The Instigator
McSloth
Pro (for)
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The Contender
tfroitz1
Con (against)
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The Meaning Of Government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/19/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,346 times Debate No: 118618
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (16)
Votes (0)

 

McSloth

Pro

Hello one and all, I'm hoping this debate will pertain more to political philosophy and our arguments for what we believe is the true meaning of government. I would also like to avoid limiting the scope of this debate, So let's talk about the meaning of government has it pertains to all humanity instead of one group.

I will be taking the position that government at it's core should be working towards equality of outcome for it's citizens, Regardless of the difficulty of such a quest.

The first round will just be used for accepting the debate and the second round will be used if my opponent has any questions such as definitions or judging criteria. I'm looking forward to seeing what is said, And what my opponents views are.
tfroitz1

Con

I am happy to accept this debate.

If you want, You can start, After giving maybe a definition of meaning from your perspective, Already in the next round with your arguments. This topic should be able to fill the space.
Debate Round No. 1
McSloth

Pro

First off, Thank you for taking on this debate, I look forward to what is said in coming days.

First let's define what "meaning" is and how it will be applied to this debate. The meaning of government is the core foundation or believe to why we believe government exists and why humans decided to build and live under the concept of a government. It will also pertain to what we believe governments goal should be and what goals governments should be attempting to accomplish, For example striving for social good for it's citizens or recognizing individual rights and staying out of the lives of citizens. Now onto my actual argument.

Government since it's creation has always been about progress and improving the lives of people. When humans first came together and established communities it was for the benefit of everyone. Together our chances of survival went up and so did the standard of living for ancient humanity. Together we developed technology, Language, Agricultural techniques, All which would not have been been possible without humans recognizing the need to come together. I feel like this principal, Of needing to strive for the common good is the true meaning government (no matter how far current examples of government might have strayed from this principal). This leads to my argument, That government at it's core should always be striving for progress and the equality of outcomes for citizens.

My first main point is the fact that this principal of equality of outcomes is the most beneficial to the most amount of people while still being moral and fair. To make this clear I am not arguing for utilitarianism, For utilitarianism leads to the justification of immoral actions. I'm arguing more for a version of what John Rawls would call an equal distribution of justice. I believe morals and ethics should still have a place in government, In which are not relative or subjective instead apply to humanity as a whole. With this in mind, Governments who are pursuing equality of outcomes for citizens, Both socially and economically, Are in the best position to help the most amount of people in a positive way. This can be illustrated best by the fact that countries with a more equal distribution of wealth score better in almost every societal measure. For example, Societal equality has been found to be linked to better average health in a society (Agency for Health care Research and Quality, 2015). Higher rates of inequality has also been found to negatively affect the happiness of a society (Shigehiro Oishi and Selin Kesebir, University of Virginia, 2015). Happiness is a key indicator when trying to examine the quality of a society and essentially how successful that society is. Counties that marked the highest in happiness are all countries with governments who better follow the meaning of government I laid out to be the truth.

My second point will be the fact that governments who follow a principle of equality of outcomes have a much better chance of lowering inequality then governments who only attempt to guaranteed equality of opportunity. Many follow the belief that government should only attempt to level the playing field in a sense, And allow everyone an equal opportunity to be successful. This however has proven to be unsuccessful at eliminating inequality, Especially inequality from a economic point of view. Policies that strive to only open up opportunities for everyone are no doubt well intentions and successful in some ways, But such policies fail to recognize the fact that arbitrary factors exist that limit individuals. Such arbitrary factors include race, Where you were born, Sex, If you were born to a wealth or poor family, These factors affect individuals ability to be successful or not successful in a society. This can be illustrated by the fact that the United States while has increased its number of policies that encourage equality of opportunity, Little progress has been made in eliminating wealth inequality between whites and other ethnicities (Rakesh Kochhar and Anthony Cilluffo, Pew Research Center, 2017). This inequality has existed for decades yet no matter how many policies that are adapted that encourage opportunity, This inequality has existed. It wasn't till affirmative action was put into place, Which was a policy that fought for equality of outcome, Did the United States see a change in that trend. Under affirmative action policies, The rate of income inequality between whites, Blacks and hispanics went down. This was linked to more members of minority groups being able to attend high education was lead to on average higher annual income. Governments that attempt to guarantee positive outcomes for its citizens have been proven to be more effective in limiting inequality which leads to a host of benefits for citizens.

