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So over the past decade, Google has migrated from "how can we show the best search results" to "how can we show the most cost-effective search results".

As an outsider, this appears to have changed roughly around 2017, when "Google Instant" was cancelled - it is quite expensive to do searches for partial query terms, and not very useful to anyone.

Google Search has various corpuses, with code names like "Big Bird" and "Hoagie". If your query can be answered by a smaller corpus, they don't run the query on the larger one. And Google doesn't really make money on people who go to page 20 of search results, so they appear to have silently stopped letting people do those searches ...

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A note on hog farming. I grew up in a region where something similar was a risk (i.e. a hog farm might someday have opened across the street from us). I once asked my father about what would happen if a farm did so, and whether we could seek renumeration for the inevitable loss of our land values. He answered "no" because the possibility of a hog farm opening was already a known risk (and thus factored into the land values). If Tesla had opened a shuttle launching platform next door, because that was an unkown risk, we might be able to sue, but not for hog farms.

Anyway, the point is (assuming that the efficacy of the lawsuits as postulated above is accurate), it would seem they weren't being "oppressed" by the hog farm. They bought land at a discount (because a hog farm might someday open) and then chose not to buy insurance. One could probably say the same thing about anyone buying land in Miami right now wrt ocean level rise.

None of this is to say that having a hog farm next door wouldn't be terrible and worthy of sympathy, just that it probably doesn't fit as well into the justice/injustice matrix (once again, assuming this legality is correct, which it very well might not be. If some lawyer wants to say it isn't, I'll probably just trust them and delete this post).

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This is only tangentially relevant, but I was amused at how much this stuck out at me: "‘well maybe instead of calling this state of affairs unjust we should remember what human nature is like, and design systems around it, think about what’s more effective, have a positive narrative’" - there are in fact people who do this! "How would we design a political system that doesn't require us changing human nature but gives good results" is definitely a past time of some people. (I'd go as far as to refer to David Friedman here, but I'm not sure if he'd feel misrepresented by my impression.)

...as I write this I notice I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, since you were involved in fictional micronations; after all, some people in that hobby do the same thing (though definitely not all, or even a majority). :)

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If we lived in a William Gibson Cyberpunk future where everyone can be pretty for two weeks’ wages, there would probably be a movement to ensure sexiness for all.

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This is drifting slowly towards a clump of ideas I've noodled with a bit; it's related to Orthodoxy Privilege, and also related to The Schrödinger Interpretation of Ethics; the clump of ideas are, vaguely, about the context in which we evaluate these kinds of questions.

The issue is one of context; we can see this in the "Does nature actually provide any of these things?" line of reasoning. And we can see this in the way people react to a lot of these things; for a large number of the kinds of "injustice" discussed here, the degree to which people take the injustice seriously seems more or less directly proportional to whether or not they themselves take their own relative position of "privilege" for granted.

For a society in which people routinely starve to death, nobody is going to think somebody starving to death is injust; it's just another tragedy. It's likely not sensible from within the framework of that experience to see it as unfair in a human sense; for it to be unfair in such a sense, it has to be outside the domain of what we see as normal.

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Is it that we're switching to a "fairness" model from a "harm/care" model, or is it that the current trend is to deny that harm can exist without unfairness? I'm not as enamored with utilitarianism as most of this blog's readers, and I don't necessarily agree that "harm/care" is a better frame for considering all the world's problems than fairness (or even, possibly, some of the Forbidden Virtues like tradition and sanctity).

But I do agree that not all harms are caused by unfairness. As I said before, I think the justice framing is becoming popular because of an underlying assumption that all harms have a perpetrator, and that they are solved by defeating that perpetrator.

I was about to admit that I was exaggerating, giving the example of how it would be difficult to put a justice spin on a comet about to obliterate the earth, as obviously there is no perpetrator. But then it occurred to me that a fairly successful movie just came out based on the premise that if a comet destroys the earth it's our fault for being so evil and stupid so... yeah.

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Nice call-out emphasizing the "care/harm" view versus "fairness".

To the point about the hog-sludge, people use the word "justice" because there is a collectivized request for injunction against both present and future harm. The initial remedy would be lawsuit against the harm. That becomes a class-action suit (because individuals suing to prove harm is hard), and that then becomes a policy discussion (because people want politicians to deal with it, rather than suing).

Trying to describe things as "fairness" or "justice" is just marketing / propaganda to rally and collectivize people around a cause. In order to injunct against harm and advocate for one's self, you might need to collectivize, and use any rhetorical tools at your disposal.

Thus we can acknowledge that "fairness" and "justice" are things that people talk about, have meaning, etc. ... while still favoring the "care-harm" model rather than trying to evaluate fairness at a philosophical level.

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> "I’m not sure why the animal and human cases are moving in opposite directions."

This seems easily explainable by the fact that there are more people who already accept the premise of "human rights" than there are people who already accept the premise of "animal rights".

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This reminds me a little of a similar creep with Freedom.

Everyone loves Freedom, but it quickly becomes 'Freedom to x' (or 'Freedom from x'), where x can be literally anything.

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These are some great comments. Good job everybody - my comment is going to be less insightful.

I'll admit that personally, I tend to think terms like "justice" and "rights" are really rhetorical devices intended to play on different sorts of emotions. I'm not a moral relativist - I believe strongly in consequentialist morality. And I think "thick" moral concepts like rights or justice are important in building a functional society. But I think they will always disintegrate into nonsense when they are truly tested against their logical limits, and when solving genuinely difficult problems there's no substitute for digging into the specific consequences.

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“Related to the story where someone (Milton Friedman? I can’t find the source) was asked about the causes of poverty, and answered “Poverty doesn’t need a cause, it’s the natural condition, we should be looking for the causes of wealth.”

May have been Friedman too, but this is a classic Thomas Sowell point:

“Standards of living far below what we would consider to be poverty have been the norm for untold thousands of years. It is not the origins of poverty which need to be explained,” Sowell writes in his recent Wealth, Poverty and Politics. “What requires explaining are the things that created and sustained higher standards of living.”


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I agree that moral foundations are relevant, but I see them in the opposite way. AFAIK from reading Haidt, what's special about the modern left is their focus on the care/harm foundation to the exclusion of any other. I submit that rather than a sudden reversion of this trend, we're actually seeing here the harm/care foundation taken to the extreme of having it become mandatory. It's not "sad" that people are suffering, it's plain "criminal".

To be blunt, I see nothing fair in taking from A to give to B. I see it as fair for both A and B to earn whatever they get, weather in cash or in sexual conquests. I'm not saying I agree with this point of view, only that this is the point of view that seems maximally fair to me.

Your example of UBI - it is pretty caring, true, but one of the most touted advantages of UBI over other redistribution systems is... its fairness. Instead of having a complicated welfare system based on gameable and political rules, you just get whatever lump amount of money you can extract from the economy and you split it equally to everybody. Hard to get more fair than that.

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I support incel justice in the sense of trying to find ways to help people have sex. The problem is unlike progressive taxation and redistribution, any state mandated redistribution of sex starts to feel very fucked up and rapey very quickly. The most obvious point of intervention is to legalize sex work and at least let the incels with sufficient money deploy that to solve their sex problems. Beyond that my suggested interventions start to curve back in the direction of normal social democracy, just making sure people have the resources they need to work through whatever issues are interfering with their sex lives from a position of safety.

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UBI: There's an old saying that, "A fool and his money are soon parted." I feel like there's this assumption that poverty is a function of not having access to enough income. And if that were the only problem, then a UBI would absolutely solve poverty. Yet I personally know people who would squander a UBI in a way that would make inequality worse. They'd give their stipend to some charlatan who promised his business would take off and make them millionaires, then commit their own earnings and get deeper into debt on a whisp of a dream. Or they'd go get larger loans so they owe more of their souls to financial institutions and for longer - so deep that they'd never be able to build asset wealth, even if they wise up some time down the road.

Yet there are still plenty of people who could change their lives with a one-time $10k infusion of cash. That was me at one time. I don't know how to tell these two groups apart, but my sense is that both of them are very large, such that an obstinate objection to something like a UBI would prevent a lot of people from getting a major hand up. Meanwhile, any actual UBI I can think of would be counterproductive for the other group, for whom 'mo money = mo problems'.

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I'm willing to take a swing at the incel question from a Catholic perspective.

I can *owe* you the extra coat in my closet, because you need it and because its purpose is to keep someone warm. When I own it simply as excess, I'm not just spiting you, I'm spiting the jacket's telos. (Think of that old Ikea commercial with the sad lamp out by the sidewalk, wishing it were still lighting the room versus being thrown away).

To an extent, neglecting the purpose of something I own begins to become abusus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usufruct) the right to alienate or destroy the thing I possess. For the most part, Catholics can only very rarely believe this right exists.

BUT, my body and my sexuality can't be *owed* to someone who desires them in the same way a coat is, because their telos is not just sex. It certainly isn't non-marital sex, and Catholicism *explicitly* says that marriage is a good, but virginity and abstinence for the sake of the Kingdom is a *higher* good.

That doesn't sound like much consolation for the non-Catholic incel, but it is pretty key to Catholic sexual ethics. No one is entitled to a partner, but God doesn't ask that you simply stop having feelings. They're still meant to shape your life, but in a different way. And the experience of having a cross to struggle with is universal, but the particular cross carried varies.

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I think the other big thing is that you framed "justice" as implicitly being about crime and punishment, hurting the bad people and rewarding the good people. When its pretty clear that's this is a word with multiple slightly different usages and that's not the usage that these examples were referencing. So it ends up being a kind of argument by word association rather than looking at the positions the proponents themselves put forth. Which is the sort of logical error/rhetorical trick you are normally very good at pointing out other people doing.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

> But from the hog farmers’ perspective, they’re just running a hog farm, which (ignoring the vegan objection for now) is a perfectly reasonable non-criminal thing to do.

This might or might not be relevant to your broader point, but I would push back, here. Getting laws enforced (let alone passed) against powerful polluters is not a trivial matter, and requires the exercise of power by community members (sustaining a complex legal case, etc), or on their behalf by our institutions.

From the hog farmers perspective, they might or might not think their activity is legal, they might or might not expect to get away with it, and they might or might not care whether they do.

Accordingly, providing communities with the legal and institutional means to defend themselves using existing laws is a focus of environmental justice activists. Another is the creation of such laws, which seems hard to do without engaging with foundational notions of justice in the first place.

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Three Ways to seek justice without bearing costs:

The "Justice Creep" OP (or maybe i should say "OOP" - original Opening Post!) really got me* thinking... that the problem is people seeking to do something that flags as "promoting justice," but where they don't personally BEAR THE COSTS that usually goes with that work. So I wrote this sarcastic mini-screed. (Irony to the rescue!!)

3 Ways to "pursue justice" without bearing the usual costs of genuinely pursuing justice:

1. Do it in a way that's impersonal: without confronting privately.

2. Do it behind a big corporate facade: you won't get as much personal flack! (because other people / systems can be ablative armor so the criticism won't get thru 2 u?)

3. Do it without assuming the awesome and terrible responsibilities of being a mod.


HERE they are, in all the gory detail:

1. Do it in a way that's impersonal: without confronting privately. Because if u confront privately, 2 things might be different:

A. You don't get to look cool in front of others. B. You may hear the other person's side. Imagine actually verbally engaging with the lonely and the blackpilled! (possibly even in a way where you're even forced to associate a face or a voice with such a one!) You might go home and cry for the poor guy that night. Also note that in the Christian version of this, [here, by "this," I mean "pursuing relational harmony & resolving conflicts within a given community"] the biggest "ban hammer" anyone can bring down on someone--excommunication (or something much like it)--the conflict-resolution procedure described begins with one-on-one confrontation. (Matthew 18)

2. Do it behind a big corporate facade:

Remember in 2020 when everyone started putting "Black Lives Matter" and "We are committed to pursuing racial equity" on the front pages of their webpages? Did I go to a random company's webpage and think, "Ohhh, now [CEO] is woke."? No! They were "going along to get along." There was no single person whom I mentally "held responsible" for any one of these companies' "new look"; individually, leaders were probably "shielded" from their customers' feedback?

3. Do it without assuming the terrible responsibilities of being a mod: Mods or "people in charge" nurture the health of a community and have their eyes/awareness open to justice in a different way. Being a mod is not for the pacifist, nor for the faint of heart!! The counterexample where you actually, formally become a mod in a community, probably looks a little like this. However, A. You won't be chosen as a mod if you don't have a committment to the community. B. I think that if anyone wears that role, however imperfectly, (and we would ALL do it imperfectly) it will wear on them C. You are posting a public invitation to get shit thrown at you by people who don't care about your community, (and also, sadly, people who DO!) because you're the obvious "important person." Anyway, the combination of A and whatever actual powers you have (along with the entirely fictitious powers you have in people's headcanons) results in a LOT of people thinking that solving their problem requires your help! Even friends within the community will probably begin to relate weirdly to you because they feel like you are "in charge" (hahaha!) and "have an in" and maybe "can do something for them." Lastly, this job is really hard, and I'm amazed that a thesis I thought I'd disagree with like Yudkowsky wrote here was so compelling: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/tscc3e5eujrsEeFN4/well-kept-gardens-die-by-pacifism

* sorry to be so slow i couldn't make it to the "real discussion."

[Edit 1: basically whitespace! Edit 2: added clarification 'here, by "this," I mean "pursuing relational harmony & resolving conflicts within a given community" ' Edit 3: small adjacent edit; added the word "described."]

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I really think the point that poverty is the baseline condition of humans is an excellent framing for lots of disparate issues. Thanks for adding it to my repertoire.

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Scott, I really think you would get a lot out of Alasdair MacIntyre’s work, despite the negative-ish review you gave After Virtue some time ago! A lot of resonances with your critique, super incisive, but combined with the breadth of knowledge coming from reading every moral/political philosopher ever

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Here is an excellent discussion of social justice, with a comparison of justice vs charity mindsets, from Doug Muder, a Unitarian pastor:


It draws most heavily on Thomas Paine, although it sounds a lot like Henry George. The argument is that there is a common inheritance of humanity, including land, as well as the ideas and things created by past generations.

"We all owe a debt to the common inheritance, 
because none of us makes things 
by calling them out of nothing, 
like the God of Genesis. Everything we make 
relies on the resources of the Earth 
and the tools that have been passed down to us."

