The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
roflwaffle
Posts: 360
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:25 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby roflwaffle » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:38 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:Rich people only get rich by improving the quality of life for other people.
Do they? It seems to me that people can get rich in ways that don't include improving the quality of life of others.

User avatar
mmmcannibalism
Posts: 2150
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:16 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Aug 19, 2010 4:33 am UTC

roflwaffle wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:Rich people only get rich by improving the quality of life for other people.
Do they? It seems to me that people can get rich in ways that don't include improving the quality of life of others.


well besides politicians /snarkiness

The Large Text Baron says: Knock it the fuck off with the tiny text.


Either you make money by providing something valuable enough that you generate a fortune or you were involved in the investment behind that project(hence helping it get started/expand).
Izawwlgood wrote:I for one would happily live on an island as a fuzzy seal-human.

Oregonaut wrote:Damn fetuses and their terroist plots.

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby GoC » Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:30 pm UTC

meatyochre wrote:
GoC wrote:Naturally I aim to make everyone I know give away as much as possible to worthy charities (to varying degrees of success) or to admit they're selfish bastards who do not really think human life and happiness is (noticably) intrinsically valuable (some do choose the latter).

Were you being sarcastic or serious here? It's not particularly conducive to friendship in the first place to badger your friends into admitting they're selfish unless they spend their money in the way you find acceptable.

Utilitarianism. It's not what I find acceptable it's "Greatest good for the greatest number". That 100 pounds would do more good to humanity donated to Mary's Meals than spent on designer shoes. I've yet to find someone who disputes that.

And who the fuck are you, pardon my French, to tell the people around you that they should spend all of their disposable income on benevolence?

Who I am is irrelevant.

And saying that if they don't, they don't value human happiness at all?

Nope. Telling them they are basically saying: "The happiness of others isn't intrinsically valuable. It's only valuable as it relates to me (and thus people who I have met or am friends with)."

Everyone tries to justify their way of life no matter how many people they could help by making modest lifestyle changes. Either accept you are not actually a good person* or change.

* as in the kind of person who would take the bus occasionally to save a life

mmmcannibalism wrote:So to clarify, human happiness is good if its not your personal happiness; therefore, by helping people you are making them worse human beings because they are experiencing more personal happiness.

I can't see how this relates to what I said so I'm ignoring it until it is clarified.
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Vaniver » Thu Aug 19, 2010 2:36 pm UTC

roflwaffle wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:Rich people only get rich by improving the quality of life for other people.
Do they? It seems to me that people can get rich in ways that don't include improving the quality of life of others.
Indeed, "only" is incorrect. However, "generally" fits and is true.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

User avatar
Azrael
CATS. CATS ARE NICE.
Posts: 6491
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:16 am UTC
Location: Boston

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Azrael » Thu Aug 19, 2010 3:14 pm UTC

GoC wrote:
meatyochre wrote:... unless they spend their money in the way you find acceptable.
Utilitarianism. It's not what I find acceptable it's "Greatest good for the greatest number".
Yes, it is the way you find acceptable. Utilitarianism is a philosophy, not an abject truth. You clearly believe very strongly in it, thus feel that it's the acceptable way to behave.

GoC wrote:
meatyochre wrote:And who the fuck are you, pardon my French, to tell the people around you that they should spend all of their disposable income on benevolence?
Who I am is irrelevant.
Ah, but the adjective in question was really what they were after: self-righteous.

User avatar
Bubbles McCoy
Posts: 1106
Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:49 am UTC
Location: California

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Thu Aug 19, 2010 8:26 pm UTC

GoC wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:So to clarify, human happiness is good if its not your personal happiness; therefore, by helping people you are making them worse human beings because they are experiencing more personal happiness.

I can't see how this relates to what I said so I'm ignoring it until it is clarified.

In your original post, you essentially claimed that all money spent on yourself is evil, and money given away is good - in more direct terms, consuming goods is bad, given away goods is a moral plus. At face value this is somewhat contradictory, as then those receiving what you give are in turn becoming morally inferior. To again rephrase in your more recent utilitarian declaration, all personal actions should be measured by the net utility they provide. This too seems unrealistic as a moral system, does this mean that you should pursue the highest paying job possible, giving away every dollar not directly needed to continue your employment away?