These two arguments presented, One of the greatest good and the other of being the most effective at limiting inequality, Helps prove why a government which at it's core strives for societal progress and equality of outcome, Follows the true meaning of government.
tfroitz1

Con

I do think that we have to split it up into the historical purpose of government and the current purpose of government.

To begin with the historical viewpoint on government I see its purpose in a far more practical way, Being the leviathan allowing positive sum cooperation between different people.

The problem of ancient societies was to cooperate in a mutually beneficial relationship. If you interact with another person you have to have the trust in the other one to work with you and not just rob you taking the benefits and leaving you empty handed. To understand what the cooperation means there is often a kind of Prisoners Dilemma. I will fraise it somewhat different to directly show its applicability.

You play with two people. You can either cooperate or defect. If you both cooperate each gets twenty dollars if only one cooperates the other defecting gets five dollars and you lose five. If both defect each looses three dollars. Each chooses without the other knowing. Now you can start by cooperating and risk the biggest loss but if you both cooperate you have by far the greatest advantage. Or you can defect and prevent the biggest fine if he also doesn't cooperate and have the chance to get something back. Now if you have no way of knowing the others action the very human answer is to defect so if he defects you don't suffer as much. And you insure the possibility of a reward. To cooperate is very dangerous seeing as it can be costly. Now in the context of a society you will have such situations all the time, With the added problem of repeating the process, Making every defection problematic in a later relation. It culminates with people driven by their subjective feelings and emotions to a zero sum game where the only way to achieve something is by steeling it from another or defecting on a cooperating other.

Now it is obviously possible to see that after careful evaluation it would be reasonable for everyone to cooperate on the first terms but already the problem of having non rational actors makes such a prospect utopian. What allows us to achieve just this utopia is government. Government as defined by its earliest purpose having the monopoly on the use of violence with which it coerces the people in to cooperating in a positive sum game. Now this obviously benefits everyone which can be seen in even the crude calculation of the thought experiment.
Now while this aspect was mainly important at the beginnings of society and government it is still the case today, In assuring that all accord to predictable laws.

While it is well possible that we agree on the points I brought till here, I strictly disagree with you on the characterization of the current purpose of government.

On the current purpose I think that it is to increase the flourishing of its citizens as far as possible. This means not to achieve equality of outcome, But a decrease in poverty which is the actual problem our society has. It is well argued by Harry Frankfurt in On Inequality where he identifies that the moral bad is not that people are different in outcome, But much more that some do not have enough (do not misunderstand me: I acknowledge that market economy has brought us huge benefits, But there is necessity for regulation). Unimportant of what is "enough" you always try to provide it on this view.

There are several fallacies at work when you think that it is the job of the government to enforce equality of outcomes. Firstly it is the fallacy I have touched upon already which is the false analyses of looking at wealth as a fixed amount where the only way to get rich is by stealing from the others. This is not the case as people can create wealth in cooperation. Even while inequality increases the total amount rises so that everyone has more.

Most of the benefits you see with having less economic inequality are mainly a correlation and not causation as Kelley and Evans showed in the paper Economic Development and Happiness. What can be seen is that the actual effect of inequality is rather correlation with other goods such as education, Income and wealth. They looked for differences while holding them constant and found that there is not actually an a causation of happiness. Now if you look at a developing country they found something even more surprising, As inequality there increases happiness maybe through hope.

The social goods that you describe coming from equality are mostly due to increasing the other factors that clearly impact human flourishing, Such as GDP, Education or democracy in a country. It is thereby important to stress this difference between decreasing poverty and enforced decreasing inequality.

Another important point here is that inequality is often conflated with unfairness, Which clearly has an impact on our happiness which we can already see in the studies on apes done among others by Brosnan. While unfairness is not preferred there is actual evidence that unequal but just societies are preferable ("Why people prefer unequal societies" Starmans, Sheskin and Bloom). This also shows that the goal of reducing poverty which goes hand in hand with a using the potential of the citizens it increases also their happiness if the rewards are correlated with your effort for them.