The human-created institution of private property excludes some people from the common inheritance. Paine was specifically referring to the English Enclosures, which deprived the poor of their former right to hunt and farm the commons, but he clearly thinks of it in more general terms as well. Social justice is justice because it returns to people their returns from the common inheritance.

"The flaw in the charity mindset 
is that it refuses to recognize that debt. It accepts, without question or objection, 
disinheriting the poor from the common legacy."

Paine's solution is social security and a one-time gift of capital to all young people. Mudor suggests that education is something similar in an information economy. There would still be need for charity for the people who waste their inheritance or who are incapable of succeeding with it for other reasons.

"But that is not where we are now. In the world we live in today, 
people are poor 
because the common inheritance has been usurped 
by people who believe that what is theirs is theirs, 
and they owe no one for its use; who believe that only land-owners 
are beneficiaries of the Creation; that businessmen and industrialists 
are the sole heirs of technological progress; that only the educated rightfully inherit our cultural legacy. "

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It turns out this is kind of a deep topic. Thanks for bringing so many interesting comments. It seems like calling it justice works well when there's a shared understanding or solid foundation for what is considered just. Criminal justice kind of works this way, although with lots of caveats. In contrast, something like economic justice is completely up for grabs. Some people think things are already just (or should be even more unequal), others want full Communism, and there are a bunch of different stopping points in between. Justice implies an arbiter, and in this case deciding for everyone isn't very feasible. We're going to keep having these debates until we can better agree on what's just. But it's good that we're having the debates. For my part, it seems clear that a somewhat more redistributive system makes sense in the US since we're so much richer overall than we were in the 70's but have actually taken away some of the equalizers like cash welfare in the meantime.

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We're deep into shitpost territory now and I love it.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

FWIW, something very like your argument about incels was made, on behalf of young men who couldn't get girlfriends because women their age preferred older men, by one of the regular posters from SSC, on his own Stack Exchange. He didn't use "justice" language, and he insisted up down and sideways that he didn't think the preferences of (young) men were more important than the preferences of (young) women, but he clearly felt that something should be done on behalf of those relationship-starved young men.

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I think an especially large difference between the incel example and climate justice is that it's easier to put marginal effort towards climate. Everyone can contribute a bit towards reducing their carbon footprint, paying carbon taxes, etc. Whereas (the most direct ways of) making progress in the the incel situation happens one very large quanta at a time. So, one is reasonable for everyone to put a bit of effort into for the greater good, and one is asking wayyyy to much of somebody to contribute towards. Sex isn't an easy thing to amortize.

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>Third, this one sentence comment by Anonymous Coward: “How long before 'incels' campaign for 'sexual justice'?”

Like negative four years? Did we all forget about this kerfuffle already?


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>In my ideal world, everyone would get a guaranteed basic income, not because I have any idea what level of UBI would be “just”, but because it’s bad for people to be poor. If they want to use that money to hire a prostitute or a cosmetic surgeon to pursue a romantic relationship, that’s fine with me. If they want to use that as seed money to start a business and become a billionaire and be much richer than everyone else, that’s fine with me too. I can’t guarantee I have solved all of the moral issues that will come up / stay around, but I feel much more confident addressing them on a care/harm foundation than a fairness one.

If you give people money to solve their injustices, and (to use an unfortunate stereotype) they spend it on drugs or whatnot instead of food or prostitutes or the injustices they currently face, and a week later are in the same place they started, did you actually solve their injustices? If you give out a second round of UBI and they again don't use the money to proactively justicize themselves, are they still victims of injustice? How much money do you have to give somebody before their perpetual injustice becomes their fault and not society's?

My gripe against the 'justice' framing is that it feels like no matter what solution you try, even if it seems reasonable to you, does not "count" unless it solves the problem, and places all culpability on "society". While we don't have UBI exactly, there are plenty of social programs that at least aim to correct a wide variety of social ills (Welfare, SNAP, Social Security etc.) and yet people are still deemed to be victims of injustice and society is held responsible. How would providing them with additional money in any way improve the situation?

I don't see why, say, giving everybody $30k/yr would automatically absolve our society of guilt any more than our current systems don't.

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Isn't part of the issue here that calls for "justice" allows for - actually demands - a much broader set of responses?

I read repeatedly in the pro "justice" comments about how our production is so high that justice demands that X be distributed in such a way that Somali orphans don't starve. But Somali orphans aren't starving simply because we're refusing to send planeloads of grain to Somalia. To ensure that Somali children get enough food, we would need to take over their government, restructure their distribution networks, create their infrastructure, smite their enemies, and guard their borders. We are really awful at doing those things. I think that's why so many of us are more comfortable with care/harm than "fairness". "Fairness" often ends up turning ugly, quick.

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To (sort of) concretize "climate justice" as a term, here's what IPCC AR6 WG2 SPM (released a couple of weeks ago; visit ipcc.ch for text and explanation of abbreviations) came up with after grappling with it:

"The term climate justice, while used in different ways in different contexts by different communities, generally includes three principles: distributive justice which refers to the allocation of burdens and benefits among individuals, nations and generations; procedural justice which refers to who decides and participates in decision-making; and recognition which entails basic respect and robust engagement with and fair consideration of diverse cultures and perspectives."

The incel counterexample aligns well with the distributive justice aspect, doesn't work in the context of procedural justice (incels have full procedural participation), and is confusing with respect to the recognition aspect (incels get ignored, but may prefer not to occupy their corner of the cultural landscape).

The video game counterexample aligns similarly: there's arguably a small injustice in the lack of compensation for those harmed by playing a video game, there's a clearer injustice in the fact that Malians don't have a say in whether there's a (carbon) tax on video game use to compensate for their disproportionate harm, and the recognition aspect is confusing: is it more just to apologize to Mali before playing the video game? Hard to see how, but maybe the idea is that recognition may lead to better informed choices by actors.

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Regarding the "sexual justice" argument, it's worth mentioning that the Netherlands provide state-funded prostitutes to the disabled for these very reasons (presumably, they count as "deserving incels"). So it's less absurd than it might seem, at least as soon as you get outside the U.S.

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I like the incel example because it every case either the incel is a victim or the person compelled to have sex with the incel is a victim.

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>I have had this argument before enough times to know people always try to weasel out of it.

I think the obvious out is just to say that, while there are certainly some cultural components of attraction, the big things - preferring people with clear skin, good symmetry, other indicators of health, men preferring younger women, signals of social competence, etc. etc., are pretty unalterable parts of human nature, not the result of a larger social construct. At least not to the extent that something like an economy is, which is one gigantic interdependent construct defined almost entirely by arbitrary laws and financial relationships.

Basically, If you put a few people on a dessert island with no culture and no government and made them amnesiac to erase all cultural conditioning, the same people would still have trouble getting laid. The same is not necessarily true for income inequality.

So while it's definitely *unfair* that those people don't get sex, and yes we *should* look for solutions to ease that suffering, it's not a structural injustice issue in the same way an economic issue is.

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>Would it be kind and compassionate to help this person have sex? Straightforwardly yes.

If they could have sex in a vacuum, yes.

But if they want to have sex with another sentient human, then we have to weigh the effect on both participants.

This is the fundamental difference between redistributing money/good and redistributing sex - money/goods don't care who is holding them and can't suffer, but sexual partners do and can.

That's why giving poor people money is inherently good, but to prove that giving an incel a sex partner is good, you have to go through the additional step of proving that the benefit to the incel is more than any harm to the partner.

Of course, you could probably design a system where this was true, and we should be thinking about it, but you can't just handwave this problem away by analogy to money/goods. It's a fundamental difference that requires an additional term in your moral calculus.

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I'm not a fan of the incel example. Material wealth only really exist as "property" within a society that respects that, while the choice to have sex with someone should be an inalienable right and is intrinsically connected with the individual.

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> Related to the story where someone (Milton Friedman? I can’t find the source) was asked about the causes of poverty, and answered “Poverty doesn’t need a cause, it’s the natural condition, we should be looking for the causes of wealth.”

Likely not who you were thinking of, but this ties right back to Hobbes'

"Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called War; and such a war as is of every man against every man... In such condition there is no place for Industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual Fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

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Something I learned: apparently some people have transformed the word "justice" to mean "any morality about anything whatsoever." One person argued that the Illiad's argument over who gets what slave was a form of distributive justice because it was about the fair distribution of slaves. If so, it seems like another motte and bailey term. Because that's absolutely not how activists use it.

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Honestly, I think you could frame everything as a justice issue and have it fit just fine. Now, partly this is just the inherent plasticity of ideas, but I also think a lot of it makes decent sense.

For incels, lets examine a few simple scenarios:

*First, your guy with the birth defect. Clearly this is a medical justice issue - he should have had access to medical treatment for his birth defect.

*Second, a dude who can't get a date because he's just an asshole. Clearly, this is an educational justice issue. He should have been provided with an education that would allow him to relate to women without being an asshole. Now, I know this might seem like a stretch, but I'd argue that our society does a poor job at helping people develop good, well rounded and decent personalities, and that this is, actually, a justice issue.

*Third, a guy who can't get a date because he lacks confidence. Again, I'd argue this is an educational justice issue, like our second dude.

Essentially, my position here is that the real issues at work here are well upstream of the incel thing, and once you get to that, it's just damage control. Like arguing whether or not starving people are allowed to steal food from the supermarket - but the time you get to that situation, you've already fucked up. -_-

For some perspective, I myself am vaguely incel adjacent - I haven't had sex in like a decade. But I don't consider it a particularly pressing problem. I don't think it even makes my top ten. Rather, I'd say it's a side effect of my main problem, which is that my brain is kinda fucked up and I have a host of difficulties because of it - ADD, Autism, Gender Dysphoria, etc. In terms of things I'd complain about, I'd pick out insufficient medical care, poor education, economic injustice, and the general conservative suspicion and hostility to anyone who's too different. When you have grown adults treating a confused child like that, you know something is really wrong. -_-

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The motivation might be that Care/Harm kindness is too supererogatory within folk morality, but justice is obligatory, so within certain circles, claiming the mantle of justice sounds "better"/more dedicated to the cause. "We could help poor people a lot!" sounds weak compared to "We're wronging the poor and have to establish justice.".

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I gotta say I agree the most with Darwin.

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As a sidenote, I've had a low key theory for years that, apart from any moral considerations, societies basically compete on their ability to offer people three things:

1.) Physical security.

2.) Decent material living standards.

3.) Companionship, both sexual and non-sexual.

The west does reasonably well at the first, really well at the second, and pretty poorly at the third. Bad enough you see some amount of arbitrage. But it's not obvious to me there's a clear tradeoff where being good at the other two means being bad at the third. Obviously something like Brave New World would require tyranny. But I don't see why, if the government has undertaken to supply people with basic necessities, it doesn't include friends, sex, and spouses in that. I mean for both men and women. Not in some grand egalitarian sentiment but just in the sense of keeping people from being literally alone.

Not to mention people forming social bonds, relationships, and having kids is undoubtedly positive sum for society. Social support networks reduce the need for government services and the average child is a net gain of several million dollars to the economy. Andrew Yang had a cute little policy of paying for marriage counseling because it's cheaper and socially better than divorce even if it only has a low success rate. I see that as this sort of policy.

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Minor point, but "poorer nations (mostly already hot) will disproportionately experience the worst effects [of global warming]" is false. Poorer nations will be less able to cope with global warming (because they're poor), but the climate effects will be more dramatic closer to the poles.

Polar regions warm about twice as much as the global average. This is for two reasons:

(1) Warm air, especially humid warm air, has a higher heat capacity than cold air. So if you add the same amount of heat to warm air and cold air, the temperature of the cold air will change more. The humidity factor also explains why the Equator is not a Torrid Zone, but is cooler than the deserts north & south of it.

(2) Snow & ice have a lower albedo than other surfaces: they're white and reflect most of the sunlight that strikes them. When polar or temperate latitudes warm, it reduces the amount of time that the ground is covered in snow, which increases the amount of sunlight those regions absorb.

Specific scenarios could be even more dramatic. For example, suppose the Greenland ice sheet collapses and melts quickly. This would have the most dramatic effect on Greenland (which is wealthier than most of Europe in PPP). It could also mess up the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream goes from the southeastern US, across the Atlantic, past northern Europe, and then turns down (North Atlantic Deep Water). Adding a bunch of freshwater to the north Atlantic would make the water there lighter, so it wouldn't go down, largely destroying the Gulf Stream. This would make Europe much colder and drier, even as most of the world gets warmer.

This is not to say that there aren't specific poor cities and countries that are unusually vulnerable, like Jakarta and Bangladesh. But most of the poorest people do not live in coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels. Desertification in the Sahel is a problem, but the effect from climate change is small enough here to be countered with better land use management (don't overgraze, plant trees). If something happens to the Indian Ocean monsoon, that would be big - but there isn't a clear mechanism for that to happen.

When you are closer to the equator, the climate effects from global warming tend to be smaller.

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i think people talk about justice from some sort of presupposition of free will, which doesn't exist. your decisions are just genes that express themselves in the environment you are given. people "deserving" things more than others based on some sort of libertarian-free will is bullshit.

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> e.g. if government officials keep being corrupt, you don’t say ‘well maybe instead of calling this state of affairs unjust we should remember what human nature is like, and design systems around it, think about what’s more effective, have a positive narrative’

I just heard an interview [1] with Brian Klass, who basically says just that. He gave some interesting ideas for structuring government in better ways that take human corruption into account.

[1] https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2022/03/21/189-brian-klaas-on-power-and-the-temptation-of-corruption/

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I like the term "animal rights" because I think it is less confusing to the average person than "animal welfare". When my college roommate asked if I was a vegetarian because of animal rights, I tried to explain no, actually I'm a utilitarian blah blah blah, and his eyes glazed over.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

"(please think for two seconds when proposing your reason about whether it has a clear climate or economic equivalent)."

Nice try! I can't be bothered to think more than two seconds about this when the Sheriff of Philosophy has already done the thinking for me. Book 6 of the Ethics explains this other phylum of justice. It's confusingly called "distributive justice", because someone is distributing awards according to merit, think 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place medals, think the plot of The Incredibles, "when everyone is super...", think about Jeff Bezos reorganizing the retail system of our society and reaping abundant cheers, er, I mean dollars as his reward. This is the phylum of justice where things are distributed according to people who are unequal. We can extend it and include, the inequality of people for exogenous and endogenous reasons.

