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    Default Affluence

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the issues that come with affluence. Part of this is because there’s been a slew of recent articles and books that look at inequality in America and the decrease in socioeconomic mobility: see, for example, the recent cover story in The Atlantic, or Reeves’ much-commented book Dream Hoarders, or any number of other stories that arose in the recent tax overhaul.

    One common thread in this story is that while the super-rich are certainly getting richer, a lot of inequality is also driven by the upper decile of households by income – essentially the demographic we label as white collar professionals (for reference, the upper decile starts around $160k in household income). This threshold is pretty easy to reach for a two-earner college educated professional household, especially in an urban area. The issue, though, is that it’s pretty enduring – if you’re born in the upper decile, chances are pretty good you’ll spend a decent chunk of your life in it, and if you aren’t born to it, it’s hard to crack.

    There’s a lot of reasons for this – assortative mating (no one marries their secretary any more), the Big Sort (rich people cluster together more and more), educational quality being increasingly tied to affluence, the growing competitiveness of admission to top universities, etc. Most of it, however, boils down to the fact that people in the upper decile lavish massive attention and resources on their kids, even as they (both) work like dogs in challenging jobs that are well-compensated. And thus these kids get the best education, the best connections, the best internships, allowing them to get into the best universities (and excel there!), etc, etc. It’s not guaranteed, but this breed of household does a pretty good job of perpetuating their income and wealth status to future generations.

    This reality is deeply familiar to me (and, I suspect, to a number of others here), mostly because I live it. The town described in that Atlantic piece I linked to? It’s where I live – a town with the highest per capita concentration of doctorates in the United States (14% I think?). My Zip code probably doesn’t qualify for a SuperZip – too many young people in training or the beginning of their careers to meet the income thresholds. But the Zip code next door in the same town probably does. The public schools where I live are among the best in the country, supported by high-ish property taxes on eye-wateringly high property values. Some ridiculously high percentage of adults are college graduates. Unemployment is essentially nonexistent.

    My social circle almost exclusively includes couples where at least one member invariably has an advanced graduate or professional degree, and both couples invariably work as professionals with combined incomes very comfortably inside the upper decile. The older people I know in the community are generally ridiculously successful – the executive who sold his company to Google for a 9-digit sum, the former CEO (and major shareholder) of a major apparel firm that was sold for a 10 digit sum, too many high-flying professors at MIT/Harvard/etc. to count, world-renowned clinicians, bestselling authors, etc. It’s intimidating to say the least, but you get the point – the place is just dripping with highly educated, driven, successful people. They’re not all rich, but they’re all at least comfortable.

    What’s fascinating, though, is that very few of the people my age feel particularly well-off. We live in nice but not sumptuous rented accommodations that are quite expensive (property values are too high for most of us to buy anything); we mostly have 1 or 2 kids for whom we’re paying for childcare (figure $20k-30k per kid depending on ages and work schedules), we sock away money religiously in retirement and college savings accounts, and after all of that, there’s not a whole lot left for luxuries or feeling particularly well-off. In fact, most of us work so hard that we don’t have time for more than the occasional date night - after our kids go to sleep, we’re back at work, and at least one spouse generally has work to do over the weekend. Everyone I know pretty much works their butts off professionally while simultaneously being heavily involved as parents. There’s little time for anything else.

    Of course, all of this pays off – our kids grow up bright and capable, our careers advance, and our diligent saving pays off with a nice nest egg. And it’s hard to point a finger of blame at people who are more or less model citizens – productive workers, generally law-abiding, good/involved parents, etc. They are even generally left-of-center and happily pay their taxes (which amount to a pretty penny). But we also know that by concentrating so much resources on subsequent generations, we are compounding a broad inequality problem.

    The solutions people have proposed to this are varied and well-known – I won’t go into it in detail, though they all generally revolve around improving equality of opportunity. What I’d like to discuss instead is how growing up in the kind of environment affects kids.

    I didn’t grow up like this; my neighborhood growing up was comfortably middle class – the Zip code’s household income hovered around the median for the US, and only ~40% of adults had college degrees. My corner of the neighborhood was a bit more prosperous, but not dramatically so. I happened to attend school with kids from more prosperous suburbs – one definitely fit the criterion of a SuperZip. The difference was palpable. It wasn’t just that they had designer clothes, more spending money, nicer cars, and much nicer homes. It was also an attitude – a certain blasé assumption that things would always work out okay.

    I won’t try to claim that I had it so hard, but I definitely was aware that my parents’ finances growing up were always seriously strained (partly because they invested so much in educating their kids). Money was always an issue, though it wasn’t such a problem that I was ever seriously deprived. And because of this – because I have a keen sense of the value of sound finances, and don’t take success for granted – I have tended to be much more cautious with how I approach life. Oh, I take all sorts of risks (hell, I was employee number 4 at my startup!), but they’re carefully calculated, and I always have a backup. I always live within my means and have a dislike of conspicuous consumption. I’m uncomfortable hiring people to do services that I consider only for rich people. Etc.

    As my kids grow up, though, I think they’ll have a very different experience. Everyone they see is reasonably well off, and often fairly young (thanks to all of the local universities and teaching hospitals). They’re diverse on the surface – by race, religion, nationality – the number of different languages our daughter hears at daycare or the playground is pretty astonishing. But dig a bit and everyone who looks so different on the surface is pretty similar below – similar schooling, professions, outlooks on life. The kids with whom they will attend school are either going to be relatively well-off (like we will be), or flat-out wealthy.

    I’m not really worried about making a bunch of lazy brats – my demographic doesn’t really do that. Our kids are likely to work damned hard to meet very high expectations. But I worry that affluence is corrosive in other ways. It makes them think that it’s normal to work 80 hour weeks because you’re one of a handful of people in the world who are qualified to do a job; that anyone can get ahead; that everyone has the opportunities they have been given.