Now as I come to your second point I want to make some things clear. The point that trying to achieve equality of opportunity, Which is absolutely necessary for a merit based system and thereby for reducing poverty and increasing the happiness as explained before, Fails at recognizing the "arbitrary factors" which make some worse off, Fails to see the principle behind the level playing field intended. It is the goal to adjust for exactly those differences. It is virtually the whole concept of equality of opportunity to eradicate the differences people have due to their starting conditions. Things like race, Sex and the monetary situation of you are exactly the things that those policies work against and this very well. Not to say that some fail at that, But most of the countries that are at the top of the world on all of those rankings, Do just that and try to adjust for differences in opportunity, By for example making health care universal, Education for free, Provide a social safety net, Invest into public services and so on. All of that is not equality of outcome but equality of opportunity.

Also affirmative action in its core is not equality of outcome but equality of opportunity as well. It can be made the case that it is increasingly crossing the line, The later the adjustment for differences are placed. Anyway it is questionable whether it actually has direct positive impact as there are many different impact factors such as better education that has been increasingly been directed at women and minorities even before affirmative action and so that now in Europe for example women are in the majority of students in higher education (Eurostat code: educ_uoe_enrt01). I want to stress that as the study by Kochhar and Cilluffo at least as much as I could find is not saying anything about affirmative action and its impacts of it. It shows merely that there are differences that increased after the recession. Maybe I haven"t found the statistic you where referring to which is why it would be helpful to provide a clear path to find them.

Therefore I want to conclude that the main purpose of government on the historical level is to be a coercive authority that allows people to cooperate effectively and in the current stand an entity that on the whole has to allow and pursue a decrease in poverty. And I do object to the characterization of equality of outcome as there is no real evidence for its effect and also no evidence that inequality is actually that much of a problem.
Debate Round No. 2
McSloth

Pro

To begin, I think we can both agree on the notion that government and civilization as a whole, Were concepts brought life due to practical reasons. Humans could simply do more and do better when working as a group compared to working as individuals. I also think you are correct in the need to split up the historical purpose of government and more modern take on the purpose of government. Lets now, However, Cover what you brought to debate in your argument.

"This means not to achieve equality of outcome, But a decrease in poverty which is the actual problem our society has. "
- Poverty is a serious problem facing our society, But it is important to note where that poverty comes from. It comes from an unequal distribution of wealth, Which is propped up by a government with laws and policies that do not evenly spread out the costs and benefits of a society. Poverty then becomes a problem of unequal distribution of justice, Which entails that the well-off get too many of the benefits while the poor front the costs.

"Firstly it is the fallacy I have touched upon already which is the false analyses of looking at wealth as a fixed amount where the only way to get rich is by stealing from the others. "
- Nowhere in my argument did I bring up the need to take wealth from others, If a government is capable of creating wealth through other means then by all means. However, If a government is not capable of creating wealth, I believe it still has an obligation to strive for equality and should take steps to guarantee that equality. Like I stated in my argument, Societies that suffer from inequality also suffer in terms of health, Education scores, And overall happiness. These are serious impacts that inequality has on people and societies as a whole.

"Most of the benefits you see with having less economic inequality are mainly a correlation and not causation as Kelley and Evans showed in the paper Economic Development and Happiness. "
- After reading the paper you cited, I have come to believe that you have missed the point of the paper. The paper found a relationship between economic development and happiness, Nowhere in the paper does it argue that the benefits I listed from less economic inequality are nothing more than the correlation. These benefits are not mutually exclusive to either side of this debate, Better health, Better education, Etc. Can all be brought about in different ways and to varying levels. If a society, For example, Discovers some new medical technology, Average health for citizens could go up, And this has nothing to do with either one of our arguments.

"The social goods that you describe coming from equality are mostly due to increasing the other factors that clearly impact human flourishing, Such as GDP, Education or democracy in a country. It is thereby important to stress this difference between decreasing poverty and enforced decreasing inequality. "
- Gross domestic product is a terrible measurement of standard of living, For example, According to Michael Madowitz and Seth Hanlon from the Center on American Progress, GDP might be on the rise but workers wages are stagnant, This is consistent with other studies that have found that GDP is a terrible tool for measuring the standard of living of people in a particular society.

"But most of the countries that are at the top of the world on all of those rankings, Do just that and try to adjust for differences in opportunity, By for example making health care universal, Education for free, Provide a social safety net, Invest into public services and so on. All of that is not equality of outcome but equality of opportunity. "
- There is still progress to be made, And the current system of equality of opportunity has made as much progress as it can. There are still people falling between the cracks and is the government's duty to lift those people up and guarantee them a certain standard of living. It is not enough to simply allow everyone the same opportunities if some people have an unfair advantage just because of their situation at birth.

