MARCH 31, 2012 10:46AM

Progressives for Mandatory Birth-Control and Procreation

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If liberals and progressives have any kind of philosophy…

(And they don’t. It’s just a grab-bag of “Wouldn’t it be sorta nice if…”)

But if liberals and progressives had any kind of philosophy, it would probably resemble John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, with its famous maximin principle.

“The basic (socio-economic) structure is perfectly just when the prospects of the least fortunate are as great as they can be.”

Rawls derives this principle from a thought-experiment known as the veil of ignorance.

“Among the essential features of this situation is that no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does any one know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength and the like.”

You might be born into the poorest class of society, so you want to make sure they aren’t totally miserable and have a fair chance at happiness.

So far so good, and most of the Pantheon of liberal/progressive philosophers including Locke, Kant, and Thomas Jefferson endorse a similar structure.

Minimize your chances of total misery!

Maximize your chances of happiness!

What could be more obvious?

And it’s just as obvious that you want to minimize your chances of being born poor and maximize your chances of being born rich.

So instead of urban yuppies and zillionaires with one or two children and migrant laborers with twelve little mouths that they can’t feed…

The poor get their tubes tied after one or two births, and 50,000 children are mandated for Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

(They could still leave every one of them a legacy of $1 million apiece!)

Fill up that sperm bank, you billionaires! And make room in your mansions and wills for your many many children!

This immediately produces a much wider distribution of wealth, and that’s what Occupy Wall Street and all other movements for economic justice are all about!


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I can get behind this.
"And it’s just as obvious that you want to minimize your chances of being born poor and maximize your chances of being born rich."

I'm assuming you are not joking, and I'm taking you seriously here. At this point you devolved into some kind of Social Darwinist fallacy. I like John Rawls theory of justice, but I don't think you are applying the principles correctly.

There is nothing obvious about wanting a society where people have the maximum chance of being born rich. The term "rich" is a relative one, and it must be relative to total wealth of a society distributed in some way among all citizens. The more wealthy people you have, the more poor you will have. That is simple math. But increases in productivity can increase overall wealth, so it's not just a zero-sum game.

It is false to assume that the genetic spawn of a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs is more likely to be the next creative billionaire than one of the 12 babies of the migrant laborer. To think that is to misunderstand the relationship between genetics and environment. And you are treading dangerously close to racist Social Darwinism or Eugenics. Having the inherited wealth of Bill Gates would be a better predictor of success than having his genetic legacy.

Economic simulation models where there is no redistribution of income whatsoever, and the economy is a pure free market model, and every household exhibits an equal level of patience, discipline, deferral of gratification, thriftiness and work ethic naturally tend to a gradual distribution of wealth skewed to the top. In other words conservative libertarian economic paradise is a recipe for nightmarish injustice in a Rawlesian frame. Uninsurable risk and the advantaged leverage provided by even small increases in wealth always mathematically guarantee that in the long run there is no stability but rather a gradual shift of all wealth into the hands of a few. Luck plays a big role in who wins and loses in the long run, not so much virtue and merit because bad things happen to good people.

Thus economic redistribution would be an essential element in any practical Rawlesian system of justice. This is not to say there should be equality of outcome, which is the empty headed conservative straw-man falsely attributed to liberals. What is needed is heavy investment in the opportunities that provide escape from relative poverty, funded by redistribution of the surpluses gained by those who have drifted into the territory where the vast returns on their wealth no longer accurately reflects any actual merit of the persons receiving the enormous benefits. There are too many wealthy resting on their laurels at the expense of able poor who are denied opportunities to compete.

Guaranteed health care, education, job training, full employment, full social insurance against unemployment or disability, fair and equal treatment by law enforcement and courts, would be the just choice from behind the veil of ignorance, one based on equal opportunities, so that the babies of Bill Gates have roughly the same chance as on of the 12 babies of Oscar Rivera of becoming the next innovative billionaire entrepreneurs. In such a model a hell of a lot more people, basically all that are able, would have the chance of becoming happy sufficient earners with satisfying professions or trades than is the case today.
Oho! Aha! The good old SEP, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy!
I have spent many happy hours there .Glad to meet a fellow sep-geek.
Rawls? Veil of ignorance? Good God, what is he talking about?
“This veil of ignorance deprives the parties of all knowledge of particular facts about themselves, about one another, and even about their society and its history.”
Ok so what DO these idiots know?
“they know then about the general tendencies of human behavior and psychological development, about biological evolution, and about how economic markets work, including neo-classical price theory of supply and demand. As discussed below, they also know about the circumstances of justice—moderate scarcity and limited altruism”

But..nothing about their own values or goals.

