The Instigator
Sketchy
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
feverish
Con (against)
Winning
21 Points

Social Darwinism is a just theory

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/25/2011 Category: Economics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 6,892 times Debate No: 18461
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (4)

 

Sketchy

Pro

Rules:
1. If Con starts the argument in the first round, he/she must not use the last round. If Con simply uses the first round for acceptance, they can use their last round.
2. BoP is shared.
3. Invoking Godwin's Law will result in immediate loss of conduct and argument points.
4. If someone uses semantic arguments, the opponent also has the right to use semantics without loss of conduct points.
5. If you have any questions about the rules, message me or put it in the comment section. Exploiting loopholes will result in an angry letter filled with anthrax.

Definitions:

Social Darwinism: The economic philosophy that refers to notions of struggle for existence being used to justify social policies which make no distinction between those able to support themselves and those unable to support themselves.

Just: Well-grounded, based on what is morally right or fair

If you would like me to change the rules, extrend the rounds, or put a cap on the voting period, just let me know in a private message or in the comment section. Thank you!
feverish

Con

Hi Sketchy and thanks for the opportunity to debate.

I'm cool with all your rules and definitions and promise to keep Adolf wotsit out of the debate.

I would just like to point out that to discuss morality, some sort of moral framework should probably be established first. Guessing you're not a nihilist or monotheistic objectivist but would like to know how you intend to guage morality. If you just want to work off a general consensus of moral subjectivity, that's cool, just let me know.

I eagerly await your opening arguments.

Thanks.
Debate Round No. 1
Sketchy

Pro

Why is success discouraged?

If you increase taxes for richer citizens to help people with lower-income, you are essentially punishing hard-working, intelligent people. In regards to income-based welfare specifically, it is basically a bunch of people for other’s food and shelter. I’m not quite sure how to word this, so I’ll put it another way.

  1. 1. Taking something without paying is stealing.
  2. 2. Welfare programs involve low-income people using food stamps to buy things without paying.
  3. 3. Welfare participants are therefore thieves.
  4. 4. Stealing is unjust.
  5. 5. A program that creates thieves is unjust.

This leads into my next argument…

Higher taxes and why socialism is not realistic.

High taxes involve the government taking a higher portion of the money that you earned. Not only does this tie into stealing, but it is a barrier that middle class workers have to deal with. If the taxes are too high, the middle class with have to rely on welfare to even eat, and then they will have to rely on the upper-class for food stamps and clothing money. If, in the end everyone is the same class with 100% taxation, it would be all good right? Wrong. A major motivator for working is knowing that the amount of money you get is based on your performance. Work extra hard and you might get a raise. Come in to work late and sleep on the job? You’ll probably get fired. A Sophmore at a high school in Minnesota set up an experiment where boys and girls would get one piece of candy for every 5 pushups. First, a socialist system was set up where the total number of pushups would be distributed equally among them whether they did 30 pushups or two. The average number of pushups was 16.2, so each person got 3 pieces of candy. Next, he set up a capitalist system where each person would get candy for every 5 pushups they do themselves. The average number of pushups was 21.2, with the average student receiving 4 pieces of candy. (1) Another major motivator for capitalism is keeping up with the Joneses. If everyone is put on the exact same level, a gigantic amount of consumerism is destroyed, and with that a piece of the economy.

Evil Billionaires?

When many people think of Social Darwinism, they immediately think of Rockefeller and Carnegie. These people are not robber barons, but rather philanthropists. John Rockefeller donated 10% of his earning to his church, provided funding for a college in Georgia for African-Americans, gave $70 million to the University of Chicago, and founded the Rockefeller Foundation. (2)(3)(4) Andrew Carnegie founded the Carnegie Institution to provide grants to scientific research, gave millions to towns and cities to build thousands of libraries, and funded the Carnegie Corporation. (5) Don’t you think it is better for people to willingly donate than to be forced to pay?


0=Wikipedia for helping me find the links/books

1= http://books.google.com...

