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Does effort really merit reward?

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posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:25 PM
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Ever since Adam Smith first wrote his Theory on Moral Sentiments some two hundred years ago, we as a culture have identified with the notion that individual effort merits reward of some physical shape or form, one which enhances the utility of he who has pursued worthwhile goals with worthwhile determination, but that those rewards are restricted to he who pursued them alone and not anyone else. This sentiment is so strongly ingrained our American tradition, that it has ostensibly served as the moral framework for the implementation and maintenance of our finest of educational, social, commercial and not to mention political institutions. It has formed the basis of our society.

I submit that our attachment to this sentiment has become hypocritical, slanderous and irresponsible, but not necessarily that Smith's ideas were inherently wrong or have somehow been invalidated since they were written. Rather, I contend it is in the structural rigidity of our political system as it fails to adjust to the increasing complexity of the economic system, that is producing this discrepancy between morals and values.

What I have noticed in my life so far is that many of the actions of Americans today, whether of citizens or politicians, betray that historical sensibility in dignity and in sympathy. In light of the recent Renaissance in economics over the past thirty years, largely surrounding the game theoretic approach to free market capitalism, can non-cooperative individuals really expect to create the kind of society where equality is a naturally emerging phenomenon? Can we base systems, such as medical care and insurance on the rationalization that individuals who are richer are somehow more deserving? It seems certain institutions in our society are tending toward a transformation into the public arena, however, our rigid political orientations are keeping society from discovering a cooperative solution to these tendencies. So in some instances, individual effort seemingly does not merit the exclusivity of reward.

There is another issue, which involves the international marketplace. Americans would prefer to subsidize their own industries through tax dollars, borrowed from foreign countries on an excessive and growing deficit rather than lose their employment to workers overseas. Two recent, closely related issues have brought me to address this: the recent tendency to support Buy American as a response to infrastructure development plans, or in the bail-outs granted to all the corporations that were deemed To Big To Fail, such as the auto companies GM, Chrysler and Ford, and in our largest depository insurance corporations AIG and now Citigroup. This has been a very overt and well-covered political issue. But shouldn't reward follow merit; shouldn't wealth follow productivity? Who deserves to be kept alive and fed in either instance? In the recent election, both parties ran on a promise to "shore up" jobs. Isn't this somewhat hypocritical? Do the duties of the democratically self-appointed nation-state supersede the moral sentiment of the distribution of reward on a basis of merit and effort?

What do you think? Does effort merit reward at all? Should reward be exclusive to those who have pursued their goals with greater effort? In which instances is it dangerous or does it convey negative consequences for society to apply this type of reasoning? Can it be applied to all type of reasoning regardless? Why and why not?

I was inspired to write this thread because of the increasingly underlying attitude of the members of this forum to dismiss social cooperation as inherently wrong or inefficient. Perhaps this recent economic turmoil has placed great pressure on members to think primarily for themselves. Such is expected when considering the rational evolutionary tendency of human beings to confine themselves in the short-term when their lives become difficult. Recent discussions on the affects of socialism and capitalism have encouraged me to think about this subject greatly, and here I present to you a starting point for what I hope to be a very engaging discussion.

The two issues that I find particularly interesting are medical care as a public good, and the changes in the international marketplace as a result of free market capitalism on a global scale.

[edit on 7-3-2009 by cognoscente]




posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:31 PM
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There are those that would say that the effort is the reward.
I am one of them.

"A destination is only worth the journey."



posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 07:48 PM
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Just to summarize from the above it it's too long: If we follow Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiment, which entails individual effort and individual reward, then that should apply equally to all the peoples of the world. Perhaps Smith didn't foresee a world where trade was ubiquitous and where so many people had access to the means of industrial production? Was America always to be at the forefront? I mean, it's easy to support notions of capitalism from the position of a successful capitalist, but does that apply the other way around? As capitalists, it should be rather clear. But as Americans, patriots or nationalists, as Republicans and libertarians, doesn't espousing such values place you in a position of hypocrisy? Bottom line, if your security is being threatened, why should the sentiment that "effort merits reward" ever hold true? Are we merely using capitalism and individualism as an excuse to enhance and secure our economic position?

