Economics

Americans Are Saving More…As if Things Weren't Bad Enough

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In November I noted how the recession has turned standard economic wisdom on its head, so that formerly good things, such as frugality, are bemoaned, while formerly bad things, such as unconstrained borrowing and spending, are recalled with nostalgia. The New York Times has a good example today, treating an increased saving rate as bad news:

The latest economic data released Monday painted a picture of American consumers and businesses embarking on an era of thrift as the recession deepens, spending less on consumer goods, housing and big-ticket developments like office buildings and hotels.

Americans cut their spending for a sixth month in December and, perhaps more significant, put more into their savings accounts, the government reported Monday, as they worried about losing their jobs and earning less in a deteriorating economy….

"If households are shying away from spending, what's going to cause businesses to start spending again?" a senior economist at Moody's Economy.com, Aaron Smith, said….

"The weakness is feeding on itself," said James O'Sullivan, an economist at UBS. "You've had the spread of weakness from housing to Wall Street to main street. You've got a credit crunch, which is now affecting every part of the economy, including the consumer."

Not until the 11th paragraph are we obliquely reminded that economists used to complain about how terrible Americans were at saving money, preferring instant gratification even when they couldn't afford it, thereby reducing the availability of capital so that the U.S. economy (and government) became dangerously dependent on foreign investors. Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics says the "rise in the saving rate, now at 3.6 percent compared to 0.8 percent in August, is good news in the long run but the key source of pain right now" (emphasis added). Isn't saving always a source of pain (or less pleasure) in the present, for the sake of greater returns in the future? If this tradeoff is "rational" from the perspective of individual consumers responding to current "incentives and conditions," as yet another economist quoted in the final paragraph says it is, can it be irrational when all those individual decisions are combined?

That seems to be the theory underlying the "stimulus" package: We can't depend on consumers to spend money they don't have on stuff they don't need, so the government has to do it for them. Given the incentives and conditions that politicians face, it's more likely that they are trying to mitigate short-term pain (or at least be perceived as doing so), even if that means imposing greater costs on Americans in the long run.

NEXT: This Week in Innocence

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  1. We can’t depend on consumers to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need, so the government has to do it for them.

    And, really, who knows more about spending money it doesn’t have on stuff we don’t need?

  2. easy credit was the problem, now its saving too much. our economy was falsley propped up by insane borrowing by most people. not I, I like the responsible people in America only have 1 card in good standing, and pay for things in cold hard cash. so this downturn has not effected me or anyone else who uses money wisely.

  3. Geez, you guys are so UnAmerican! Don’t you remember? It’s patriotic to buy stuff!

    It’s, like, part of the Bush Doctrine, or something…

  4. ‘The latest economic data released Monday painted a picture of American consumers and businesses embarking on an era of thrift as the recession deepens, spending less on consumer goods, housing and big-ticket developments like office buildings and hotels.’

    These figures were released by the Institute of Well, Du-uhhh!

    ‘Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics says the “rise in the saving rate, now at 3.6 percent compared to 0.8 percent in August, is good news in the long run but the key source of pain right now . . . Isn’t saving always a source of pain (or less pleasure) in the present, for the sake of greater returns in the future?’

    In the long run we are all dead. We should be eating, drinking, and making merry.

  5. I sure hope some nice liberal will come take my savings and spend it for me – I’m too stupid to make that decision for myself.

  6. Apparantly, saving money and living within one’s means is now “irresponsible”.

    Because, you know, we’re all in this together. It’s your duty to the community to sustain unsustainable economic patterns.

    Buy worthless junk you don’t need to support the workers! They need jobs!

    It’s your responsibility to buy buggy whips! If people stop buying buggy whips, the buggy whip industry will collapse, and then it will cascade through the horse and carriage industry, too! We have to stop these cascading failures!

  7. If this tradeoff is “rational” from the perspective of individual consumers responding to current “incentives and conditions,” as yet another economist quoted in the final paragraph says it is, can it be irrational when all those individual decisions are combined?

    It can be. It may not be in this case, but the argument smacks of the fallacy of composition. You can argue that the Paradox of Thrift does not exist, but you have to argue that.

    If I arrive at the movie theater five minutes early, I have no line and get a good seat. If everyone shows up five minutes early, we all get the same seats we would have and get to wait five extra minutes as a bonus. Ooh, movie trivia quiz!

  8. In addition to complaints about Americans saving, commentators (and government officials) complain that banks are not lending. Perhaps banks are willing to lend, but customers are not creditworthy enough to qualify for loans right now.

  9. It’s your responsibility to buy buggy whips! If people stop buying buggy whips, the buggy whip industry will collapse, and then it will cascade through the horse and carriage industry, too! We have to stop these cascading failures!

    Hi, my na-a-a-a-a-a-ame is Mr. Ed, I am would like to speak to you on behalf of the Horse Industri-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ies…

  10. MUHLTIPLYER EFFECT!!!

  11. Should I post my bank info here to let you guys use my savings account to stimulate the economy? We are all in this together.

  12. Fuck those assholes. I save half my take-home pay and I’m not about to stop.

  13. If I arrive at the movie theater five minutes early, I have no line and get a good seat. If everyone shows up five minutes early, we all get the same seats we would have and get to wait five extra minutes as a bonus. Ooh, movie trivia quiz!

    The seats fill up when n people have decided that the marginal utility of their time < marginal utility of good seats for that movie. where n is the number of seats. nothing irrational about it.

  14. retrenchment in the consumer is ultimately unavoidable. its also temporary. enjoy the sales.

  15. domo,

    The seats fill up when n people have decided that the marginal utility of their time < marginal utility of good seats for that movie. where n is the number of seats. nothing irrational about it.

    This has the flavor of your discussion a few days ago about the differences/relationship between an individual’s needs and the needs of a group.

    Rational for the individual does not equal rational for the community. An individual can help themselves while harming the community they are a part of. They will bear some of the harm that they cause, but it is possible for them to rationally calculate that their share of the harm is smaller than their individual benefit.

    However, if the individuals in the group do not take into account the costs to the community, they may contribute to a situation with costs that swamps their personal benefit.

    That is why groups need decision making processes.

  16. It’s not just the New York Times–a similar article was in the Detroit Free Press today:
    Frugal Living Bad for the economy

  17. If I arrive at the movie theater five minutes early, I have no line and get a good seat. If everyone shows up five minutes early, we all get the same seats we would have and get to wait five extra minutes as a bonus.

    So the government will tell us how early to arrive at the theater. The government theater will be showing a triple feature of Ishtar, Waterworld, and The Love Guru. Your tickets have already been purchased, your bank accounts deducted for 900% of the normal price (propping up valueless investments), and your union usher will be paid to not show you to your seat.

  18. However, if the individuals in the group do not take into account the costs to the community, they may contribute to a situation with costs that swamps their personal benefit.

    If we were talking about pyromania, that might actually make sense. This situation is more akin to the “group” encouraging individuals to randomly set fires. Because somebody, somewhere, is cold.

  19. Neu Mejican:

    So it’s rational for the “community” to encourage people to keep borrowing money and blowing it on consumer goods, because it keeps people employed?

    Ya buy that logic, do ya?

    If I’m invested in a ponzi scheme, is it my duty to keep investing, given that if everyone drops out the ponzi scheem will collapse and harm lots of people in the “community” of people invested in it?

    I’d sorta be with you if you were talking about a public good, but defining the economy as a whole as a public good just screws everything up. It’s not a money generating object, it’s a system that depends on people making rationally self-interested choices. If you start saying “Don’t make self-interested choices! It’s your job to participate in recirculating wealth!” Then you end up with production that is detached from actual value to actual consumers.

  20. Are we talking about the “externalities” inherent in my decision to not buy a new Pontiac?

    Guess what- my friendly neighborhood Pontiac dealer can go fuck himself. I have a better use for my money.

    Think of it as a “market signal”.

  21. So the government and its cheerleaders object to me saving money and to banks not lending theirs out willy-nilly? I think I’m sensing a pattern.

    What happened to that all-evil consumer society? Is it good now? The right may be nuts, but at least there’s a crazy kind of consistency to their thinking.

  22. The problem is that we now have decided that Capitalism must produce such-and-such an outcome for all the individuals in our system.

    That’s our current folly. Because “we” accept that folly, we therefore must stop saving money, even though the boss just walked through the floor telling everyone that some big layoffs are coming next month.

  23. “If this tradeoff is “rational” from the perspective of individual consumers responding to current “incentives and conditions,” as yet another economist quoted in the final paragraph says it is, can it be irrational when all those individual decisions are combined?”

    The world of macroeconomic policy is rife with such contradictions.

  24. This situation is more akin to the “group” encouraging individuals to randomly set fires. Because somebody, somewhere, is cold.

    Well played, sir. Well played.

  25. Hazel,

    So it’s rational for the “community” to encourage people to keep borrowing money and blowing it on consumer goods, because it keeps people employed?

    Ya buy that logic, do ya?

    I wasn’t putting forth an opinion about the specific case/logic. I was commenting more generally.

  26. Rational for the individual does not equal rational for the community.

    Communities are not rational, only individuals are rational. Ducks fly in a flock, yes, but the flock does not fly the ducks.

    An individual can help themselves while harming the community they are a part of.

    This is fuzzy stuff – HOW does an individual harm the community? What’s the community? An individual can hurt other individuals by stepping on the rights of others, so the harm is to specific others. Saying that an individual harms the “community” is making a vague assertion.