2 = Dobell, Byron (1985). A Sense of history: the best writing from the pages of American heritage. American Heritage Press. p. 457

3 = Klein, Henry (2005). Dynastic America and Those Who Own It. Cosimo. p. 143

4 = Ordway, Cristopher (2009). Reveal the Rockefeller Within!

5 = http://www.americaslibrary.gov...

feverish

Con


Morality


Pro stated in his opening definitions that the resolution refers to Social Darwinism (SD) as being "Well-grounded, based on what is morally right or fair."


I suggested in my acceptance that Pro might like to consider laying out some kind of moral framework by which he intends to judge the fairness, rightness and justness of this economic philosophy, but he doesn't seem to have done so.


If he really doesn't want to get specific then I guess that's okay, but it would be extremely helpful to know under what kind of normative or applied ethical system Pro considers SD to be just, whether utilitarian, consequentialist, deontological or whatever.


In the meantime, I am forced to assume that his moral values are implicit in his arguments, and by extension treat his arguments as moral assertions where appropriate.


Success


Pro: "If you increase taxes for richer citizens to help people with lower-income, you are essentially punishing hard-working, intelligent people"


This seems to be an assumption that the rich are inherently superior to the poor right off the bat.


The implications are that hard work and intelligence are the best moral criteria for judging a person's worth, and that money is the best indicator of these attributes.


While I agree that a good work ethic is generally a positive moral attribute, I think there are more important characteristics, such as compassion, consideration for others, loyalty etc. I don't really consider intelligence an indicator of morality at all.


In any case, does Pro really believe that richer people are automatically more hard-working and more intelligent than poorer people?


I can't legitimately deny that some people have achieved vast wealth by means of hard work, ability, and good moral values or that some poor people may be lazy and make choices that appear stupid. Similarly, my opponent can't legitimately deny that many people have achieved vast wealth either through inheritance that they themselves did nothing to earn (Paris Hilton, the British royal family etc.), or through the ruthless extortion or destruction of others (gangsters, dictators etc), and that many intelligent hard-working people of good moral character die poor.


Pro: "Taking something without paying is stealing."


Nonsense. If a man comes up to me in the street and offers me £100, am I a thief if I accept it? Is a child whose only possessions are gifts from his family a thief? Of course not. Taking something without paying is not necessarily stealing; stealing is taking something without consent, very different.


Pro: "Welfare programs involve low-income people using food stamps to buy things without paying."


People who use food stamps ARE paying, they are just paying with food stamps rather than general currency. Shops are more than happy to exchange food for food stamps. Consent is given, so this is in no way theft.


The rest of this syllogism clearly falls down when the first two steps are demolished.


Higher taxes and socialism


Pro seems to focus on the burden of high taxes on the middle classes but there is no need for a tax system that distinguishes on the basis of need to place a significant burden on the middle classes at all. Consider the negative income tax system advocated by moderate conservatives like Richard Nixon [1], and even hardcore libertarians like Milton Freidman [2].


This involves top ups for those on low incomes, no tax or benefit for those in the middle range and only taxing the highest group of earners. Even if this isn't a tax system that I personally advocate, it is a good example of a fiscal policy that distinguishes on the basis of need and doesn't burden the middle class.


Social Darwinism won't benefit the middle class at all. In a ruthless survival of the fittest society, it is only the top dogs who will really benefit. It makes more sense for the elite predator to go for the prey that has something of value, rather than the prey that has nothing.


The suggestion that the middle class would end up on welfare without Social Darwinism seems unfounded in my opponent's case and un-evidenced in the real world.


The motivation experiment Pro describes is interesting but does little to support his case for SD.


We must consider that this is an entirely anecdotal account (sourced from a journal promoting Reaganism) of an un-controlled "experiment" conducted by an unsupervised teenager on his classmates. To award it the same authority as a credible scientific study would be absurd.


It is also important here to keep in mind the difference between productivity and mere activity. In an individual competitive sporting activity like push-ups, obviously appealing to competitors on an individual level is likely to yield good results, but what about team games? Would a football (soccer) team of mixed ability players really get the best results if players were only paid for the goals they scored themselves? Of course not, you'd achieve far better results paying them all for the performance of the whole team. Otherwise everyone would hog the ball, goal hang and move out of their defensive positions while the team as a whole got pummelled.


