Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Ethics Of Conscience


- I'll read you something:
The ‘ethics of conscience’ involves denouncing a few especially odious features of the present social order in the light of vague, beautiful, problem-free and untested ideals, while the ‘ethics of responsibility’ requires us to compare the advantages and disadvantages of a relatively complete array or package of present social arrangements with the advantages and disadvantages of a known, well-specified, comprehensively described and realistically achievable alternative set of arrangements, taking the costs of transition into account. No one would mistake Marx for a hero of the ethics of responsibility.
- Who is that from?
- A law school professor.
- Lawyers!
- The professor isn't actually a lawyer, but might as well be. He thinks like a lawyer, makes an ideal out of compromise.
- Do you think he is wrong about Marx? Marx didn't exactly - show me the paper - provide a "well specified, comprehensively described and realistically achievable alternative set of arrangements, taking the cost of transition into account." And we can't go by the set of arrangements put into effect in his name in actual communist states, dictatorships in complete control of production and distribution, not what he expected or wanted.
- He expected the lower classes to end war between rich and poor once and for all in the near future.
- It was destined to happen, yet at the same time he wrote manifestos to make it happen.
- Global extension of trade was going to concentrate workers in the same work places and they would be able to communicate with each other for the first time. History had established a new means of communication. The content of the communication would also be new: it would be classless.
- Couldn't traders, manufacturers also communicate with each other?
- The upper classes communicate with each other in the world of trading, the lawyers' world where all is compromise, whatever looks like you can get away with you try to get away with. They don't like each other.
- So the end of history approaches because a large class of people can have relations to each other not based on subordination, calculation and manipulation. Why did he have to make it happen if it was happening anyway?
- To get there faster. It was a destiny, a goal of history, because if it was reached, it just might stick: the causes of dissolution, subordination, calculation, manipulation, would not be present.
- But that is - let me see the paper again - "denouncing a few especially odious features of the present social order in the light of vague, beautiful, problem-free and untested ideals".
- You want me to specify the alternative arrangements, and transition leading up to them.
- Yes.
- In our times war between the classes has slowed. Facing demands of unions the rich gave benefits to the poor. With the recent enlargement of globalization of trade and globalization of employment the poor have lost bargaining power, and have become poorer. But if Marx was right about communication, wouldn't the internet be a good substitute for the workplace as meeting place?
- Is that what you think?
- With some changes in how the internet is used, maybe. The way leading up to the alternative arrangements is for people to understand the difference between this new way of communication and that used between the members of the other classes.
- Start with me. Make me understand.
- Suppose like in Egypt last week twenty-five percent of the population demonstrated, demanding the government resign. The army decides to support the protesters.
- Why would the American Army do that?
- The new rules the protesters say they will establish.
- What rules?
- Working for wages outlawed as slavery. Everyone guaranteed property, in the form of a place to live, and food to eat. No one allowed to own more than can be used individually. Factories, stores, owned by their workers, everyone equally. No one forced to work. Everything is voluntary.
- Assuming there is enough property and food to go around, won't people want more than their share?
- Lawyers would. But the argument says that once people have their physical needs taken care of, they will work for the creative challenge of it. People with experience being creative are not attracted to the idea of accumulating for accumulation's sake. That idea comes out of a lifetime of battling for power in relations between people, with accumulation of things suggesting more and more power.
- Redistribution of wealth combined with organizations that allow people to act creatively would end history. Creative people appreciate creative work, are sad when anyone stops being creative. They have no motivation to enslave. Why don't I believe in this dream?
- Because we live in a lawyers' world.
- The lawyers have to allow the new world to come into being.
- They can stop it with force, if they have it.
- If they have it. The question is, whether the army of private soldiers in their employ, or the government army, will choose to stand idle, taking their chance on getting a home and security for life. If they believe it can be delivered. Can it really be delivered?
- So economists say. It is, to some degree, already delivered in a few countries with free education, free health care, unemployment aid and pensions.
- Then it is a question of convincing more people, of manifestos: ‘You have nothing to lose but your chains!’

Continued at The Lawyers World