GoC wrote: That 100 pounds would do more good to humanity donated to Mary's Meals than spent on designer shoes. I've yet to find someone who disputes that.

Easy enough to find. Aid can have many unintended consequences, for example prolonged aid in Haiti is currently driving many smaller-scale food suppliers out of business. Answers as to what is best aren't easy, but giving based off of simplistic platitudes such as the one you offered above is not the foundation for solid, long-term improvements.

User avatar
setzer777
Good questions sometimes get stupid answers
Posts: 2762
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2008 9:24 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby setzer777 » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:06 pm UTC

GoC wrote:
And saying that if they don't, they don't value human happiness at all?

Nope. Telling them they are basically saying: "The happiness of others isn't intrinsically valuable. It's only valuable as it relates to me (and thus people who I have met or am friends with)."

Everyone tries to justify their way of life no matter how many people they could help by making modest lifestyle changes. Either accept you are not actually a good person* or change.

* as in the kind of person who would take the bus occasionally to save a life



You are creating a false dichotomy here. It's possible to genuinely value the happiness of other people while valuing your own happiness more. Just because I care more about things that are (in the big scheme of things) minor inconveniences in my own life more than I care about life-and-death scenarios affecting total strangers doesn't mean that I don't care at all. In fact, I'd argue that such an all-or-nothing attitude causes people to do less for one another, because they've been told that only sacrificing a small amount of personal luxury without going all the way is hypocritical.
Meaux_Pas wrote:We're here to go above and beyond.

Too infinity
of being an arsehole

User avatar
mmmcannibalism
Posts: 2150
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:16 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby mmmcannibalism » Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:43 pm UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:So to clarify, human happiness is good if its not your personal happiness; therefore, by helping people you are making them worse human beings because they are experiencing more personal happiness.



I can't see how this relates to what I said so I'm ignoring it until it is clarified.


Your saying that holding any wealth beyond what is absolutely necessary is immoral; therefore, giving people any money beyond that which is needed to prevent starvation is making them morally inferior to what they were before. The other point is that you are saying moral action is sacrificing what you have, so taking a donation would be immoral. If that is true, giving to the poor is making them admit they are too immoral to accept the sacrifice of poverty.
Izawwlgood wrote:I for one would happily live on an island as a fuzzy seal-human.

Oregonaut wrote:Damn fetuses and their terroist plots.

bobjoesmith
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:32 pm UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby bobjoesmith » Mon Aug 23, 2010 9:30 pm UTC

...Well i dont know if Im that ethical but I think it is ok:

Economics says that someone's expenditure is someone else's income. When I pay the jeweler $100 of my money, he essentially earns $100. However, once he gets this money, he needs to spend it too: he has bills to pay. He spends 60% of it (marginal propensity to consume) and so another $60 moves and goes to the grocer. There has been $160 dollars worth of transaction in the economy. Now the grocer goes to buy some blinds with 60% of this money: 36+160 = 196. Eventually, there will be a multiplied effect: it is an infinite geometric sequence with an r = 0.6. When it all goes down, buying that $2000 dollar ring may have made the economy grow by $5000; not buying the ring means that the jeweler has less money, the grocer has less money etc... So go ahead and spend it: it's the paradox of thrift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift) .

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby meatyochre » Mon Aug 23, 2010 11:54 pm UTC

bobjoesmith wrote:...Well i dont know if Im that ethical but I think it is ok:

Economics says that someone's expenditure is someone else's income. When I pay the jeweler $100 of my money, he essentially earns $100. However, once he gets this money, he needs to spend it too: he has bills to pay. He spends 60% of it (marginal propensity to consume) and so another $60 moves and goes to the grocer. There has been $160 dollars worth of transaction in the economy. Now the grocer goes to buy some blinds with 60% of this money: 36+160 = 196. Eventually, there will be a multiplied effect: it is an infinite geometric sequence with an r = 0.6. When it all goes down, buying that $2000 dollar ring may have made the economy grow by $5000; not buying the ring means that the jeweler has less money, the grocer has less money etc... So go ahead and spend it: it's the paradox of thrift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_thrift) .

Economically, overall it's better to spend than to save. But that article also references a prisoner's dilemma, where the best thing for an individual IS to save your money, while everyone else spends theirs.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
Vaniver
Posts: 9422
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:12 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Vaniver » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:25 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:Economically, overall it's better to spend than to save.
What?