I think I am done with Rawls.

Occupy sperm banks! Occupy the SEP!
Make those contributors get their heads out of philosophy
for maybe a few hours a day
and doing the horizontal bop.

We need to re-read The Republic, by Plato.
Sure, it's a bit off-putting, his ideal state, but as a
thought experiment i like it better than this thick veil of ignorance.

this hardly makes coherent sense, does it?:
"the prospects of the least fortunate are as great as they can be.”
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne'er turns the key to the poor."
William Shakespeare, King Lear

Tube tying is the wave of the future.
If you pay em.
I say: put cameras up at all traffic lights in posh districts,
collect enormous fines,
pay for the tube tying

this way.

The educational system will have to be overhauled.
The health benefits of tube tie in the least fortunate districts,
the progressive doctrine of "free love" in the fortunate ones.
@Jeff J. Thanks for commenting, I guess, but wouldn't it be better if you took about 2 seconds to think for yourself, instead of merely belching out the usual air-bag of liberal clichés?

And if you had ever understood so much as even one sentence by or about John Rawls, you wouldn't be blathering nonsense like "The more wealthy people you have, the more poor you will have. That is simple math."

The only simple aspect of income distribution is your simple mind, and Rawls (among others) devotes a significant amount of thought and discussion to the question of what level of inequality may actually increase wealth and well-being at the bottom.

And of course you were much too busy blathering clichés to notice the inter-generational aspect of my "modest proposal," where the numbers of rich and poor are turned exactly upside down after every generation.
@James M. Emmerling Try out this thought-poll/experiment...

How many people would prefer to tilt the inter-generational lottery WAY over in their favor, instead of increasing the minimum wage by 15 cents?

Your chance of being born rich is increased by a factor of 50,000, or...

Your job behind the counter pays $6 more per week?
Not to mention that it is family friendly.

These are huge families. It won't take a village. It will take a small city to balance off one of the Forbes 100.

Your too modest, Jacob.
@Nick Carraway You could actually populate Cleveland AND Detroit with nothing but millionaires, using nothing but the wealth of the 400 wealthiest households in the USA.

Cleveland, population 400,000, and Detroit, population 700,000 add up to about 1,100,000 people, and meanwhile...

The net wealth of the 400 wealthiest Americans is...


That's $1.23 trillion, and if you divide it among all the people in Detroit and Cleveland, each and every one of them would get about...

oh okay i did yr evil thought experiment.
i am hardly a representative american, though, i warn you.
i want enough money to live safely, comfortably, in a kind of
place where i might one day actually have a life,
with some other downtrodden people
who are nonetheless
clever, kind, generous, and most of all: not boring.

i tune out talk about money.
money accumulation is an immortality-project, basically.
rich fuckers wanna live forever...they think: i am so rich, got so
much stuff
how can i possibly ever cease to exist?
my riches exist!
they are the ultimate reality!

later i will get heart disease or cancer & then have a change of heart.
@James M. Emmerling If you're talking about living "comfortably" as defined by (here comes the SEP!) Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, or Diogenes of Sinope, I congratulate you upon your ultra-modest ambitions, but while you're living in a barrel, millions of other Americans and Europeans are dreaming about fantastic luxuries like four otherwise idle years at a liberal arts university and foreign travel, without which advantages your other ambition of living among "clever" people is hopelessly unrealistic, and very very very far down on the list of what most your fellow-Americans wish for.

But still, your paradise of clever barrel-dwellers isn't totally unthinkable, and...

Welcome to Bolinas, where many such notables as Jim Carroll, Richard Brautigan, Robert Creeley, Aram Saroyan, and Frances McDormand once dwelled in beach-side sheds not much more comfortable than Diogenes' barrel.
But apart from guesses and thought-experiments, there's also some empirical research about what kind of distribution of wealth most Americans really want, and it's much more egalitarian than what we have now, but it also includes a significant concentration of wealth at the top.