Push-ups are not a productive activity, and it's pretty clear that in any truly productive activity, cooperation is far more efficient and effective than competition when it comes to maximising results. Ten men working together are certainly going to be able to make ten machines faster than ten men working alone, through basic division of labour based on individual expertise.


It's also important that we bust the myth that more competitive people are more able and achieve more recognition than the less competitive. Robert Helmriech's early studies surprised him by finding that less competitive professionals (including scientists, pilots and business men) achieved more and were more respected by their peers than those who scored higher on personality tests for competitiveness [3]


Pro: "If everyone is put on the exact same level, a gigantic amount of consumerism is destroyed"


Straw man, social policies that differentiate based on need in no way entail putting everyone on the "same level".


Billionaires


I'm postponing my rebuttal to this till next round as I'm nearly out of characters and although I think I've already made several strong arguments within my rebuttals above, I want to make a quick case of my own.



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



1. SD ideals of dog-eat-dog are often justified on naturalistic moral terms. This fallacious appeal to nature fails not only because it totally rejects civilisation and all that makes us human, but because successful animal groups invariably cooperate more than they compete.


SD is hence a misnomer since evolution teaches us that cooperation is generally more efficient than competition.


2. Human groups of all kinds also operate more effectively when they cooperate [4]. There is nothing fair or moral about competition for its own sake, or for the sake of power and vanity.


3. I'd like to source the liberal rant "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own" someone posted on DDO recently and ask if my opponent has any response to it in terms of Social Darwinism [5]


Thanks Sketchy, apologies for intermittent verbosity and abruptness.


[1] http://millercenter.org...


[2] http://www.nytimes.com...


[3] http://www.google.co.uk...


[4] http://www.charleswarner.us...


[5] http://i201.photobucket.com...


Debate Round No. 2
Sketchy

Pro

Morality
I apologize for not specifying on which moral framework, but I wouldn’t like to delve that deep into morality, because I would like to keep this argument economic rather than philosophical. Just the general consensus of morality would be great (basically having the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without infringing on anyone else’s rights).

Success
“This seems to be an assumption that the rich are inherently superior to the poor right off the bat.”
By stating “you are essentially punishing hard-working, intelligent people”, I was trying to veer more towards saying that you are punishing people who found a way to gain money. These people are usually hard-working and fairly intelligent, and were obviously motivated to earn more and gain more power. There are exceptions, e.g. Paris Hilton and the royal family, but for the most part I feel my opponent can agree that most wealthy people earned their position.

“While I agree that a good work ethic is generally a positive moral attribute, I think there are more important characteristics, such as compassion, consideration for others, loyalty etc. I don't really consider intelligence an indicator of morality at all.”

I never said that wealthy people were morally superior than poor citizens, but rather the theory of SD is morally fair.

“In any case, does Pro really believe that richer people are automatically more hard-working and more intelligent than poorer people?”
In most cases, I feel that the rich are more motivated and ‘intelligent’. I use intelligent in the broadest sense possible, because it’s extremely hard to measure and test.

“I can't legitimately….good moral character die poor.”
There are exceptions to almost anything. 80% of millionaires were not wealthy as a child (1). You bring up a straw man by stating that “intelligent hard-working people of good moral character die poor”. I never stated that SD guarantees morally superior people end up wealthy.

“If a man comes up to me in the street and offers me £100, am I a thief if I accept it?”
There is a difference between taking from the rich and giving to the poor and giving someone money willingly. Taxes take away money from people whether or not they agree with the cause.

“Taking something without paying is not necessarily stealing; stealing is taking something without consent, very different.”
Glad to see we’re on the same page. Taxes take money from people without consent.

