Monday, May 11, 2009

So here's today's question

Is there, or ought there to be, a minimum standard of living to which everyone should be entitled, simply by being born?
I say yes. There are quite a few out there, it seems, who say no.

I got to debating this the other day. Probably shouldn't have bothered, but then, I'm a masochist. I set forth my position, which is that food, clean water, and some kind of shelter should be granted everyone and anything beyond that subsistence level should be earned. A man calling himself "ScottSA", with whom I've locked horns before, retorted

People's "birthright" is to be born, Ken. Nothing more. Everything else is situational.

On the issue of clean water, he expounded:

The people who don't have clean drinking water are acclimatized to not having clean drinking water for the most part, Ken, which explains why the terms "Delhi belly" and "Montezuma's revenge" came to describe the intestinal problems unacclimatized visitors have when visiting there, and NOT to the people who live there. Yes, there are occasionally cholera and other epidemics, usually during the monsoons when no water source is safe, no matter how many Starbucks bottles are sold to hempen clad latte sippers, and yes, down by the auld Yangzie River the chemical seeps are atrocious, but for the most part "clean water" is a function of relativity for all the difference it makes.

And he finished up with this:

But you know what makes it so funny and entertaining to argue with you Ken? Because inside the whirlwind of straw you insist on covering everything with is a black and white world in which one is either a scrooge or a mahatma and ne'er do the twain meet. If I object to paying for your "birthright," it suddenly becomes "greed" and is tantamount to me riding a gold plated elephant howda through the slums of Bombay, tossing pennies to the urchins. You make of yourself a laughing stock, sir.

Oh, by the way, why are you trying to force your opinion on my wallet as the "One true Way?"

That kind of set me on edge.

I responded:

I'm not trying to "force" anything, Scott, least of all my opinion. I'm looking to see if there's some minimum standard of living that you find acceptable. There isn't. That's okay. Just be aware it says a lot more about you than it does about me.

By the way, you might wish to compare infant mortality rates between Canada and a place like Sierra Leone. If indeed being born is one's birthright, it seems we have some work to do. It'll cost, though. Still think being born's okay? Or should we just sterilize the Third World? Wouldn't that solve some problems, eh?

Re dirty water: perhaps while you're checking out the infant mortality rates, you can also check out the life expectancies in such places. You can find them in the same place. You'll note that those life expectancies are consistently lower than ours, often by quite a large margin. Hmmm. Might be (in part) something or somethings in the water, do you think?

I know, any kind of life expectancy--any kind of LIFE--isn't part of the agreed-upon birthright. Just being born's okay, right? So...are you for infanticide, and if so, what methods do you prefer? Or are people perhaps entitled to a wee bit more than just being born?

It's been two days. He's posted a myriad of things since then, but hasn't addressed any of my questions. Perhaps he feels they're stupid questions.
Personally, I think it's stupid to grant someone life but not make any provisions whatsoever for that life after the instant of birth.

I'll be honest ideal world includes a maximum, as well as a minimum, wage. The notion of a maximum wage absolutely infuriates many conservatives, who resent any ceiling on compensation for their hard work. My response: it is nothing short of immoral, in a world where many have next to nothing, to have a superabundance; to have such a superabundance and still require more is proof of a mental disorder.
(And again to clarify: my idea of a "superabundance" is arbitrary. If I was to pick a number out of a hat, it'd be five million dollars per annum, but I'm open to suggestions. The idea is a number sufficiently high so that anyone insisting they need more to live would be considered quite insane.)
But we have a long way to go and many paradigms to shift before we can even begin to address this rampant inequality of opportunity. Right now, we're at the stage where I say something like "everybody should have, at a bare minimum, x" and the immediate, and howling, response is "but x will cost me money!"
(This is yet another thing world government would...will...solve. Give us a few centuries. If we haven't blown ourselves up, we just might evolve to it.)

In the meantime, do you believe in a subsistence standard of living for all? If not, why not?


Rocketstar said...

That's a really tough questions with many different facets to it, far too many to discuss in one post.

Shoudl all humans be afforded basic sustenance, kind of like human rights? I would say yes, every nation has the duty to provide basic sustenance and education to its citizens.

But what if that nation doesn't have the ability to provide the basics, is it the "haves" that should provide for them? If they can, yes but they shoudl not be forced to.

Then questions come up, should the providing nation be able to place certain rules upon the accepting nation as far ass population growth etc... to ensure it is doing everything it can to resolve the issue.

It's a tough and compicated question but in basic terms, basic needs for all, yes.

Russel Trojan said...

The problem with the "right" to a minimum standard of living is that it is impossible for everyone to claim that right.

If an individual is born without the means to attain a minimum standard of living, and there is no one to provide a minimum standard of living, then that individual has been deprived of his/her rights.

But by who?

The right to life gives someone the privilege (for lack of a better word) of being alive. And, makes anyone who ends that life without valid reasons a violator of a commonly accepted morality.

The right to a minimum standard of living gives nothing to the individual. Except possibly the right to demand the fruits of someone else's labor. Such a right demandsn the existence a person or thing beyond the individual to insure the right. It should be noted, that rights generally protected rather than enforced.

While I firmly believe that a minimum standard of living is a good thing, it cannot be a right. It is an act of compassion. Else those who lack by either slight or sloth have the right to demand the property of another. And I find it difficult to accept that a true right would, by design, punish those who honestly succeed.