    So – what do you think? How do you provide the best upbringing possible but still teach your kids that affluence is not a birthright, and not even entirely earned? How do you explain that not everyone is blessed to have both parents employed as knowledge workers in a world where the bottom of the labor market is in freefall? How do you make them understand the value of their position, and make them willing to share some of the resulting windfall?
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Enoch the Red's Avatar
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    I think it helps to volunteer and serve in communities in need. Spend a couple weekends each month down at a soup kitchen or food pantry when your daughter is old enough to participate - or even before. The effects of volunteering and helping out are not just for your children, they extend to your whole family. It can be a meaningful experience that brings people closer together, helps them appreciate the blessings they have, and allows for perspective that might be lacking in our day-to-day. It is especially impactful when you can spend some time with those you are helping out, and establish longer relationships with them where you get to hear a little bit of their stories. In my experience you will see a fairly large cross section of people. While there are definitely those who are there in part because of bad decisions they have made, there are also immigrant families working to establish themselves and start their life, elderly who have fallen through the cracks, and everything in between. Often times the difficult values you are looking to impart to your children are difficult to teach, but can be more easily shown.
    Last edited by Enoch the Red; 07-11-2018 at 05:28 PM.

  3. #3
    A shitty summer job, especially in customer service, thats not intended to be stepping stone in their career. Shit like that will humble kids real quick. Especially if you tie it to car payments/insurance/gas money. Volunteering is good, but you're missing an important aspect of what makes affluence an issue. Seeing how different people from different walks of life treat people they consider lower than themselves in everyday interactions.
    Last edited by Ominous Gamer; 07-11-2018 at 05:40 PM.
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    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    A shitty summer job, especially in customer service, thats not intended to be stepping stone in their career. Shit like that will humble kids real quick. Especially if you tie it to car payments/insurance/gas money. Volunteering is good, but you're missing an important aspect of what makes affluence an issue. Seeing how different people from different walks of life treat people they consider lower than themselves in everyday interactions.
    I agree with this the most. Give them a good life, but make it clear what is providing that life and that not everyone has that.

  5. #5
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    The most effective way is to ensure they--and you--spend a lot of time with friends and family who have less affluent and more normal lifestyles. This is more difficult to do in the kind of extremely socioeconomically segregated societies you might find in parts of the US but one easy way to do it even there is to let them spend time away from that community, eg. attend a camp but not a super posh one, or live as an exchange student somewhere for a few months or even longer, etc. Volunteering is a great way to instill various values and virtues, but if there's a large and very distinct socioeconomic & cultural gap between the volunteers and the people they help, you might foster a desire to help but not so much a sense of equality. It's nice to be a white knight/saviour of the downtrodden ofc but I expect you don't want to just raise a bunch of voluntourists, naive tech-solutionists and other arrogant do-gooders who know what's best for everyone else--if nothing else, that would likely make them less effective at helping others.

    Anecdotally, the ginger and her brother were very involved for many years in CISV, spent time living abroad with other families while growing up, and were always close to their less affluent relatives.

    One thing that people who've grown up in relative affluence have difficulties grasping--even if they're just barely UMC--is that there are some things that are simply beyond your means for all practical purposes. They learn that things and goals are attainable, through a little patience, a little saving (matched at least 1:1 of course), a little negotiation. They might learn that they'll have to forego some things for a while, but they don't learn that they might have to forego some sought-after thing completely. Another thing many have difficulties grasping is that many situations are kinda lose-lose, where you make sacrifices and unpalatable trade-offs just to survive and things will happen that'll screw you over anyway.

    One final thought: the challenge here isn't only to make kids learn the things you want them to learn, but, rather, to help them care. Intellectually, it's easy to get an idea about many of these social issues--even affluent kids will learn about them from books, TV, movies, school, magazines etc. Getting them to care and to appreciate ordinary lives and ordinary people is more difficult, and I think the best way to accomplish that is through friendship.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    A shitty summer job, especially in customer service, thats not intended to be stepping stone in their career. Shit like that will humble kids real quick. Especially if you tie it to car payments/insurance/gas money. Volunteering is good, but you're missing an important aspect of what makes affluence an issue. Seeing how different people from different walks of life treat people they consider lower than themselves in everyday interactions.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

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    I find it endearing to see how you think you can actually do something about it and expect it to be effective. In reality it 's a crap shoot and you can only hope that your children don't turn out complete shits.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch the Red View Post
    I think it helps to volunteer and serve in communities in need. Spend a couple weekends each month down at a soup kitchen or food pantry when your daughter is old enough to participate - or even before. The effects of volunteering and helping out are not just for your children, they extend to your whole family. It can be a meaningful experience that brings people closer together, helps them appreciate the blessings they have, and allows for perspective that might be lacking in our day-to-day. It is especially impactful when you can spend some time with those you are helping out, and establish longer relationships with them where you get to hear a little bit of their stories. In my experience you will see a fairly large cross section of people. While there are definitely those who are there in part because of bad decisions they have made, there are also immigrant families working to establish themselves and start their life, elderly who have fallen through the cracks, and everything in between. Often times the difficult values you are looking to impart to your children are difficult to teach, but can be more easily shown.
    Hmm, we definitely already do this some. I think normalizing the concept of service is a good one, but I'm not convinced it'll give them the perspective I'm looking for.

    My father-in-law has a business partner in Texas who is quite wealthy (and, incidentally, a devout Christian). Every week he and his church go down to a local homeless area and physically bring them food and other necessities. To him, it's a religious experience - quite literally, 'there but for the grace of God go I'. And there's certainly value in that lesson. But it's fundamentally a lesson driven by pity and 'otherness' rather than an understanding of the complex and challenging life circumstances faced by most people in the world and in our country.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ominous Gamer View Post
    A shitty summer job, especially in customer service, thats not intended to be stepping stone in their career. Shit like that will humble kids real quick. Especially if you tie it to car payments/insurance/gas money. Volunteering is good, but you're missing an important aspect of what makes affluence an issue. Seeing how different people from different walks of life treat people they consider lower than themselves in everyday interactions.
    I'm of two minds about this. I never saw much value in, well, 'pointless' employment. I get that in your mind it's not really pointless since they're ostensibly learning a lesson; I'm just less convinced said lesson will be learnt flipping burgers or serving coffee.