In our society which prizes equality of people and is both more uncomfortable with thinking about people as unequal AND better at identifying exogenous causes for that inequality, we are increasingly narrow the scope in which this type of justice is considered. So much so, that "merit-based pay" seems kind of distasteful and scary and morally fraught.

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There's nothing more loathsome than reviewers complaining you haven't read enough of the relevant literature, but... I kinda feel you haven't read enough of the relevant literature. It feels like if this was someone writing like this about a topic you knew well, you would think it was a bit off?

This whole debate has been done in a great deal of detail in analytical political philosophy since Rawls (and to some extent before, with Hayek on social justice), particularly with Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, G.A. Cohen and Elizabeth Anderson. The incel thing specifically is very close to a thought experiment of Nozick (also intended as a reductio of social justice). You can find a contemporary version of the bullet-biting answer in Kimberley Brownlee, who (as far as I remember) argues there can be a kind of entitlement to sex, and this justifies modifying cultural beauty standards and legalising prostitution, but obviously not forcing people to have sex (much as other commenters here have argued).

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

"Justice" and (social/economic) "power" are inherently at odds, because the essence of (social/economic) "power" is the ability to act "unjustly" with impunity. Consider a lord with many servants. The ability to abuse the servants is implicit in the role of being a lord.

Those on the left often ignore the fact that there are other types of "power" besides social/economic "power", ie "power over people". Technological "power"—"power over nature/things"—is arguably more important than social "power". And self-control—"power over one's own mind, mood, and actions"—is IMO the superior form of "power".

Of course, with technological capacity or self-control often comes social authority. So perhaps leftists can be forgiven for overly focusing on social relations. With this framework in mind, we can recognize that rhetoric of "justice" is inherently anti-"power".

It's really simple, actually. The will to dominate is as natural as the will to resist. Talk of "justice" is meant to redistribute social "power" away from those who dominate towards those who resist. If you take umbrage at this usage, you are taking the side of the dominators over the resistors. Consider if this is optimal strategy: ironically, the most efficient method of domination is to adopt a submissive position.

No value judgement is implied by the previous paragraph. After all, we all have to pick a side, great men do great things that have great (and grave) consequences, and only children are innocent.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

>Second, people who think justice terminology is a dastardly plot to make people violent, hateful, and bigoted.

Come on, Scott. You're phrasing that in a way that maximally trivializes the idea.

As one of the people who said one of those things I'd say it's more like "justice terminology is used as an excuse by people who are *already* violent, hateful, and bigoted". You are allowed to do things and make demands in the name of justice that you would not be if justice wasn't involved. And that's why people invoke justice.

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Perhaps what's happening is that an equity-based justice is generating ideas for maxims. "Equal money! Equal sex! Equal education! Equal healthcare! Equal treatment under the law! Equal environmental protections! Equal beauty! Equal gender comfort!"

Then, a universalizing-based Kantian justice is dismissing those maxims that are incompatible with a world of rational agents.

Equal sex? Can't be done. Either people would work hard to avoid having such a demand placed upon them, or else we'd be faced with the impossible task of altering everybody's desires to ensure that there were no conflicts or lack of fulfillment.

Housing and food for all? Much more possible. Just build more houses and distribute the food we already have more equitably.

Avoidance of any behavior with a negative externality, no matter how small? This makes action impossible. Therefore, we allow basic freedom to act, and seek practical steps to mitigate the negative consequences in the aggregate. In the case of climate change, we let people use carbon-based energy sources, but try to incentivize renewable energy and tax carbon.

The Kantian refinement is made intuitively, or by a selection process, but the equity-based rhetorical argument is never replaced by the true Kantian one. Hence, we're left with a bunch of operational justice arguments that are couched in equity rhetoric, but survive because they comply with a truer justice principle of universalizability.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

Perhaps a useful perspective is this: life is inherently unjust due to things like genetics, accidents, and cosmic rays that give you cancer.

Our moral obligation is not to correct the inherent injustice of the world, which is bottomless, but to stop any new injustice from being created on top of it.

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Is justice creep a change to a "fairness" model, or does it flow naturally from a rise of victimhood culture (https://brill.com/view/journals/coso/13/6/article-p692_2.xml), as opposed to earlier dignity and honor cultures? How much is the pursuit of justice actually just virtue signaling in an attempt to distance one's self from a victim's oppressors?

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Re: sexual justice. I think there is an important difference between the problem of sex scarcity and the problem of food scarcity, which is that there aren't really sex capitalists. Unless you count pimps, I guess. A person who really fucks might only do so a hundred times more than someone who is sexless, whereas there are single corporations which control enough food to feed entire nations. I don't know if this answers the underlying terminology scuffle, but it would be insincere to say that fixing one is as easy as fixing the other.

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Is Russians going hungry in early 2022 mass justice for Ukraine? Is it economic injustice against the Russian people? Are the West's sanctions economically just or unjust? Is that even a coherent question?

We don't have a lever to feed the Russian people without in some real way subsidizing Putin's genocidal war against Ukraine. Obviously Putin committed a crime against the Russian people if they go hungry, but are our sanctions economically unjust because of that? Would there be any justice in not having leveled them?

Under the framework of individual justice, we can't be culpable unless we had responsibility. But we have no power to ensure any such hypothetical responsibility, there's a nutcase with nukes and an army standing in front of where that lever should be. Taking on responsibility without the corresponding power is brave and heroic! But in any notion of individual justice it is nonsense to say that not doing heroics is unjust. Heroics are by definition above and beyond what can be expected.

If you believe in the idea that personal responsibility is not enough and that someone needs to have systemic responsibility and power, that's an interesting theory that I think a lot of people will agree has good points. (It raises its own who-watches-the-watchers problems, but that's a different question.) Someone or something has to take responsibility if you want consistently good outcomes because nature sure isn't, to maybe echo Milton Friedman. But if your lever of systematic power is to declare that anyone who doesn't solve problems they have limited or no power over is unjust, you might win a few battles but in the long run you're going to mint a lot of libertarians.

If two people don't agree on what the responsibilities or powers were, they won't agree on the justice - or lack thereof - of many outcomes.

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I'm at work at the moment, but as the guy who wrote the article on climate justice and economic justice not being metaphors, I thought I'd best respond to the incel case and why I think, irrespective of whether your hypothetical incel faces injustice in some sense, they do not face injustice in the same sense as people facing, say, economic injustice.

1. As I go through in the essay- the world is composed of objects and persons. Some people violently repel others from using certain objects without their permission. We call this property.

2. When someone is in poverty therefore, it's not just that others have failed to be generous with them, it's that the world is actively preventing them from using stuff that could help them. This is what my essay tries to establish about these things- that poverty in rich societies is more like harm through action than harm through inaction. For example, if someone dies of hypothermia on a street with many warm houses, that's more like killing than merely letting die, because they are repelled from the houses by violent threats of trespass prosecution.

3. But what incels want from others is not merely to be permitted to access some things, it's for others to actively give them love and affection.

4. So the complaint of incels is qualitatively different to the complaint of the poor. Even if their complaint is correct, and their situation is unjust, it is not unjust for the same reason.

Thus my argument that economic injustice and climate injustice are not metaphors does not apply to incels.

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Re: the incel thing, I think that there's a real injustice there, but it's accepting too much of the (deeply broken) incel framing of the world to think that it's as simple as "they need more sex."

I think a lot of people, not just incels, are desperately lonely, because it's fairly hard to form in person communities in modern society (think about how hard it is to make friends after college, how far away friends and family often are, how few social spaces you can just be in without spending money). Various kinds of social capital (money, attractiveness, confidence, etc) can help with that challenge, and if you don't have those, it can be really hard to make and keep friends, much less partners.

Sex and romance are is important in their own right, I'm not saying friendship fully replaces that. What I am saying is that we're a social species, and that it's a lot easier to find a partner if you already have people around you. Not just in terms of dating in your friend group, but in terms of lowering the pressure on potential partners to "save" or "complete" you, and getting help and advice with finding someone.

All this to say, I'm willing to call loneliness partially structural. Which means that we can talk about solutions that foster community on a societal level, instead of trying to distribute sex directly.

I don't have any single answer to what that would be, but offhand would point at public transit and library funding. More ways for people to connect and spaces for them to exist in. Events to meet people in your building or neighborhood. Classes for social stuff. UBI, because people with more resources and time are easier to connect with.

Nothing of this sort would end loneliness or singleness altogether, but a society where there's more ways to reach out and be reached out to would be a lot more equitable for people who struggle with making connections.

And yes, if they weren't utterly isolated and depressed about that, most incels would probably be much better sexual prospects. Even the ugly ones.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

The reason I would use justice language is partly rhetorical, and partly in order to point to my desired shift in the underlying incentive structures of our society.

It's true that what I actually care about at the end of the day is welfare. However, if you try to redistribute goods from the wealthy to the poor without the permission of the wealthy, some will respond that you are "stealing" from the wealthy and it is an injustice to infringe upon their property rights. The framing of "economic justice" reframes the notion of property to imply that each person has a form of birth-right to something, perhaps that something is the wealth generated by the natural resources of the earth, or perhaps it is a minimum human rights welfare standard. In this reframing, if you play video games and release carbon into everyone's air without paying the cost to suck that carbon back out, there is indeed a sense in which you're "stealing" from everyone's air reservoir. The fair price for electricity might perhaps involve paying for your externalities, or perhaps there would be a land tax on the coal mining plant, or perhaps there would be basic income - the idea is that there is in some sense resources and wealth currently being monopolized by a powerful subset that are actually rightfully owned by people collectively, and when people collectively are deprived of these things then it is an injustice. If we could actually have individuals using these resources pay out to the collective, incentives would be realigned, welfare would be improved (if perhaps not maximized), and there would be "justice".

This situation cannot be reframed to argue that the right to perform sexual acts on people's bodies should be redistributed to incels without the permission of the body-owners, because that would invoke a violation of the stronger claim that people have rights over their own bodies. The use of the economic justice reframing, which attempts to shifts the "rightful ownership" of certain forms of wealth, is to counter how wealthy people or their allies may try to frame the taking of their property as a similar violation by casting doubt over the extent to which they do in fact rightfully own it. We don't wish to cast similar doubt on bodily autonomy.

We could simplify this and simply say that we wish to maximize welfare. However, when the actions that are necessary to maximize welfare are blocked by those who claim it is an injustice to redistribute the power and resources that they currently control, it necessitates the creation of an alternate narrative of justice in which it is argued that they do not in fact have rightful claim over said resources. If we do not create this alternate narrative and instead accept the framing that the wealthy and powerful indeed have rightful claim over the resources and power that they hold, then (assuming respecting property rights is given precedence over welfare maximization) the welfare maximization will be bottlenecked by the limited degree to which the wealth-holders are willing to give permission to redistribution.

(Aside: I think there is indeed a pre-existing animal rights vs welfare political split, in which "welfare" tries to make farms nicer, while animal rights tries to give bodily autonomy rights to animals)

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

The following is *not* a joke/reducio-ad-absurdum:

I think all of this is a compelling argument for doing away with "justice" altogether.

The care/harm model is plenty good enough to justify a legal system, and would hopefully lead to a mindset were prisons and other legal penalties for crimes are designed on purely consequentialist grounds, rather than out of some unhealthy feeling that criminals somehow deserve to have bad things happen to them, and would even if it didn't actually materially benefit society.

(I don't think this is politically viable because the ideas of blame and of avenging are too deeply ingrained in our culture, and because I fear that "vengefulness" might be one of those innate human qualities which we can channel into less-bad results, but not eradicate altogether, short of messing with people's neurons. But in the abstract, I don't think a utopia should have a concept of "justice" at all.)

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Imagine you were the President, and secretly evil. What subtle things could you do to make things worse? Not massive change, just small changes that wouldn't even stand out if people weren't looking closely. Like changes to the tax code for Married Filing Jointly vs Single, adjusting deductions for home loans and student loans, or how people claim dependents. Changing the ease of getting student loans and grants. Small nudges on the scale for what's acceptable cultural norms. Availability of public transportation. Etc.

Do you think you could change society so that even 0.1% less people end up in stable healthy happy relationships?

I think we do these things without noticing.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022

I don't think the economic example and the incel example are really comparable.

Saying "this is an injustice" is much stronger than saying "this is a problem". It's making the claim that not only there is a problem, but we obviously have the means to solve it, and it would be unambiguously good for society to do so.

It's a very powerful conflict theory tool, because for problems that are large enough, that's two out of three embedded meanings that cannot be argued against (there is a problem and it would be obviously good to solve it). You can paint someone who disagrees with the statement as someone who thinks there is no problem, or who benefits from the problem not being solved, and spend less time having to debate how you intend to solve the problem.

But even then, you still need to present "some" idea of how the problem will be solved, which is why the economic example and the incel example do not hit the same way.

In the economic injustice case, the implication is that wealth redistribution will achieve a net benefit for humanity. You coerce people with too much money into giving it to people with too little money, and that after this is done, both sides end up with a fair amount of money - for some definition of "too much", "too little", and "fair". On the surface, it's easy to believe that you could get a non-negligable reduction in suffering through having fewer poor people while still leaving rich people with more than enough money for themselves.

But there's no such easy-to-believe mechanism that maps to the incel example. Sex is not fungible like money is (and neither are blog comments). You cannot take the people who have a ton of sex, redistribute some amount of it to incels, and leave the world better off than it was before. There's no amount of "sex capital" that is being potentially hoarded or misused, where you can take a little bit of it and give it to many other people while still leaving the original person whole. Sexual coercion would clearly be a net negative (and let's not even talk about blog comment coercion).

So there's an obvious sense in which these cannot be an "injustice" of the same class as the economic one, since it's very visible that trying to bring justice to bear in the same way will cause more harm overall.

If there was a slam-dunk "here's the conceptually easy thing we can do to help incels" idea, I think you would suddenly see a lot more talk about sexual justice, even if the idea itself was ultimately flawed.

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Rarely, in my experience, is "the world isn't fair" or "life isn't fair" a relevant argument.

What always seems to be relevant is whether that person - the one telling you that the world or life isn't fair - is being fair.

In other words, they're using the unfairness of a large, amorphous, and unblameable entity as a cover for their own personal unfairness.

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Here's my semi-utilitarian POV:

Poverty and involuntary celibacy are bad, and society should try to ameliorate it if possible, even if people are responsible for their condition.