[edit on 7-3-2009 by cognoscente]



posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 08:40 PM
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The world financial systems are incredibly complicated now and interdependent, made all the more so by rapid globalization, and capital accumulations (greed) in increasingly centralized world banks. Many economists are saying current capitalist systems, useful since WWII, of quick investment for short term gains of a year or less, are defunct. The profit drive has run smack into the reality that our financial and industrial methods cannot create sufficient profit while also protecting our environment, without huge investments of capital and man power, demanding the vision of profits far into the future. Businesses are simply folding it seems, with the only answer being to jettison workforces around the world. We need new business models that do not treat human beings as mere, dismissable cost factors. We are the problem and the answer to what will come next.. Human capital is being ground up, and infrastructure is being sold for pennies on the dollar. The auto industry in the US is being annhilated, and it seems the car companies are quite willing to restart in Europe, or India, or China.

I personally would like to see a move toward 'self-improvement' as a motive for living, and a move away from consumer-based materialism, except for the basic necessities of life. I'm not talking about socialism. I'm referring to economies of scale, and barter, in communities of 150, or less. Sound crazy? What will be left if the current economic system is unable to generate millions of jobs, quickly? Mass society seems to be on the verge of imploding, generating it's own mass destruction, despite the opiate-fantasy of some "savior technology" that will "fix it all". I suggest a book, "My Name is Chellis, and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization", by Chellis Glendinning. That, and Morris Berman's, "The Re-enchantment of the World". Maybe we start over, or we die enmass, refusing to back down from this human folly we call progress.



posted on Mar, 7 2009 @ 08:59 PM
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reply to post by Stoneboat
 


That's a very interesting point. So the world's capital is accumulating in the hands of central powers, such as the banks and the nation-states. On the other hand, however, productivity is spreading to every corner of the globe. The banks and the nation-states are preferentially selecting those who should gain access to this capital, and ultimately wealth tends not to follow those who seem to have earned it, but to those who find themselves privileged.

What do you mean exactly by self improvement? Do you mean social, artistic and intellectual in nature, as opposed to the ritual of accumulating goods? If so, I would totally agree. But how do you make sure people are satisfied with these "higher" rewards? I takes a lot of patience and temperament to be able to derive reward intrinsic to such activity. I greatly am satisfied after reading a good book, but I'm afraid that sentiment is lost on many people.

And with changes in global economy, how do we address this force that is the nation-state in determining who should have access to wealth? If you have a body of individuals who seem inclined to believe that by merely their democratic right to vote they are requisite in exerting their will over others, who can stop them from usurping the wealth and prosperity of those who deserve it by means of merit? Should a global government take its place? Should national governments simply be restricted to issues of civil rights on a regional basis, just as the Church at the time of signing of the Declaration of Independence was barred from matters of state? Is the nation-state soon to become the equivalent of the old Church in this modern world, as it was at the time of first signing of the Constitution?

[edit on 7-3-2009 by cognoscente]



posted on Mar, 8 2009 @ 10:39 PM
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I'm inclined to believe the "nation-state" as the centralized power in the variious regions of the world is being usurped by international banks and megacorporations, beholden to no one nation, or unified set of laws. Globalization's goal is to avoid and destroy unionization, to keep labor costs down, and to ensure cheap goods and distribution. I wonder, if in the process, the plan is for the US consumer/worker to be converted into wage-scales equal to service-enconomies? At least for now, there seems to be a stall in the dissolution of banks in the US, as more money is wrung out of the system in a series of bailout/stimulus packages. The spiggot will run dry. How long will it be before wheelbarrows of money will not buy you a loaf of bread?

I believe the "profit motive" is dead, and the "joys" of democracy as the primary goal of developing nations, is in peril. The victim-workers are figuring out they are being manipulated into serving the needs of short-term investments for exhorbitant profits, at the expense of their work lives, savings, and pensions.

Socialist systems, or such quasi-economic systems, not controlled through the World Bank, as in S. America, and China, while not perfect, have at least been able to escape the grasp of CIA/World Bank methods of heaping on debt via infrastructure projects too costly for meager GNP's, and peasants to afford. The plan was to make them beholden to US interests, like Bechtel and now, Halliburton, and to never allow Third World nations to get out from under their enormous debts. Refusing the hand of America and the accompanying US economic, military, and political strings, is happening more and more. Nations are developing their own projects and paying for it with their own re-nationationalized industries, taken back from US corporations. Imagine paying for social needs with your own oil profits? It sounds revolutionary.