    By the way, “community” is a concept used to facilitate communication, so we do not say: Freddy, Marie, Tania, Marcus, Brandon, Louis, Frank, Felicia, and Gerry made the decision to go to the movies. Instead, I say: The gang decided to go to the movies. Obviously, the “gang” is not a person and the “gang” has no needs: Only Freddy, Marie, Tania, Marcus, Brandon, Louis, Frank, Felicia, and Gerry have needs.

    They will bear some of the harm that they cause, but it is possible for them to rationally calculate that their share of the harm is smaller than their individual benefit.

    This is the externality fallacy – it is not possible to calculate the harmed “shared” by all outside property rights, and property damage borne by one cannot be said to be “shared” by others. A person either harms the property of a specific person or a specific person, but not a vague number of persons.

    However, if the individuals in the group do not take into account the costs to the community,

    Again, with this fuzzy logic – aren’t the individuals in the group the actual community? So, how can they not take into account the costs to THEMSELVES?

    They may contribute to a situation with costs that swamps their personal benefit. That is why groups need decision making processes.

    This is a non sequitur. If individuals harm themselves by their decisions, then the consequences are known to each individual. It does not follow that groups need communal decision-making processes.

  27. Hazel,

    On the specific case.

    It might make sense for a group to make sure information is available about the situation, and to provide education about the trade-offs inherent in different choices. It might make sense to encourage moderation in response to the current situation. Yadda yadda.

    I don’t have a hard time holding both my own interests and the interests of my community in my head while I make a decision.

    I don’t think that ability is unusual.

  28. jsh,
    I sure hope some nice liberal will come take my savings and spend it for me – I’m too stupid to make that decision for myself.

    Ah, it’s being done – Il Duce is taking everybody’s savings and spending them in things we’re too stupid to decide on.

    Oh, come to think of it, the “community” must have decided to have the money spent on pork barrel projects. Obviously, we individuals are too stupid, but the “community” is wise, and Il Duce is just doing its bidding. . .

    . . . Just ask Neu Mejican. He believes that canard.

  29. I don’t have a hard time holding both my own interests and the interests of my community in my head while I make a decision.

    It’s a good thing you read minds, Neu . . .

  30. Saving money, huh?
    Only if they’re saving gold or silver.

  31. Francisco,

    I see we made no progress in our last discussion.

    Let’s just say that I think you are, for the most part, completely wrong in the way you are approaching this topic.

    For a simple example:

    Ducks fly in a flock, yes, but the flock does not fly the ducks.

    Flocking behavior emerges out of the interactions between ducks. With no flock to interact with, the behavior does not exist.

  32. Francisco,

    It’s a good thing you read minds, Neu . . .

    It is not an unusual ability in humans.

    The findings indicate that the mental structures and the psychological reasoning skills allowing us predict other’s behavior are in place at a very young age and their development does not entirely rely upon the environment or associative learning mechanisms. Surian proposes that “infants who expect agents’ behavior to be guided by such internally available information thereby exhibit an ability to attribute mental content — and this is mind reading proper, however rudimentary.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070803110811.htm

  33. Once again – what does the flock do that the geese do not?

  34. Head,

    Coordinate their movements into a functioning whole.

  35. Head,

    A goose flying as part of a flock can cover greater distances than they can flying on their own. The group dynamics of the flock supports a more efficient way to travel long distances. In order for this to work, the flock needs to be organized in a specific finite set of configurations. The flock needs these configurations in order to function properly.

    Yadda yadda.

  36. The world is screwed because government is dumb.

  37. Neu Mejican:
    Bad example. Duck flocking is in the duck’s individual self-interest. They conserve energy by taking advantage of the air flow coming off the wings of the duck in front of them.

    The lead duck doesn’t get this advantage, but there is no cost to him from letting other ducks fly behind him. Flying indiviually wouldn’t be in any duck’s self-interest and hence there’s no conflict with the interests of the whole.

  38. Ducks fly in a flock, yes, but the flock does not fly the ducks.

    Flocking behavior emerges out of the interactions between ducks. With no flock to interact with, the behavior does not exist.

    Isn’t that the point, here?

    That the humans are flocking together to protect their cash and investments (because it’s in our individual interests to do so), and to slow spending and borrowing down. Yet our anthropologists at the Fed tell us this behavior must be stopped.

  39. Francisco,

    Again, with this fuzzy logic –

    A book recommendation for you.

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  40. the flock needs to be organized in a specific finite set of configurations. The flock needs these configurations in order to function properly.

    The ducks don’t have a government defining what the acceptable configurations are. The configurations emerge spontaneously from the duck’s self-interested behavior within the flock.

  41. Paul/Hazel,

    I like the juxtaposition of your two comments.

  42. Hazel,

    But flocks do have regulatory mechanisms…and these emerge from the interactions between members.

    More to the point, governments emerge spontaneously from people’s self-interested behavior as they interact with each other within the community.

  43. Paul,

    Yet our anthropologists at the Fed tell us this behavior must be stopped.

    One of the many factors that facilitates a group decision making process are highly visible individuals with particular expertise.

  44. I see we made no progress in our last discussion.

    You mean, Progress as in agreeing with you?

    Flocking behavior emerges out of the interactions between ducks. With no flock to interact with, the behavior does not exist.

    I do not understand exactly what you’re trying to say with this irrelevant piece of information. What I am saying is that the Group is not an entity in itself, outside the realm of the people that make the group. You’re asserting that “groups” make decisions, I believe in order to justify community supra-rights that are above the individual’s (i.e. fascism). If this is not the case, then I do not understand your assertions, or to put it more succinctly – they’re nonsensical.

    A goose flying as part of a flock can cover greater distances than they can flying on their own. The group dynamics of the flock supports a more efficient way to travel long distances. In order for this to work, the flock needs to be organized in a specific finite set of configurations. The flock needs these configurations in order to function properly.

    They’re called rules, Neu. And that was not the point of Head’s question.

  45. One of the many factors that facilitates a group decision making process are highly visible individuals with particular expertise.

    So if the lead duck decides to fly into a hail storm, the other ducks should keep following him, because it’s in the interests of the “flock”.

  46. They conserve energy by taking advantage of the air flow coming off the wings of the duck in front of them.

    The lead duck doesn’t get this advantage, but there is no cost to him from letting other ducks fly behind him. Flying indiviually wouldn’t be in any duck’s self-interest and hence there’s no conflict with the interests of the whole.

    Yet if every duck tried to minimize their energy consumption by finding another duck to fly behind, the flocking behavior would break down and no individual duck would benefit. There is a flock level need for (a) lead duck(s).

  47. One of the many factors that facilitates a group decision making process are highly visible individuals with particular expertise. [sic]

    We call them technocrats in the real world, Neu.

  48. More to the point, governments emerge spontaneously from people’s self-interested behavior as they interact with each other within the community.

    That’s false, Neu. I have yet to see a government appear “spontaneously” in a flea market where you have myriads of self-interested interactions. However, governments do act like other self-interested individuals that take advantage of these interactions by plundering them – we call them gangsters. Their behavior is exactly the same.

  49. Saving is necessary and desirable to finance additional investment by firms. Investment by firms is the use of labor and other resources now to produce capital goods now. They do allow for the production of consumer goods later.

    While saving does involve less spending on consumer goods than otherwise would have occured, if it is financing investment by firms, that is added spending on capital goods. Total spending doesn’t drop.

    However, firms do not want to pruchase as many capital goods now and so, there is less need for saving at this time. Additional saving is useless.

    Instead of freeing up resources for use to produce capital goods, reducing consumption simply results in less production and less enjoyment of consumer goods now. Saving is pointless under current conditions.

    The market price that should coordinate this is the interest rate. By looking at the current interest rate, each firm and each household should be able to make their own decision about how to save or invest, and the aggregate result is shifts in the compostion of total spending between consumer goods and capital goods. The aggregate result is a shift in the allocation of labor between the production of consumer goods and capital goods.

    The interest rate on at least some assets (the short term government guaranteed ones that savers are trying to accumulate) is already very near zero. The price signal is shouting, save less, consume more, and invest more.

    But still, people want to save more and firms want to invest less. And there is the problem.

    It isn’t that complicated to understand the problem. Solutions are a bit more problematic.

  50. Yet if every duck tried to minimize their energy consumption by finding another duck to fly behind, the flocking behavior would break down and no individual duck would benefit. There is a flock level need for (a) lead duck(s).

    And yet they manage to do this without elections.

    You are aware that the role of lead duck frequently changes within a flock right? The lead duck gets tired, starts to fall back, and another one ends up taking over in front. the former lead duck then falls into the pattern so he can “rest” by flying in the wake. This happens spontaneously whenever the duck in front starts falling back, without the need for any fixed rule. I suspect that when they all get tired, the collective speed slows and it becomes more energy efficient to land and rest. Which is what they do. There’s probably also some sexually selective advantage to being lead duck.

    This same behavior occurs in bicyclists. When you’re riding a bike at a good speed, there’s an advantage to following another bycyclists wake. It’s also considered proper etiquette to take turns in the lead. This can happen between two bicyclists who are total strangers without them ever speaking a word to eachother. All they have to know is the etiquette.

  51. This is fucking stupid. Increased savings is fiscally prudent (wisdom and discipline) for both individuals and nations. Borrowing more than you can afford to repay comfortably is foolish (that’s the reverse side of the wisdom and discipline thingee) for both individuals and nations.

  52. Francisco Torres | February 2, 2009, 7:28pm | #
    I see we made no progress in our last discussion.

    You mean, Progress as in agreeing with you?