    (Also my kids aren't getting cars, and if they do, they're going to pay for gas/etc. out of their own damned pocket. They can bloody well walk or bike or take the train.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hazir View Post
    I find it endearing to see how you think you can actually do something about it and expect it to be effective. In reality it 's a crap shoot and you can only hope that your children don't turn out complete shits.
    Hazir, what vast wealth of child rearing knowledge are you basing this on? Obviously life is stochastic and anything can happen, but I think that deliberate choices made during parenting can and do result in different outcomes. My wife and I have made some very specific choices so far, but the complexity of the choices and their implementation grows non-linearly as children get older. I don't think there are any guarantees. Yet it's obvious that styles of parenting do have substantial effects on children; we're just trying to figure out which one gives us our best chances given our particular situation.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Enoch the Red's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Hmm, we definitely already do this some. I think normalizing the concept of service is a good one, but I'm not convinced it'll give them the perspective I'm looking for.

    My father-in-law has a business partner in Texas who is quite wealthy (and, incidentally, a devout Christian). Every week he and his church go down to a local homeless area and physically bring them food and other necessities. To him, it's a religious experience - quite literally, 'there but for the grace of God go I'. And there's certainly value in that lesson. But it's fundamentally a lesson driven by pity and 'otherness' rather than an understanding of the complex and challenging life circumstances faced by most people in the world and in our country.
    I actually think your points, (as well as similar points made by OG and Aimless) are valid. And certainly pity and 'otherness' are feelings that can accompany these experiences. However, I think that happens more when the experiences and people you meet are fleeting. When you are able to spend more than just a few minutes with someone, or there are multiple encounters that create the basis for relationships and friendships, the dynamic shifts. If all you do is serve a meal, that is good, but I can understand how it could also be hollow. However, if you engage, share, and open up, that is better. If your children see you serving, and are able to serve themselves, there is value in that. If they see you not just serving, but also talking to and being with the people you are serving, it can change the experience entirely. Unfortunately, that's not always feasible, as many food pantries are designed to serve the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. This necessarily limits those opportunities, or perhaps their needs may be more logistical. However, if you can find one where there is the chance to actually share a meal together, or spend more than a moment with each person, you might be able to move past feelings of pity and otherness.

    We have the privilege of volunteering at a food pantry that also doubles as a sort of community center, which opens up many opportunities for us. When we are there our children play with other children in the neighborhood, there are weekly evening meals, and the chance to build relationships with people that we have gotten to know through the years. What impact this has on my kids I don't feel comfortable saying yet, but I can say it was very helpful for me personally.
    Last edited by Enoch the Red; 07-13-2018 at 06:01 PM. Reason: fixed misleading phrasing

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    Try having 9 brothers and sisters all growing up in the same environment and turning out vastly different. One does not actually have to have children to observe raising them either. I also notice that you didn't ask the question to people whose answers you liked.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Hazir View Post
    Try having 9 brothers and sisters all growing up in the same environment and turning out vastly different. One does not actually have to have children to observe raising them either. I also notice that you didn't ask the question to people whose answers you liked.
    1. But it isn't the same environment, is it? Environment changes as family dynamics change. Regardless, that's not the point. We all know that the interaction between innate qualities of a person and their environment is complex, and that parents can only control a small sliver of those factors. But the specific issues I'm trying to address here arise from environment, so I think it's reasonable to think that environmental changes might be able to mitigate these issues.

    2. Of course you don't need to be a parent to make a useful and thoughtful contribution to the discussion; parents don't necessarily know any better than anyone else, they just happened to procreate and are figuring it out as they go along. But you made a sweeping generalization and I thought some sort of evidence or experience (other than, 'lots of people turn out bad') might support your claim.

    3. I didn't ask OG or Enoch because they actually gave an answer (albeit ones that I had reservations about). I could then engage them in a discussion. You didn't bother answering the question, just made a snarky comment that it's a hopeless quest. If you had actually engaged with the topic, I would gladly have discussed it with you, whether or not I liked your take on it.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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    Let sleeping tigers lie Khendraja'aro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    1. But it isn't the same environment, is it? Environment changes as family dynamics change. Regardless, that's not the point. We all know that the interaction between innate qualities of a person and their environment is complex, and that parents can only control a small sliver of those factors. But the specific issues I'm trying to address here arise from environment, so I think it's reasonable to think that environmental changes might be able to mitigate these issues.
    I might be just similarly cynical as Hazir but this might very well be quite Quixotic what you're trying to do there. I'm not sure how you want to control your environment when you continue to live in it. The only way to do that is to actually physically move somewhere else.
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    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    That's the key ingredient - community. You grow to feel that all these different people are members of the same community as you.
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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    This reminds me of the op-eds written by Kavanaugh's Yale pals about how great he was at being friendly to rich people. It's difficult to really understand the lives of a group of people when you never spend time around them. I don't think simply telling kids that they're fortunate is going to work. Neither is spending some symbolic time around different people. If you really care (and I'm not convinced this should be a top priority), you can send them to a good (but not great) school that caters to people of all income brackets. You can live in a middle class neighborhood. Both of those come with their downsides, as you probably know.
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    I wasn't being cynical at all. I just observe that children pretty much come out as they come out. And there's very little their parents can do about it but hope for the best. Also I think that's a good thing; I would find a world where parents can decide how their children turn out a chilling prospect.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Enoch the Red View Post
    I actually think your points, (as well as similar points made by OG and Aimless) are valid. And certainly pity and 'otherness' are feelings that can accompany these experiences. However, I think that happens more when the experiences and people you meet are fleeting. When you are able to spend more than just a few minutes with someone, or there are multiple encounters that create the basis for relationships and friendships, the dynamic shifts. If all you do is serve a meal, that is good, but I can understand how it could also be hollow. However, if you engage, share, and open up, that is better. If your children see you serving, and are able to serve themselves, there is value in that. If they see you not just serving, but also talking to and being with the people you are serving, it can change the experience entirely. Unfortunately, that's not always feasible, as many food pantries are designed to serve the greatest number of people as quickly as possible. This necessarily limits those opportunities, or perhaps their needs may be more logistical. However, if you can find one where there is the chance to actually share a meal together, or spend more than a moment with each person, you might be able to move past feelings of pity and otherness.