While it is true that productivity the world over will increase, wages gradually will flatline, long into the future. The wealthy in the US hold 95% of the wealth in the top 5% of the population. Wealthy nations will continue to pay for international corporate "progress" through enormous unemployment, bankruptcy, and soon, wage deflation, and increased poverty into the middle class. More wealth shifts to the megacorporations, and governments are left with the staggering human costs. And the voters, with their impotent "power" of the vote are hoodwinked by Dem's and Rep's alike, who claim magic answers. A strong independent online media is needed, such as GlobalPost.com, worldwide, to expose the power-Elite, and their methods. Citizens will rise up, as they always have, not to simply topple leaders but, I hope, to demand new international banking laws, and new corporate models.

Let's remove international corporation's "individual" status, to one of competing "corporate-state", and risk the status of "enemy corporate state" if they do not accept their roles as a "service entity" within their jurisdictions of operation and distribution. Decide that no corporate-state can use profits for purposes of corporate-political control, and remove the protections corporations enjoy by migrating to other countries. Return the State's right to dissolve any corporation board who create "risks of survival" for the citizen-worker's it claims to serve. Share 15% of all corporate profits with tax-paying citizen-worker's in the form of tax-rebates in the nations these companies operate in.

----From the book, John Perkins, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman". The enslavement of Third World nations began in '53, in a program developed by McNamara, and implemented by thousands of Perkins'. And it goes on today, concealed and condoned. Ask yourself: Is the goal of globalization to convert all workers and Nations into Third World-level "economic slaves" via the McNamara model? So far, the people suffer and the truth goes unrecognized



posted on Mar, 22 2009 @ 02:58 AM
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Originally posted by cognoscente
But shouldn't reward follow merit; shouldn't wealth follow productivity? Who deserves to be kept alive and fed in either instance? In the recent election, both parties ran on a promise to "shore up" jobs. Isn't this somewhat hypocritical? Do the duties of the democratically self-appointed nation-state supersede the moral sentiment of the distribution of reward on a basis of merit and effort?

What do you think? Does effort merit reward at all? Should reward be exclusive to those who have pursued their goals with greater effort? In which instances is it dangerous or does it convey negative consequences for society to apply this type of reasoning? Can it be applied to all type of reasoning regardless? Why and why not?


I think to address the issue you have to consider what morals are. How they work, and toward what end they work. And to do that you need to lay aside the "philosophical" arguments that are offered on this topic. I put philosophical in scare quotes because philosophy is, and should be the love of wisdom, not the love of hearing ones own self sound impressive, and the modern field of philosophy is very full of the latter, and not so burdened with the former. Philosophy is the birthplace of science, and there should never have been a line drawn between the two. Both have ended up less for this division.

Sociobiology, evolutionary anthropology, and evolutionary psychology, (which are also arbitrary divisions) are making inroads into the function of morality. They are discovering that not only humans are moral. But that there is morality in other social animals as well. Morality allows people to live in groups by broadening the "circle of selfishness" nature has instilled in us as a survival drive. This "selfishness" is simply widened, from "what is good for me and only me" to "what is good for my group." Whatever that idea of "group" may be, be it "my family," "my tribe," my "nation," and likely eventually to "my species" and "my planet and all its lifeforms."

Just like selfishness works to ensure the survival of individuals in competition with other individuals, group "selfishness" works to ensure the survival of your group when competing with other groups. Morality is what allows the group to cohere, to function as a group. It lessens ones individual selfishness enough to allow one to sacrifice for the group, (ones life as you see in soldiers) because for the group to survive is in your interest even more strongly than your own individual survival is. Evolution is not really about the individual, despite what early theorists have argued. It is about your offspring. The survival of the next generation.

Long digression, I know many of you already know this sort of thing, but you have to consider this when you ask if the desire to protect ones own economy is moral. Merit does deserve to be rewarded. Within the group. If you are a tribesman, do you honor with meat and gold the member of the other tribe who has killed the most members of your own tribe? Should we have sent honors to the tribe of people who attacked us in 9-11? When asked like that the answer is easy. That would be ridiculous.

As long as there are other competing against us, as a group, against Americans, there is no moral obligation to honor their merit. Our responsibility is to ensure our own survival. First. Altruism is a wonderful thing, but evolutionary models have shown that altruism that extends to those who do not reciprocate, ends in the extermination of the altruists every single time.