This debate has boiled down to a difference of opinion in how to encourage human development and combat poverty. My opponent argues that governments that encourage equality of opportunities are in a better position to do just that, While I believe that governments that attempt to guarantee positive outcomes are far more suited to actually bring about progress and a decrease of poverty. The evidence I have and will continue to bring forward proves that such policies of equality of outcomes are far more effective at bringing about the highest standard of living for people and the most effective tool in the war against poverty.
tfroitz1

Con

I agree with you on your first comment, That government is a tool of practical purpose to increase flourishing of human life through increasing and facilitating cooperation between those human actors. But let"s now go over the contentious parts of your piece.

First you claim that the phenomenon of poverty it caused by "an unequal distribution of wealth, Which is propped up by a government with laws and policies that do not evenly spread out the costs and benefits of a society".
Here you make again the mistake you reject in your second paragraph by seeing it as a zero sum game where the wealth is a fixed amount that requires some people to have more then they deserve for inequality to exist. This is exactly what I meant by the fraise "stealing from others". What you totally disregard is the generation and increase of wealth in a society which comes through cooperation in a market economy. An example is that while the share of income going to the top 1 percent increased since the 1970 again as described by the Gini Index, At the same time the real disposable income increased by between 170 and over 200 percent (Brian Nolan and Stefan Thewissen in" Income inequality and growth of living standards across the income distribution in the USA" as well as the equivalent study for Australia). Therefore everyone even though there is an increasing difference, Has overall more income. This is as I have explained what we strive for. Same can be seen in the development of the development of per capita GDP. Also the opposite effect can be seen in the study by Nolan and Thewissen on Greece as they plotted the Gini Index over the income and showed that while the Gini dropped the income fell, Meaning less inequality coinciding with worse living conditions.
We see therefore that as I have said it isn"t the inequality that is the problem but the lower income and in addition that there is no problem with inequality if there is enough income. Therefore over the time of increasing inequality everyone still got better of then before. We see that poverty doesn"t come from inequality or not enough equality of outcome, But that the reduction of poverty comes from an increase of economic power and overall income which is acquired by increasing economic growth and thereby also social spending.

It also refutes your assumption that unequal societies are scared by inequality resulting in worse conditions. There is no actual link between the inequality of a country and the conditions in that country. There is a connection though between healthcare expenditure and GDP and also between healthcare expenditure and the overall health as symbolized in life expectancy as seen in the World development indicators of the world bank. The same holds true for happiness as seen in the happiness inequality that is directly linked and decreases with economic growth shown by Clark, Fleche and Senik based on the world happiness report. This goes also into your next paragraph. I am well aware that inequality reduction and the increase of income and overall economic power are not mutually exclusive in their effect, But as I have shown we have good and reliable date that increasing income and also overall wealth increase had an impact on it. What can also be seen is that inequality is not a direct factor that could predict functionality of your society or the living conditions of its citizens. It can be but it doesn"t have to. It is mainly seen in the increase in living standards accompanied by the increase of inequality as shown by Nolan and Thewissen. This therefore is correlation and not causation. It would really help to get some numbers and statistics that show the causation or even correlation.

I have to disagree with you that GDP is that terrible a measure of standard of living as it correlates quite well with all important factors of a high standard of living. This is easily seen in the fact that different measures of income are similar to the one taking GDP per capita as its basis. It is logical as all income is build from this Product (Paul Krugman). We have also a correlation between the human development index that is also a big component of standard of living with the GDP and this even over time as published by Prados de la Escosura. Now while GDP actually is while obviously not perfect a good correlation, You totally disregard all other criterion such as education and democracy but also nutrition and happiness that all show correlation both to GDP and also the standard of living and wealth in the society.

And now I want to make clear what equality of outcome means. It doesn"t mean that you invest somewhat into everyone in order to diffuse extreme differences or to provide them with the chances for a better future. It doesn"t even mean a fully build system of social services. It means the striving for equalizing the product one has of ones work to a radical extend. It means redistributing so that after different work of objectively different value the later income is close together to equivalent.
Let"s even assume that it only means similar outcomes, It still has nothing to do with increasing social spending a little. Now on the other hand equality of opportunity does exactly what you claim we need equality of outcome for : adjusting for "unfair advantage just because of their situation at birth". This is exactly the objective of equal opportunity. It also entails that a certain degree of social spending and a social safety net as only in this way people have similar opportunities in a society. On top of that it also allows for later social spending but not to achieve equality but from a humanitarian standpoint of seeing other participants of society as important. All of this is equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome.