    No, I mean as in…we are talking past each other.

    What I am saying is that the Group is not an entity in itself, outside the realm of the people that make the group.

    I know that is what you are saying.
    I disagree. The group is one thing, its members another. They are conceptually distinct concepts. If we conflate individual NEEDS(sub1) with group NEEDS(sub2), then we will talk past each other.

    You’re asserting that “groups” make decisions, I believe in order to justify community supra-rights that are above the individual’s (i.e. fascism).

    That would not be a correct reading of my motivation.

    Group rights(sub2) and individual rights(sub1) have a complex relationship to each other, of course.

    I do not understand your assertions, or to put it more succinctly – they’re nonsensical.

    The funny thing is I understand your assertions and disagree with them. They have a certain logic to them, but I find it incomplete or unsatisfactory.

    Yet you DON’T understand my assertions, but feel justified to declare them “nonsensical.”

  53. Hazel,

    All they have to know is the etiquette.

    I don’t disagree with you description of what happens.

    In human communities unspoken rules take up the bulk of the regulatory work. Rules aren’t made explicit until these unspoken rules breakdown. I suspect this is largely a function of group size.

  54. Francisco,

    However, governments do act like other self-interested individuals that take advantage of these interactions by plundering them – we call them gangsters.

    I note here that you are treating the government as a true entity with self-interest.

    The problem I have with your framing is that the group (entity) is the community, and the government is a process used by the community to meet its needs.

    There are, of course, meaningful ways to discuss the “agencies” of government as entities and to compare the interest of these agencies with that of other sub-entities in the community, or with the community as a whole.

  55. I disagree. The group is one thing, its members another. They are conceptually distinct concepts [sic]. If we conflate individual NEEDS(sub1) with group NEEDS(sub2), then we will talk past each other.

    From MY side, I am not conflating anything. The Group cannot have needs, because the group is not a person. Only persons have needs, and only each person can know his or her needs, so it is nonsensical to speak about “group needs” when the Group cannot introspectively know its needs (!)

    That would not be a correct reading of my motivation.

    I do not give much though about your motives, Neu, only your reasons. If your rationale for giving the concept of “group” the same quality as a person, I have to deduce it must be for giving the Group meta-rights or super rights, above the individuals. Your comments about the individual’s self-interest being in conflict with the community’s interests leads me to that direction. I do not see how can one argue for giving the community the same quality as a person without leading to group’s rights. It would not make sense, i.e. it would be “nonsensical”.

    What made it all clear is your statement:
    “One of the many factors that facilitates a group decision making process are highly visible individuals with particular expertise.” It is clear you’re arguing for fascism. You just do not find the term palatable, but that is irrelevant. There is no difference between the highly visible individual with a particular expertise and Plato’s benevolent and wise leader, or tyrant.

    They have a certain logic to them, but I find it incomplete or unsatisfactory.

    You do not say in what regard. I am however showing you that you’re incurring in a fallacy by shoehorning an undue quality to the concept of group.

  56. I note here that you are treating the government as a true entity with self-interest.

    Let’s call them government people, for your peace of mind.

    The problem I have with your framing is that the group (entity) is the community, and the government is a process used by the community to meet its needs.

    Wait, Neu, now you’re begging the question – again, you assume “group needs”. How can you assert that the government appears spontaneously out of the myriad of individual decisions? I have yet to see such a thing appear spontaneously from a flea market, for instance.

    There are, of course, meaningful ways to discuss the “agencies” of government as entities and to compare the interest of these agencies with that of other sub-entities in the community, or with the community as a whole.

    There are, of course, ways to do that – not without begging the question. You’re just indulging in circular thinking. You assume group needs in order to conclude agencies created to cater to those needs.

    Neu, the problem is that groups are intellectual constructs, mere classifications – you can group all people with red hair, and then say they have needs as a group; but if I then group them by people with red CURLY hair, and red STRAIGHT hair, would you then have TWO separate groups with their needs?

    Grouping people is a way to help convey information faster, but that does not mean the people grouped together form a new entity called Red Straight Hair and Red Curly Hair, with their set of different needs – you still have people with their OWN needs, no matter how you want to rationalize.

    With this in mind, it is clear that you are using the concept of “group” in order to advocate for super-rights, above the individuals. Your arguments have not lead me away from that point, rather, has strengthened it. You may not want to think you’re advocating fascism, but for your peace of mind, let’s call it Collectivism and leave it at that.

  57. “Neu, the problem is that groups are intellectual constructs, mere classifications – you can group all people with red hair, and then say they have needs as a group”

    I think it’s clear that many groups are not simply categorizations given by third parties but that the member’s of the group see themselves as being members of a group. And it strikes me as sensible that the group, as a group, has certain needs and such (such as that a group needs x or y to continue as a group)

  58. And I think when we say that the group “wants” or “needs” something what we mean can be either that a majority of the individuals in that group want or need something, or we can mean that human groupings “need” some things (like a common way to communicate, etc) in order for them to continue as groups.

    Also, for all your derision towards Neu for his supposed setting up what you see as the non-sensical idea of group rights, you assume the idea of individual rights is not equally nonsense.

    As Bentham once said “Natural law is nonsense, and natural rights is nonsense on stilts.”

  59. MNG,
    I think it’s clear that many groups are not simply categorizations given by third parties but that the member’s of the group see themselves as being members of a group.

    What difference does it make who makes the classification? It is STILL a mere classification.

    And it strikes me as sensible that the group, as a group, has certain needs and such (such as that a group needs x or y to continue as a group)

    MNG, I did not want to ask this question to Neu because I know he will embarrass himself trying to answer it, but since you jumped into the lake with him, I will have to ask:

    What is a group need?

  60. A group need could be either simply what a majority of the individuals need (for example you might say that “the group needs order” and what that usually means is “most people in this group want things to be orderly around here”).

    Or one could use it in the sense that a group may need certain things in order to maintain itself as a group. For example, in order to have a group there must be some way for its members to communicate, so a group needs a common language. Etc.

  61. I would think there is a big difference between the group of Red Haired People and a group like “Americans”. Red Haired People don’t feel a commonality of history, values, and interests like Americans do every day. That’s how people behave and understand things every day.

  62. Francisco,

    I am however showing you that you’re incurring in a fallacy by shoehorning an undue quality to the concept of group.

    I would say that you are asserting, not showing.

    Stating that I am incorrect is not the same thing as demonstrating that I am incorrect.

    From MY side, I am not conflating anything. The Group cannot have needs, because the group is not a person.

    For this statement to be true, you have to demonstrate that only persons have needs. That, of course, is the point of disagreement. Repeating your opinion on the topic doesn’t demonstrate anything. You can not by fiat, declare that conclusion as true and then use that declaration as evidence that your reasoning is sound.

    The needs of individuals and the needs of groups are qualitatively different animals. You are correct that groups do not have needs in the same way that individuals have needs, but you are incorrect when you say that THEREFORE groups do not have needs.

    I do not see how can one argue for giving the community the same quality as a person without leading to group’s rights.

    Again, you are conflating the levels. I do not argue that the community has the same quality as the individual. This means that although we can talk about group rights and individual rights, they are not placed on equal footing. Group rights are one thing, individual rights another. When a situation arises where a group makes a decision or takes an action, then the validity of that action is determined according to standards we might label group/community rights. If the government is seen as the groups mechanism for taking this action we might use the term “powers” rather than “rights.”

    It is clear you’re arguing for fascism.

    It is clear that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Neu, the problem is that groups are intellectual constructs, mere classifications – you can group all people with red hair, and then say they have needs as a group; but if I then group them by people with red CURLY hair, and red STRAIGHT hair, would you then have TWO separate groups with their needs?

    The concept “individual” is also an intellectual construct…you realize that, surely. You seem fond of arbitrarily deciding that some intellectual constructs are “true entities” while others are “mere intellectual constructs.” But you don’t want to recognize the arbitrary nature of your decisions. You are under the false impression that your arbitrary decisions are “true” and “logical,” it seems.

    Like I said before, we are talking past each other.

    MNG,

    Careful, you may be advocating fascism with that kind of talk.

    ;^)

  63. MNG,
    And I think when we say that the group “wants” or “needs” something what we mean can be either that a majority of the individuals in that group want or need something,

    See, here’s the deal, MGN: If what a group needs can be reduced to what a majority of individuals need, then it follows the group need does not exist, and that what you’re witnessing is individuals having a similar need. For example, going back to the Red Hair people group: If 51% of the people are hungry, would you say the GROUP Red Haired People is hungry? Because that would be the logical conclusion using the very same line of thought.

    Also, for all your derision towards Neu for his supposed setting up what you see as the non-sensical idea of group rights, you assume the idea of individual rights is not equally nonsense.

    Of course I assume the idea of individual rights is not nonsense, otherwise I would not be arguing from the premise that individuals have rights. It would be nonsense to assume that I have no rights, for I would be committing a perfunctory contradiction – If I have no rights, then why am I using a computer I have no right to? Why am I speaking words I have no right to? By what virtue am I using fingers, body, eyes and mind I have no right to?

    As Bentham once said “Natural law is nonsense, and natural rights is nonsense on stilts.”

    And what do YOU think? Don’t quote people unless you are willing to defend their reasons for saying such things. It is clear Bentham did not give the issue much profound thought.

  64. I would think there is a big difference between the group of Red Haired People and a group like “Americans”. Red Haired People don’t feel a commonality of history, values, and interests like Americans do every day. That’s how people behave and understand things every day.

