Ethics of Time and Place

6 Sep , 2005  

I was listening to this Best of the 90’s mix I downloaded from that popular bittorrent site, when I came across that dumb song from 1995 “I Believe” by Blessid Union of Souls. Since I was deep into writing a retarded paper I did not really notice until a line came up about ruining the future with things we do today.

Now, there really isn’t much debating about whether we actually do ruin the future with actions today. It is pretty well known that human beings as a whole don’t care much about the future unless it is there immediate future. When sacrifices have to be made today for tomorrow, we usually ignore them or do them half-assed. So is the way it has been and probably will be for a long time. Why? Probably something having to do with capitalism or being mortal and not caring about things that occur after we die.

However, morally everyone is inclined to examine their actions in reference to both the present and the future (as well as the past, if it were possible to time travel). It is the same kind of argument used to illustrate moral responsibility regardless of distance. The easiest example is the drowning baby. A baby drowning in a shallow pool, you walk by, morally you are bound to save the baby. What person wouldn’t? To illustrate why distance doesn’t matter, the details can be changed so that you can “mail in” your saving part, so you do not even have to be there. This is roughly equivalent to sending a check to a relief organization.

Time works in much the same fashion. Imagine that you know the baby is going to drown and by your actions today, you can save the baby. You are morally bound to do so. Of course in social science nothing is that exact. However, one can easily see the parallel is, say, calculating a 70% chance of baby drowning and putting in equal amounts of effort to keep the even from actually happening.

Sure this kind of analysis does not work all the time, and it is very easy to get around it by selectively predicting outcomes in the future that require no effort today (i.e. predicting the best case scenario). But I think if everyone had the same mindfulness to the future, they may yet be able to claim that they are moral people.

By the way, I am not moral, and make no claims to be. I like writing about morality because of 10 people I approach on the street asking if they are moral, almost 10/10 will say “oh yes I am,” which pisses me off to no end. That is about the time where I start systematically destroying their sense of morality. Remember, it is ok to be immoral. Most people are. Don’t worry about what God thinks either … even if he exists he doesn’t care.

One response to “Ethics of Time and Place”

  1. Tom M says:

    Capitalism seems to be a recurring theme as a scapegoat for the world’s ills for you, so I will try to address it here.

    Capitalism, as defined by wikipedia:
    In common usage, the word capitalism means an economic system in which all or most of the means of production are privately owned and operated, and in which the investment of capital and the production, distribution and prices of commodities, goods and services are determined mainly in a free market. Also, profit is permissible (some consider it essential to a definition) and wage or salary may be paid for labour.

    It seems fairly innocent, but let’s look a little deeper. There seem to be two essential aspects, private ownership and free market pricing.

    The problem must be with private ownership, surely we would be better off if someone we could trust owned all property. Let’s see who the candidates are, the government…too much big brother, the collective…what is that anyway?, big media…right?. How about the people, truly the people, not an oppressive regime that claims to represent them, but that’s not possible, is it? Is it possible to build such a system? I would say it already exists, we call it the stock market, where I can go and buy pieces of (or stakes in) private property that I believe will succeed in the future. Not just me, but all the people who hold the same outlook and through the capitalistic institution of the corporation we have public ownership of private capital in a manner that allows everyone to control what their society is investing in.

    Well then, maybe the system is failing us in free market pricing. How can an incohesive mass of sellers and buyers set reasonable prices anyway, this is where control is truly needed. And who better than the government, but wait, that’s always the wrong answer. How about…cartels? monopolies? astrologists? Again, capitalism affords us the best solution of allowing the price to be agreed on by what one is willing to pay and what the other is willing to let it go at.

    Most of the complaints have to do with the short-sighted policies that capitalism seems to inspire, but I would argue that these are because of improper project analysis, or rather, maybe not so much improper as irresponsible where a corporation may not have to factor in environmental damage into their figures, than a problem with capitalism itself. As far as government policies that hurt poorer countries, that’s what those are, and often times they hurt the people of the guilty country as well, with the aim of protecting a minority producer at the expense of all the other consumers of that country.

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