    We have the privilege of volunteering at a food pantry that also doubles as a sort of community center, which opens up many opportunities for us. When we are there our children play with other children in the neighborhood, there are weekly evening meals, and the chance to build relationships with people that we have gotten to know through the years. What impact this has on my kids I don't feel comfortable saying yet, but I can say it was very helpful for me personally.
    Hmm. Worth a try, though I think these kinds of experiences are hard to set up in an organic manner (and are even challenging in a structured one).

    Quote Originally Posted by Khendraja'aro View Post
    I might be just similarly cynical as Hazir but this might very well be quite Quixotic what you're trying to do there. I'm not sure how you want to control your environment when you continue to live in it. The only way to do that is to actually physically move somewhere else.
    For reasons I won't go into here, we don't have many options on where we can live, and the problems are likely to be similar in any of the locations. But I don't think that means we can't work to mitigate some of the issues that arise from growing up in that environment. We might only directly control 20% of our children's weekly activities, but we can try to make it an impactful 20%.

    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    This reminds me of the op-eds written by Kavanaugh's Yale pals about how great he was at being friendly to rich people. It's difficult to really understand the lives of a group of people when you never spend time around them. I don't think simply telling kids that they're fortunate is going to work. Neither is spending some symbolic time around different people. If you really care (and I'm not convinced this should be a top priority), you can send them to a good (but not great) school that caters to people of all income brackets. You can live in a middle class neighborhood. Both of those come with their downsides, as you probably know.
    So I'm curious about you not being sure this should be a top priority. Don't you think it's one of the most important elements of a person's character, their empathy and ability to see things from other perspectives? I think it's especially important for the future, as we're likely to see greater and greater divisions between the top tier of knowledge workers and everyone else.

    Unfortunately for the rest of your suggestions, as I mentioned above our options for where we live and what schools our children attend are sharply limited for reasons that have nothing to do with wealth (we'd gladly live in a cheaper neighborhood if only because housing here is ridiculous). We can control what goes on in our home, extracurriculars, and weekends to an extent but that's about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hazir View Post
    I wasn't being cynical at all. I just observe that children pretty much come out as they come out. And there's very little their parents can do about it but hope for the best. Also I think that's a good thing; I would find a world where parents can decide how their children turn out a chilling prospect.
    Seriously? You don't think that parents have a profound effect on how children turn out? There sure seems to be a massive amount of data indicating you're wrong. There's the studies on how many words a child is exposed to as a baby/toddler, screen time, exposure to books and other media, the effects of an abusive environment, nutrition and good eating habits, physical activity/fitness, etc. I could go on. This isn't to say that children don't also have innate personalities and tendencies; parents and others should strive to provide for the individual child's needs. But parents have a profound and lasting effect on the life trajectory of their children. Just as I'd like to make sure that my children develop strong physical and intellectual capacity, I'd like to make sure they also develop a strong empathetic capacity. I'm just not sure how to do it.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    So I'm curious about you not being sure this should be a top priority. Don't you think it's one of the most important elements of a person's character, their empathy and ability to see things from other perspectives? I think it's especially important for the future, as we're likely to see greater and greater divisions between the top tier of knowledge workers and everyone else.

    Unfortunately for the rest of your suggestions, as I mentioned above our options for where we live and what schools our children attend are sharply limited for reasons that have nothing to do with wealth (we'd gladly live in a cheaper neighborhood if only because housing here is ridiculous). We can control what goes on in our home, extracurriculars, and weekends to an extent but that's about it.
    Work ethic, intelligence, well-rounded knowledge, interest in asking and answering questions, social skills. It's hard to acquire all of those in an environment that caters to the lowest common denominator. Even sociopaths who get an Ivy degree seem to do quite well in the modern economy. I'm not convinced empathy is useful when it comes to the job market or maintaining social ties with the upper-middle/upper class. It might be useful for moral reasons, but that's a separate argument.

    I'm not as cynical as Hazir when it comes to the role of nurture. The bigger issue with nurture is how limited your options are unless you're willing to make massive (and potentially counter-productive) life changes. If you want some realistic recommendations (beyond the ones already offered), make them work for objects and activities they value. Self-entitlement is a worse flaw than a lack of empathy. Make them choose between those same objects and activities to demonstrate the importance of making hard choices and taking ownership of one's decisions.

    I'm not convinced helping poor people will teach them the lesson you want to teach. It might teach them the importance of helping those in need, but might also teach them that they're superior to those people, that they wouldn't face the same problems, because they're morally superior. Interaction between equals would teach the lesson about empathy, but you don't get that in a soup kitchen. Maybe something like a team sport or activity that integrates people from a wider range of social classes.
    Hope is the denial of reality

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    I'm not convinced helping poor people will teach them the lesson you want to teach. It might teach them the importance of helping those in need, but might also teach them that they're superior to those people, that they wouldn't face the same problems, because they're morally superior. Interaction between equals would teach the lesson about empathy, but you don't get that in a soup kitchen. Maybe something like a team sport or activity that integrates people from a wider range of social classes.
    Let's not beat around the bush. If you are raised with proper values, understand the importance of hard work and have a working knowledge base they are superior than the people they are helping.

    What I think is more important is to reinforce the idea that being better means acting better. 'Noblesse oblige' seems to be one of the driving factors behind Bill Gates for example.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    On another note, wiggin.....what's wrong with "just" having a job where they clock in, do their work, and clock-out? If they make enough money to support themselves, and maybe a family, pay their bills, and save for retirement --- if they love what they're doing, and are Happy doing it --- isn't that also a valid "contribution" to society?

    Be careful what you expect from your children
    I don't think that my children should spend more than half of their waking hours for 40 years just doing something that pays the bills. I want them to use their innate talents, learned skills, and strength of character to make the world a better place. It doesn't need to be paid particularly well - though obviously providing for one's family and being financially responsible is important - but it should be something meaningful. Otherwise, what's the point of the whole thing? They will be given a fantastic starting place - an excellent education, a caring home, relative financial security, etc. - and they shouldn't squander it on something pointless and empty.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lewkowski View Post
    Let's not beat around the bush. If you are raised with proper values, understand the importance of hard work and have a working knowledge base they are superior than the people they are helping.