    That’s your opinion. Have you asked the Red Haired people?

  65. Torres
    If what you are saying is that the ultimate measure of things is the welfare of the individuals that make up all groups, then well duh.

    But since the existence of many groups promote the overall welfare of the vast majority of their individual members, then this gives the continued existence of these groups a pretty strong moral priority, one that may on occasion trump any individual’s “rights.”

  66. I note here that you are treating the government as a true entity with self-interest.

    The problem I have with your framing is that the group (entity) is the community, and the government is a process used by the community to meet its needs.

    That sort of works in a small community, but in a large state, the government does become an entity with life and interests of it’s own. Moreover, the people within the government have a self-interest in maintain their power and prestige.

    I suspect it’s a function of the point where government becomes a full-time career occupation for some individuals. Obviously, we’re way past that point.

  67. MNG,

    And I think when we say that the group “wants” or “needs” something what we mean can be either that a majority of the individuals in that group want or need something, or we can mean that human groupings “need” some things (like a common way to communicate, etc) in order for them to continue as groups.

    I think the first sense above is a mere summation of the individual needs. The second sense (i.e., communication) is a group need proper.

  68. Oh, I actually think the idea of individual rights is a lot of nonsense. I don’t know what in the world a right could possibly refer to other than to say “it is right (morally correct) to give me x” or it would be wrong (morally incorrect) to deny me y.”

    Really. I don’t know what your comments about using your fingers and such with no “right” to do so mean.

    I think whether any given act is correct or not (again, I can see acts being right or wrong, but I’m not sure what it means to say a person has “rights”) is a function of to what extent it maximizes overal utility.

  69. Do you mean whether it would be morally right or wrong for you to use your fingers and arms?

    That’s a bizarre question imo. It would be wrong of you to use them to strike Neu Mejican, but I can’t see why you can’t use them type on your computer in a debate that amuses and thus increases welfare to some folks.

  70. For this statement to be true, you have to demonstrate that only persons have needs. That, of course, is the point of disagreement. Repeating your opinion on the topic doesn’t demonstrate anything. You can not by fiat, declare that conclusion as true and then use that declaration as evidence that your reasoning is sound.

    Neu, I am not going to prove a negative – you are the one arguing for group needs, not I. I argue that only people have needs because only people can know they have needs. A group is just a construct, a thinking tool. There is nothing wrong with thinking that the group decided to go all together to lunch, but the hunger and the conclusion for searching for food came from each individual mind.

    Again, you are conflating the levels. I do not argue that the community has the same quality as the individual. This means that although we can talk about group rights and individual rights, they are not placed on equal footing. Group rights are one thing, individual rights another.

    Neu, you’re going in circles. Of course you are giving the group the same quality as a person, because otherwise it does not make sense to assign rights to what amounts to a simple mental construct.

    When a situation arises where a group makes a decision or takes an action, then the validity of that action is determined according to standards we might label group/community rights.

    Neu, groups do not act, only people act. You’re again begging the question.

    With the same example, Red Haired People. If in this group of 50 Red Haired people, 26 decided to go to lunch and 24 decided to go swimming, would you say the decision was to go to lunch, or to go swimming? Or, would you more reasonably conclude that 26 red haired people went for lunch and 24 went swimming?

    It that’s the case, the where does that leave the “group actions”? Which one was it, going to lunch, or swimming?

    If the government is seen as the groups mechanism for taking this action we might use the term “powers” rather than “rights.”

    Again, you’re begging the question.

    The concept “individual” is also an intellectual construct…you realize that, surely.

    Oh, yes, the same as “gravity” is just a construct…. and yet I do not go jump from a building. Please, stop being coy, you’re not really good at it.

    You seem fond of arbitrarily deciding that some intellectual constructs are “true entities” while others are “mere intellectual constructs.”

    No, I am fond of the correct use of language and also fond of not indulging in intellectual dishonesty, for instance by not standing the concept of “group” in its head.

  71. Part of what is going on here is two different ideas of what is meant when using the word “group.”

    Group can mean “a number of individuals or things considered together because of similarities.” This seems to be what Torres is meaning when he says group.

    But I’m pretty sure what NM is saying when he says group is the standard sociological definition, that is two or more people who identify themselves as sharing goals and values.

    It strikes me as pretty common sense that the latter thing may need certain things in order for the group to exist as a group. By definition they will need common goals and values for example. But as I said they will need a common language. And there may be some things that empirical study finds that is necessary to maintain a group in this sense (all that stuff from Intro to Soc, norms, sanctions, symbols, etc).

    Now, as to “group rights” vs. “individual rights” what is usually meant by this is would it be right for the group, in order to meet its needs (as described above) to coerce an individual’s behavior over x? And the answer to that, for me, it pretty much “would it maximize welfare?” Would the groups existence indeed be threatened by the individual’s behavior and would hte continued existence of the group maximize the individual member’s welfare or not?

  72. It’s absurd to say that the criteria for something having needs is that the thing know its needs. A mollusk has needs, but it does not know it does.

    “Needs” seems to strike me of teleology right now (need for what? survival? Then once you reocgnize that there can be something like a group then clearly you can recognize that the group can begin and end, hence it can cease to survive, and hence we can have a way of talking about it’s needs [that which must occur for it not to cease to be]).

  73. I think what NM means is that “group” and “individual” are both concepts. The question I guess is do they correspond to actual phenomena. And I think both clearly do. As to groups, there are clearly examples of two or more people that interact with shared goals and values all around us every day.

  74. When someone says of lions “the herd moved South” do you correct them with “correction: the many individual lions that we call “the herd” all moved South?”

    Do you think the concept of a “herd” is a nonsensical and empty one?

    Or is what you are claiming is that there is no such thing as the herd “needing” something?

  75. MNG,
    But since the existence of many groups promote the overall welfare of the vast majority of their individual members, then this gives the continued existence of these groups a pretty strong moral priority, one that may on occasion trump any individual’s “rights.”

    Trumping an individual’s rights would not be promoting the welfare of the individuals, if that’s the raison d’etre of the groups. It also is nonsensical to assume there are rights above those of the members of the group themselves, since the group is conformed by the individuals.

    For instance, what if one individual wants to leave the group? Wouldn’t that reduction in membership reduce the supposed welfare of the group? If that’s the case, how can a member leave, and how would compelling him to not leave increase his welfare? The contradiction is obvious: If the reason for being a group is to promote the welfare of the individuals, then there cannot be a higher collective right that trumps the individuals’ rights, because that defeats the purpose of being in the group in the first place (!)

    Oh, I actually think the idea of individual rights is a lot of nonsense. I don’t know what in the world a right could possibly refer to other than to say “it is right (morally correct) to give me x” or it would be wrong (morally incorrect) to deny me y.”

    You have a totally distorted view of rights. A right is the power of a person to act with purpose. Anything that limits that right in an aggressive (i.e. coercive) way is a violation of that right. This means people cannot stop you from typing messages in your screen, if what you do does not stop people from doing what they want, and so on.

    Really. I don’t know what your comments about using your fingers and such with no “right” to do so mean.

    Because you have not given it any thought. You just happen to subscribe to the utilitarian philosophy and found some talking points about rights more appealing, but without thinking as to why.

    I think whether any given act is correct or not (again, I can see acts being right or wrong, but I’m not sure what it means to say a person has “rights”) is a function of to what extent it maximizes overall utility.

    Up to what point? Let me know if you understand the question.

  76. Because herds may need certain things to occur for the herd, as a herd, to be so constituted. This could be as a matter of empirical reality (perhaps once herds get thinned to a certain point they, as an empirical matter, disperse), or as a conceptual matter (in order for there to still be a herd to speak of there may need to be some degree of communality of movements, for example). And then it becomes sensible to speak of the “needs” of the herd. You seem to think needs only exist if there is some subjective awareness of them, which seems wrong to me.

    But hey, Torres is really TAO, right? C’mon, fes up.

  77. Torres
    You misunderstand, it’s not that promoting the majority (actually the greatest number by the greates amount) of individual’s welfare is not the “raison d’etre” of the group, it’s that whether any act maximizes overall welfare (which yes ultimately concerns all the individuals) is the standard of whether that act is wrong or right. If a groups existence tends to maximize overall welfare, then coercing any individual member of the group, if it is necessary to continue the existence of that group, is the right thing to do.

    “A right is the power of a person to act with purpose.” That makes no sense to me. Really. If I can will myself to fart and no one can stop me, I have a right to fart? That’s crazy. Or, less crudely, if I can will myself to rape a woman, and no one can stop me, I have a right to do that?

  78. Torres
    I’ve explained to you what I think about the concept of rights. Other than that it is morally right for you to allow me to do x or that it would be morally wrong for you to stop me from doing y then I can’t make any sense out of it. It’s utilitarian, but I’ve thought a great deal about it.

    On the other hand, your “a right is something does with a purpose and has the power to do” strikes me as not all that thoughtful, as I explained above.

  79. It’s absurd to say that the criteria for something having needs is that the thing know its needs. A mollusk has needs, but it does not know it does.

    How do you know it HAS needs? have you spoken with mollusks?

    I can tell you that I DO have needs, so much so I act to fulfill them. And by “action” I mean making a decision as to how to achieve ends, and physically achieve them or mentally achieve them. This is why I say that to have needs you need to KNOW you have them. Otherwise they would not be needs. Mollusks do not have needs – they may respond to stimuli, but so are industrial control systems, and I know industrial control systems do not have needs, otherwise they would turn neurotic.

