is unfair. Even monkey’s feel this. But in the bigger picture the existence of extreme poverty is more important and reducing inequality, so as to give the poor the means and power to move up is more important.

    Getting rid of Citizen United and not equating money with speech would be a good start.


  15. Coel

    It being sufficiently rare that I agree with Dan on a philosophical issue that I might as well make the most of it. 🙂

    Massimo says (to DM),

    I understand that you, like Coel, maintain that “the most fundamental values” (like what, for instance?) cannot be challenged by empirical evidence. But that is simply wrong. People who have held to lifelong homophobic beliefs (“values”) have instantly changed their mind when they found out that their own children were homosexual, an empirical discovery that immediately crumbled their prejudice.

    My analysis:

    Value 1: Being gay is wrong
    Value 2: I love my children unconditionally and want what’s best for them.

    So far the values are compatible and cause no problem; Fred holds to both. Then comes:

    Fact 1: Fred’s son passes through puberty and reveals that he is gay.

    Thus, V1 and V2 are now in direct conflict. This causes emotional turmoil. One of them has to give. V2 trumps V1, and V1 is rejected.

    I don’t think it makes sense to say that Fact 1 overcomes V1 by itself. To see this, consider a father who didn’t love his son, and actually hated and despised him. In that case, discovering that he was gay would just be (given Value 1) another reason to reject him.

    Or ask yourself why it matters that it is his son who is gay, and not, say, 16-yr-old Paolo in Santiago. Facts are morally impotent in themselves, they cause changes to values only in the service of (other) values.

    (NB, the above is of course way over-simplified, in order to highlight the principle, there are of course lots of other facts and values in the mix.)


  16. davidlduffy

    From a very long review by David Rondel [Can J Philosoph 2016]:

    “Economic egalitarianism of the sort described by Frankfurt does not have many defenders, making it tempting to dismiss the argument as attacking a ‘drily formalistic doctrine’ to which virtually no one is committed. (Frankfurt 1988, 156) Apart from a small handful of historical eccentrics, it is unclear who
    actually endorses the position Frankfurt rejects. A careful look at the voluminous egalitarian literature will reveal that no one seriously replies to the famous question ‘Equality of what?’ with the answer ‘money.’ It is not an accident, of course, that economic inequalities have occupied a central place in egalitarian theory and politics. For one thing, money is closely bound up with freedom, both in the ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ senses of that value. Having money permits one to do a host of things that one could not otherwise do. Not having money by contrast severely constrains the range of activities one is free to pursue. Money is relationally significant as well. This is because in free market societies money can become what Walzer (1983) has called a ‘dominant good’ ­- a good whose possession enables the individuals who have it to command a wide
    range of other goods. A person who has money can buy Persian carpets, Italian suits, Swiss watches, and German automobiles, but she can also secure a better education for her children, influence the outcome of an election, change the editorial tone of a newspaper, and endow a university chair (Waldron 1995, 146).
    Frankfurt himself is sensitive to the fact that those with greater wealth often enjoy unjust advantages over those with less…

    “It is commonly argued on these and similar grounds that economic inequality in a society should be kept within reasonable limits…The important thing to see is that this is not an argument for an equal distribution
    of money…

    “Witness Robert Goodin’s case of ‘The ignorant worker who has not realized that they are paying higher wages up North.’ This worker ‘is deemed satisfied with his sharecropping arrangements and the
    debt peonage that it entails’ and thus, on Frankfurt’s account, might be said to have enough. (Goodin 1987, 49) Sufficientarians have tried to respond to these challenges by defining the threshold in more objective ways, within an account of basic natural needs for example. Yet, as Casal rightly points out in her importance article, ‘given their reliance on a conception of adequate longevity or functioning, natural thresholds still lie on a continuum of eligible alternatives.’ (Casal 2007, 313)

    “Why here and not higher or lower? What we have is a smooth continuum of possible levels of overall capability for flourishing … I do not see how any unique level (not even a broad thick line) can be picked out such that if a person has that level, she has ‘enough’. (Arneson 2000, 56)

    “…[t]he sufficiency doctrine has no prescriptive power regarding differences above and below the threshold. So understood, the doctrine of sufficiency clearly has unacceptable consequences. If the sufficientarian’s only concern is to maximize the number of people who are sufficiently well off, given that 2 people cannot be moved above the threshold, it will not matter if one dies a terrible death at age 6 whereas the other dies a quick, painless death at age 20. (Arneson 2002, 189)”

    [my emphases]

    I don’t think a pivot to discussing lifespans and health are irrelevant at all to economic sufficiency and economic equality, if only because health and longevity are goods that we are spending more and more on. Perhaps there can be an ideal society with huge economic inequality but free universal health coverage, a minimum income (whether UBI or minimum wage) for all that supports a lifestyle that all agree is comfortable, 100% death duties so hereditary accumulation is impossible, and controls of the political system such that wealth gives no extra voice over that of the poorest person.

    No. To my simple mind money represents Joules, and personal wealth represents ability to do work for me. I can’t see how that be completely fenced off from the other good things of life such as health, and it is not a coincidence that health makes its appearance in the Universal Declaration as it does, not as something individuals can own more of. How that fits into a propertarian view of society is that it can’t – there will have to be some kind of working compromise. Forget about automation and joblessness – how about a 400 year lifespan for the rich and 80 for everyone else? Will it not be unjust to resent that?


  17. Coel

    As for empirical support and falsifiability, well nothing in human psychology is that easy to study reliably, but here’s an example in-principle study:

    Take a large sample of homophobes with young children. When the child is age 8 (before the parent knows whether they’ll turn out gay) assess the strength of parental love and parent-child bond. Then wait ten years, pick all those whose children turned out gay, and evaluate how homophobic they still are.

    Prediction given my above analysis: the stronger the parental love at age 8, the more likely the homophobia will have been rejected.

    Prediction from the “it’s purely about facts” hypothesis: the strength of parental love would have no effect on how likely they are to have rejected homophobia.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Massimo Post author


    Nobody ever said that empirical evidence or arguments about these matters are easy. I am simply objecting to your own definition of your position, which, insofar as I can see, is entirely impervious to either argument or empirical evidence. Hence my unwillingness to engage in further discourse with you.


  19. synred


    My main objection to wealth inequality is the leads to power inequality and that leads to poverty. It’s not necessarily conceptual relation, but a causal relation.

    I don’t really buy the argument that inequality has no intrinsic immorality to it. Even monkey’s object to being treated unfairly even if cucumbers are sufficient!

    However, it doesn’t matter. The effects of inequality are enough to object to it and reducing it is I think an effective way to improve things.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. synred

    Forget about automation and joblessness – how about a 400 year lifespan for the rich and 80 for everyone else? Will it not be unjust to resent that?

    It may be coming. It’s already here at a much lower level.


  21. brodix

    It seems to me that possibly trying to understand the economic utility of equality, through the lens of morality, might have it backward. That if one goes back and studies aboriginal societies and postulates forward, it is the economic utility of sharing which could well give rise to the moral instinct of equality.


  22. synred

    I just saw Gary Cohn at today’s white house briefing say (w.r.t. tax plan) “What the American people care about is what they take home.” May be so, but if Trump pays less somebody pays more (or the deficit balloons which Repugs don’t like).

    Sounds ‘unfair’ to me whatever the ‘concepts’ involved are…


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