But to help the poor/celibate, we shouldn't violate other people's basic rights.

Some libertarians consider taxation theft, but I (sorta libertarian) just consider it annoying. Most people feel the same way, so our democratically elected government has mandated monetary redistribution.

I don't see a plausible way to help incels. I truly want to help. I'm willing to be forced to give poor people a third of my money*, but I'm not willing to have the government force me to share my wife with an incel every third day.

* hahaha, as if my taxes actually go to the poor and not rent seekers. This is why I'm sorta libertarian/want small government.

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There is another surviving species within the same clade as incel-suffering-isn't-injustice. It's our approach to nature. David Attenborough narrates some cute mammal starving to death in the wild or being eaten alive by a predator. People don't see that as an injustice to take action against, even though:

1. Some animals are suffering terribly.

2. It’s not their fault, and they’ve done nothing to “deserve to suffer”

3. Other people have much more than they need

4. This has been allowed to happen through the choices of individuals and governments.

I personally think both natural-animal-suffering and incel-suffering are unfair, and the universe is inherently unfair. But the tradeoffs involved in redressing these unfairnesses may or may not be worth it depending on the particular policy proposal.


If humans wanted it enough we could probably provide all dolphins, octopi, parrots, primates, etc with:

1. adequate food

2. adequate shelter

3. safety from predators

But unless we somehow convinced all these animals to use birth control (not likely) we'd have to: 4. sterilize them in exchange for 1-3

Or else they would quickly outnumber our capability to support them.

This would be a tremendous burden though, so I totally understand people who just wanna shrug and say "nature has always been like that" and do nothing. It's not even clear it would be better for the animals' quality of life to turn nature into an orderly zoo (just as welfare deprives some of the dignity of being self-sufficient and the personal growth that comes from striving)

Humans are much more amenable to voluntary use of birth control (for now, although they're subject to very strong natural selection against using birth control) so that we can *probably* provide #1-3 to all humans for 50 years or whatever until AGI without evolution-away-from-wanting-to-use-birth-control becoming too much of a problem. But this hypothetical AGI is doing a lot of work, and maybe we shouldn't rely on that because we've been so over-optimistic about AI timelines in the past. Per the planning fallacy maybe we should act in ways that turn out OK even if it takes a thousand years to get AGI. If some aid is given as a quid pro quo for using LARCs that could make aid more sustainable by keeping the dependent population low enough that we can continually afford to take great care of them.

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Want to belatedly add to the convo by pointing out this article that came out in Quillette this week that covers this language usage in the human rights context, and have to say it is the best articulation of the problems with this I've seen.


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haha in same vein as the incel comment, as a below average height person i've thought a few times in the past when i came across a study talking about height and wage correlations, high % of tall CEOs etc that "when will it be our turn to get affirmative action laws, minimum quotas on short people on public company boards, etc.". Of course it's a joke, but as in many jokes there is also a kernel in there of... something? separately, was also reminded of this article about how some lesbians feel pressured to have sex with trans women they are not attracted to. Truly Onion-worthy material. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-57853385

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Last I knew, the Objectivist catechism included the idea that all positive rights asserted by the government are the moral equivalent of slavery, because saying that any person has a right *to* something is effectively giving the state license to force someone else to provide them with that thing. So the state shouldn't recognize a positive right to health care (because that would require forcing some hapless doctor to provide it), and should only be focused on protecting people from having their rights infringed via policing and contract enforcement. (But I've never seen a coherent explanation of why those supposedly proper functions of government don't require enslaving police officers or magistrates...)

I think a sane person's response to that argument would be something like: Government services don't actually force any particular individual to provide that service. All they do is set up an institutional framework whereby, for example, doctors who already want to voluntarily provide medical care can be connected with the patients who need that care, and the funding to ensure that the doctors aren't starving while they provide it. It's assumed that there are already people who *want* to provide the service in question, and all that's lacking is a framework to empower them to do it. No force or slavery required.

Point is, I think people can understand health care as a right because they mostly interact with health care as a depersonalized institution rather than as an individual provider, and they trust that institution to be responsible for ensuring that there's a ready supply of willing doctors, and that no actual doctor is being harmed or forced into providing health care. Whereas, for sex as a right... it's harder to conceptualize sex as a depersonalized institution, I think. One, I think most people have a hard time imagining that there's a large enough supply of freely-consenting sex workers to staff a nationwide sex-providing institution. Two, even if there were, and even if our culture's sexual beliefs changed sufficiently to allow for a government-scale prostitution-industrial complex... I think that kind of depersonalized and institutionalized sexual service wouldn't actually work to fulfill whatever need people have that is currently labeled as "sex."

(Somewhat pertinent to one of your other recent posts, actually... isn't that kind of like trying to fill whatever need people have that is currently labeled as "therapy" with a national network of institutionalized therapy-providers?)


On another note, there's a book out there called "The Concept of Injustice" by Eric Heinze that really affected how I personally understand the idea of "justice." As far as I recall it, the basic thesis of the book is that people mostly have a natural moral intuition for when a particular situation is unjust. But the conditions that trigger that intuition are extremely complicated, and when philosophers try to figure out what the perfect absence of all those conditions would be like—which we call "justice"—they end up with models that are over-simplistic, if not outright contradictory. And a major mistake of modern moral philosophy is prioritizing the pursuit of that abstract and probably impossible ideal of perfect "justice," instead of focusing on identifying particular situations that we intuitively recognize as unjust and finding specific ways to rectify them.

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Tradcons already figured out sexual welfarism.

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> This single scenario - incels and “sexual justice” - is almost the lone survivor of a once omnipresent clade - a sort of philosophical living fossil.

I notice I'm confused by this claim - shouldn't we also have "friendship justice" for people who are involuntarily friendless? Or "familial justice" for the involuntarily childless? The leap from economic, climate, criminal justice over to sex feels abrupt, when sex seems like just one member of a broad category labeled "human interactions and relationships".

Maybe this points at a fuzzier intuition re: what is and isn't in the domain of justice. I tried to type out a longer explanation of my own views, but halfway through realized I was just reciting the common conception of positive and negative rights[1]. I guess right now I feel like human relationships are mostly outside that scope, where "sexual justice" sounds weird for the same reason that "exercise justice" does. Exercise is a valuable, some might say fundamental human activity. You should be free to exercise by yourself, or to buy things to assist you in exercising, or to hire people to help you exercise. But if no one wants to be your gym buddy, that's not "unjust" in the same sense that a child starving to death in while grain rots in a storehouse is unjust.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_rights

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

[Warning: this felt like a simple idea in my head, but somehow turned into a long and kind of grandiose comment, probably because I haven't slept enough. Hope it's still readable]

Justice framings have some interesting properties on the level of emotional/rhetorical effect, which strike me as worth considering on their own.

(I.e., considering separately from the question of accuracy -- whether a given issue "really seems like" a case of injustice in the last analysis, whether there's any coherent notion of justice that deems this issue an "injustice" without having overly weird implications elsewhere, etc.)

Specifically, I'm thinking of a difference between framing an issue as "an injustice," and framing it in a classic care/harm way as an opportunity to help.

When applied to distant strangers, care/harm framings can run into problems with symmetry. Of course I'll save the drowning child, you say, that's obviously the right choice -- and then a moment later, you realize that there are millions of drowning children just like that one, and you know as little about one of them as about another. Once you start helping, how will you know where to stop? If one distant stranger can move me to action, then every distant stranger can. But if I try to help _every_ one of them, I'll destroy myself. (There can be a perverse temptation to not let yourself care or help _at all_, just to avoid getting sucked into this abyss.)

The problem isn't only one of "obligation," though that is how it's usually described. The feeling that the argument "requires too much" of you, that it "won't let you stop" -- these feelings can be overcome. You simply have to declare: look, obligation is a fake concept. What really matters is help and harm. Helping one child is better than helping zero, even if I don't help two. The world where I help zero children, because I'm scared off by some abstract symmetry argument, is a worse world than the one where I help exactly one child.

But freeing yourself of the obligation to help doesn't free you from _caring_. And this emotional layer has the same trouble with all-or-nothing scope. If you can take the urgency you'd feel about a literal child drowning next to you, and make yourself feel that way about a single stranger, then pretty soon you'll be thinking about the way the streets everywhere teem with pools in which innumerable children drown and drown; and once you've started thinking about that, it's hard to care about anything else. So (the logic goes), if you ever want to care about anything else again, perhaps you had better not think too hard about even that _first_ drowning child.

And so in practice, care/harm framings can have this overly extreme, bimodal effect. Either they don't make you care enough, or they make you care too much.

What is "we should help the poor"? To one person, it's a lifeless if obviously-true-sounding sentence, which they can nod along to without feeling much moral force. Another person hears it, feels a level of care proportionate to a _single_ case of desperate poverty (perhaps they think of a friend who has made the issue real to them), and then they feel the brunt of the million-fold multiplication, and they say "oh my god, _we should help the poor_!", and then they become an anti-poverty crusader, and then a burnt-out anti-poverty crusader.

By contrast, what does it feel like to hear "this is an injustice"?

First of all, it has a kind of immediate, built-in urgency. Mere suffering isn't quite the same way, because it's not obvious what the "right" overall level of suffering should be. (You can be David Pearce and say "literally zero," but most people find this hard to swallow.) So, while it's easy to say that suffering is bad and that there ought to be less of it around, there's no clear image of the "correct" world which you can contrast with the real one.

Whereas that's just what it's like to feel injustice: there's a clear-cut way things ought to be, and this isn't it. Like an unscratched itch. If there is some baseline level of misery intrinsic to human life, this is another thing _on top of_ that, a new error which used to be entirely absent, and could and should become absent again.

An injustice feels like one big problem with the entire world -- rather than many little identical problems stacked on each other, each one within individual reach, like the drowning children.

This gives it a special force (something is fundamentally wrong!), but it's an abstract force about an abstract thing, detached from the facts on the ground in a way the care-harm framing is not.

This is bad, insofar as it detaches me from the actual problems of actual people. But it has this advantage: it gives me a way to get roused up about those problems in the aggregate, without having to take the route of "get roused up about a single problem, and then aggregate _that_." It sets the level of care to a sweet spot that my mind understands as severe and relevant, without going so far that my mind explodes.

(I don't actually find these justice framings very compelling, as it happens, so the "me" of the last paragraph is more of a hypothetical me.)

(None of this explains "climate justice," since climate change was already this kind of one-big-problem-no-one-can-fix-alone.)

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>I think there has been a general shift towards villifying our social/political opponents. “I believe in helping women” leaves open a discussion of “how”. “I support justice for women” implies that all persons who disagree with my beliefs are evil. Similarly we use words like “misogynistic” and “racist” with ever widening meaning because those words label our social opponents as evil.

PRECISELY. Terms like '[X] Justice' are inherenetly bad faith and should be opposed for the same reason words like "racism" are bad faith. There are terms for most of the things being talked about that more directly describe the thing that avoids using loaded language. There's obviously geat political leverage in using these bad faith terms, but excessive use of them should be a red flag for any rationality-minded people that the person using them is up to no good.

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> Why do I find this so much easier to swallow than eg climate justice or economic justice? I guess it’s because climate justice involves summing up a bunch of things which are not themselves unsympathetic

I think that's just a common cognitive error - really really big number times really really small number almost always comes out to zero in mental arithmetic. It's the same reason people don't care about X-risk - the badness is infinite (or at least staggeringly large), but the odds people assign to it is infinitesimal. They round off infinitesimal to zero, multiply by the huge number, get zero, dust their hands off and move on with their life.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I think it's relevant to look at this from the perspective of justice as a social concept (as opposed to morality, which is personal) i.e. that justice is about rights, relationships and (re)distribution of resources within some society by the society - and that interactions that do not involve the society (because they're purely individual matters that don't affect others or because they interact solely with things outside of the society) are not really solvable by the concept of justice, but with other factors.

From ancient times, codes of justice regulate how you interact with your neighbors but don't necessarily apply to neighboring cities; the Old Testament prohibits murder and stealing but considers killing and looting e.g. Philistines as something entirely different. Justice and fairness is for a particular definition in-group, and there is simply no expectation of fair allocation towards the out-group.

So the consequences of "justice" very much depend on what you think the relevant community is, how large is the "in-group". Some people have essentially a "tribal" view of their community, and you may talk about the justice in, for example, expelling people from some convention/conference; or in some contexts of the church of scientology which considers their treatment of "suppressive persons" as entirely just. Some people have a "nationalistic" view of their community, and from that perspective justice applies to a local homeless person but there is no expectation of fairness to, for example, climate change in Vanuatu. Some people, hopefully many, have a "humanistic" view of taking the whole humanity as their in-group, in which case justice and fairness does apply globally - but does not apply to animals as they are not included as members of "our society", perhaps with the exception of pets.

So the concept of "justice" is a bit shoddy for discussion of specific action because there is a lack of consensus to whom the justice should apply, what are the boundaries of "our society" in which the justice should be implemented. In essence, if you consider it fair and just to re-allocate resources towards X, then anyone who does not consider X as part of their community would not agree that it is just and fair to mandate giving up these resources in the same manner as it would be for their own community.

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Off topic, but I wanted to put this on the latest thread.

I have been trying to put the announcement for Sunday's South Bay SSC meetup on the events page, and keep getting an error:



What am I doing wrong?

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Off Topic: IMO this follow up is more interesting than the original post. I remember there was a survey on whether to still do Highlights From The Comments posts. This is a good example of why they should be kept. I think your blog would be worse if this post wasn't posted.

On Topic:

While reading the first few items, I started thinking Haidt and the Fairness value. Then it got brought up. To me it looks like both Brad and Scott have mostly used fairness as in "equal outcomes" but Haidt stresses Fairness means only "proportional outcomes". So I don't think the conclusions drawn from it are correct.

If I remember correctly, equal outcomes is born from Care/Harm. Likewise he mentions that Fairness is the primary moral of libertarians. So we could ask, would libertarians care about income injustice, climate injustice, or racial justice. Do they care about these more than any left-wing person would? I think the interpretation used in this post fails this "gut check".

So this means that my position is these things aren't justice. If they want a term that unites them, they should chose something that is clearly Care/Harm in origin.