Thinking spending produces more growth than saving requires thinking at most two steps ahead. Once you get further out, it's obvious that savings, through capital investment, is the primary engine of growth.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

Avatar from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, owned by Hasbro.

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby meatyochre » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:28 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
meatyochre wrote:Economically, overall it's better to spend than to save.
What?

Thinking spending produces more growth than saving requires thinking at most two steps ahead. Once you get further out, it's obvious that savings, through capital investment, is the primary engine of growth.

Did you read the linked article? I am taking it at face value. Are you arguing that the paradox of thrift is incorrect?

I'm not an economist. I trust that the editor of this wiki article knows more about the topic than I.

Spending is economically best for the group as a whole (so, the nation in this case). But on a personal level, it's economically best to save. Hence the prisoner's dilemma comes into play because the best thing for an individual entails saving your money whereas everyone else in the nation spends.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
mmmcannibalism
Posts: 2150
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:16 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby mmmcannibalism » Tue Aug 24, 2010 1:43 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
meatyochre wrote:Economically, overall it's better to spend than to save.
What?

Thinking spending produces more growth than saving requires thinking at most two steps ahead. Once you get further out, it's obvious that savings, through capital investment, is the primary engine of growth.

Did you read the linked article? I am taking it at face value. Are you arguing that the paradox of thrift is incorrect?

I'm not an economist. I trust that the editor of this wiki article knows more about the topic than I.

Spending is economically best for the group as a whole (so, the nation in this case). But on a personal level, it's economically best to save. Hence the prisoner's dilemma comes into play because the best thing for an individual entails saving your money whereas everyone else in the nation spends.


Vaniver is differentiating between saving via throwing your money into a safe and long term savings put into investment.
Izawwlgood wrote:I for one would happily live on an island as a fuzzy seal-human.

Oregonaut wrote:Damn fetuses and their terroist plots.

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby meatyochre » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:27 am UTC

Wouldn't investment be considered spending instead of saving, under this model? Because you're giving your money to someone else to use?

Saving is participating in the only 100% guaranteed way to keep all the money you put in in the first place (whether you put it into a jam jar or savings account). Whereas investment always carries a >0% risk of loss.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

bobjoesmith
Posts: 43
Joined: Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:32 pm UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby bobjoesmith » Tue Aug 24, 2010 2:59 am UTC

Hmm well... Inflation nearly always outpaces intrest for savings in savings banks so you lose money from holding cash.

Also no, consumption is of final goods/services. (meanig things bought for keeps. Dishwasher, big Mac, plumbing repair) not just expenditure.

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Dark567 » Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:24 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:Wouldn't investment be considered spending instead of saving, under this model? Because you're giving your money to someone else to use?

Saving is participating in the only 100% guaranteed way to keep all the money you put in in the first place (whether you put it into a jam jar or savings account). Whereas investment always carries a >0% risk of loss.


From my understanding, the bank uses the money in a savings account to invest in other assets, giving your money to someone else to use. Generally people don't put money under their mattresses or in their jam jar anymore.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

RMgX
Posts: 42
Joined: Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:25 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby RMgX » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:19 am UTC

I don't understand why you would have a problem with her getting a diamond ring. It is not your money, she is not confused over why she wants one, she wants it for looks, emotional reasons and perhaps a status symbol. While it might be a good idea to make her aware of the opportunity cost, the decision over what the best choice is hers in the end and I don't see any good coming out of pushing your preferences onto her.
I have a friend who has no problem dropping several $100 on pens, he has shit for kitchen knives though. I don't have a problem spending several $100 on knives especially kitchen knives and waterstones. My pens are free ones you pick up as endorsements for whatever company. I don't tell him to stop spending money on pens and he doesn't tell me to stop buying kitchen knives. If either of us would start pressing the other to stop spending our money on the stuff we like we would soon be told to stop being an asshole. If a diamond ring makes her a little bit happier every day, a few k is a paltry sum to pay for that. Don't ruin that for her.

bburko01
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:59 am UTC
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby bburko01 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 2:47 am UTC

Hi Rippy,

I'm new here but was glad to see this forum, I love this kind of stuff. Also nice to see a lot of rational and logical thoughts flying around here. I ofcourse have my own. Here goes.