“People who use food stamps ARE paying, they are just paying with food stamps rather than general currency… Consent is given, so this is in no way theft.”
They obtained food stamps by the government, which matched the money using tax-payer money. The tax-payer didn’t necessarily consent, so they are using someone else’s money to buy the food. It doesn’t matter if the shops consent; it’s not their money to spend.

Higher taxes and socialism
“Consider the negative income tax system advocated by moderate conservatives like Richard Nixon [1], and even hardcore libertarians like Milton Freidman [2].”

This solves the problem with the middle class, but makes a whole new problem for the rich. By attacking the rich to help the poor, you are essentially discouraging financial success (I feel this goes with the argument above as well. Social Darwinism benefits the rich, which encourages others to earn more money. This encourages more people to work rather than rely on welfare indefinitely. Welfare fraud would be reduced (because welfare would be eliminated), and lazy freeloaders would get their just deserts.

“It is also important…while the team as a whole got pummelled.”
My opponent’s analogy is clever, but not comparable to the economy. The economy works by individuals all earning and spending money individually. People don’t think about working together with others to boost the economy, all they worry about is earning and spending money themselves. ‘Hogging the ball’ is good for the economy, because the more money you have, the more you can put back into the market.

“Push-ups are not a productive activity…individual expertise.”
Again, this isn’t really comparable to the economy. Millions of people work together in capitalism, and it works just fine.

“It's also important that we bust the myth…competitiveness”
I never stated that more competitive people are more able to achieve more recognition.

“Straw man, social policies that differentiate based on need in no way entail putting everyone on the "same level".”
I was thinking more of extreme-socialism to communism. I understand I may have been drifting more towards arguing for capitalism, but I feel it is still relevant to this debate.

1 – Rebuttal: Appeal to nature is not always fallacious. Con states that all successful animal groups cooperate more than they compete, but there are many examples contradicting this statement. Intraspecific competition allows for the advancement of successful genes and stopping harmful mutations. Red deer compete much more than they cooperate, and it is the largest non-domesticated mammal in the UK and Ireland (thought it was fitting considering my opponent is English).

2-Rebuttal: While cooperation may be more efficient in human groups, it doesn’t prove that SD is unjust. The economy isn’t just one human group, it is hundreds of thousands of different groups all cooperating AND competing.

3-Rebuttal: Interesting, but it doesn’t really affect the validity of SD. SD does not advocate the complete eradication of government, and it doesn’t necessarily want police forces to go away. Social Darwinism simply stands for laissez-faire economics, low taxes, and not having one group of people spend millions supporting another group of people. It is a valid argument, but completely irrelevant in this debate.

(1) - http://www.nytimes.com...
feverish

Con

Morality

"I would like to keep this argument economic rather than philosophical"

I can totally appreciate this, but assessing "justness" is difficult without a moral framework.

"the general consensus of morality would be great (basically having the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without infringing on anyone else's rights)."

This sounds to me more like the declaration of independence rather than any broad consensus of morality, but sure, let's take that as our "golden rule" for now.

Now this clearly talks about a "right to life" which seems to be entirely at odds with SD as defined by Pro. How can such a right be secured by public policies that don't distinguish on the basis of need? The very essence of SD is that those who don't prosper should perish and nothing about SD policies ties in with this concept of the sanctity of life.

Success

Pro has conceded that some rich people didn't earn their wealth, but hasn't addressed the important issue of those who achieve wealth by the ruthless exploitation of others. Fraudsters, gangsters, con-men and dictators may very well all "earn" their wealth, but do they really deserve it?

As far as a higher tax rate being "punishment", I don't accept this at all. Taxes are a contribution back to the society that sustains and protects the wealth of the rich. It seems entirely fair that those who have benefitted from society the most and have the least need should contribute the most.

The level of income disparity in modern western society is disgusting. Those with wealth can create more wealth for themselves with minimal effort due to financial systems such as interest on savings. They can also afford to hire skilled accountants to make their earnings seem far less than they are to reduce their tax bill, while poorer workers have their money taken straight from their paycheque. How is it fair to tax someone struggling to survive at the same rate as we tax someone living in opulence?