Haidt goes into detail on the inner workings of the Fairness foundation in his book The Coddling of the American Mind. The Fairness foundation wants outcomes to be determined by a process that is known in advance, uses inputs relevant to the outcomes, and is applied to everyone in the same way. Violations relevant to this discussion are: considering inputs that are not relevant, not applying the same process to everyone, applying the process equally but changing the outcomes because they violate a different moral foundation.

I think if you apply these to the various examples, you get different results. Incels would have not be experiencing injustice. Economic injustice would be a case of it depends. In the case of climate injustice, it wouldn't be injustice.

One last thing I want to fit in: Just because changing the outcomes because we don't like them is unfair, it doesn't mean we can't decide to change the process going forward. It's only unfair/cheating if that new process gets applied to outputs that were already judged.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 28, 2022

The conclusion I draw from this is that no one should claim the term "justice", because it's too ambiguous, and people just end up having a tug-of-war over what the word means, like transgender and trans-exclusionary activists arguing over what "sex" means. Say "equity" for "equal resources provided" or "equal outcome"; and "fairness" for "equal opportunity", "equality before the law", or "rewards proportional to merit or value added". This is all in Aristotle.

A third view, not represented in this discussion, is the utilitarian view, which doesn't care about who's /fault/ something is. "Justice" as fairness requires measuring guilt or merit. "Justice" as equity seems to require an oppressor and an oppressed. But whether something is someone's "fault" is a metaphysical question, whose answer recedes further away as you pursue it into sociology, psychology, and neuroscience. A believer in only equity or fairness would have to say that you can't institutionalize schizophrenics, because doing so is both inequitable and unfair. The utilitarian would point to the high social cost to society (and to schizophrenics) of having repeatedly violent schizophrenics wandering around unsupervised.

We shouldn't think of these different ways of looking at problems as mutually exclusive. Take poverty. There are definitely people who "deserve" financial equity, by any measure. Then there's a big crowd of people who could attain equity for a cost we can afford, though maybe not without breaking the market mechanisms for allocating jobs. But there are also definitely many people for whom equity is impossible, like the clients a former girlfriend of mine has had working at homeless shelters, group homes for the homeless, and prisons. She never had a client of the type you see on TV, who's down on her luck and couldn't make the rent. Her homeless clients were severely mentally ill, whatever-the-current-term-is for "not smart enough to survive", addicted to drugs, and/or didn't want to leave the streets. Things I would regard as once-in-a-lifetime horrors or hazards are everyday occurrences for her and her clients. She considered breaking up a knife-fight at work hardly worth mentioning. Once she looked at a map of sex offenders in DC, and a bright spot on the map leapt out to her as being an unbelievable concentration of sex offenders, until she realized it was her little homeless shelter of about 20 men. She spent yesterday doing an eval of a client who murdered a guy, then took his keys, went to his house, raped the dead man's wife and daughter, and then raped them again with an object that she didn't want to specify.

When trying to help these people, "helping the disadvantaged" is a useful frame; "justice", "equity", or even "fairness" is not.

So how do we deal with this? Do we build one big equity-based system for everyone, one big fairness-based system for everyone, or one big utilitarian "helping" system? I think the best politically-feasible answer is what we do now: We build all three kinds of systems.

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Maybe I’m missing the point here, but I’m not convinced a program that allows incels to have sex would actually help that much. There are a lot of people who would like to have sex but can’t who most people wouldn’t recognize as Incels (such as myself) because it’s not a crushing concern. My impression is that the wanting-sex-but-not-having-sex is the focal point for a lot of much deeper shame and anxieties, it’s easy to imagine in a world where there is super cheap gov supported sex worker system and the people we know as incels would still feel bad because using this system is a sign of failure or they’re still lonely and sad after sex. It could be like offering anorexics free diet and exercise help, sure, that’s what they explicitly want, but it’s not treating the cause. Shifting the phrase from sexual justice to something like human connection justice or self esteem justice would probably make more sense to the justice crowd. In this case, consider the justice initiatives being like demanding free therapy, or demanding people tolerate obnoxious people. I’ve seen people basically push that last one under the label of neurodiversity. Am I underestimating the importance of literal sex here? Maybe, but I still think there’s a difference between “person can’t afford to eat <- we make it so they can = injustice solved ” and “person is isolated and miserable and sexless <- we get someone to have sex with them = ??”

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Reading this post, I realized that my intuition is that injustice is unfairness *that society has an obligation to remedy*. The term has the value judgment built in. Society isn't obligated to make sure everyone can have sex, so the fact that some people can't isn't a failure of justice. But society is obligated (I assert without argument) to make an effort to reduce economic inequality. Since it isn't doing enough, there is economic injustice.

I actually think this is a reasonable usage when people agree about what society's obligations are. But it often amounts to argument by presupposition. Once you get people to use that term, you are getting them to tacitly commit to a position on society's obligations. It makes sense that somebody with your rationalist commitments wouldn't be a fan of that form of argument.

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In Australia we have an Animal Justice Party that's got seats in a couple of state legislatures.

It was founded in 2009, though, and changing a party's name is costly, so this isn't great evidence.

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This just seems to not understand what justice means, at least to my eyes? Maybe this will devolve into "But actually people use the term to mean a different thing!" but I should at least throw my common sense in the mix.

Justice as a framework only makes sense if you can frame the issue in terms of actual injustice, which is distinct from fairness and unfairness.

The 2008 housing crash is probably the clearest example. The banks make themselves economically accountable for a whole bunch of subprime mortgages, the obvious happens, and then they're granted loans with nonsensically generous conditions while the economy burns around them. It simply isn't possible to create a similar framing for incels. If Stacy wants to screw Chad and not an incel, maybe that happening a million times over causes bad in the world, but it's not an injustice.

Decisions around the economy and the climate are often made knowingly placing personal interest over what's actually good for the economy or climate. That is in fact, immoral. Thinking of economic justice as trying to reframe helping the poor is missing the point entirely, helping the poor is an entirely different thing. You can help the poor by donating to a charity or volunteering at a soup kitchen - but I hope it would be obvious that those things don't solve the issue of economic justice.

People deciding who they are going to bang, in the first place, isn't a decision about the sexual marketplace, it's a decision about personal preference. Your decisions about playing a computer game only incidentally affect the climate. These are a different kind of thing than policy making that promotes poverty and homelessness, or lobbying against green energy.

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It seems like "care/harm" = consequentialism and "fairness" = deontology. This is probably oversimplified and doesn't line up 100%, but it jumped out at me when reading that section.

(Regarding any innate sense of fairness children or other animals may possess: my sketchy intuition is that this reflects evolution encoding certain decision theory-motivated behaviors into costly signals, i.e. emotions.)

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

"I’m not sure why the animal and human cases are moving in opposite directions."

I think that's because, in a lot of cases it's easier to think someone might deserve to suffer for their choices, if you think they're a sentient being who is yadda-yadda-yadda...

I believe that animals are basically just like people, but it seems like some percentage of people are more comfortable believing they are 'lower' than humans... so they might say that animals don't make the same choices as people, and therefore would be considered innocent.

but people find it easy to condemn a choice, even if that 'choice' is something like 'being gay', or something that gets discriminated against.

So I would guess it might be to avoid more of the arguments that 'God should be allowed to rain down hellfire on whoever he pleases,' or that suffering is deserved for going against the bible... or whatever feeds people's sadism.

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If it is unjust for animals to be killed and tortured, and it is in the nature of some species to do so (e.g. cats) doesn't that mean we must eradicate all species that kill and torture other animals?

Along these lines, some people have suggested that lions be genetically altered to make them herbivores. They'd still look like lions, but they wouldn't behave like lions. I find any such proposal instinctively repulsive: one might as well replace all lions with concrete statues of lions, because, as with the original proposal, they would look like lions but not be lions.

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I'll be brief because others have made the same points well. I don't see why it's absurd to speak of "injustice" in the case of incels (the actual thing, not the deplorable online community), spinster aunts, etc. It is just that:

(a) "injustice" does not imply that every coercive measure to address the problem is legit; some would obviously be abhorrent, and rape or forcible marriage are the paradigmatic examples of that category;

(b) the way in which the system is broken may not be the supposedly obvious way as perceived by the people done hard by. Some incel misery comes from the idea that not having sex (or having sex only by yourself) is something terrible - making you a "loser", an outcast from society, an individual who has failed at being a human being, a most likely terrible person, someone who has failed at engaging in the ritual exchange between moieties in early 21th century US culture, etc. (That's not something that exists just in incels' heads, mind you; ir pervades our society.) Plenty of other misery comes from having few or no friends, little family support structure (taboo on living with one's parents as an adult), etc. Speaking about that neither skirts the problem nor breaks the "injustice" mold; neither does it show that it is wrong to talk about economic injustice.

An analogue here would be a city that is both unlivable and illegible if you do not have a car. That is obviously a thing, and a cause of misery. We should be able to say that without being taken to mean that we endorse carjackings. In fact, it could easily be a very bad idea for everybody to have a car, and use it regularly, even in such a city - things would break down. Why not build a city differently?

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Isn't the hog thing just a typical negative externality? I consider it reasonable to call the situation unjust if and only if they aren't paying a reasonable tax to balance the externality.

I'm not sure how this relates to the wider question. Is prison a tax on murder? If sexual injustice is a thing, would some kind of social tax credit for pity sex be the remedy?

Suppose some kind of inequality exists, and we can mitigate it by imposing taxes to allow subsidies for positive externalities. If we can't tax (or even identify) a specific negative externality that causes the inequality, is justice still a reasonable way to frame the question?

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IIRC Google Search first compiles a list of 1000 candidates using some very fast algorithm then checks whether and how well each of them matches the search key, so it won't return more than 1000 results even if you search for "the".

There's a reason why people use language corpora rather than Google. (On the iWeb corpus "climate villain" and "climate villains" occur half again per billion words.)

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Climate, racial and economic justice operates by a large number of people making many small sacrifices to benefit a removed anonymous mass (the poor/the planet).

The interesting thing about “sexual justice” is that in each instance it would require *one* person to make an enormous “sacrifice” (relationship with deformed person) engaging directly with the victim.

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On a practical note, for the incel thing: isn't masturbation an effective remedy, that most males adopt? Are the people who are the most miserable about this people who are not good at masturbation? Should sexual education include masturbation practice and technique?

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A recent article on Quillette also touches on the concept of justice creep: https://quillette.com/2022/03/24/chronicle-of-a-suicide-foretold-how-social-justice-rhetoric-is-turning-people-off-human-rights/

"Take the words “justice” and “accountability.” At first sight, they raise no issue: a large chunk of human rights work is to hold abusers to account, ensure that due process is upheld, and secure redress for victims. Yet activists have come to use these words in such an expansive fashion that common sense is unable to define them anymore. One hears about “reproductive justice,” “environmental justice,” or “accountability for women and girls in humanitarian settings.” Iteration after iteration, even human rights folks struggle to understand what “equity” means and why it’s replacing equality, or why “justice” and “accountability” are used so loosely that they can refer to any desirable social outcome."

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It's really weird that most discussions about incels fail to observe the discrimination incels practice against their female peers.

Because of course the problem isn't that "no one" is willing to have sex with the kind of low-status men who might feel themselves to be incels.

The problem is that *conventionally attractive and/or high status women in particular* don't want to have relationships and/or sex with the kind of low status men who might feel themselves to be incels.

As far as most incels are concerned, unattractive women don't even exist as an option to them. They shouldn't have to "settle" for the low status women who would have them.

For incels, it's Hot Girl or Bust, and I think David Wong / Jason Pargin said it best in his Cracked article, "5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women:"



5. We Were Told Society Owed Us a Hot Girl

Does it seem like men feel kind of entitled to sex? Does it seem like we react to rejection with the maturity of a child being denied a toy?

Well, you have to keep in mind that what we learn as kids is really hard to deprogram as an adult. And what we learned as kids is that we males are each owed, and will eventually be awarded, a beautiful woman.

We were told this by every movie, TV show, novel, comic book, video game and song we encountered. When the Karate Kid wins the tournament, his prize is a trophy and Elisabeth Shue. Neo saves the world and is awarded Trinity. Marty McFly gets his dream girl, John McClane gets his ex-wife back, Keanu "Speed" Reeves gets Sandra Bullock, Shia LaBeouf gets Megan Fox in Transformers, Iron Man gets Pepper Potts, the hero in Avatar gets the hottest Na'vi, Shrek gets Fiona, Bill Murray gets Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters, Frodo gets Sam, WALL-E gets EVE ... and so on.

Hell, at the end of An Officer and a Gentleman, Richard Gere walks into the lady's workplace and just carries her out like he's picking up a suit at the dry cleaner.

And then we have Star Wars, where Luke starts out getting Princess Leia (in The Empire Strikes Back), but then as Han Solo became a fan favorite, George Lucas realized he had to award her to him instead (forcing him to write the "She's secretly Luke's sister" thing into Return of the Jedi, even though it meant adding the weird incest vibe to Empire). With Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling played with the convention by having the beautiful girl get awarded to the sidekick character Ron, *but* she made it a central conflict in the story that Ron is constantly worried that, since Harry is the main character, Hermione will be awarded to him instead.

In each case, the woman has no say in this -- compatibility doesn't matter, prior relationships don't matter, nothing else factors in. If the hero accomplishes his goals, he is awarded his favorite female. Yes, there will be dialogue that maybe makes it sound like the woman is having doubts, and she will make noises like she is making the decision on her own. But we, as the audience, know that in the end the hero will "get the girl," just as we know that at the end of the month we're going to "get our paycheck." Failure to award either is breaking a societal contract. The girl can say what she wants, but we all know that at the end, she *will* wind up with the hero, whether she knows it or not.

And now you see the problem. From birth we're taught that we're *owed* a beautiful girl. We all think of ourselves as the hero of our own story, and we all (whether we admit it or not) think we're heroes for just getting through our day.

So it's very frustrating, and I mean frustrating to the point of violence, when we don't get what we're owed. A contract has been broken. These women, by exercising their own choices, are denying it to us. It's why every Nice Guy is shocked to find that buying gifts for a girl and doing her favors won't win him sex. It's why we go to "slut" and "whore" as our default insults -- we're not mad that women enjoy sex. We're mad that women are distributing to other people the sex that they owed *us.*

Yes, the women in these stories are being portrayed as wonderful and beautiful and perfect. But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.


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I think the main confusion comes from mixing two different things. Let's try to separate them and see where it leads us.

