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I've been meaning to ask... - Elizabeth Unexplained
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I've been meaning to ask...
I've been meaning to ask this for quite some time, and I given up on finding the perfect wording for the question, so this will have to do. I'd love it if people included thoughts in the comments.

Poll #1548030 Responsibility

Do you think it is preferable for people who make responsible choices to benefit from those choices in some way that people who make less responsible choices do not?


This question assumes that not everyone makes responsible choices.

ETA: Yes, I realize that it is an excessively broad question, though people have made it even broader than I realized. What I had in mind was responsible choices that did have a benefit, i.e. you pay your credit card bill on time and the bank is less likely to raise your interest rate. I was not thinking of scenarios where irresponsible people were deliberately hurt, as in firstfrost's example of not hiring smokers, but I did not want to exclude situations where limited resources might be allocated unevenly, i.e. giving scholarship money to good students.
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firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 6th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is somewhat broad for a yes/no question. Do I think we should inject non-smokers with carcinogens so that their chance of cancer is the same as it is for smokers? No. Do I think companies should be encouraged to fire smokers from their jobs? No.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: April 6th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
If there was a way to remove the carcinogens from the smokers, but only by injecting those carcinogens into nonsmokers, should it be done?
enugent From: enugent Date: April 6th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Too broad a question to pick a simple yes or no answer. To the extent that you're planning to use a positive answer as a gotcha for why we shouldn't have a universal health insurance mandate, I pick no. If we're talking about employee wellness programs, I might be willing to sign on to it if they focused on behaviors, but since they almost universally focus on outcomes, again, no. If we're talking about discounts on car insurance for wearing a seat belt, probably yes.
gryphon2k From: gryphon2k Date: April 6th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
My problem with the question is, who gets to define whether a choice was responsible or not? Not all responsible choices have good outcomes, not do all irresponsible choices have bad outcomes.

I think there are few things that are going to be obviously responsible or irresponsible the time the choice is made (at least for big, non-trivial choices). So penalizing irresponsible choices is a little too arbitrary and hindsighted for me to be comfortable with, personally.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 6th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a good point. I was thinking along the lines of bailing out people who bought houses that they clearly couldn't afford as an irresponsible choice, or say having 14 kids when you're single and unemployed. I was thinking along the line of things with a clear downside to anyone with a brain. I realize that there are people out there who would, for example, like to define being gay as an irresponsible choice, but I'm pretty sure my friends list is more sensible than that.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 6th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Having 14 kids when single and unemployed is one of those cases where the downside doesn't just affect the person who made the bad choice, though. Which is why there is the impulse to help.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 7th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC) (Link)
So when the bank, which in theory has a whole department of people whose job it is to know what you can afford from your application, tells you they will give you a loan - when many banks do that - that's going to wear down your sensible thought that maybe you really can't afford it. Mortgage brokers wanted more mortgages, so they pretended they were viable financial products. They lied. Home-buyers wanted the fancy homes, so they bought in. Even obvious isn't simple.

And that's not even talking about side effects afterwards like firstfrost brings up.
From: tirinian Date: April 6th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think very few of your readers are going to disagree with that question as phrased. Perhaps the question you actually want to ask to find the dividing line you may be looking for is more along the lines of "Do you think it is preferable for people who make responsible choices to gain all the benefit from those choices while people who make less responsible choices suffer all the consequences of their choices?" I would answer that phrasing no.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 6th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a great comment. I started thinking about this months ago, and realized that I considered it a no-brainer that in general people who made responsible choices should be allowed to realize the benefits of those choices. I kept asking myself how some of my friends could hold certain positions given how they (to my mind) benefited irresponsible people at the expense of those who behaved more responsibly. Then it occurred to me that I was making an assumptions.

I think we've both come up with questions at the extremes. I would hope that almost everyone would answer my question "yes" on the understanding that I'm not talking about going out of our way to hurt the irresponsible. I think most people would answer your question "no" because there are some instances where there is value is saving people from their own stupidity. I guess what I really want to know is where people fall on the spectrum, but that's a much harder thing to pin down.
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 6th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
This question assumes that not everyone makes responsible choices.

Do you assume that everyone is capable of making responsible choices?
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: April 6th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I do assume that nearly everyone is capable of making responsible choices, at least everyone in the choice-making group. I am assuming here that parents and/or guardians are making the choices for small children and people with severe learning disabilities, etc. I was trying to keep things simple, though I realize that life is far from simple. Mostly I wanted to know where people stood on the general principle.

This does touch on a whole other issue that I was wondering about though, and that is whether or not people thought smart people should realize the benefits of being smart, but I felt the responsibility thing was a better question.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 6th, 2010 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
The scholarship example is even one where there's a lot of leeway. Do I think there should be scholarships for good students? Sure, yes. Do I think that merit-based scholarships should be the only kind? No.

Personally, I think that life is full of circumstances where making good decisions gets you benefits and bad decisions gets you penalties; also, random chance gets you benefits or gets you penalties. As a society, I think we should make some attempt to ameliorate the worst of the penalties, and I don't think that those attempts at amelioration should *only* be targetted at the random-chance-based bad things. And, to the extent that we're a zero-sum society (which I don't think we wholly are), an attempt at amelioration will tend to take stuff from the advantaged and give it to the disadvantaged; again, some of those advantages being lessened will be due to good choices, and some will be due to luck.
jaedian From: jaedian Date: April 6th, 2010 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
In general I think yes. But that is such a broad question. And there are plenty of decisions that seem perfectly reasonable at the time but are in fact disastrous in hindsight. (do we need responsibility police to determine if it was a good choice at the time? - then you qualify for help?)

But there are plenty of choices that end up being bad, that were made based on erroneous assumptions, rather than being irresponsible choices. With the mortgage crisis, certainly some of the people were irresponsible. But many just had faulty assumptions, assuming they would keep getting raises or keep their job, assuming that real estate would go up or at least not go down etc. So I don't see how you can sort out the irresponsible from just unfortunate choices. At least not on a society level.

And certainly, there are plenty of irresponsible decisions that pay off in a big positive way. (risk taking can be quite profitable. And responsible decisions that fail miserably.

And I think there should be some attempt to reduce the penalty for first time offenders whether it be bankruptcy or criminal court. Because sometimes people make mistakes and we should always try and learn from our past mistakes as no-one is perfect. But I think there also has to be some penalty for a mistake, or you won't learn from it. And if it is a repeat pattern, then I wouldn't offer help.

But I do think people who are responsible or hard working or even lucky should be allowed to benefit from any successes as well. Otherwise no-one has any incentive to make good choices in the future. As a side point, I do see a lot of parents nowadays stepping in to save their children from their choices and mistakes. I don't see how children can learn from their mistakes if we do that. And it seems like this could have interesting social ramifications in future generations.
enugent From: enugent Date: April 7th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Related to this, there may also be an unacceptably high cost to society in figuring out who was irresponsible and should pay, and who was responsible but unlucky and should be bailed out. Sometimes you have to accept that some people will benefit who don't "deserve" it in order to help those who need help.

Similarly, sometimes you can't help everyone you would like to because it's too hard to sort, rather than because you don't have the resources to help.
psychohist From: psychohist Date: April 7th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that I would contend that assuming that one would keep getting raises and never lose one's job is in fact irresponsible. Taking out a mortgage responsibly may involve buying a smaller house than the absolute maximum one can afford, so as to weather negative events.

Once we make the assumption that "no one who takes a mortgage loan that the bank is willing to make should ever be foreclosed on", then the advantage to being responsible has been not only erased, but reversed.
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