    What I think is more important is to reinforce the idea that being better means acting better. 'Noblesse oblige' seems to be one of the driving factors behind Bill Gates for example.
    Lewk, I don't think it's possible for me to disagree with you more. I do not think that any person is superior to any other. Down that road is a very dark place indeed. In fact, if my children end up believing what you wrote, I think I will have comprehensively failed as a parent.

    It is possible that I might charitably read your statement not as referring to the innate worth of a human but rather to their ability to 'succeed' in life - by my own metrics, being able to contribute to the betterment of society and raise a caring and well-functioning family - then yes, some character traits, values, and skills will stand them in good stead compared to others. But that does not in any may make them more valuable than anyone else - perhaps just more fortunate in the circumstances of their birth, family, community, and nation.

    Lewk, as I understand it you're a religious man. I'd direct your attention to Chapter 8 of Deuteronomy, especially verses 11-17. It sounds a whole lot better in the original Hebrew, but the gist is clear even in English. It's all too easy to attribute temporal success to one's own 'power and strength of hands' and to look down on those others who have not enjoyed the same success. But the fact of the matter is that much of our success is a product of circumstance (or, alternately, Providence) and not due to some innate or learned superiority over others. This is not to discount the value of hard work, and good values, and developing knowledge and skills. Yet in no way do I want my children to feel like they are the sole arbiters of their own destiny, with the implicit suggestion that those who have not had as easy a path through life are solely responsible for their situation. This is a deeply pernicious and destructive belief that has justified no small number of atrocities.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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    Yes Wiggin I am familiar with helicopter parenting. It can have some effects on the skills of the child. But if you think that you are going to be of a bigger influence on your children than for example their peers you've got a big surprise coming your way.

    And at the risk of causing a lot of offense : not everyone who took his own life had shitty parents. Just think about it.
    Greece shows us that there is a kind of politician worse than the ones that break their election promises; the ones that keep their election promises.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Work ethic, intelligence, well-rounded knowledge, interest in asking and answering questions, social skills. It's hard to acquire all of those in an environment that caters to the lowest common denominator. Even sociopaths who get an Ivy degree seem to do quite well in the modern economy. I'm not convinced empathy is useful when it comes to the job market or maintaining social ties with the upper-middle/upper class. It might be useful for moral reasons, but that's a separate argument.
    I'm puzzled that you think my only goal is to make my kid do well in the job market or 'maintaining social ties with the upper class'. Obviously I'd like to raise children who are contributing productively to making the world a better place, and that certainly requires the skills and attributes you listed. But life is about a lot more than having a good job. I want them to be good people. There's a lot of different angles through which I'll be working on that, but one I haven't quite figured out is the aforementioned problems of relative affluence. Why on earth would I be satisfied with kids who just got good jobs?

    I'm not as cynical as Hazir when it comes to the role of nurture. The bigger issue with nurture is how limited your options are unless you're willing to make massive (and potentially counter-productive) life changes. If you want some realistic recommendations (beyond the ones already offered), make them work for objects and activities they value. Self-entitlement is a worse flaw than a lack of empathy. Make them choose between those same objects and activities to demonstrate the importance of making hard choices and taking ownership of one's decisions.
    Sure, obviously that will be the case - I'm not a fan of handouts to kids. But I don't think it's an either-or. I don't have to trade keeping my kids from being self-entitled for giving them some empathy. Frankly, I think keeping kids from being entitled is a lot easier - just don't give them much of anything beyond necessities and make them work for what they want.

    I'm not convinced helping poor people will teach them the lesson you want to teach. It might teach them the importance of helping those in need, but might also teach them that they're superior to those people, that they wouldn't face the same problems, because they're morally superior. Interaction between equals would teach the lesson about empathy, but you don't get that in a soup kitchen. Maybe something like a team sport or activity that integrates people from a wider range of social classes.
    Yes, certainly such interactions help. I know that my broadest peer experiences growing up were in such circumstances. But even then, it was still a bit of a selection - really poor kids can't afford hockey gear, or music lessons, or whatever. You might get exposed to the top 30 or 40% of families, which is better than nothing, but it still isn't much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hazir View Post
    Yes Wiggin I am familiar with helicopter parenting. It can have some effects on the skills of the child. But if you think that you are going to be of a bigger influence on your children than for example their peers you've got a big surprise coming your way.

    And at the risk of causing a lot of offense : not everyone who took his own life had shitty parents. Just think about it.
    Hazir, perhaps we're talking at cross-purposes here (and I'm also not sure where helicopter parenting comes into this). I'm well aware that there are a lot of factors partially or entirely out of my control, and that there are no guarantees of success even on the more prosaic 'will my kid do all right in life?'. Let's imagine that 50% of outcomes are genetic, 40% are environmental that are largely out of my control (other than big choices about where we live, where they go to school, etc.), and 10% are environmental stimuli more tightly controlled by me and my wife. That 10% isn't determinative, but it certainly can make a hell of a big difference. Sure, there are good or great parents who end up with suboptimal outcomes, and some parents who don't do a good job might still have fantastic kids. But I believe that you can make your chances a lot higher using careful consideration and making deliberate choices in how you raise your kids.

    I've already made a lot of those choices, subject to changing circumstances, but this thread is about one choice I haven't yet figured out. It is guaranteed to work? Far from it! Raising someone as complex as a kid, especially given the myriad competing priorities in life, is really difficult. No one has a magic formula that always works. But I think it's best to consider the goals and formulate a reasonable plan to achieve that goal, even if circumstances beyond my control may mean I end up failing. I'd much prefer this approach to just figuring it out on the fly.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I'm puzzled that you think my only goal is to make my kid do well in the job market or 'maintaining social ties with the upper class'. Obviously I'd like to raise children who are contributing productively to making the world a better place, and that certainly requires the skills and attributes you listed. But life is about a lot more than having a good job. I want them to be good people. There's a lot of different angles through which I'll be working on that, but one I haven't quite figured out is the aforementioned problems of relative affluence. Why on earth would I be satisfied with kids who just got good jobs?
    You mentioned the importance of them being prepared for the future. For all we know, that would require being a great yes-man. The bigger point is that things like the quality of education are under your complete control, with obvious benefits. Giving up those benefits for a shot at a desirable social skill doesn't sound like the best trade-off to me. I'm not saying it's unimportant, but that I wouldn't go out of my way to address it (as heartless as that sounds).