I'll call the first category fairness/unfairness. It's about natural causes. Someone is born with better genetics and someone with worse. One country has valuable ore deposits and another doesn't. It's unfair in a cosmical sense, that our initial conditions are so different. We can and probably should do something to fight this cosmic unfairness. But it is something we are doing out of our kindness and compassion.

The second category is what I'd call justice/injustice. It's about the behaviour of the agents. When one agent betrays the other in an iterated prisoners dilemma, therefore profiting at their expense, it's unjust. And it would be just to betray in response. This doesn't have anything to do with compassion.

So with this in mind lets distinguish between our examples.

Is it unfair that some blogs have more comments than others? In a mulpile ways, it is. Some bloggers were just born more talented then others. Some just haven't accured auditory yet. Some may be popular for reasons unrelated to the quality and usefullness of their content. But is it unjust? Unless a more successfull blogger deliberately sabotages the less successful ones, I don't think so. So the framework of compassion and moral character seems reasonable when we deal with this issue. A more successfull blogger can promote less successfull ones, or we can have some organisation like EA subsidising blogging on specific themes which are less popular for memetic reasons, than others.

Let's look at incels. Is it unfair that some people are naturally more attractive and/or socially skilled? Sure. Is it unjust? Unless more attractive people achieved their attractiveness through exploiting the less attractive ones, no it's not. But, people can indeed become perceived as highter status if they mock lower status people, or at least keep insisting that these people should be lowers status. Such behaviour is unjust. So there can be some justice issues here. And if you check anti-lookism branch of social justice, it indeed tries to deal with these justice related issues, while not requiring a mandatory sexual relationship for everybody.

Is economic inequality unfair? Obviously. Is it just? In a world where there has never been colonisation, wars, slavery and other "betrayals" in prisoner's dilemma it could be just. But in our world, where some people indeed exploited others to build their wealth it is obviously unjust. There is also more complicated labour theory of value argument. Jeff Bezos may have solved a couple of interesting coordination problems and deserves his credit for it, but now he for some weird reasons can grab all the profits from his workers labour infinitely. This seems unjust in a sense that ultimatum game with very unequal split, disproportionate to the actual work done, is unjust.

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I'm still hung up on the "justice must mean there's a specific villain to be punished" take that apparently a lot of people had. To me it seems like the opposite - the calls for economic, racial, and social justice have been accompanied by people arguing that it's not enough to punish this specific racist or that specific exploitative company, we need to fix the systemic cultural or economic problems that cause it.

In fact, I've frequently seen conservatives arguing the exact opposite as this - "the problem with systemic racism arguments is that they mean even if you don't have a racist bone in your body you're still guilty because you benefit from systemic racism."

The fact that people on both sides can plausibly argue that "justice" means both one thing and its exact opposite should be a massive warning flag that we're confusing ourselves and we should probably taboo the word entirely, but I may as well throw my two cents in:

To me justice implies universality - "in a just world, we would all get exactly what we deserve." This could be achieved either by a literal code of laws which is uniformly enforced or by social norms where everyone agrees what someone deserves, but to call something "just" instead of just "good" you need to appeal to a general principle. Social justice is arguing that our current universal norms around white people should be extended to cover black people as well. Economic justice is arguing that our current norms around distribution of food and shelter should be changed to cover poor people better. And I suppose incel justice would be arguing that our norms around romance and sex should change to cover ugly or unlikeable people.

The difference is that "don't fire people because they're black" or "don't deny food to people even if they can't pay" are fairly enforceable, bright-line principles, while "don't reject people romantically because you don't like them" is kind of self-defeating. By definition, unlikeable people are unliked - as long as people are capable of rejecting their suitors, some people will get rejected more than others. You can't force people to fall in love.

(To be clear, when incels talk about not getting laid they're talking about it in the context of a romantic relationship - finding a prostitute wouldn't suffice according to most of them.)

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The "fairness is something even animals have" reminded me of something.

There is really two distinct concepts between "intuitive fairness" (what most just call "fairness" but sometimes call "justice", because people are bad at using different labels for different things) and "procedural justice" (most often called "justice", but sometimes "fairness", for the same reason).

The first one is… well, the intuitive thingie where Bezos having billions and the orphan Somali having nothing seems somehow, you know, well… unfair. I have no trouble believing small children/animals having a version of this concept.

The second is a purely human construction. One of the oldest definition of justice is "suum cuique" (see https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/41897/who-was-first-to-say-that-justice-is-to-give-each-his-due). Justice happens when there is a conflict over a resource between two individuals, and resolution is required to decide who is owed what. The judge does not decide who deserves what depending on personal virtue or relative poverty or fame or criterion like that that may well be relevant to decide "fairness". The judge just try to follow the trail of legal property (A owe B X by contract, B owe C Y by another contract, there’s this inheritance law… so in the end here’s what A, B, and C are due), in the way a scientist would try to follow the source of energy (my muscle move by energy stored in my cells that has been provided by my food that has been fixated by a plant and comes from the sun).

I would argue that the invention of this counterintuitive (by comparison to intuitive fairness) "justice system" is one of the causes of wealth (as a partial answer to "Poverty doesn’t need a cause, it’s the natural condition, we should be looking for the causes of wealth"). And one of the problem of "economic justice" is hijacking the whole "justice" magisterum in order to promote what is basically just intuitive fairness. If, like me, you believe that moving from fairness to justice is a critical step in wealth creation, this cannot end well.

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This whole justice discussion seems a little crazy to me. Is 'justice' mostly a blue tribe term? I'm good with charity. (I decide what to do/ who to help.) Justice sounds like someone else decides what is 'just', and I have to go along. I hate it. (Incel 'sexual justice' sounds really creepy to me. The sex I crave is much more than f-ing some pretty women.)

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The parallels drawn between economic justice and sexual justice seem cruel to me. Poverty is a question of life and death for millions of humans. Inceldom is... I don't mean to belittle it... tragic, but uncomparable to the amount of suffering caused by poverty.

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The other day I saw the "causes of wealth" quote connected to Jane Jacobs, in The Economy Of Cities.

“To seek "causes” of poverty in this way is to enter an intellectual dead end because poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes. Analogically, heat is a result of active processes; it has causes. But cold is not the result of any processes; it is only the absence of heat. Just so, the great cold of poverty and economic stagnation is merely the absence of economic development. It can be overcome only if the relevant economic processes are in motion.“

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Mar 25, 2022·edited Mar 25, 2022

I think the right take on the direction of "animal justice" trends may be a rather cynical one. Most of these brands of justice, "economic justice," "climate justice," "social justice," etc. permit people to congratulate themselves for being on the right side and telling other people they're wrong, and pointing at powerful people or systems they have no part in as the ones who have to take responsibility for actually solving anything. Participating in "animal justice" is generally accepted to call for a level of personal sacrifice in giving up meat or animal products that most people simply don't want to do.

Vegans are widely considered to be preachy and sanctimonious, but on the whole they're just participating, at various levels of outspokenness, in a "justice" movement that most people who participate in other "justice" movements (which are usually mostly overlapping,) don't participate in, because it would require something of them other than cultural affiliation with people they already get along with. They allow people who participate in other "justice" movements to experience what it feels like to interact with people in one from the outside, and I think their reception is a pretty good illustration of how effective "justice" movement norms are at being persuasive or appealing to people who aren't already inside them.

People who're members of other "justice" groups, but not animal welfare groups, don't want to identify the animal welfare movement as a a "justice" movement, because it would mean acknowledging a "justice" movement that they're outside of.

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One can think about it as a question about implicit contracts between people. I think most people assume that the default implicit contract is that if someone does something good to you, then you owe them, even if they don't seem to ask for/want anything in return. Accumulating this kind of debt makes people feel bad about themselves, as they use it as an indicator of their goodness and their role in society. The idea of justice changes the nature of the contract and allows people to accept things from others without accumulating debt (as it stipulates that the giver is actually returning their debt to you).

It could be that the whole notion of scorekeeping is detrimental and there is a better way to do it. But still it is deeply ingrained in us; people constantly worry about the nature of their debt in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Because it is so difficult to create and enforce actual contracts it is clear that these kinds of informal and vague contracts have a huge role in society.

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The aside on incels reminded me of that Cat Person story from the New Yorker that was all the rage a few years ago. At the time I couldn’t help reading it as a metaphor for class. It was the story of an upper-class/rich person who met a lower-class/poor person and charitably gave him some alms. The lower-class person then thought that this made the two friends, or peers, and acted as though he could be upper-class too. This horrified the upper-class person, who desperately tried to elude the increasingly importunate lower-class person, until finally we, the reader, understand the danger of mingling with the lower-class, who cannot help, of course, but behave in a distasteful, or “classless,” fashion. Of course the story was ostensibly not about class but all about sex and sexual experience—a fumbling unattractive person and an experienced attractive person from a (note this!) sex-positive family. But until I’d read the story I hadn’t thought about how analogous our contempt for “white trash” was to our contempt for incels.

Then the story faded away from everyone’s consciousness, and I forgot all about it. Until this post brought it all back to me.

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I love reading this kind of thing from people who aren't virtue ethicists, because virtue ethics makes this demarcation absudly easy. The hard part is justifying virtue ethics as a whole and then justifying which specific list of virtues, but after that, everything becomes simple.

For instance, the rich in this situation are greedy, and the incels are lustful. Very easy demarcation with no justice language required.

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For me, Darwin's comment is the best explanation or analysis of this topic yet presented.

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Leaving aside the question of "justice" vs. other approaches to framing morality, I think the discussion of incels is flawed in a way that breaks the analogy.

The thing that incels are lacking is not (just) sex per se, but rather the whole complex of social benefit and validation that comes from being in a relationship. This is not really something you can buy on the market, nor is it something you could reasonably compel anyone else to provide. (Indeed, availing of ordinary prostitution would be a step downward for many such people in these social terms.)

Thus, the disanalogy between the incel situation and poverty is obvious: you can take away a small percent of someone's money, and this imposes a pretty predictable and limited harm on them, and it also means that you have money which you can then give to someone else. None of these operations are possible for incels. The question of whether society at large should step in to help those who are harmed is obviously influenced by whether such intervention is even possible.

(Indeed, in large part actual poverty in first-world nations is similar here, in that it's not simply a straightforward lack of money which could be resolved by providing money, but a much deeper issue in personal constitution and/or social position, of which the lack of money is a symptom. Consider the various initiatives to help chronically homeless people by providing them with apartments, which predictably do not improve their situation on the whole and end up terminating when the sponsor wearies of subsidizing someone who is not on a path to self-sufficiency. As in the case of incels, the question of societal intervention in such cases is not a simple question of whether the downsides of a trivial intervention are worth it; it's a much harder question of whether outside intervention can help at all.)

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Weird that Scott the steelmanning advocate never addresses the best argument against the incel sex UBI thing, which is bodily autonomy. Leaving that out amounts to weak manning disagreement with his position.

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I feel like there is an important distinction between "X is an injustice", and "we (i.e. the government) should try to fix X by coercing other people".

This fits nicely with:

>For instance, what is St. John Chrysostom invoking when he says "the coat rotting in your closet belongs by rights to man who has no coat" if not some version of economic justice?

This is indeed a version of economic justice. And centuries of people have struggled with the fact that life is so unfair. But just because I think the coat in the closet should be given to a poor person, does not mean I think I should take it from someone else's closet to give to a poor person.

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I understand the term 'justice' to be referring to the context of laws/rules, and think it makes more sense of the situation to think of 'economic justice' to be about saying 'the rules of the economic system are set up poorly, such that some people aren't given a fair shot'. I think this should be seen as seperate from 'economic compassion', which is something like saying 'this particular person or group is doing economically poorly (for just or unjust reasons), and I feel badly for them and would like to help them.'

I feel like people are overusing the justice term lately, but also that it does have some relevance and meanings which matter. Like, I would see 'economic justice' as a call to see if we can design a system which would still allow for the good parts of capitalism, with the brilliance of letting prices shift priorities in a information-rich complex system beyond what humans can consciously design and manage, but minimize some of the bad effects. I mean, I think bankruptcy laws are an attempt to do exactly this sort of compromise between letting people go into debt and yet not throwing them into debtors prison when they screw up.

And 'climate justice' to me seems to be a call to have better international laws around pollution that crosses international borders. If countries had to pay a carbon tax for the CO / CO2 / etc that leaves their borders, and this carbon tax went to global warming mitigation like tropical ocean cloud seeding, this would be a great thing for the world. Countries would then be motivated to reduce their tax by taking actions internally to reduce emissions, and meanwhile, warming would have funds set aside to address the issue. The hard part is getting the nations of the world to come together to agree to and enforce such regulations.

So, in this case, justice/injustice can be seen as a call to change or create rules of law. Climate action might be going out and directly seeding some clouds. Climate compassion/charity would be granting money / citizenship rights / property ownership to people displaced by warming-related flooding. Climate welfare would be setting up laws to do climate compassion in a systematic way with tax dollars. Climate education or consciousness or conscientiousness would be a call to shift social dialogue and opinion in favor of any of the above types of pro-climate action.

What about incel injustice? I'd say that a reasonable call to fix incel injustice would be legalizing sex work (which is something a lot of progressive liberal people I know are indeed in favor of). A change of the rules of the game. Whereas incel compassion would be a call for someone who is personally in a position to give physical affection to someone they know to lack avenues for that, to bias themselves somewhat in favor of giving that desired affection. I'm not saying that seems like a good solution to me, just that I feel like it makes sense as a topic of discussion. Incel consciousness could be something like working against social taboos against seeking sexual satisfaction in non-partner-requiring ways like masturbation, porn, sex toys / dolls, etc.

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A better example than the Incel one is Meat Farming. Even Justice-obsessed people will not refrain from eating meat, and thus you can call them out on their own hypocrisy.

1) Farm animals are suffering terribly

2) It’s not their fault, and they’ve done nothing to “deserve to suffer”

3) Humans don't need to eat meat

4) Therefore, it is Injustice

5) ***And yet you claim to be pro-justice while eating meat everyday***

I'm not pointing this out to be judgmental about eating meat (and it's certainly not impossible for meat farming to be done ethically), I'm just trying to make clear that people will gladly turn off the Justice part of their brain when it suddenly impacts them rather than someone else.

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> It’s hard to think of a way to help him that doesn’t impinge on important freedoms in some

> way...


> ... Needless to say, if we held the same mindset when thinking about climate or the

> economy, we could generate the same objections.