    MNG,
    When someone says of lions “the herd moved South” do you correct them with “correction: the many individual lions that we call “the herd” all moved South?”

    There is no need to do that. It is clearly explained above.

    Do you think the concept of a “herd” is a nonsensical and empty one?

    No, that’s not what I am arguing.

    Or is what you are claiming is that there is no such thing as the herd “needing” something?

    Yes, that is what I am saying – the Herd is not the one with needs – it is not like the herd is hungry and drives the lions to feed IT. [Actually, the lions do not have needs either. They respond to stimuli: they feel hungry, thus they hunt.]

    I think what NM means is that “group” and “individual” are both concepts. The question I guess is do they correspond to actual phenomena. And I think both clearly do. As to groups, there are clearly examples of two or more people that interact with shared goals and values all around us every day.

    What NM is asserting is that by virtue of people being in a group, that THE group has needs that go BEYOND or are more important than the individuals’ needs. This is nonsense – people in groups is just people, in groups. The Group does not suddenly become an entity with needs above or even different than the individuals that conform the group.

    It strikes me as pretty common sense that the latter thing may need certain things in order for the group to exist as a group.

    The “group” exists as long as the individuals that conform it exist, MNG, but that does not mean the individuals exist because the group exists.

    By definition they will need common goals and values for example. But as I said they will need a common language. And there may be some things that empirical study finds that is necessary to maintain a group in this sense (all that stuff from Intro to Soc, norms, sanctions, symbols, etc).

    Then again, they may not. The Rotary club exists because the individuals in it share common beliefs and goals, but if the club breaks apart, it is not like the members cease to exist (!)

  80. Francisco,

    No, I am fond of the correct use of language and also fond of not indulging in intellectual dishonesty, for instance by not standing the concept of “group” in its head.

    Oh, now I am being dishonest and (poorly) coy.

    Dude, that hurts.

    I argue that only people have needs because only people can know they have needs.

    You do not argue, you STATE without support.

    You assume that “knowledge” is something that can only “properly” be discussed as a quality of an individual, and then conclude from that ASSUMPTION, that groups can’t have needs because they can’t have knowledge.

    Yet, when I say that the ASSUMPTION that underlies your conclusion is suspect, you claim that I am being disingenuous.

    You claim that groups can’t act/know, and then talk about the proper use of language.

    I know you feel otherwise, but your opinion on these matters and your opinion about the correct use of language is, actually, a highly idiosyncratic one.

    We can look to dictionary definitions of these words for usage patterns and you will find that the co-location of “group” and “needs” is a common usage. Discussions of “group knowledge” is common usage. Etc…

    Of course, none of that matters, because in communication, the meaning of a term emerges out of a negotiation between the individuals communicating. There is not PROPER meaning of “NEED” that restricts its use to denote some quality of groups.

    Of course you are giving the group the same quality as a person, because otherwise it does not make sense to assign rights to what amounts to a simple mental construct.

    If you refuse to discuss honestly, I am not sure what the point is. I don’t know how to communicate with you if you will not take straight forward assertions at face value.

    So, I will try one last time.

    Group NEEDS(sub2)…a specific characteristic OF GROUPS

    Individual NEEDS(sub1)… a specific characteristic of INDIVIDUALS.

    No question begging going on. Need(sub1) and Needs(sub2) are not being equated. The needs of a group of a different order and different nature than the needs of the individual that make up that group.

    Your argument that groups can’t have needs does not hold water.

    The simplest example is the need for a system of communication.

    In this group, apparently, that system has broken down.

  81. Power means “ability,” “capability” or “capacity” (if you have the “power” to do something you have the ability, capablity, capacity, etc to do it).

    Purpose means “goal” or “end” (if you act with a purpose you act with a goal or end).

    Now, to say that a right IS(?!) the ability/capability/capacity to act with a goal/end seems about as either nonsensical or wrong as a statement can get.

    A person has a right to act in ways within their ability and with a goal. What in the world does that mean (and what does it mean to say this is a “right”?)?

  82. “A right is the power of a person to act with purpose.” That makes no sense to me. Really. If I can will myself to fart and no one can stop me, I have a right to fart?

    Yes. You do. You HAVE that right, because you can do it, as long as you do not aggressively stop people from leaving your sight (and smell). If I appeared and held your buttocks together, I would be violating your right to fart, because I would be stopping you in an aggressive manner.

    That’s crazy.

    Why?

    Or, less crudely, if I can will myself to rape a woman, and no one can stop me, I have a right to do that?

    First, the woman can stop you and she would be justified, and second, you would be committing an act of aggression against that woman’s right to act. Again, you have a right to act, as long as you do not act aggressively over other people’s right to act, and they respond in kind. It’s a simple rule.

  83. To continue the earlier discussion…

    In human communities unspoken rules take up the bulk of the regulatory work. Rules aren’t made explicit until these unspoken rules breakdown.

    The unspoken rules work largely because they are consistent with the self-interest of the individual at that stage. They don’t require enforcement.

    In the duck flocking example, nobody forces one duck to take the lead, it just happens as a matter of circumstance, he or she happens to be the least tired duck and ends up in front. The other ducks autonomously fall into the lead duck’s wake because it’s in their interest- they can fly more efficiently. The flock has a collective behavior, but no individual duck is forced to be a member of it. It’s behavior emerges from voluntary, self-interested, yet mutually beneficial interactions.

    The primitive governments you’ve brought up function in the same way. They are systems of self-interested individuals cooperating voluntarily for mutual benefit. Often they may be unspoken or emergent rule-systems that have eventually been written down.

    But I think you underestimate the extent to which large groups can spontaneously generate mutually beneficial behavior patterns without needing to have them explicitly codified. Moreover, once something gets codified it’s hard to change, so it’s often better to leave it uncodified and informal so it can continue to evolve and adapt.

  84. Francisco,

    Mollusks do not have needs – they may respond to stimuli, but so are industrial control systems, and I know industrial control systems do not have needs, otherwise they would turn neurotic….[Actually, the lions do not have needs either. They respond to stimuli: they feel hungry, thus they hunt.]

    Oh for chrissake.

    I guess, since “proper” use of language is the problem here, we are going to have to get this out of the way.

    Given your odd usage of the term “need” in this thread, I am going to have to ask you to define your term.

    Please define for us what in the world you mean when you say “need.”

    And just for fun. Proper usage would designate a group of lions as a “pride.”

    A murder of crows.
    A parliament of owls.
    A pod of orca.

  85. “The Rotary club exists because the individuals in it share common beliefs and goals, but if the club breaks apart, it is not like the members cease to exist (!)”

    But Torres, as I said over and over, a group need would be something that needs to occur in order for the GROUP to NOT cease to exist. The fact that the group needs the existence of its individual members (among other things) to exist in order for IT to exist does not somehow destroy the idea that for a group to exist, as a group, it will need certain things to exist. In fact it confirms it!

    A hive certainly needs the existence of its individual members for its existence, but far from disproving that the hive has no needs this demonstrates one its needs (the fundamental one). Of course, the mere existence of individual bees does not make a hive, so there are other things needed for the existence of a hive to occur, and keep occurring. These are its needs. Again, who cares if there is some subjective awareness?

  86. Hazel,

    But I think you underestimate the extent to which large groups can spontaneously generate mutually beneficial behavior patterns without needing to have them explicitly codified. Moreover, once something gets codified it’s hard to change, so it’s often better to leave it uncodified and informal so it can continue to evolve and adapt.

    Actually, I don’t think I underestimate this…that is why I said that the majority of the regulatory work in human communities is carried by unspoken rules. Their codification, however, emerges when the unspoken rules are failing the group at some level.

    Ossification of those rules is, of course, a problem. This is why most communities develop mechanisms for repealing or modifying those rules once they are codified.

    But don’t under estimate the efficiency of codifying some of the rules. The US constitution is a good example of how it can be done well.

  87. MNG,

    The hive or ant colony is a good example of the dynamic between individual and group needs. In the case of both, it could be argued that the individual ant or bee is not really the proper unit for consideration.

    In the sense that Francisco discusses “knowledge” the individual ant doesn’t know anything, even when the ant colony knows where food is.

    So, given his vague concept, an ant colony has needs while an individual ant does not.

  88. “First, the woman can stop you and she would be justified, and second, you would be committing an act of aggression against that woman’s right to act.”

    Oh my dear lord, did you call out NM for supposedly begging the question earlier?

    Can you see the question begging going on in your sentence above?

    “Well, you don’t have a right to rape the girl because for one thing the girl would be JUSTIFIED [meaning you would be acting outside your rights] to resist you and second you would be acting outside your rights.”

    Your confusing two things:
    1. What someone has a right to do (speak freely, take a walk, etc)
    2. What makes the things above a right (because they don’t harm others, because they maximize utility, etc)

    Back up and try again.

  89. You do not argue, you STATE without support.

    See? That is why I love debating with you, Neu.

    You assume that “knowledge” is something that can only “properly” be discussed as a quality of an individual, and then conclude from that ASSUMPTION, that groups can’t have needs because they can’t have knowledge.

    No, I assume knowledge is a quality of the individual because to think is not is incurring in a perfunctory contradiction. The assumption that people have knowledge is *not* being used to argue against groups having needs that are different than those of the individuals that conform it.

    Yet, when I say that the ASSUMPTION that underlies your conclusion is suspect, you claim that I am being disingenuous.