    I just remembered an interesting piece of research that showed kids are remarkably good at picking up signals from their parents. If they see you treating everyone equally, they'll think that's the right thing to do. Which means regularly being in situations where you can demonstrate this trait. Telling them "x is wrong" doesn't really work.

    Sure, obviously that will be the case - I'm not a fan of handouts to kids. But I don't think it's an either-or. I don't have to trade keeping my kids from being self-entitled for giving them some empathy. Frankly, I think keeping kids from being entitled is a lot easier - just don't give them much of anything beyond necessities and make them work for what they want.
    Individually, the traits might be relatively easy to encourage. The problem is doing them all at once. Everything has trade-offs (see my first point).

    Yes, certainly such interactions help. I know that my broadest peer experiences growing up were in such circumstances. But even then, it was still a bit of a selection - really poor kids can't afford hockey gear, or music lessons, or whatever. You might get exposed to the top 30 or 40% of families, which is better than nothing, but it still isn't much.
    Honestly, I don't think someone can really appreciate what it's like to be really poor (and non-white) unless they live that life. It's not the poverty per se, but all the other things that come with it (being treated with suspicion, people not seeing the potential in you, the interactions with cops/authority, short-term outlook on life, etc.). Being able to understand 30-40% is the best you can realistically hope for.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    So – what do you think? How do you provide the best upbringing possible but still teach your kids that affluence is not a birthright, and not even entirely earned? How do you explain that not everyone is blessed to have both parents employed as knowledge workers in a world where the bottom of the labor market is in freefall? How do you make them understand the value of their position, and make them willing to share some of the resulting windfall?
    Start by setting an example? If you're trying to find ways to raise/teach your children outside your bubble, because you know it's a distorted bubble....then perhaps you should re-examine the decisions you've made that keep your family in that bubble?

    Your missive was nice to read, full of good-intent and lofty thoughts, but it struck me as "affluent guilt" more than anything else. Ironically, you and your wife are in the best position to *show* your kids what matters most in life, because you are *not* both working several part-time jobs, or taking buses and trains to work, just to pay rent and childcare, never mind saving for a visit to the dentist or doctor. Your complaints about lack of free-time for family-time ring hollow that way.

    If you think your kids need to understand the value of their position, isn't that setting them up for the guilt you're struggling with now? It was easier, in the past, for each generation to "do better" than their parents. But that's no longer true, and it's almost a disservice to teach/continue that expectation. Maybe your kids will want to "be like" their nanny, or pre-school teacher, or that guy who makes the best street tacos ever? Maybe they won't even need a university degree to pursue their passions?

    I figure, if we teach our children to be inter-dependent on their life journey, then compassion and empathy become part of that process. Naturally, not forced. Knowing that our first-world, self-actualization angst is self-imposed is probably a good start.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    You mentioned the importance of them being prepared for the future. For all we know, that would require being a great yes-man. The bigger point is that things like the quality of education are under your complete control, with obvious benefits. Giving up those benefits for a shot at a desirable social skill doesn't sound like the best trade-off to me. I'm not saying it's unimportant, but that I wouldn't go out of my way to address it (as heartless as that sounds).

    I just remembered an interesting piece of research that showed kids are remarkably good at picking up signals from their parents. If they see you treating everyone equally, they'll think that's the right thing to do. Which means regularly being in situations where you can demonstrate this trait. Telling them "x is wrong" doesn't really work.
    I don't think this is an either-or choice, but I guess I already agree with you since our educational choices are more-or-less set in stone and they're not going to give us the option to have a lot of exposure to non-affluent backgrounds in schooling. I guess to me the givens in this situation are that due to specific choices we've made about education and housing (which are non-negotiable), we've identified this as a problem that we want to mitigate. Your position seems to be that the easiest way to mitigate the problem would be to make a different choice in schooling, which is driving your tradeoff discussion. Our choice is already made there, though, so clearly we agree with you.

    Honestly, I don't think someone can really appreciate what it's like to be really poor (and non-white) unless they live that life. It's not the poverty per se, but all the other things that come with it (being treated with suspicion, people not seeing the potential in you, the interactions with cops/authority, short-term outlook on life, etc.). Being able to understand 30-40% is the best you can realistically hope for.
    I don't really expect them to fully comprehend how others live; it's obviously very hard to do so. But I'd like at least some awareness and empathy. Maybe leading by example (as you and others here suggest) is the best one can do.

    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    Start by setting an example? If you're trying to find ways to raise/teach your children outside your bubble, because you know it's a distorted bubble....then perhaps you should re-examine the decisions you've made that keep your family in that bubble?
    As I have already said, our choice of schooling and housing is sharply limited due to other factors for reasons I won't elaborate upon here. It's simply not an option in our current situation, and not one that's likely to change any time soon. It's not ideal in a number of ways, but let's take that situation as a given and work from there.

    Your missive was nice to read, full of good-intent and lofty thoughts, but it struck me as "affluent guilt" more than anything else. Ironically, you and your wife are in the best position to *show* your kids what matters most in life, because you are *not* both working several part-time jobs, or taking buses and trains to work, just to pay rent and childcare, never mind saving for a visit to the dentist or doctor. Your complaints about lack of free-time for family-time ring hollow that way.
    Actually, I have three jobs and am currently awake at 2 am working on some freelance work. My wife takes (shitty and slow) public transit to work every day because owning another car is too expensive. And we do this precisely because we need to pay for rent and childcare, which combined costs about $80k/year. Neither of us work in 9-to-5 jobs where we are ever 'off', either. We carve out what family time we can, but it's hardly as easy as you suggest.

    Money, while theoretically tight from a disposable income perspective, is not really a problem for us. Time most certainly is.

