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Moral Ambiguity

  • Mon, Aug 12, 2013 - 05:44pm



    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Dec 28 2010

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    Moral Ambiguity


Thanks for your post, I enjoyed reading your response.

Since we seemed to have partially or completely hijacked the PM thread, I'll keep it short and if we want to pursue it further, we can consider opening a new thread.  I really do come to PP to focus on financial issues but I also value the wide-ranging discussion.

Hugh said:

" In fact, I did not villify anyone, including big banks or the government, and that's because I believe an us versus them dichotomy, or a moral vs. immoral mentality whether when it comes to gold buying or just about anything else, is unproductive and also inaccurate, as the world is a more complex place than some of our narratives try to paint it.  In the last paragraph of my post I deliberately said, "dispropoportionately wealthy people of any country," and I did not say that such people were bad, I said that a narrative that paints "us" as little guys, or victims and them (big banks) as bad guys, was questionable."

I guess I either not as morally conflicted/ uncertain as you about this area (and possibly Chris, as he mentioned in his last Off the Cuff he was not sure about the banking cartel's being immoral) and perhaps I have focused on the simple aspects of the situation. 

To say it this way, if you and I play a game of basketball, and you make more shots than I do, without shoving me i.e. fouling me, without traveling or going out of bounds, in other words, without breaking the agreed upon rules, then that is fair and not immoral.  You just have more ability than me in basketball, and you "deserve" to win.

If a commodity market is set up such that producers can offer up certain amounts of commodities for delivery in the future, and sell the futures contract to actual goods on an open and competive market, and there is a separate set of participants who create fake futures contracts, i.e. naked shorting for commodities that they don't produce and don't ever intend to produce, and are sold in the same market and represented as the same as the futures for real goods, then that is simply cheating and it is immoral.  Maybe someone will chime in and tell me the Comex rules allow that through some contorted or back-door route.  If Comex rules technically allow that, then the system is immoral and codifies cheating.  Cheating is wrong.  It is the same as lying.  Cheating and lying to make profit off of participants that are not cheating and lying is wrong.  Profiting from cheating and lying is wrong.  I am not conflicted about this.  This is not complicated to me, but perhaps I am simple.

So if there is a group of market participants that knowingly cheat and profiteer, and a group that is in good faith abiding by the rules, then yes, this fosters an us v. them mentality.

Do you think Chris wants his subscribers to pay for their access with promised payment that they never intend to fulfill?  Do you or Chris have some moral theory or "complexity" where that general behavior is acceptable?  Is there room for judgement and discernment in individual cases?  Yes.  Is that different from a garden-variety cheater?  Yes.  That type of moral ambiguity doesn't seem to be good for society and I am certain will lead to some fairly painful outcomes.

Hugh said:

"In other words, the strong are taking from the weak, and that's an importat part of the reason that I am so comfortable and have so much.  JP Morgan is better at it than I am, but every time one of us fills up a car with gasoline that originated in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, or Iraq, or buys a bar of silver that contains ore that originated in Guatemala or even Mexico, we are inadvertently part of a political, economic, and military organization that gives us disproportionate benefit at others' expense."

I won't get into a long discussion about leftist views of America.  I think I can speak from experience since I went to a fairly well-known and respected liberal arts university, and I also took numerous university courses in Sociology, Cultural anthropology and others.  I enjoy the life of the mind and want to hear well-reasoned views even if they don't agree with mine.  However, I have found that most of these so-called investigations and academic studies, like a lot of our news media, start with a bias or an agenda that starts from an anti-capitalism, pro-statist mindset, and simply pull together some facts to support their agenda. 

I did see Mr. Diamonds work via a documentary and you summarize it well.  Your view above, and Mr. Diamond's, and the majority of the leftist academic circles comes from a Marxist view of the world that capitalism in general and America in specific has exploited the masses around the world.    Thus the copious uses of words such as "lucky" to describe the American experiment.  Since they 'fundamentally' seek to disprove the concept that one set of values is better than another.  This process happens for whatever reason and despite the track record of one set of values leading to more prosperity and opportunity.  They reject these values, and therefore they must be diminished, possibly destroyed, and replaced with, well, different values.  Leading to world led by a different group of smart elite people who agree with Mr. Diamond and will make everything right, once everyone is collectivized, and all means of production are "controlled" and all social organizations are monitored and 'guided' to think the 'right way'.  Now this may not be Mr. Diamond's overt thesis, but it is the thesis that underpins the left in this country.

While I think Mr. Diamond and others raise some interesting points of history, the flaw is that he focuses on what I believe are less important details and misses the proverbial forest for the trees.  The native American population had thousands of years of non-Western involvement in the same resource-rich environment, yet did not build trans-atlantic ships, develop the printing press, advance medical knowledge, explore the solar system and develop calculus and algebra.  I am not saying they were of lesser value.  I am not saying it was okay to exploit them.  I am saying the culture and value systems of a group have a primary, not a secondary or passing importance as Mr. Diamond proposes, in the successes and advancements of a society.

I think of a football quote about a coach who always seemed to end up with a winning team, which goes to approach, i.e. culture and value system.  It goes "he was such a good coach, he was so good he could take his'uns and beat your'uns, or he would take your'uns and beat his'uns"

Successful cultures that bring widespread opportunity to their members generally thrive whether they are in the desert (Israel) or the Alps (Switzerland).  It may seem unfair and not the way Mr. Diamond wishes it were, but it is repeating pattern.