Actually, I think that this is exactly the mindset that we should have about these problems, whether it be "incel justice" or "climate justice".

First, acknowledge the fact that there's a way in which the world is unfair for systemic reasons, and as a result, there are some people/animals/the-environment which are being damaged or hurt in some way. Second, do some brainstorming to figure out if there is some way to alter the system (because it's a systemic problem), and what the cost of those alterations might be for everyone.

Applied to "climate justice", this looks like the following. What are the likely effects of climate change, and how much would it cost to avert? Note that cost can be measured in various ways, so there is plenty of room for debate. In a justice/freedom/rights framing, it's a question of what freedoms or rights do we give up to avert climate change, versus the unjust harm that would occur. With a more economic framing, the question is: how much money would we have to spend, vs the economic damage from rising sea levels in 100 years?

In the case of the climate, there's a pretty clear argument that renewables are now cheaper than coal, almost as cheap as gas, and infrastructure investments can actually increase economic growth. Thus the cost of investing in renewables now is minimal, and the likely costs of the IPCC "business as usual" projections are beginning to look quite bad, regardless of whether you measure the cost in terms of "freedom/justice" or "dollars".

Similarly, if Jeff Bezos is rich while Somali orphans are starving, you could start to crunch some numbers about whether a progressive tax on the rich could pay for universal food security for the poor, how high the tax would have to be, and how much freedom or economic growth we'd have to give up to achieve the goal of food security.

How would one go about trying to solve the incel problem? The government forcing random women to have sex, in Japanese WWII "comfort women" style, clearly does *NOT* satisfy any conceivable cost/benefit tradeoff, under any framing. However, there are other potential solutions that might pass muster -- should prostitution be made legal, as is done in Nevada? Could "conjugal therapy" from a licensed practitioner be prescribed by a psychiatrist? (Note that I am not taking a side this debate -- I am merely pointing out that there is room for rational debate.)

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I think the usual approach to the case of the blameless incel and other kinds of unlucky people is to agree that society has an obligation to offer "reasonable" aid but not "unreasonable" aid, and then spend way too much time arguing exactly what kinds of aid are reasonable and which are unreasonable?

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Irrelevant side note, just because I've just been reading about it: you quote "Christian charity is superior to justice, because the just man only helps people who ‘deserve’ help, whereas the Christian helps everybody"

There's different ways of reading this - true is that Christian tradition (which seems to have been partly abandoned in Christian societies over the course of the 14th to 17th century in favor of forced labor and prohibition of begging) gives alms without means testing or applying moral standards. Giving is a chance to be virtuous, a beggar provides opportunity to be virtuous and humble, and from that follows veneration of the poor and needy - for their role in that exchange. It's not about solving the need at all, it's about, uh, virtue signaling, to God.

But: that is not exactly the same as helping everybody. It's helping those who fulfill their role of being poor and desperate, the more destitute, dirty, *other*, the better, not necessarily to arouse compassion, but to make the act of giving more virtuous. Accordingly, we get people canonized as saints for eating shit or crawling in the dirt etc, and literally poisoning yourself to present with foamy mouth and seizures is a viable begging strategy (this might work in other cultures, too, but being met with disgust and fear can also harm your prospects and nowadays it's much more prudent to present yourself as virtuous, willing to work and polite). If you don't need help and ask for it anyway, you're not upholding your end of the bargain of making the giver get bonus points for admittance to heaven, so you better fake it (and people are incentivized to believe you, so they won't ask for proof).

In contrast, in ancient Rome and Greece, benefaction had little to do with poverty or need, instead, it was the virtue of supporting family, friends, fellow citizens - your in-group, in need or not. While there's also some private charity to the poor documented, that's less of a matter of virtue and more a personal preference. Virtue is getting your nephew a good job and inviting your friends to dinner, not give alms to the foreign weirdo on the street. Gods don't demand you feed the poor, inequality (i.e. slavery) is the backbone of Greek and Roman society (not to say (all) Christian societies were more equal, but at least their religious text is pretty clear on it). Christianity got their conception of charity from oriental cultures, instead.

Obviously, cultural issues are never black and white and don't form neat categories, so take all of this with a grain of salt. I hope I made some semblance of sense and have not introduced errors of translation.

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Confusingly, criminal justice is itself unjust. Reason being, punishment is abuse saddled in excuses. I believe it’s been shown that prisons abuse people who were already abused as children, or are even innocent by false accusation. I’d call that unjust, at least.

This means that popular concepts of “justice” that are based on criminal justice can really be excuses to hurt people. But there is also “restorative justice,” which seeks correction without punishment. So any given “___ justice” can mean nearly opposite things to different people!

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Here's a problem I have. Calling something unjust, or unfair implies a moral obligation to change it. Ought implies can. Therefore unfair or unjust implies that there is a possible alternative that's better. And I would say not only possible in principle, but also in practice.

And that's where a lot of these arguments go wrong in my view. "The current state of affairs is unjust and we have to change it, now we only need to figure it out how". No, that's putting the cart before the horse! First you provide an alternative that's better and feasable and then you can call the current state of affairs unjust. Something that cannot be different cannot possibly be unfair.

I have no problem with social justice by the way. I just think the contemporary discourse surrounding it is tarred by Utopic thinking.

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Sexual justice is trolly because it’s intended to be obviously absurd, but break it down and it touches on valid social issues.

To reduce the problem of incels to sex is to neglect the many different needs met in relationships. Take them one at a time. Would you say it’s a bad thing to have justice for children of neglectful parents, who were deprived of connection and belonging, and might just need therapy and hugs?

Mocking it as “sexual justice” would be akin to mocking poverty as “break into your house and steal food from your fridge justice.” Bottom line is, people are hurting, and they can and should be helped in entirely reasonable ways.

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You ask yourself why you find the idea of animal justice more compelling than climate or economic justice. It’s pretty clear that what is different is that you don’t think that *your actions that contribute to climate or economic injustice (etc) are big enough contributors to the problem to be the bad or immoral action driving the suffering of sentient beings*. Given that you talk about justice in terms of retribution against people who can/should be blamed for suffering caused by bad/immoral behavior, it is completely unsurprising or remarkable that you don’t think *you* should be held responsible for the (putatively) unjust outcome of human suffering in the case of climate, economic disparity, etc.

I find this fascinating, because while I don’t see a clear or coherent point from either of these posts, you spent a good deal of the first post alleging that the “woke” perspective on justice means punishment, when it’s pretty clear that this is your own internal model for justice. (By the way, do you have any research to back up the idea that this is a commonly-held view? In a country where the title we give our supposedly most-impartial people the title of Justice, not because they punish but because they are supposed to hear cases and sentence fairly, according to the law and the merits of the case? The blindfolded lady with the scales? The contrast that vigilantism/vengeance-seeking presents to that system, immortalized in a kajillion super-popular comic books and action movies and scifi narratives, and probably religious books going back much farther than even the philosophy underwriting our wee teenaged nation?)

You provide the examples that playing computer games or buying cheap goods from Amazon are sympathetic, not bad or immoral, and you expect that your audience will, too. You think that caging, torturing, and killing animals is bad, and tell your audience so in a way that is clearly unsympathetic. Like all other animals, humans are sentient beings, and I imagine that you don’t think it’s moral for them to suffer, either.

So, if your actions are unsympathetic (or are predicated on the actions of others that you believe to be bad/immoral, given that you don’t to my knowledge harvest your own animals when you eat or have eaten meat), and those actions contribute to the suffering of sentient beings, you believe a movement seeking justice is warranted - you even participate, as you’ve written about trying to eat less meat for these reasons, about the moral goodness of vegans, soliciting donations for animal-welfare groups, and discussing other animal-justice topics in examples like this one.

But if you think your actions are sympathetic, and they contribute to the suffering of sentient beings, a justice movement is not only unwarranted, but must be motivated by a sinister power play to punish *you* for being bad and immoral. Your writing attests to this on many fronts. This is not a fancy philosophical conundrum, just the oldest bias in the book.

There is no sympathy discernable for actual, living human beings in the real world when you glibly contrast Jeff Bezos with “a Somali orphan”, or pen a hot take on the relationship of Mali’s climate to economic success. I know people who gravitated to you years ago because they felt you had compassion for people others didn’t, like sad and frustrated young men who wanted to find love. Where is that compassion when people suffer but there is no individual to blame? Are you incapable of recognizing injustice without a villain?

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I think the original point, that framing questions as issues of justice is unhelpful and inevitably distopian, is a great one, but the Incel argument is not a good one. It is pretty absurd to characterize Incels as people who are unable to get sexual partners - the vast majority of people encounter that difficulty to some degree in their lives. And that frustration has led to lots of great art - for example, all the zillions of songs and stories that have sexual frustration as their subject -- as well as a tremendous amount of personal growth. You're not an Incel if you've been sexually frustrated, for whatever reason, and sing the blues over it.

You're an incel if you claim this makes you a victim. Incels are offended by the perceived unfairness of not getting what they want, characterizing the cause for that as perpetrators (often, young attractive women in general, or society, or whatever, so long as it works as an object of their anger). In other words, Incels are already demanding "sexual justice", including demands for retribution against those who haven't given them what they wanted. What's truly crazy about this is that it actually does lead to people claiming Incel victimhood to violently attack people who are objects of their desire, without waiting for the objectified person to even reject them first. That's not hypothetical, it's really happening. That's very distopian in my book.

As I see it, this is just one more manifestation of the ascendance of the claim to victimhood in our society. Appealing to people's sense of being victimized is one of the most potent political tools for inspiring activism these days. It's reached truly ridiculous proportions, when our former billionaire president works hard to portray himself as victim in chief, with a whole movement of subordinate victims uniting around his victim banner. And it's pervasive across the whole political spectrum, as you've very aptly pointed out. Indeed we're almost to the point of having one overriding ideology, which I'd call "Victimatarianism" that pervades the whole political spectrum. Which seems to me the reason for all this talk about "justice" rather than social improvement. If we're all victims, it means, we're all out for justice.

Which is why your original point about framing this whole laundry list of social issues as questions of justice is so important and so right. When an issue is framed as a question of justice as that word is actually used in politics, it implies there's a perpetrator and a victim. If you frame the same question in terms of responding to a challenge or reform or social improvement, it focuses on making things better rather than the perpetrator-victim dualism. Actual positive improvement results from looking at improving things beyond the question of justice for perpetrators and victims.

Justice is a useful concept when you're talking about how to deal with defined specific wrongs that people have suffered. But it's pretty iffy even in that limited context -- court cases, for example, turn out to be miscarriages of justice all too often. So much so that most court cases are resolved by compromise, not by "justice" being done. When politics turns into a quest for justice, it can really get ugly, as we've seen for the past few years on every side of the political spectrum.

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I know this isn’t relevant (don’t get mad at me pls Scott) but is anyone at EAGx in Oxford this weekend? If so would love to meet up, I don’t know anyone there nor any rationalists and/or ACX readers in real life. If so let me know or book a meeting, my name is Gruffydd Gozali on swapcard. Or just reply here.

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Mar 26, 2022·edited Mar 26, 2022

To a Georgist or a socialist, most people are poor because they are being robbed. Squeezed by the factory owner on one end and the landlord (or mortgage lender) on the other. Because the boss and the landlord own the underlying land, they have an exclusive right to the land and its natural resources for all time, and they can extract the wealth created by their employees / tenants, who have no choice but go along with it because they need the land for shelter and sustenance.

(This example was much more relatable during the Industrial Revolution but it is equally valid today. All wealth ultimately derives from land and natural resources. We could also construct a similar example with drug companies and intellectual property, but there are some interesting differences.)

Of course the factory owner and landlord would tell you that they acquired their land fair and square, and they don't make the rules. And I accept that argument (insofar as they don't fund politicians to maintain the status quo (which they do)).

So it looks like poor people are poor because of the way we think about property rights. In other words, what can be "owned"? Can a person own something that was not created by another person? If we all agree to let certain things-not-made-by-humans be owned (i.e. land) because we think it will be a net benefit (i.e. encourage economic activity), how should this special kind of ownership be different (if at all) from normal kinds of ownership (e.g. owning your body, the fruits of your labor)? Socialists think all land should be collectivized. Georgists think it should just be taxed much more (and stop taxing everything else).

I am much more convinced by this conception of justice than the comparatively naïve argument "inequality implies injustice". Thomas Paine actually called it "agrarian justice".

An interesting aside, then, is what to do with the incels and sexual injustice. If we ascribe to Georgism and believe in helping the poor insofar as they have been exploited by landowners, can we now raise the bar of injustice and conclude that the incels are on their own? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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A lot of this drives home to me how philosophically bankrupt most modern discussions of ethics generally are.

Similarly "Human Rights" are this foundational concept in international law, PMC moralizing, yet they are totally incoherent. They assume obligations on others and the notion of violation and remedy are totally confused.

If someone in Africa doesn’t have access to healthcare, who is violating their human rights? Just the government of their own country, or every hospital in the world that doesn’t offer them free treatment?

What about people in Tonga, after the volcano went off did the volcano violate their human rights? Or did the government or the broader international community violate people’s rights until aid could be delivered?

What about HIV in the 80’s when there was no treatment? Did the virus violate people’s human rights, did the scientists by failing to develop a cure, or was there no human rights violation? or after anti retro virals were developed, did the drug developers instantly begin violating the human rights of anyone who has HIV but did not receive drugs?

Most positive "human right" I think are better understood as privileges a country ought to provide citizens rather than sorts of universal freedoms. Of course this doesn't square well with the idea that "privileges" are somehow dirty and signify moral pollution. Human rights unless restricted to freedom from oppression, freedom from abuse and violence etc... seem rather incoherent.

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AJPio writes:

"But of course how humans tend to behave is also a product of culture (more evidence of injustice!) and this kind of reply is less appealing in other domains e.g. if government officials keep being corrupt, you don’t say ‘well maybe instead of calling this state of affairs unjust we should remember what human nature is like, and design systems around it, think about what’s more effective, have a positive narrative’"

I found this curious, because I would use the corruption argument pretty much word by word (in fact it is one of the most basic libertarian arguments for less state). While individual cases of corruption are unjust, I don't think it is helpful to call a crusade on corruption because it is treating symptoms without treating the cause. The cause is human nature and cultural norms. Cultural norms are indeed changeable but there are parts of human nature that are immutable and not affected by culture - I see economics mostly as the study of this basic human nature.