    If you think your kids need to understand the value of their position, isn't that setting them up for the guilt you're struggling with now? It was easier, in the past, for each generation to "do better" than their parents. But that's no longer true, and it's almost a disservice to teach/continue that expectation. Maybe your kids will want to "be like" their nanny, or pre-school teacher, or that guy who makes the best street tacos ever? Maybe they won't even need a university degree to pursue their passions?
    I do not feel guilty about our position. We worked and continue to work damned hard and have developed highly specialized skills that are reasonably well compensated. I am just aware that I got a lot of help along the way - from a decent starting position in terms of home life and education in particular - and that a lot of other people who are struggling didn't have the same opportunities that I did. I think it's a reasonable goal to make sure my children understand the reality that they have been given a lot of advantages in life that simply aren't available to much of the world. Their birth lottery was pretty darned good - they're born American citizens to highly educated parents with a fair degree of economic security. That makes them easily in the luckiest 1% of people born on the planet. They're likely to do reasonably well in life, whatever vocation they choose. I want them to internalize this.

    It's far too easy to get to the top of the heap and congratulate yourself for being so great.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  24. #24
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    I'm just saying you DO have choices (more choices than most), so don't make it sound like you're 'trapped by your affluence'. If you want more Time, whether it's for your family, or hobbies, or whatever, then make that a priority. And make sure your actions reflect that, even if it means making less money, working "below your pay-grade", or living in a different place with a lower COL or just "average" public schools.

    I would think that would be a great thing to do for your kids. But you'd have to swallow some degree of pride, maybe false pride, that's been built around making money as a main indicator of "success". I recall a discussion with you about maternal/paternal time off work, and whether one parent at-home was worth the price paid in professional advancement. Do you remember that?

    "Having it all" is a myth. There are always sacrifices, but you get to choose. (And what you choose makes the biggest impact on what your kids internalize.)

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    I'm just saying you DO have choices (more choices than most), so don't make it sound like you're 'trapped by your affluence'. If you want more Time, whether it's for your family, or hobbies, or whatever, then make that a priority. And make sure your actions reflect that, even if it means making less money, working "below your pay-grade", or living in a different place with a lower COL or just "average" public schools.

    I would think that would be a great thing to do for your kids. But you'd have to swallow some degree of pride, maybe false pride, that's been built around making money as a main indicator of "success". I recall a discussion with you about maternal/paternal time off work, and whether one parent at-home was worth the price paid in professional advancement. Do you remember that?
    I have choices, yes. And that's a privilege. But I also have skills that can - believe it or not - be rather useful for the world. Right now I'm working on a device that, if successful, will allow millions of people to walk without pain. It's a revolutionary technology that can change the world, but it's not possible to do with normal hours. My two part time gigs have to do with an obscure skill I happen to possess that is needed in my community. My wife's job uses highly sought-after skills that help make sure medical technologies are employed in a safe and effective manner.

    The point is that jobs that actually use our skills (which are quite specialized AND quite useful for the world) don't really allow you as much choice as you imagine. Sure, we could do something else with our lives, but I think that would be a disservice to the world (frankly, I'm always appalled by people who go through their medical training and residency and then decide to stay home with their kids; sure, it's their choice to make, but society has invested a whole lot in their training, and they should use it). It's not about the money (though financial security is nice); if I wanted to make money, there are much easier ways to do it.

    I want my kids to value making a contribution to the world - not just having a job where they clock in and out and pay the bills, but something that can really improve things for the future. That's a value I'd like to teach them, just as much as the other values I've emphasized here, like empathy.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    GGT, some people believe that they personally can do more good for the world--at the margins--through their work than through their parenting, and so they prioritize work somewhat higher than others over eg. basic elements of routine childcare.
    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I want my kids to value making a contribution to the world - not just having a job where they clock in and out and pay the bills, but something that can really improve things for the future. That's a value I'd like to teach them, just as much as the other values I've emphasized here, like empathy.
    I do understand the dilemma. Especially for uber-talented professionals that sacrifice personal and family time for "the greater good".

    I'm just saying that teaching qualities like empathy or compassion, from a child's perspective, can be pretty simple: mom or dad leaves work early just to have dinner with me, or read a bed-time story, or hear about MY day, because I matter to them. They care about MY needs and feelings. They make time for ME a priority, even while they're saving the world.

    Also, don't underestimate kids' abilities to understand how the adult world works, and be ok with playing second fiddle at times. The kids who expect adults to be at their beck-and-call are probably being raised as brats, which is a real problem with using nannies.

  27. #27
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    GGT, some people believe that they personally can do more good for the world--at the margins--through their work than through their parenting, and so they prioritize work somewhat higher than others over eg. basic elements of routine childcare.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
    — Bill Gates

  28. #28
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    On another note, wiggin.....what's wrong with "just" having a job where they clock in, do their work, and clock-out? If they make enough money to support themselves, and maybe a family, pay their bills, and save for retirement --- if they love what they're doing, and are Happy doing it --- isn't that also a valid "contribution" to society?

    Be careful what you expect from your children

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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Lewk, I don't think it's possible for me to disagree with you more. I do not think that any person is superior to any other. Down that road is a very dark place indeed. In fact, if my children end up believing what you wrote, I think I will have comprehensively failed as a parent.

    "I do not think that any person is superior to any other." This is a pretty absurd statement.

    https://www.dictionary.com/browse/superior

    2. above the average in excellence, merit, intelligence, etc.:

    3. of higher grade or quality:

    The way I'm using the term the two definitions are more apt. For example saying "The Spurs are superior team to the Nuggets" it instantly is a statement that can be debated by sports fans however there generates no moralistic concern. So why then can we not do the same with people? In fact we can! You interview two people for a job and you will pick the superior candidate. The one who provides the most value to the organization. None of this is wrong, people can be evaluated by a metric, the metric used is obviously going to be subjective but most people can agree on some common traits that are universally good. (Honesty, Loyalty, Ethical Behavior, Intelligence, Ability)

    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    "It is possible that I might charitably read your statement not as referring to the innate worth of a human but rather to their ability to 'succeed' in life - by my own metrics, being able to contribute to the betterment of society and raise a caring and well-functioning family - then yes, some character traits, values, and skills will stand them in good stead compared to others. But that does not in any may make them more valuable than anyone else - perhaps just more fortunate in the circumstances of their birth, family, community, and nation."
    Actually yes, it does in fact make them more valuable. If I had the choice of saving two strangers that I know nothing about except that one is a world renown scientist on the cutting edge of creating medicine and the other one is a librarian. Which do you think I should save? I would go for the person who could provide more to the world.