Pro seems to accept that people who purchase food with food stamps aren't actually stealing themselves (as he previously suggested) but maintains that taxes are theft since he believes that they fall under our agreed definition of stealing: taking without consent.

This is false however. When a person accepts an employment contract or registers as a business owner or as self-employed, they sign documents agreeing to have tax deducted from their payslip, or accepting the responsibility of filing a tax return. This is clear consent. Those unwilling to pay taxes should not choose to work in a society with a tax based economy.

Higher taxes and socialism

Pro drops his plea for the middle class and returns to defending the richest people in society. But there is no need for progressive taxes to operate to the extent that they discourage financial success. Social policies don't all operate on the basis of completely equalising everyone's wage no matter what their job role and skills are. Those with a higher education level or skillbase who are performing the most needed jobs in our society deserve to be paid more than the unskilled or unproductive. Remember that the richest are inherently those most able to afford a higher tax bill, and are certain not to face hardship due to thir taxes.

Pro talks about welfare fraud being eliminated, but doesn't address tax fraud. "Tax evasion costs the Treasury £15.2 billion in lost revenue, while benefit fraud costs £1.1 billion every year" [1], it is clear which of the two is more of a burden on the economy.

Pro seems to make the unwarranted assertion that an economy can never prosper on a co-operative basis, despite apparently accepting that productive activities are best accomplished in this way. He says: "People don't think about working together with others to boost the economy, all they worry about is earning and spending money themselves" but he doesn't explain how this status quo is desirable or just.

He claims that "Hogging the ball is good for the economy, because the more money you have, the more you can put back into the market" but it is clear that if people just hoard their money, there is no benefit to the economy as a whole, merely to the individual. Pro's own source on a survey of millionaires makes the observation that they are without exception "tightwads".

I think my opponent's somewhat off-topic attempt to prove the superiority of capitalism to communism has been soundly refuted.

Billionaires

Response to the round 1 argument I didn't have room to address before:

I don't really see the relevance of the seemingly altruistic actions of these two men as we are discussing the morality of the theory rather than that of its proponents. I wouldn't necessarily connect Carnegie or Rockefeller with SD anyway, I'd be more likely to think of Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton or a certain famous Austrian chap with a silly moustache :)

Rebuttals to my case:

1.

I think I've shown how the appeal to nature of SD is doubly fallacious. Not only does it reject civilisation with the baseless assumption that what is natural is moral, it is also factually inaccurate as natural evolution tends to favour animal groups that cooperate [2,3]. Pro counters this with an example of red deer. He provides no evidence for the competitive behaviour of this extremely social herd animal and in using it as an example of successful species, seems to ignore the fact that it is highly endangered [4]

2.

Pro apparently concedes that cooperation is more efficient than competition among humans, but doesn't recognise how this applies to the resolution. While this is a point of practicality rather than morality, I think it's highly relevant as many of Pro's arguments seem based on the alleged efficiency of SD policies and of capitalism in general.

Pro's only response here is that the economy is based on competition as well as cooperation, but he doesn't justify this status quo in any way.

3.

Pro accepts the quoted argument as valid but insists that it is irrelevant when it is anything but.

Most of Pro's arguments have consisted of defending the mega rich from the "attack" and "theft" of progressive taxation, on the basis that rich people, (whether honest or dishonest and whether hardworking or lazy,) should be free to hoard the fruits of their labour and should not feel obligated to contribute back to the society that enabled their success.

This quote, that he apparently accepts, makes clear the case that nobody in America today got rich on their own, only through the support and security of a society funded by taxpayers contributions and that those who have benefitted the most shoud be compelled to contribute back the most.


[1] http://citywire.co.uk...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://www.pbs.org...

Debate Round No. 3
Sketchy

Pro

Sketchy forfeited this round.
feverish

Con

My opponent has chosen to forfeit rather than continue debating. Extend my previous arguments.

Thanks for reading.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by gordonjames 4 years ago
gordonjames
I feel the need to respond to CON's argument

>>Pro: "If you increase taxes for richer citizens to help people with lower-income, you are essentially punishing hard-working, intelligent people"
>>
>>This seems to be an assumption that the rich are inherently superior to the poor right off the bat.