We have seen that inequality is not as important a factor as my opponent wants to make us believe and also that inequality has nowhere close the predictive power over living conditions that was claimed. Furthermore we have seen that the main problem of inequality at birth that my opponents rightfully sees as an issue that is combated by equality of opportunity and not of outcome and we have also seen that there can be very unequal societies and also societies that have rising inequality while also having better standards of living and also increasing standards of living. This all brings me to my position that the main purpose of government is not to assure a later equal outcome for everyone but to decrease poverty in the meaning of increasing wealth and income. This holds both true for all of society and for the individual. This is achieved by focusing mainly on increasing the overall wealth and not by ensuring the current wealth and redistributing it. It goes along with allowing equal opportunity, But is, Because of both the entailing economic problems of equal societies with less completion and the lack of an actual causation between inequality and standard of living, Not equivalent to working for equal outcome. The best way of increasing everyone"s standard of living is by increasing overall wealth making its distribution less important. In a metaphor it is better to bake a bigger cake by allowing unequal but not unfair distribution than sticking with a small cake and equally distributing it, As even those with a thin slice of the big cake have more than with an equal and slice of the small one.
Debate Round No. 3
McSloth

Pro

McSloth forfeited this round.
tfroitz1

Con

Considering that you hadn"t the chance to reply I will also keep my comments brief.

I mainly intend to stress the point of what equality of outcome means and what a government striving actively for it would look like. It is not about policies such as affirmative action as they themselves fall more under the umbrella of equality of opportunity applied at a later stage. They recalibrate the system at a later point in life to counterbalance the earlier and unequal starting points. Thereby they try to achieve an equal opportunity for achieving a later outcome. Whether this kind of policy is useful is debatable, But not in this context.
Actual policies to equal out the outcome of the lives of people are rather some kind of direct communism. Its goal also is to achieve equal outcome. In this case we know that it isn"t a useful policy as we have observed the phenomenon for a long time now. I know that you aren"t arguing for a direct form of communism but if you want to claim that you are in favour of equality of outcome and that a governments main purpose is to achieve that equality, You will have to stand for some system or some action that actually is there to equal out the outcome and not the opportunity.

Meanwhile I maintain that on the fundamental level neither is as important as increasing overall wealth and giving everyone as much as they need. Only working for equal opportunity is useful to achieve this goal, By allowing an increase in overall wealth possible to distribute, While focusing on the outcome isn"t efficient as it tries to equal out the current wealth which doesn"t work and which diminishes it.

I am looking forward to your answer.
Debate Round No. 4
McSloth

Pro

McSloth forfeited this round.
tfroitz1

Con

tfroitz1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Leaning 3 years ago
Leaning
No, I can't see it. . . Might have been a link to a website if you included one. It'll pretend to post and the waste your argument by sending it unto oblivion. Or would it be sending oblivion unto it? Meh. Some people copy their arguments before posting, Others write on a word document first. It is rather annoying.
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
Is my 5th round argument showing for everyone else? Because for some reason I can't see it on my end.
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
Scratch that, It still isn't posting.
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
Okay, It seems to be working now, Fingers crossed.
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
It is allowing me to post it, But when I update the page it says I haven't posted anything.
Posted by tfroitz1 3 years ago
tfroitz1
I am sorry, But I have no idea either. Can you post the arguments and they just don't show or is this not working either?
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
There seems to be a problem with posting my argument, Any suggestions?
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
Wow, I've never actually gotten to 8, 000 words before in a debate, Maybe I should have set the word limit higher.
Posted by tfroitz1 3 years ago
tfroitz1
No problem. Just be so kind and right a line in the arguments to make sure that we can continue the debate. I am not sure how the mechanics work these days.
Posted by McSloth 3 years ago
McSloth
@tfoitz1

I apologize but I won't be able to submit my argument for round 4 in time, Feel free to extend or add to your argument and I will attempt to cover it all in round 5, Again I apologize for the inconvenience.
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