    No, I am not saying you are being disingenuous. I am saying you are being intellectually dishonest, by stating that the “individual” is also a concept and thus trying to make the argument I make irrelevant. Whereas the word “individual” is a linguistic construct, what are physically are individuals, persons, people.


    You claim that groups can’t act/know, and then talk about the proper use of language.

    Of course I do, because you’re not using the language properly. I have shown you that your concept of Group is totally different from the proper concept (i.e. a collection of things), in order to argue for group rights that are above those of the individuals that conform the group.

    So, I will try one last time.
    Group NEEDS(sub2)…a specific characteristic OF GROUPS

    Give me a break, Neu – you’re going in circles again. So groups have needs that are SPECIFIC to groups? Like what?

    Have you tried to reply to the examples I given? Here it’s one of them, again:

    If out of 50 of group Red Haired People, 26 go to lunch, and 24 go swimming, did the Group decide to go to Lunch, or did it decide to go Swimming?

    It’s a simple question, Neu.

  90. Hazel,

    The unspoken rules work largely because they are consistent with the self-interest of the individual at that stage. They don’t require enforcement.

    Btw, I think that unspoken rules are enforced, often quite harshly. In fact, one of the motivations for codifying rules is that the enforcement of unspoken rules through violence needs to be reigned in.

  91. “Mollusks do not have needs”

    What? There are not things that the organisms known as mollusks need in order to survive?

    Mollusks don’t need oxygen, for example?

    They don’t need food?

    I’m gonna have to agree with NM, what in the world do you mean by “need.” If you say “something that individual humans must have and are aware of” I warn you I’m going to laugh and laugh…

    C’mon, you’re TAO, right?

  92. The hive or ant colony is a good example of the dynamic between individual and group needs. In the case of both, it could be argued that the individual ant or bee is not really the proper unit for consideration.

    Gang, this is why I stopped taking Neu seriously. Now he brings this inept analogy.

    Neu, people are NOT ants, nor bees – fortunately, not yet.

    Collectivist of your ilk have tried to make people into ants or bees, with disastrous results.

  93. Torress
    You’re going off the rails my friend.

    You do agree that the concept of a hive is sensical, right?

    And you see how the fact that a hive cannot exist without the existence of its individual members does NOT disprove the idea of “hive needs”, right?

    And you can find sensical the idea that, other than the mere existence of the individual members of a potential hive there would have to be other things that must occur or be in effect to say a hive is in existence, right?

    These things are what a hive needs to exist AS A HIVE. Hence it’s needs.

    I don’t have to do the rest about groups do I?

  94. MNG,
    What? There are not things that the organisms known as mollusks need in order to survive?

    See why the US needs to bring philosophy back to the classroom?

    YOU know and I know that mollusks need oxygen and food. But for the love of Zeus, that is YOUR and MY knowledge, not the mollusks. WE have that knowledge, not the animals. See the difference?

    I’m gonna have to agree with NM, what in the world do you mean by “need.”

    Need is anything you know you want or require. Need is the knowledge that there is something missing. The key word is “KNOW” – YOU know what you need.

    If you say “something that individual humans must have and are aware of” I warn you I’m going to laugh and laugh…

    So if they are not aware of it, then they still NEED it? Would YOU know it?

    Gang, your schools REALLY need to put philosophy back into the curriculum.

  95. But it was nice to see you go from the “ahh, NM, you’re logic is faulty” to “raargh, NM you and your ilk are evil collectivists”

  96. Whereas the word “individual” is a linguistic construct, what are physically are individuals, persons, people.

    Groups are manifest physically just as surely as people. Like I said, you are making arbitrary decisions and assuming that your idiosyncratic determinations are proper.

    your concept of Group is totally different from the proper concept (i.e. a collection of things)

    A collection of things is a thing. What is improper? Please recognize that you are the one who is arguing for an idiosyncratic usage of the terminology.

    If out of 50 of group Red Haired People, 26 go to lunch, and 24 go swimming, did the Group decide to go to Lunch, or did it decide to go Swimming?

    It’s a simple question, Neu.

    The group ACT in this case is to split into two groups. That is the group DECISION. After that point group ONE goes to lunch while group TWO goes swimming.

    Your mistake is thinking that the GROUP is choosing between LUNCH and SWIMMING, when, in fact, the GROUP is deciding between SPLITTING and remaining cohesive.

    It is a simple question, yes.

  97. Francisco,

    Gang, your schools REALLY need to put philosophy back into the curriculum.

    Ahhhh irony.

  98. Their codification, however, emerges when the unspoken rules are failing the group at some level.

    This is the problem. Who decides what constitutes a failing, and what is in “the group”‘s interest?

    A simple majority vote is going to be prone to allowing dominant segments of society to disregard the interests of some individuals.

    Again, the rules – or perhaps it would be better to say – a self-regulating behavior pattern – works at the low level because it is self-enforcing, because it is in the self-interest of all participants.

    If the codification becomes a “rule” that forces some individuals to act against their own interest, then it ceases to be mutually beneficial, which in turn makes it no longer self enforcing, which itself perpetuates the need for permanent enforcement of the new rule.

    Perhaps that what makes something a “rule” instead of a “behavior”. Once something passes into a fixed codified state, it ceases to be part of a system of self-organized mutually beneficial social order, and becomes a mechanism for exploitation of and violence against individuals. It becomes a means of dominance and control instead of voluntary cooperation.

  99. A need is something you know you want or desire?

    Bwahahah!

    But back to this, see, you’ve just made a definition of a word that makes you “win” your argument. You define needs as something including self-awareness and since groups and mollusks are not “self-aware” (the latter claim can actually be argued a bit possibly, but not here and now) of course that is going to be true.

    But this is not how most people use the term need. People say “that car needs an engine to run” or “that mollusk needs air to survive” or that “Rotary Club needs to start bringing on new members or it will disappear.”

    If “need” means what you say then you are right, groups don’t have self aware wants or desires. But they do have requirements for their continued existence or well being, which is what the rest of the human race means when they use the word need.

    And please, Please brother, don’t talk to me about philosophy when you obviously don’t understand the difference between ethics and meta-ethics I pointed out above.

  100. YOU know and I know that mollusks need oxygen and food. But for the love of Zeus, that is YOUR and MY knowledge, not the mollusks. WE have that knowledge, not the animals. See the difference?

    Now I am forced to ask for a definition of “Know” and “Knowledge.”

    Because, again, you seem to be using an idiosyncratic definition.

    And, improperly conflating the concept of NEED with KNOW.

    Need does not in any sense depend upon knowledge.

    A “need” is a necessary condition, in proper, common usage of the term. You may need new brakes, but not know it…until it is too late.

    Are you really going to claim that such an assertion is not a proper use of the term “need.”

  101. Neu,

    Here it’s one of them, once again:

    If out of 50 of group Red Haired People, 26 go to lunch, and 24 go swimming, did the Group decide to go to Lunch, or did it decide to go Swimming?

    It’s a simple question, Neu. Why have you not answered? Surely, your premises should give you ammunition to tackle this one.

  102. Francisco,

    Keep up.

    See above.

  103. A “need” is a necessary condition, in proper, common usage of the term. You may need new brakes, but not know it…until it is too late.

    If I do not KNOW I need brakes, how can I NEED them? I can only NEED something if I know of its existence.

    I can say that you need a new pair of shoes, it is just that you do not know it. Would you still accept that you NEED shoes?

    Are you really going to claim that such an assertion is not a proper use of the term “need.”

    Of course I would. Think about it – before cars existed, did people KNOW they needed one, or did they NOT know? If they did not know it, then how would they NEED cars if none existed?

  104. Neu,
    Keep up.

    See above.

    Ok, so you will not answer the question. Fair enough. At least be an adult and tell me so: “I, Neu Mejican, will not answer your question”. I will leave the office with more respect for you.

  105. Francisco,

    I answered your question above.

    Did you not see my response?

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/131449.html#1200679

  106. You define needs as something including self-awareness and since groups and mollusks are not “self-aware” (the latter claim can actually be argued a bit possibly, but not here and now) of course that is going to be true.

    Oh, man . . . Are you serious?

    “I exist”. Would not that imply self-awareness? “I need”. Would not that imply self-awareness? And by implying self awareness, would the concept be invalid?

    I must be talking to little kids. Even while it is 7:00 pm Pacific Time, I want to go home, everybody left the office. I will have to leave you guys.

  107. Francisco,

    Are you really going to claim that such an assertion is not a proper use of the term “need.”

    Of course I would. Think about it – before cars existed, did people KNOW they needed one, or did they NOT know? If they did not know it, then how would they NEED cars if none existed?

    Is that really your argument?
    Really?

    People don’t need cars.
    They may (or may not) need a mode of transportation and cars may fill that need, but the need is for the function of the car, not the item. Necessity is the mother of invention and the need existed before the knowledge of the solution, if you will.

  108. My apologies, Neu – got carried away by the multiple replies of MNG. Here is your reply to my question.


    If out of 50 of group Red Haired People, 26 go to lunch, and 24 go swimming, did the Group decide to go to Lunch, or did it decide to go Swimming?

    It’s a simple question, Neu.

    The group ACT in this case is to split into two groups.

    It is still the same group, Neu – Red Haired People.

    That is the group DECISION. After that point group ONE goes to lunch while group TWO goes swimming.

    So, basically, by virtue of this, Group Red Haired People has become Red Haired People that went to lunch and Red Haired People that went swimming. Right?