This statement by CON has no basis.
Consider this possibility
The rich are not superior in any way other than net worth.
Taxing income or net worth to provide for people of lesser income or net worth can be seen as punishing those taxed most heavily.

>>The implications are that hard work and intelligence are the best moral criteria for judging a person's worth, and that money is the best indicator of these attributes.

Again false. Pro in no way indicated this was a moral or ethical judgment.

>> While I agree that a good work ethic is generally a positive moral attribute, I think there are more important characteristics, such as compassion, consideration for others, loyalty etc. I don't really consider intelligence an indicator of morality at all.

I do not believe PRO was making any statement about moral values here.

It would be fun to see this debate go again with two top end debaters who show up for all rounds.

If I were arguing PRO I would include.
- Welfare payments reduce incentive to work.
- Countries with strongly socialist policies have reduced GDP
- Idleness is strongly correlated to social problems and receipt of welfare payments.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
I really want to read this debate again and again. It was a real clash of the more fundamental positions held by the two debaters. I really wanted to see how Pro would have responded. Sketchy, if you already have everything typed up, can you post in the comments. (It won't affect the vote of course though)
Posted by feverish 5 years ago
feverish
Do you have something typed up ready to go? Maybe if it's not too long, you cold paste it to me in a pm and I can paste it into my round making it very clear that it's yours, colour it red or whatever. Since I won't be making new arguments I should be able to fit yours in with my summary. Let me know.
Posted by Sketchy 5 years ago
Sketchy
I apoligize for the forfeit, but i didnt have enough time to post a full round to the best of my abilities.
Posted by feverish 5 years ago
feverish
What gives with the forfeit Sketchy? Your profile says you were online five hours ago.
Posted by Macroscope 5 years ago
Macroscope
"Invoking Godwin's Law will result in immediate loss of conduct and argument points."

I like him allready.
Anyone who attempts to appeal to godwins popularity is commiting a fallacy, also godwin attempts to argue that the events between 1938-1947 have no relevance to daily life and nothing can be learnt. This is, of cource, walnut diving mask retarded.
Posted by feverish 5 years ago
feverish
D'oh, something freaky going on with the formatting after I pasted my arguments from a word document, my apologies for big paragraph breaks in round two.
Posted by YYW 5 years ago
YYW
If, at the end of this, either of you would like to debate in favor of this resolution feel free to challenge me.
Posted by feverish 5 years ago
feverish
Thanks Sketchy.
Posted by Sketchy 5 years ago
Sketchy
Time is now set to 72 hours.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by gordonjames 4 years ago
gordonjames
SketchyfeverishTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Extreme socialism and capitalism have huge moral and practical problems. My own bias is low tax / limited safety net / strong reward for work ethic and skill. with that said, CON presented better in all areas of debate.
Vote Placed by dcarvajal1990 5 years ago
dcarvajal1990
SketchyfeverishTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro committed the naturalistic fallacy which in inherent in the social darwinist position. Con overall had a more coherent, easy to follow, and more sound argument.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
SketchyfeverishTied
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: This was epic, really. I saw not just the resolution being debated, but the more fundamental values of capitalism and socialism that influenced the perspective from which Pro and Con debated. Con effectively refutes Pro's arguments pushing Pro into a corner by making him defend the fact that since a corporation that gives food stamps is not stealing, then Pro must defend that taxes are theft! Overall, Con did an excellent job in rebuttals. Collaboration vs competion arg was convincing as well.
Vote Placed by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Man-is-good
SketchyfeverishTied
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Feverish seemed to dispell many of the holes in Sketchy's arguments...Sketchy didn't address feverish's more powerful argument about the exploitation of the poor by the rich (thus making them dishonest and not necessarily hard-working) and made several flaws, including an appeal to nature--which Con showed was wrong...Forfeit and the fact that Pro's own sources were used against him=deduction of points of conduct and use of reliable sources...