I do see where you are coming from Rippy with your frustration with your friend. However, your friend like many other folks in the world are full of perceptions of "things" regardless of what the are. The problem I believe is that a lot of folks are brought up with mis-shaped value systems. Then you add the many forms of media that place sooooo much value on things that really don't mean much. How many magazines are geared toward womens clothing and fashion? How many of them tell women to buy the $300 dress instead of the $50 dress? The $300 dress will make her "feel" like the celebrity that she saw wearing it in the magazine when in reality the only aspects that she will truly feel like the celebrity is in the fact that she spent the money for the dress and then she took a shower, did her hair and makup and then went out!

These marketing tactics onnly do one thing: prey on human weaknesses. Would women buy the most expensive makeup if they weren't prisoner to their vanity or self-consciousnes? How much money would the diet industry make if people weren't self-conscious? Would your friend have wanted that ring....better yet, would that ring have made your friend happy if she wasn't programmed all of her life that it would? Women are supposed to have diamonds, especially whan a man loves and wants to marry her. Weren't you programmed that way?

I understand the place of consumerism and capitalism in our world but we have lost so much in the process of becoming capitalists and consumers. The truly valuable virtues of the human condition have been stunted and outside of the small daily courtesies we afford each other the only time we see those virtues is in the face of some natural disaster or other huge calamity.

User avatar
mmmcannibalism
Posts: 2150
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:16 am UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:11 am UTC

I understand the place of consumerism and capitalism in our world but we have lost so much in the process of becoming capitalists and consumers.


Weighing pros and cons generally requires consideration of the pros; the only reason consumerism can exist is society with a high enough standard of living.
Izawwlgood wrote:I for one would happily live on an island as a fuzzy seal-human.

Oregonaut wrote:Damn fetuses and their terroist plots.

Waylah
Posts: 110
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 1:01 pm UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Waylah » Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:36 am UTC

I admit I sort of skim-read a lot of the posts here, but it seems no one really mentioned that diamonds are kinda cool. Except for the dude who mentioned they were good for drill bits. Have you looked at a diamond closely? They (can be) really very pretty. They're not just bits of glass, or just a 'rock' or something. A lot of effort goes into cutting it correctly, and if it is set well, they really do sparkle. Jewelry to me is somewhere between art and clothing, leaning mostly towards art. While I understand that some people may choose to purchase something made out of gold as a status symbol, the metal has been used in art and jewelry for thousands of years, because it looks bloody awesome. By the same token, not everyone desiring a piece of diamond jewelry wants it as a status symbol. Perhaps your friend did want a diamond ring because she likes it aesthetically. I don't think it's accurate to compare diamond rings to that 'i am rich' iphone app; they are not purely veblen goods, as they have aesthetic value. Aesthetics are there in pretty much every field of human endeavour that doesn't eventually boil down to just 'survival'. I think one main difference here is that the materials required to produce a piece of diamond jewelery are more expensive than other, possibly equivalent materials - in which case, there would be a bit of veblen effect happening for preference for the more expensive material. Someone mentioned that silicon carbide appears absolutely identical to diamond. I can't speak for your friend, but I'd be just as happy with an intricately designed and well-crafted, sparkling, silicon carbide ring than an identical diamond ring.

User avatar
Izawwlgood
WINNING
Posts: 18686
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2007 3:55 pm UTC
Location: There may be lovelier lovelies...

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Izawwlgood » Sat Aug 28, 2010 10:27 pm UTC

Waylah wrote:I can't speak for your friend, but I'd be just as happy with an intricately designed and well-crafted, sparkling, silicon carbide ring than an identical diamond ring.

I'm surprised you still missed the point that what makes you happy might not make them happy, and what they find emotionally gratifying is really not up to you.
... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

Waylah
Posts: 110
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 1:01 pm UTC

Re: The Ethics of Consumption (or: Are diamond rings okay?)

Postby Waylah » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:53 pm UTC

I guess I wasn't trying to say that what makes me happy makes other people happy. I was sort of saying the opposite, that different things make people happy for different reasons, and I was just throwing up one possibility, the possibility that aesthetics rather than monetary value of the item could be the attractive thing to the OPs friend.
And yes, as you say, what people find emotionally gratifying is really not up to me, you, or anyone. It just is, but it might be different to what was assumed.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 18 guests