    Your mistake is thinking that the GROUP is choosing between LUNCH and SWIMMING, when, in fact, the GROUP is deciding between SPLITTING and remaining cohesive.

    No, the mistake is yours, Neu, by thinking in terms of groups as organic entities. The group did not decide anything – you cannot know that with the information provided. What happened is that 26 Red Haired persons decided to go to lunch, and 24 decided to go swimming, individually. I called them the Red Haired People group because I can classify them as a group. I never said the group of 50 was together and that they somehow voted to split – that was your assumption. For all we care, the 50 could be people in different places.

    The problem is that you think of groups as gangs or clubs, but that is not necessarily the case. Even if we were talking about the Red Haired Club, if 26 decided to go to lunch, it would NOT FOLLOW the 26 decided between them to go to lunch – if each of the Red Haired Club went home to have lunch, it would be reasonable to think each decided to do so. I would NOT make the assumption all of them made a vote to go to lunch because I still know the 50 Red Haired people ARE individuals with different minds.

    It’s the same with what you call a community – it is still made of individuals, and each may decide different things, or similar things. It would not make sense to think all individuals in a community get together to plan their next move, as you assumed in your answer above. That would be somewhat cumbersome, to say the least.

  109. People don’t need cars.

    Have you asked all people, or is that your opinion?

    They may (or may not) need a mode of transportation and cars may fill that need,

    I do not think you can know that for a fact. You cannot pretend to KNOW what people need – that’s arrogance.

  110. You know, Neu, when you constantly get into arguments about the definitions of simple words with people, it probably DOESN’T mean that everyone else doesn’t understand simple English.

  111. That’s a pretty bold statement, Se?or Torres.

  112. Btw, I think that unspoken rules are enforced, often quite harshly. In fact, one of the motivations for codifying rules is that the enforcement of unspoken rules through violence needs to be reigned in.

    Okay, I’ll give you that. But I’d advocate keeping the codifications to the “things which are not permitted”, as opposed to “things which are mandatory”.

    You know, it should not be permitted to beat someone up for looking askance at your girlfriend, but it shouldn’t be mandatory for your girlfriend to wear a burqa so that noone will look askance at her.

    But while we are on the subject, some systems of unspoken rules can themselves be very oppressive. (See any novel about Victorian England.) So it’s not just our job to get rid of codified rules, but to modify social norms so that they are less oppressive, too.

    If there’s a social code that results in violent beatings (say anti-homosexuality), then it’s in need of modification too.

  113. At the time of writing,Beneath the Wheel, a tale of young minds being crushed by the institutional education (Neu and MNG, poor victims), Hermann Hesse’s ideology would have been clearly seen as liberal. However, it is evident that modern liberals do not share the outlook of their names sakes. In fact, what Neu and MNG espouse here owes much more to the writings of Confucius than Locke. Is it time for the modern liberal to give up that name?

  114. correction:

    At the time of writing, Beneath the Wheel, a tale of young minds being crushed by institutional education (Neu and MNG, poor victims), Hermann Hesse’s ideology would have been clearly seen as liberal. However, it is evident that modern liberals do not share the outlook of their names sakes. In fact, what Neu and MNG espouse here owes much more to the writings of Confucius than Locke. Is it time for the modern liberal to give up that name?

  115. (Previous correction still erred due to botched tags)

    FT,

    Lord’s work you are doing, but now you are just shooting fish in a barrel.

  116. I fear wading into the morass that is the Torres-MNG-NeuMejican triangle.

    But I’ll just say…

    Groups can exhibit collective behavior, and it’s not meaningless to describe them as collective entities.

    But in modern society, people over-play group identities. We’re not all members of tribal groups that share our entire lives with eachother. My interests may coincide with one group in some instances and others in different instances. Generally these things get organized over the internet and the group is able to acquire the things it needs without special funding from the state.

    The left also overemphasizes the virtues of the collective in general. Lots of people enjoy being part of a larger social community, but lots of people also strive to transcend the confines of their social group too. We’re not just bees who enjoy being part of the borg hive. Not everyone’s life is made meaningful by subordinating themselves to a larger entity. Some people feel the need to separate themselves from conventional society. It’s a recurrent theme, and not some irresponsible adolescent phase.

  117. Our Kenyan head of the politburo is going to bring back the glories of the Carter administration! Now if only he can bring back the fashions and disco too! I loved getting 13% on my bank accounts and watching the Dow drop to 800!

    Ah Obamie can do it. Yes he can!

    Change! Hope!

    Bee Gees!

  118. Kenyan? or Keynesian?

  119. Hazel,

    I don’t disagree with your last couple of posts in any substantial way. I am not a member of the group “The Left” by any stretch of the term, but to deny the existence of groups as groups and to deny that they, once formed, take actions, make decisions, and, yes, have group needs, is counter productive. IMHO.

    Francisco,

    No, the mistake is yours, Neu, by thinking in terms of groups as organic entities. The group did not decide anything – you cannot know that with the information provided. What happened is that 26 Red Haired persons decided to go to lunch, and 24 decided to go swimming, individually. I called them the Red Haired People group because I can classify them as a group. I never said the group of 50 was together and that they somehow voted to split – that was your assumption. For all we care, the 50 could be people in different places.

    Did you ever see/read The Princess Bride?”

    I think you just said…”never get involved with a Sicilian, when DEATH is on the line…hahahahah…”

    We all know what happens next, of course.

    You talk of intellectual dishonesty, then attempt to “win” a discussion with a “switcheroo…”

    Cute, but in the end pretty pointless.

    I called them the Red Haired People group because I can classify them as a group.

    One thing I think we can agree with is that YOU don’t get to define the group in this way. If we are doing that, then you are just talking about, as you put it earlier…”mere categories.” But by that definition, then, your “group” was not a “group” but a category. Since, I hope, it has been clear that we were discussing groups that people form, not categories that people talk about, your NEW scenario is tangential to the conversation.

    But, if we are going to discuss things on that level…

    So, basically, by virtue of this, Group Red Haired People has become Red Haired People that went to lunch and Red Haired People that went swimming. Right?

    Once we are discussing things in the way you have framed it after the fact, then, yes, that would be an accurate way to discuss things.

    For all we care, the 50 could be people in different places.

    Under the new assumptions that makes no difference.

    It’s the same with what you call a community – it is still made of individuals, and each may decide different things, or similar things. It would not make sense to think all individuals in a community get together to plan their next move, as you assumed in your answer above. That would be somewhat cumbersome, to say the least.

    Smaller communities do this all the time. Now, of course, larger communities recognize the difficulty and come up with different decision making processes, but your argument still doesn’t refute the idea that the group is a cohesive unit that decides things, acts, and has needs. Even if displaced spatially.

    cunnivore | February 2, 2009, 10:24pm | #
    You know, Neu, when you constantly get into arguments about the definitions of simple words with people, it probably DOESN’T mean that everyone else doesn’t understand simple English.

    It might be, cunnivore, that I actively seek out arguments with people whose arguments rely on idiosyncratic meanings of words. I do make my money studying semantics processing and discourse and how it breaks down, so I find discussions of word meaning interesting. H&R is a great place for that. It is a community of language users that relies on some interesting variants of common words. So, for instance, “government” is equated with force, taxation with “theft.” Once you engage in enough conversations here, it would be easy to think that these are the standard meanings of these words. Or, like Francisco, that they are the PROPER meanings of these words. I spend enough time engaging with different communities to know better.

  120. Damn, missed a tag somewhere.

  121. I think it is clear where I am responding to Francisco’s comments and when I am quoting him…it not, oh well. I ain’t gonna repost it.

  122. Excellent work Mr Torres.

  123. Francisco,

    So the issue of group membership rears its head in our discussion.

    When I talk of groups as groups having group needs, acting as groups, and making group decisions, the issue of the relationship between a group and its members is certainly one that involves the members forming the group. Of course we both know that things are not that straight forward. Family groups, for instance, involve voluntary relationships, but also obligations . Citizenship, likewise, is strictly voluntary, but practically very difficult to renounce. If you live in a community you have chosen to live there and to become, to some extent, a member of that community. If the community makes a choice as a group that you don’t like, you can renounce your group membership and move…but it is hard (not impossible, just hard) to drop completely out of human society and find a place where you are not part of a functioning group.

    The tension between your choice to live in a community, and the obligations to that community that result is a source of tension. But to deny the existence of the group and how it operates is counter productive to the development of a maximally free society.

    When the framers wrote the constitution, they clearly recognized that there was a tension between individual needs and group needs and wrote a document to define that relationship. It also recognize that the community was made up of coalitions of other smaller communities, and hence we end up with a federation of united states rather than a single large nation state.

    But to try and deny the legitimacy of the process we use as a nation to make decisions based on whether or not “groups really act or not is, well just, intellectually dishonest and politically pointless.

  124. Franciso,

    I don’t know if you have read Grice, but I think his theories are relevant here.

    Grice’s cooperative principle: set of norms expected in conversation. Grice proposes four maxims expected in conversation.

    * quality: speaker tells the truth or provable by adequate evidence
    * quanity: speaker is as informative as required
    * relation: response is relevant to topic of discussion
    * manner: speaker’s avoids ambiguity or obscurity, is direct and straightforward

    What makes this interesting to me is this. Our conversations never seem to work out this way due to apparent violations (you state that you see me violating the principles, and I see you clearly violating them).

    Your “simple question” is a perfect example.

    Under Grice’s principles, I should assume that you are being cooperative (rather than competitive) and assume that your question is of sufficient quantity (that you gave me all the information I needed to answer). Under that assumption, and a sense that only a self-defined group would be relevant to our conversation, I answered.