You can create cultural norms in which corruption is less acceptable and more stigmatized but if your system of societal organization makes it more attractive then there will be more corruption and you cannot just change this by social norms alone.

In general, I think this care vs. fairness dichotomy is kind of similar to the utilitarian vs. deontological view of the world. It seems to me that fairness is a lot more deontological and care/harm a lot more utilitarian.

My biggest problem with deontological social philosophy (regardless of the ideology) is that is is prescriptive. It derives what it sees as the just state of the world somehow and then tries to bend the existing state of the world to reach the just state. But conflict arises when this just state of the world is in conflict with the basic human nature and then you get things like real socialism when you wanted a communist utopia (I have the same problem with deontological libertarians by the way).

Partly I see this in claims like "we produce enough, we just need to redistribute it better". But there are reasons why we produce quite as much and these reasons also affect why we distribute the way we do. We can improve this marginally through charity, shifts in cultural norms (appreciating people for philanthropy instead of admiring their expensive yachts) etc., but if we actually change the core of the system then we cannot take the fact that we produce so much for granted any more. The size of the pie that we bake is not fixed. But this is much clearer and more obvious from the perspective of "what can we do to make sure everyone gets more pie?" than if you start with the premise that it is unjust that someone gets more (or at least much more) of the pie than someone else and think about the ways to change that instead.

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Speaking of Justice . . .A rudimentary deconstruction of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's introduction in the Senate makes it clear she's a crypto-libertarian, and that terror of the Democratic Party -- a moderate, conservative African American.

She paused to reaffirm her thanks to God, declaring "It is faith that sustains me at this moment." She declared she was blessed beyond measure to be born in "this great nation." She acknowledged that the lawful segregation and many other barriers her parents endured had ultimately made her own experience possible. And she thanked her parents for her African identity and name, and the family ethos that if she worked hard in America, she could reach her "God-given potential." And, by the way, her entire family is in public service -- lawyers, jurists, police officers, a military officer, and several doing time in prison. In front of family and lifelong friends, Judge Brown Jackson declared she would apply "careful adherence to precedence" to the constitution.

So, do we send Ms. Ocasio-Cortez Xanax or flowers? Judge Brown Jackson looks like just what America needs -- the best qualified person for the job. Hopefully non-partisan.

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porn parody batman movie where batman is an incel fighting for "sexual justice"

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Mar 27, 2022·edited Mar 27, 2022

On the hog farm example, I think this matches "justice" well because it's a simple on/off question, and you'll find justice works best in those scenarios. The hog farm can be made to stop polluting those properties. It's a yes/ no kind of question. Similarly:

- Should someone go to jail? There's a straight-forward yes/no answer.

- Should people be denied access to bathrooms and parks based on the colour of their skin?

- Should prisoners be tortured?

- Should people eat animals?

- Should employers be allowed to charge workers for trumped up costs, putting them into debt, thereby forcing them to effectively work as slave labour?

In contrast, many economic and social questions are not yes/no, and so they do not fit well into the mould of justice. To achieve a society where people earn a decent income, it takes more than answering yes/no questions. You need to work out the details of a market economy and redistribution. If you want more people to have sex (a worthy goal), there probably are real solutions, but they will not be an answer to a yes/no question. If you want to stop climate change, etc etc.

To underline this point, consider cases where courts have attempted to decide how to assign government budgets to achieve issues of economic justice. It happened in Canada at least once. If that seems like a bad idea (it is), it should give a sense of why justice doesn't work well beyond yes/no questions.

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Something that seems to be overlooked in the incel-gets-laid analogy is that sex, while having been commodified for time out of mind, is only the top layer of the problem: This hypothetical incel would be better served by a meaningful human interaction, not just meaningless sex as a financial transaction. In other words, the physical release doesn't seem to be the problem or solution here. Sex is just the last act of a multi-act play. It's everything that comes before it that gives sex meaning and satisfaction, and shorn of the events leading up to it, the incel just ends up exactly were he started. And possibly worse off: Just as frustrated and unfulfilled as before. You could theoretically mandate the act, but you'll never mandate intimate love between two people.

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On the Jewish view of charity, I think Scott gets it wrong - and instead of trying to write out a detailed refutation of why I'd claim that mainsteam Jewish sources view "charity" as an obligation to do justice in distributing funds, I'll just quote a big excerpts from my book chapter on Effective Altruism and Charity (For more on charity and religion, read the book, it's free - https://www.nomos-elibrary.de/10.5771/9783748925361/effective-altruism-and-religion ):

“If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers, in your cities, in your land the Lord, your G-d, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking. ... For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to your needy in your land.” - Deuteronomy 15:7-11

While a variety of biblical texts discuss charitable giving of various sorts, the one most relevant to modern charitable giving is the above passage in Deuteronomy. Per later sources, the exact phrasing of these verses is critical in understanding the contours of the obligation. For example, a discussion that becomes critical to the question of moral obligation is that verse 7 uses the terms “among you,” “needy person,” “in your cities,” and “in your land.” According to the Sifrei, the order indicates a preference for the recipients of giving, so that according to most opinions, physical location creates a biblically mandated preference - albeit one that may be overridden by different levels of need.

Still, the biblical obligation laid out in Deuteronomy provides a baseline rather than a complete picture. The Shulcan Aruch notes in the very first rule about charity that the Bible repeatedly exhorts Jews to assist others by giving charity, which emphasizes its importance. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 247). In addition to the theoretical discussion of importance, the actual emphasis on charity by Jewish communities is clear historically... the rabbis viewed redistribution of wealth to the poor to be a central function of post-temple Judaism.

The Rabbinic obligation to give charity is based on the biblical idea of giving a tenth of a person’s wealth to the needy. This was introduced by Abraham when he says, in Genesis 14:20, that he will give a tenth of his wealth to a priest of the lord. Fourteen chapters later, Jacob accepts this obligation on an ongoing basis, saying that he will give a tenth of whatever he receives. This is not itself an obligation for future generations to give a tenth of their non-agricultural income, but forms the conceptual basis for the requirement.

The way in which one fulfills this obligation is the subject of much discussion. There is some talmudic discussion, but most of the discussion about the allocation of charity appears in later sources. For instance, there is a distinction drawn between charitable giving to community institutions and that given to the poor. For example, in Nachmanides’ explanation, found in his commentary on Deuteronomy 12:6, discusses Exodus 35:24, where a surplus of funds is available for building the tabernacle, and the point is made that communal needs are limited, unlike personal donations. Once those needs are fulfilled, as seen in Exodus, communal leaders are responsible to stop further giving. No such limitation exists for giving to the poor, and while each individual has a limited requirement, the obligation to give remains...

...Peter Singer makes the clear case in his book Practical Ethics that the wealthy have a moral obligation to help the poor on utilitarian grounds. The rich have sufficient resources, and even for someone with only somewhat utilitarian beliefs, a person should certainly be willing to sacrifice at least a small portion of their own comfort to help others, providing great benefit at very low cost.

Judaism takes a compatible view of the obligation for Tzedakah, albeit from a markedly non-utilitarian viewpoint; “He who ignores those in need is called wicked and is regarded as if he worships idols.” (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 247:1) The deontological prohibition against turning away the needy, “shutting your hand” (Deuteronomy 15:7) from helping them, has a clear biblical source. Expanding on this, the latter clause of the Shulchan Aruch suggests an equivalence to idol worship, a sin considered on par with murder, deriving from the fact that all wealth comes from G-d, as the Rema’s gloss notes just afterwards; “People must realize that they themselves are given sustenance by G-d,” (Rema, Yoreh Deah 247:3) and failing to use the wealth granted by G-d to help others would, by this logic, be considered rejecting G-d. This argument can be sourced to a passage in the Talmud, Kiddushin 82b. “Poverty does not come from a trade, nor does wealth come from a trade; rather, they come from the One to Whom wealth belongs, as it is stated [citing the verse in Haggai, 2:8]: ‘Silver belongs to me, Gold belongs to me, says the Lord of hosts.’”

Returning to the comparison to Effective Altruism, some object to Singer’s view on the non-utilitarian grounds that the moral choice to help the poor is only important if donations are, in fact, made by choice. Given that objection, it is worth noting that Judaism rejects this logic; in many cases, those who do not donate by choice can be compelled by the court to do so. At the same time, Jewish law does recognize a great deal of latitude and choice in the selection of recipients and causes.

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While I am somewhat sympathetic to Scott's biases on justice creep, I do find his more discrete biases (i.e., climate change vs. animal welfare) to be incongruent. But I think I know why: I think we all have different areas of interest where we feel our unique powers as humans should be used to challenge the natural order of things, and where we feel that arrogantly overstepping our abilities as humans could lead to catastrophic ends.

Ultimately, what I see is that we're essentially debating the amount of agency we, as the most powerful sentient beings on the planet, have in determining and overriding otherwise natural outcomes.

One the one side, we have the more-or-less conservative/libertarian view that we, as the most powerful sentient beings on the planet, are still mostly just animals doing our thing. We have the right to pursue reproduction, pleasure, and power as we see fit because we are just another animal in the broader panoply of nature's actors roaming the planet. To this cohort, we're no less opportunistic than SARS-COV-2. We aim to reproduce at whatever cost, which is external to our being.

On the other side, we have the more-or-less progressive/conscientious idealist view that we, as the most powerful sentient beings on the planet, have the ability to bend the system to our whims. And therefore we have the obligation to bend systems and actions towards more fair and just ends. To this cohort, we as humans are essentially externalities to nature writ large, and as such, we have almost G-d like powers to transform nature's inherent bias towards the most fit and against the least fit.

From the libertarian/conservative perspective, we actually should be humble in how we wield our powers, because if we wield them too wildly, we could actually severely disrupt the natural order of things. This would be the "humans-as-arrogant-muckrakers" theory of interaction.

From the progressive/conscientious idealist perspective, we actually should exert our unique abilities to wield our impressive powers, because only we have the ability to overturn nature's blindness to justice, and it's our moral obligation to do so, because we have the power and ability to do so.

To further distill this: I see all of this as fodder for the "are humans uniquely externalized actors in nature or simply the most dangerously-advanced part of nature" debate.

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The internal name of the Google feature "About X results (Y.Z seconds)" is tinkernickle. By removing it, ad revenue is reduced. No one can explain why.

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I think a lot of problems with "justice" come from the idea that there is one perfect thing we want and we have the ability to select the optimal choice. Instead it's better to imagine that there are a number of different goals we have and we want to live on the efficient frontier but for any problem we have to tradeoff some justice vs another. Playing video games might not be an issue but driving a low mpg car might be an issue because the scale actually matters (alternatively we could decide that value of video games is too low but transportation is super important so even though video games causes less relative emissions it's a worse action). This also solves the incel issue, as a society we might consider it unjust that some people don't get to have sex with the people they want, but we recognize that people have a more important right to chose who they have sex with. In the more sympathetic framing, we might want to follow the Netherland's example (https://dutchreview.com/culture/relationships/sex-care-in-the-netherlands-helping-the-disabled-find-intimacy/).

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Re: Sexual Welfare - there is actually a debate around this in Germany, where various very large, reputable and politically established (non-"woke") organizations like pro familia demand for the health / disability insurance or social aid system to support disabled or old people seeking out sex workers, as these organizations regard the experience of intimacy as an essential human necessity (to stay away from the term "human right"). There are also some initiatives, funded by disabled citizen interest groups, that train up and certify sex workers to better understand the needs and to better provide for disabled clients.

This could also be a prescription type of deal.

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Justice is an unhelpful lens to use or shift towards in other arenas because we're already so bad at regular criminal and civil justice.

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Haven't had time to read through all the comments yet, so maybe others have already made the below points, but if not --

<i>I recall hearing in childhood religious school back in the early 90s that the English word "charity" comes from the Latin "caritas" meaning compassion, and it's about a feeling of caring deep in your heart.</i>

That's not quite true. "Charity" does indeed come from "caritas", (which in turn comes from "carus", which means something like "precious, dear, beloved",*) but I think you'd be very hard-pressed to find a theologian or religious teacher who said that simply feeling warmly towards somebody without actually doing anything to help them would count as charity.

(* On a completely random note, the Proto-Indo-European word "*ka-" which gave rise to "carus", and hence "caritas" and "charity", also gave rise to our English word "whore". Etymology can be weird sometimes.)

<i>Something's off here. What Scott describes as "justice creep" sounds in many ways like a classically Christian understanding of justice. For instance, what is St. John Chrysostom invoking when he says "the coat rotting in your closet belongs by rights to man who has no coat" if not some version of economic justice? And yet, Christianity manages to also talk about many other virtues, and revere many people as saints (including, uh, Chrysostom). So, at least within the worldview from which the concept of saints derives, there is room for both widespread injustice crying out for remedy and genuinely heroic examples of virtue. And why shouldn't there be? The fact we have many injustices to right does not cancel out opportunities to cultivate virtues like patience, fortitude, and temperance.</i>

The classical Christian understanding also held that people can only become saints through the grace of God. I know I'm not the first person to suggest that social justice basically takes Christian notions of original sin and rejects Christian notions of grace and redemption, and in the process creates a highly misanthropic and socially-harmful worldview.

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I suspect that many of the people who argue that there is no such thing as sexual injustice but there is economic injustice would say that there's no genetic variation to human intelligence / work ethic (outside of catastrophic mutations like Down Syndrome). To me it's the left's equivalent to being a flat earth theorist but it is socially acceptable.

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It is not enough to someone stop raping another. You want to be compensated. You want your bad experience to matter to others. You might use all of your life to get it even if it would be better to just move on.

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Decriminalize paysex and pornography, reduce the legal minimum age.

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May 2, 2022·edited May 2, 2022

My tolerance for this discussion usually runs out pretty quickly because so many very smart people come to the table with an a priori hypothesis that is so unscientific as to make it look deliberate. Namely, they look at macro-level disparate outcomes and conclude that 100% of the variance is accounted for by some social injustice. That whatever has accrued to the benefitting group was stolen, or somehow ill-gotten.

When we design an experiment that attempts to explain an observed phenomenon, isn't it prudent to attempt to account for all the variance, no matter where the data leads? Some of the bad stuff that happens to people is at least partially their own fault. Some of it is from something else. It should not be a big deal to point that out. But no matter what, you can't solve the problem until you understand all of its vectors of causation.

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