    Alternatively if I do know some things about two people, maybe not their profession but their criminal record. I have a murdering rapist on one hand and on the other I have a druggie. I'd save the druggie and let the murdering rapist die. Why? Because the murdering rapist is less worthy, he is inferior as a person than the druggie.

    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    "Lewk, as I understand it you're a religious man. I'd direct your attention to Chapter 8 of Deuteronomy, especially verses 11-17. It sounds a whole lot better in the original Hebrew, but the gist is clear even in English. It's all too easy to attribute temporal success to one's own 'power and strength of hands' and to look down on those others who have not enjoyed the same success. But the fact of the matter is that much of our success is a product of circumstance (or, alternately, Providence) and not due to some innate or learned superiority over others. This is not to discount the value of hard work, and good values, and developing knowledge and skills. Yet in no way do I want my children to feel like they are the sole arbiters of their own destiny, with the implicit suggestion that those who have not had as easy a path through life are solely responsible for their situation. This is a deeply pernicious and destructive belief that has justified no small number of atrocities."
    The biblical quote is appropriate however does nothing to alter the argument on weather people can be evaluated by their abilities and actions. God is essentially saying "I saved you from slavery and then starvation, the fact that you are doing fine now doesn't mean you can forget what I've done for you." It is of course important for people to remain humble, again I use the example of Bill Gates, brilliant guy but he doesn't go around talking about how great he is.

    The parable of the master giving his servants resources is an example of what I was originally getting at. If God has given you much, then much is expected of you. Noblesse Oblige can be religious or not. Hell we could get inspiration from it from Spider-Man "With great power comes greater responsibility."

    The message isn't "Hey some people are better than others so you lesser people have to serve them." It should be "Some people are better than others, so use your talents to uplift the people who don't have them." Which of course is why I find value in Church and Charity in giving people a helping hand as opposed to eternal welfare state that merely enables people to exist without requiring growth from them.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Lewkowski View Post
    "I do not think that any person is superior to any other." This is a pretty absurd statement.

    https://www.dictionary.com/browse/superior

    2. above the average in excellence, merit, intelligence, etc.:

    3. of higher grade or quality:

    The way I'm using the term the two definitions are more apt. For example saying "The Spurs are superior team to the Nuggets" it instantly is a statement that can be debated by sports fans however there generates no moralistic concern. So why then can we not do the same with people? In fact we can! You interview two people for a job and you will pick the superior candidate. The one who provides the most value to the organization. None of this is wrong, people can be evaluated by a metric, the metric used is obviously going to be subjective but most people can agree on some common traits that are universally good. (Honesty, Loyalty, Ethical Behavior, Intelligence, Ability)
    If I just read what you wrote here, sure, I'd be willing to see things your way. People can certainly have certain skills or abilities that make their performance at a given task superior. But then you write this:

    Actually yes, it does in fact make them more valuable. If I had the choice of saving two strangers that I know nothing about except that one is a world renown scientist on the cutting edge of creating medicine and the other one is a librarian. Which do you think I should save? I would go for the person who could provide more to the world.

    Alternatively if I do know some things about two people, maybe not their profession but their criminal record. I have a murdering rapist on one hand and on the other I have a druggie. I'd save the druggie and let the murdering rapist die. Why? Because the murdering rapist is less worthy, he is inferior as a person than the druggie.
    I believe that each human life has intrinsic value and that this value is indistinguishable from that of someone else. There are certainly circumstances when it is necessary to take a life (outside of the realm of trolleyology), but it should never be done lightly. Most importantly, the justification must never be that one person's value is higher than another. Just because someone may have a unique skill set, or have charted a more law-abiding course through life does not make their life more worthy of continuance than another.

    The biblical quote is appropriate however does nothing to alter the argument on weather people can be evaluated by their abilities and actions. God is essentially saying "I saved you from slavery and then starvation, the fact that you are doing fine now doesn't mean you can forget what I've done for you." It is of course important for people to remain humble, again I use the example of Bill Gates, brilliant guy but he doesn't go around talking about how great he is.
    This isn't about humility (though humility is nice). It's about recognizing that one's temporal successes are largely due to factors outside of your control. Humility will result from this realization, but it is not where you must begin.

    The parable of the master giving his servants resources is an example of what I was originally getting at. If God has given you much, then much is expected of you. Noblesse Oblige can be religious or not. Hell we could get inspiration from it from Spider-Man "With great power comes greater responsibility."

    The message isn't "Hey some people are better than others so you lesser people have to serve them." It should be "Some people are better than others, so use your talents to uplift the people who don't have them." Which of course is why I find value in Church and Charity in giving people a helping hand as opposed to eternal welfare state that merely enables people to exist without requiring growth from them.
    I don't disagree that relative abundance and fortune incur an obligation to help those who are less fortunate. But it stems not from the better-off being actually better or more worthy; rather, it is because human beings have intrinsic worth (again, from a religious perspective, being created in the image of God) irrespective of their station and we should work to ease those who are suffering. This is in fact a basic egalitarianism that is built into the American ideal that you, as a red-blooded American, should find deeply familiar. The US was founded on the premise that all men are created equal; we have no castes or nobility, no royalty or hereditary superiority. While the US has frequently failed to live up to this lofty ideal, it is still intrinsic to our identity; being American is the great historical leveler.

    We help the needy not because we are uplifting the wretched masses with our superior sensibilities. We do it because we are righting a wrong in the world, where some human have not the means to fully provide for their needs and dignity. Charity is not an act of grace, but an act of justice.
    "When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: Why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first." - Werner Heisenberg (maybe)

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