    Your reply was “But in reality, I hid information from you” to trick you into answering the way you did…hahaha.

    This brings me back to my first comment.

    We don’t seem to have made much progress, since we don’t seem to have come be able to establish a cooperative framework for discussion.

    It is odd, because it happens so rarely.

  125. Francisco,

    Here is another perfect example.

    Previous to the comment,

    Neu, you’re going in circles. Of course you are giving the group the same quality as a person, because otherwise it does not make sense to assign rights to what amounts to a simple mental construct.

    I had stated that I was not giving the group the SAME quality as a person. Yet your response indicates that you think I am breaking Grice’s basic principle of quality…that I am not telling you the truth when I say what I say.

    It is evidence that despite my best efforts, you do not see me as a cooperative partner in the discourse. The question is…why not?

    I think there is evidence for where the lack of trust comes from in your statements like this one…

    What NM is asserting is that by virtue of people being in a group, that THE group has needs that go BEYOND or are more important than the individuals’ needs.

    You seem to think that by recognizing the existence of the group as a true entity with needs, that makes decisions, and takes actions, that I am threatening your rights as an individual. I am not.

    To argue that group has needs that are qualitatively distinct from the needs of its members does not imply that the group need is more important…it is just of a different nature.

  126. Consumers should ignore the commentary admonishing them of spreading “weakness,” and “lacking confidence.”

    http://pacificgatepost.blogspot.com/2009/02/obama-watch-consumers-and-learn.html

    Stay the course.

  127. Everybody knows we wouldn’t be in this mess if we just bought more Iraqi stuff. What do they make, anyway?

  128. This just in:
    Mollusks do not need food or oxygen. And I guess neither do newborns and such.

    Because the word need only refers to something a thing is aware of wanting.

    Hilarious.

  129. Let’s examine a document which does a beautiful job discussing the concepts on this thread.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.[this sentence recognizes individual rights] That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,[now we get recognition that one of the things mean do is form groups] That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.[here we find that government is a process instituted by the group, rather than a separate entity, formed to meet group needs] Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.[again we get group needs] But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty,[ a recognition that there are BOTH rights and obligations] to throw off such Government,[recognition that groups make decisions and act] and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    By Francisco Torres’ argument, the authors of this are on shaky ground because their argument relies on a recognition of both individual right AND the idea that people operate in groups that have needs, make decisions, and act. It also makes the improper implication that both rights and obligations exist.

  130. And cars don’t need fuel. Neither do planes. Oh, and planes don’t need to create enough lift to overcome draft.

    This is your brain on a narrow ideology.

  131. Just imagine what Torress’ definition entails.

    If you were wounded and you had lost a great deal of blood, and you wandered into a doctors office and he examined you and said “you need a blood transfusion” then according to Torress you only “needed” that the second you heard and understood and accepted what the doctor said. Prior to that you did not need it. And had you fainted prior to his statement you would not then “need” a blood transfusion (since you would not be aware in any sense of needing it).

    This is hilarious stuff.

    What’s funniest about it is that one “need” not engage in such silliness to get pretty much everything a libertarian might want. Just admit that groups, as groups, have certain needs, and that to the extent that the group’s continued existence may further the welfare of the individuals that constitute the group then it’s possible for a “group need” to trump any individuals, but as I would argue in nearly every case groups following rules which protect individual rights would, in their existence, be the ones most likely to further the maximum amount of individual welfare (for the reasons Mill explains in On Liberty, and others). See, you got everything you could want: individuals are the standard, their rights are protected against the group. But no stupidity required…

  132. MNG: How can a car need anything? Does your show need laces or do you need to lace up your shoe for it not to fall off.

  133. shit, shoe*

  134. And what does any of this have to do with people being so goddamn selfish as to save their money instead of blowing it on consumer goods, so as to keep their fellow American employed?

    Come on people, the country needs people to purchase all the products that the workers are making! Whether you want any of it or not!

  135. adrian,

    If we use the term “need” as synonymous with “desire” or “want” or even “want really bad” (as it seems Francisco prefers, then it would be correct to say that the car does not “need” something.

    The more standard usage of the term, however, places “wants” in opposition to “needs.”

    You want a million dollars, but you don’t need a million dollars…yadda yadda.

    This more standard usage uses the term more like “requires” as in “the car requires gas to function.”

    It is typically this more standard version of the term that is being used when people talk about “the nation needing [X].” And it is certainly this more standard usage that is being used by economists when they talk about the “need for more consumer spending” or “the need for more savings.”

    It is, of course, possible to talk about the nation “wanting” something. But if we do that, then I think I would be closer to Francisco’s position and think that the “nation’s wants” are just short hand for “the wants of a majority of the individuals we call “the nation.””

    A desire or “want” does seem to require (i.e. need) a consciousness. I don’t think “wants” are restricted to humans only, but that is a whole ‘nuther can of worms.

  136. Hazel Meade | February 3, 2009, 12:41pm | #
    And what does any of this have to do with people being so goddamn selfish as to save their money instead of blowing it on consumer goods, so as to keep their fellow American employed?

    Come on people, the country needs people to purchase all the products that the workers are making! Whether you want any of it or not!

    I don’t believe anyone is claiming “all” as the level required for the nation’s economy to remain healthy. There is, certainly, debate about what rate or saving/purchasing is necessary to the economy to avoid certain outcomes, but no one is arguing for full employment, or 0% savings or 100% savings.

  137. And just to be clear…

    If we are talking about “wants,” I am closer to Francisco’s position, but not in total agreement with him. I do think it is meaningful to talk about a community, and society, a nation, having “wants” as something more/different than a mere summation of the desires of the individual members. The dynamic interactions of individuals in a society result in certain emergent norms/values (the unspoken rules Hazel brought up earlier) that are more properly a quality of the group than of the individuals in that group.

  138. NM: I still disagree, the car has no concept of what it needs or requires. You know the car needs gas to get you around so you give it to it. The car does not need or require anything, it can’t, it’s a car. This is what Fransisco was talking about. A group, like a car, cannot know anything. Only the individuals of the group can, or the driver of the car. The group is an abstraction, just as a car is an abstraction of all the parts that goes into it.

  139. adrian,

    You just repeated my point prefaced with the words “I disagree.” Odd.

    IF we agree that we are using the word “NEED” to mean “WANT” or “DESIRE,” then we also agree that the car doesn’t need things.

    You can’t seriously claim, however, that the concept of a requirement (aka NEED) only exists in the presence of a consciousness. A NEED or REQUIREMENT is defined by a context for a specific outcome. This sense of the word is distinct from the sense described above.

    For instance, the internal combustion that makes a car go requires a fuel, whether or not the person driving the car knows it. When the car stops because it has run out of fuel, the knowledge state of the person doesn’t alter the requirements that determine whether or not combustion will happen.

    So, the car doesn’t need to go anywhere (it has no compulsion to move), but if a person is trying to get it to drive down the road, the car will need fuel in order to fulfill that function.

    There are two different senses of the word “need” used in the sentence above. Native speakers of English have no trouble moving back and forth between these two senses without a communication breakdown.

    Native speakers will also have no problem understanding an additional sentence in this context.

    “The gas tank is empty, so the driver will need to get some fuel if he needs the car to go anywhere.”

  140. adrian,

    A group, like a car, cannot know anything. The group is an abstraction, just as a car is an abstraction of all the parts that goes into it.

    Before we go further with this, I think I will need your working definition of “to know.”

    As you think about your answer, think about whether or not you “know” how to say the word “Rumpelstiltskin.” Think careful whether/how that knowledge is different than a mouse’s knowledge of how to avoid a cat. Or different from how you “know” how many states there are in the United States of America.

  141. adrian,

    Also be sure to distinguish between the concept of “skill” and “knowledge” as I think this will be important if we are going to discuss whether or not groups “know” things.

  142. NM: i know you like language man, but I really don’t have time to argue about it right now. I understand what you are saying, yes fuel is required for an internal combustion engine to operate. But my point in this analogy as it relates to groups of people is that the car cannot know anything since a car does not think about anything. Just as a group does not think of anything, only the individuals in the group can think and know.

    Now where the semantics are important is here:
    I do think it is meaningful to talk about a community, and society, a nation, having “wants” as something more/different than a mere summation of the desires of the individual members.

    I disagree with this statement you made. I don’t think it is meaningful at all, which is the basis of collectivism vs individualism. A group cannot speak for all its members unless every member thinks the same way. So it is a summation to me.

  143. “If a groups existence tends to maximize overall welfare, then coercing any individual member of the group, if it is necessary to continue the existence of that group, is the right thing to do.”

    If one person’s membership in a group makes them worse off, even if we could measure how much the other members of the group benefitted from this arrangement and could show that their increase in well-being was greater than that individual’s decrease in well-being, it does not necessarily justify forcing that individual to remain in the group.

    You’re making the mistake of assuming purely utilitarian ethics as a given, hence the basic problem in your argument.

  144. adrian,

    Well, then, I guess we will just have to disagree.

    I will point out that, in my view, the distinction between “collectivism” and “individualism” is typically one of emphasis between two real choices(which one takes precedent, the “needs” of the individual or the “needs” of the group [however you want to define need]) rather than a dichotomy between “real” needs of individuals against “abstract” needs of groups. If you deny the existence of these needs of groups, you will not be able to account for them in your solutions and they will, quite literally, come back to bite you in the ass.

    imho.

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