comment by dlrlw ·
2015-01-26T16:55:28.657Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
This whole speech makes me mad. The same people who urge us to not have kids, because of overpopulation, are urging us to spend all of our disposable income in supporting 'poor people', because they are in misery. And why are they in misery? Because they had more kids than they could afford to take care of. And their parents did. And their parents before them.
You on the other hand, are descended from a long line of prudent people. Who though about the consequences of their actions and decided that the short term pleasure wasn't worth the long term pain. Those in misery, those we are being urged to save, they, and their parents, didn't exercise the self restraint to not have kids they couldn't afford, and so now we should rush in and save them -- from the pain associated with their shortsightedness. They are and were obviously more indifference to their own future suffering, and to the future suffering of their children than to the pleasure of having half a dozen kids, why should we be more concerned about their suffering than they were? You postpone marriage and sacrifice to get a good job, they go out and have 10 kids when they don't have enough food and money to support themselves.
If revealed preferences show anything, they show that they, personally, aren't actually very distressed by the threat of dying of hunger, or being debilitated by disease, or living in a society wracked by violence and injustice. And they aren't too distressed by the possibility of their children living and dying in exactly the same way. They obviously aren't concerned enough about it to change their own behavior. Why should we rush in and save them?
That's the problem with utilitarianism. Just like every other form of socialism it says that people who are smart, and conscientious, and hard working, should spend their time working to accomplish the goals of people who are lazy, stupid, and thriftless. Or rather working 24/7 to save them from the consequences of their actions. They go off and have half a dozen kids with no way to support them, and then we are supposed to spend out time maximizing "the sum total of human happiness" by supporting them and their kids -- by doing for them things they can't be bothered to do for themselves.
That's the problem with democracy too, especially democracy in the form with mass redistribution. Money (which is, literally, time) is taken from the smart, the hardworking, and the conscientious, and given to the foolish, the feckless and the irresponsible. This TRANSFERS decision making power as to what to do with the spare resources of society from people who would invest in cultural enhancement, things like scientific research, to those whose highest goals are pleasure and the shortsighted avoidance of pain.
This is a mistake on two levels:
First, it turns evolution on it's head. Soon the world is full of thriftless, heedless, irresponsible people.
Second, it destroys the possibility of progress. I say encourage smart, conscientious, hardworking people to use their spare time, energy and money to advance human KNOWLEDGE, and to have smart, conscientious, hardworking kids of their own, who will do the same.
If increasing the sum total of human happiness is your goal, there are far better ways of accomplishing it than giving all of your money to aid workers to distribute to the poor.
1) Even if you did save the lives of 10 people, by sending all your spare cash to provide food aid or medical assistance to the dreadfully poor. I don't think it actually decreases the amount of suffering in the world, or increases the amount of human happiness. It just gives 10 people you saved the 'opportunity' to suffer in a dozen other unpleasant ways. The quality of life in places where people actually die from malnutrition is dreadful.
2) If you just want to maximize the human happiness of 10 people, have 10 kids, and raise them lovingly. You'd add more to the sum total of human enjoyment in the world than someone who rescues 10 people from starvation. The number of additional " enjoyable human life years" you give them is probably nil, since you don't, and can't, make sure they are educated, or taught a useful profession, or protected from dreadful diseases, or from random violence by thugs and jihadists and the hundreds of other injustices and oppression they would encounter in Africa,or where-ever. Just making sure they don't die of starvation is just the start of the unending list of things you would have to fix to make their lives enjoyable. Cut out the middleman, those ineffectual, incompetent aid workers, who need tens of thousands of your money to marginally improve the life of one person (maybe). Raise 10 kids of your own. Guaranteed the happy, useful lives of THOSE ten kids will add more to the 'sum total of human happiness' than the lives of those hypothetical 10 people in Africa.
3) Besides, raising 10 kids of your own would dramatically increase your OWN happiness. Why feel guilty? Pleasure that you give yourself is as much a contribution to the sum total of human happiness as pleasure you enable your 10 kids experience, by living happy and productive lives. And believe me, your life would be MUCH more enjoyable. And not just from the fun of watching the kids grow up. If you're a guy, and if you're reading this blog, the odds are high you are a guy, then, believe me, there is no 'game' you can play that would be as sure a road to finding a beautiful, loving woman who wants YOU, as announcing to all and sundry that you want to get married and have a lot of kids -- and that you are looking for someone who wants that too. Try THAT the next time you walk into a bar.
4) And if you're reading this blog, the odds are high that you are about 2 standard deviations above the average human being in intelligence, conscientiousness, and willingness to work hard. If the 10 people whose lives you make possible are all YOUR KIDS, instead of some random strangers, you just helped improve the human gene pool, and by a lot. We need more people who are just like you, who care about scientific progress, and the future of the human race, etc. So get out there and replicate!! :-) ,Instead of sending your money off to help replicate other people, replicate yourself! You are exactly the sort of people we need more of.
Even better, if you do have kids, (instead of spending your time supporting other peoples kids), you can raise them to be USEFUL: scientists, engineers, researchers -- people who can make a real contribution to humanity, instead of eaking out their lives as subsistence agriculturalists, or as "marginally attached workers" in some slum of a mega city, or idling their time away in some refugee camp...