We are evolving towards a bigger "us." We are slowly and surely expanding the circle of selfishness to include larger and larger percentages of the species. But we are not yet at the point where we can just all have a group hug and be one big happy family. There remain groups that are incredibly hostile to our "meme." That are not interested in the kind of culture we enjoy and want to maintain. And as long as there are these differences, as long as there are group who want their way of life to win out over our own, we should discriminate in our own favor. As we get more and more agreement from other groups to merge into one large group, that is the time to let go of that sort of discrimination. It is a fine balance. Become altruistic too soon? Get wiped out. Become altruistic too late? End up the very thing we are trying to evolve away from.

Its not an easy thing to negotiate. But then no one ever said life, or evolution, was easy.



posted on Mar, 22 2009 @ 03:04 PM
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Effort needs to be qualified.

Nobody is going to reward you for having bashed your head against the wall, or for breaking out of prison. Playing Centipede for 9 hours, on the other hand, might yield rewards if someone appreciates the effort, and not because the player may have done 9 hours' worth of work.

In the same context, having experienced suffering should not be rewarded, either.



posted on Mar, 22 2009 @ 03:36 PM
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Originally posted by vcwxvwligen

In the same context, having experienced suffering should not be rewarded, either.


How do you mean this? If I were to take my gun, shoot you in the leg, and take all your stuff, do you feel you should not be compensated for the injury? Should I not have to return your items and pay your medical expenses plus something for your pain and suffering and any loss of function you might experience as a result of my action?



posted on Mar, 22 2009 @ 06:28 PM
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Originally posted by Illusionsaregrander

Originally posted by vcwxvwligen

In the same context, having experienced suffering should not be rewarded, either.


How do you mean this? If I were to take my gun, shoot you in the leg, and take all your stuff, do you feel you should not be compensated for the injury? Should I not have to return your items and pay your medical expenses plus something for your pain and suffering and any loss of function you might experience as a result of my action?



That is reparation, which is different from reward.

If I find someone's lost diamond ring, the reward that I'm given is not for my aches and pains, but for merit, and for conveniencing someone else.

Rewarding someome for suffering would be like giving someone a music recording contract because he got shot in the leg.



posted on Mar, 22 2009 @ 07:06 PM
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Ah. I see. I was just trying to see how you meant it. I actually do understand reparations. It is very important to the whole idea of property law. I still am having a hard time understanding the type of suffering you are discussing as not merit worthy, however.

So you do feel if someone suffers because of the actions of another, they should be compensated for their suffering. But not if the suffering is their own choice?

How do you feel about those who sacrifice their own lives or well being, say, in a volunteer army? Does their suffering deserve merit? Is that type of sacrifice or suffering worth reward? It is self inflicted in a sense, (they did not have to join the service) and those who would be offering the reward would not be those who caused the injury. So if the person who suffers suffers as a result of their own choices, is that what you are saying is not worthy of merit?

In your line of thinking regarding suffering in merit, where is the cutoff? Is it choice? ie; harm caused by another against your will -vs- harm you willingly choose to expose yourself to? Or is the cutoff more along the lines of who benefits from the suffering? ie; suffering that only benefits you (which is an odd concept) -vs- suffering undergone for the benefit of others?



posted on Mar, 23 2009 @ 01:58 PM
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reply to post by Illusionsaregrander
 



Someone should certainly be rewarded for good service. If putting your life on the line is the only way to accomplish a goal, then one should be rewarded for accomplishing the goal. The fact that he injured himself makes for a more "heroic" story, but whom does heroism really benefit, if the goal is not accomplished? Faith without works is wasted, is it not?



posted on Mar, 23 2009 @ 02:56 PM
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Yes, but you still arent explaining your own statement.

I dont disagree with it, it is an intriguing comment, that suffering should not be deserving of merit, but I am looking for the "why" of it.

After all the thread was not about suffering, it was about effort and merit, and to have suffering brought in was an interesting idea, but you arent explaining the underlying reasoning.

I myself have not noticed that we do reward suffering. (aside from the idea of making one whole that you have damaged, which is not really a "reward" but giving back what was taken) Your example of not giving someone a record contract because they were shot in the leg seems odd. I dont think we do that. Unless you are speaking of veterans getting preferential selection for certain jobs.

I just cant see what you were trying to say with that, but am interested in the idea of "rewarding suffering" and why it was brought up in this discussion. Maybe some practical real life examples of suffering that is being rewarded for its own sake would help me see its significance.



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