A friend sent me this vitriolic, hate-filled rant against people that are moving to reopen the United States economy and asked me what I think. Here’s what I wrote to him.
“Lots to comment on here. I’ve been talking to a number of people about what moral obligation we have to our fellow human and, once defined, what is the locus of that obligation. I think this article touches on it, though crudely. The answer to my question really does depend on (or maybe better helps define) the two primary political positions we have in this country. It’s the distinction between the “rugged individualism” on the right and the social obligation on the left.
It’s a tricky question to answer because if we say that a society means we have to do what’s best for everyone as a whole, it’s hard to know where, if any, stops should be put in. Let’s take another health issue: heart disease. Heart disease kills more Americans than any other illness. It’s possible to dramatically reduce heart disease by making certain foods and behaviors illegal: ban alcohol, bacon, baked sweets, candy, and fried foods. Just make them illegal to buy or sell. You could also require everyone to get at least an hour of vigorous exercise each day. We have the technology to track (trace) this on our cell phones now and the government can require that we submit our exercise report each day and people could get fined or jailed (or sent to “health camps” to learn how to exercise properly) for not participating.
All these things would be for the good of “society” and dramatically reduce heart disease and all the social costs associated with it and would benefit society as a whole. The question then is, should we as an individual member of society support such a move in the name of public good? If you answer no, why? What other goods outweigh the good of lowering the incident of heart disease?
On the other side, should we be completely disconnected from our fellow human and do whatever the hell we want for our own good and our own good only? Neither seems right. The balance is very finely tuned and when either direction has gotten out of whack, it causes social decay.
In terms of the author’s own cognitive asymmetry, he rails against the hatred and supposed misanthropy of those on the right by using vitriolic hateful language! You see this a lot in these types of things. People have absolutely no tolerance for intolerant people. Others vociferously hate haters. It’s a cognitive disconnect that belies a huge blind spot.
One final thought. Most people (even in the people group that this guy hates) don’t fit the caricature he’s painted. He uses the extreme example of the few to paint with a broad brush and make comments about a broad people group that doesn’t really exists. It’s similar to those who say all Muslims are terrorists. Grossly untrue but it incites a lot of ill will and negative behavior because it’s rhetorically so powerful.”