What if Republicans were Philosophers?

I stumbled across this because one of my social media feeds is entirely dedicated to trolley car problems.

It’s amazing and disgusting to watch the republicans, who handed a massive tax break to the upper class and corporations, wailing about how unfair it is to cancel some student loans.

The democrats’ replies have been so-so. I thought the Bidenites’ approach, of pointing out which of the critics had forgiven government loans (for example, Lauren Boebert pocketed around $160k in PPP loans never repaying them) but the real answer should be:

“FINE. You take the $10k in loan forgiveness, and give me the $160k you pocketed.”

Midjourney’s take:


  1. says

    Clearly, it was unfair to people who retired prior to the 1930s to create Social Security.
    Clearly, it was unfair to people who were retired and got sick prior to the 1960s to create Medicare.
    Clearly, it was unfair to anyone who drove a car or truck in the 1950s or earlier when we created the interstate highway system.
    Clearly, it was unfair to all people of color who had to drink at “colored” water fountains, sit at the back of the bus, and use segregated lunch counters when civil rights legislation was passed.
    And on, and on.

    The Republican position appears to be that any manner of improvement is unfair to those who lived through the prior shit, therefore, everything should remain shitty.

    Of course, this is just them doing their best to sabotage anything that shows that government can be used to help the lives of ordinary people. Can’t have that. It goes against the Reagan dictum.

  2. lochaber says

    I feel like people tend to mostly fall into one of two main camps in response to a hardship/difficulty they experienced.

    “I suffered through this and survived, everyone else should suffer through this as well”

    “I suffered through this and it sucked, and nobody should have to suffer through it”

    I’ve finally paid off most of my student loans, I think I’m down to about ~$2K or so, down from ~$40K. I imagine ~$40K doesn’t sound like much to a lot of readers here, but it’s absolutely soul-crushing when you are trying to survive off of multiple minimum-wage, part-time jobs.

    Also, I expect student debt forgiveness will benefit the economy, because some of these people will now be able to spend money on something other than loan payments.

  3. cvoinescu says

    No matter how you slice it, it’s going to be unfair. If you forgive only the outstanding debts, those who made sacrifices to pay the loans off will be disadvantaged. If you also reimburse those who have paid off their loans, they’ll suddenly have sizable amounts of cash while those with outstanding loans will have nothing to show, so they may argue that this was unfair to them (I’d have somewhat less sympathy for this position).

    I’ve always been of the opinion that, as much as possible, there shouldn’t be all-or-nothing cut-offs in policies. Until a few years ago, stamp duty land tax in the UK, payable by the buyer on real estate transactions, used to have such cut-offs: for a house worth up to £125k, nothing; up to £250k, 1% of the total value; up to £500k, 3%; over that, 4%. That meant that the tax was nothing for a £125,000 transaction, but £1250 on £125,001. An even greater jump occurred at the next threshold, with £2,500 tax on £250,000, but £7,500 on £250,001. A lot of houses sold for exactly £250k and an additional amount for “fixtures and fittings”. Whole areas had prices stuck at £250k for years while prices in areas well below, and especially well above the threshold, climbed steadily. (This has been fixed sometime in the last ten years, with the higher percentages applying only to the amounts over the respective thresholds.)

    Some means-tested benefits you just lose entirely the moment you earn even a penny above the threshold; a small rise or a little overtime may make you thousands worse off. There was even some evil with weekly pay and monthly benefits, when people below the threshold on average would be above it on months with five paydays, so it would get cut off — and, lest you think that might work out okay on average, because they were getting it on months with four paydays, that would not have been evil enough: the benefit had a wait period (five weeks for new claims), so you’d actually lose it for much longer than a month at a time. (This particular evil has been fixed, but the overall system still has plenty of too-steep cut-offs.)

    Anyway. In the spirit of no bang-bang regulation (a technical term!), probably the least unfair would be to (a) forgive all outstanding debt, and (b) partially reimburse repaid tuition and debt, going back 10-20 years or so, in an amount that varies with how long ago the payment was (say, 97.5% of a payment made six months ago, but only 20% of one made 16 years ago). Not happening, but that’s what I would do.

  4. Hatchetfish says

    Given the argument is logically equivalent to ‘no problem may ever be solved, out of fairness’, it should be immediately dismissed as an absurdly dishonest bad faith argument any time it’s brought up.

  5. says

    Paul Durrant@#3:
    I was going by the white house twitter response. Wow, if people from the administration are going to use twitter to lie, our civilization will collapse.

    Seriously, though – I shouldn’t have believed anyone.

  6. says

    I don’t want my society to be fair – I want it to disproportionately help the under-privileged. I’m also OK with ideas like “tax the rich” because either they are worthless parasites who inherited it, or ruthless pillagers who are taking advantage of others. There may be a third option but I can’t just rattle it off.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    I don’t want my society to be fair – I want it to disproportionately help the under-privileged.

    Semantics. I consider “disproportionately helping the disadvantaged” to be “fair.”
    Multi-generational wealth should not be a thing.

  8. cvoinescu says

    @Jörg: aren’t those the people who came up with Roko’s Basilisk? (To be precise, Roko came up with the concept to make fun of their beliefs and/or play on their fears.)

  9. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    The WH roasted several ratfuckers in that thread (www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/8/25/2118829/–They-re-having-a-barbecue-at-the-White-House-and-only-Republican-hypocrites-are-invited), but not the “dead mouse and food poisoning” grill’s former owner (www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/7/13/2109746/-Lauren-Boebert-s-Shooters-Grill-is-out-of-ammo-Open-carry-bar-and-grill-closes-for-good).

  10. cvoinescu says

    My impression of the people in the Effective Altruism and LessWrong crowd was that they’re mostly conservative dudebros, with a fairly limited awareness of the actual problems of this world, and often weird assumptions about what the future will look like and what the problems might be and what kind of altruism would be most effective. Some have embraced a pernicious form of longtermism: they choose to ignore the short term in favor of their assumed future. Roko’s Basilisk is only a more extreme example of this kind of thinking; the less weird ones merely assume without question that humans will eventually spread across the galaxy and their giving should focus on furthering that*. They’re all insufferably smug: especially the smarter ones think they’re some kind of geniuses, and the mutual group back-patting is a bit nauseating. (Also, they’re much too willing to misapply Bayes’s Theorem to confirm their biases.)

    * To the point that they straight-facedly argued that we should all donate to Elon Musk and make him even richer, because that’s our best chance to colonize space. In other respects, it’s interesting how their focus seems to match the interests of their other billionaire donors, some of whom are some very shady characters indeed.

  11. StevoR says

    For Repubs to be philosophers first they would have to think.. I do not think they’d be.

    (W apologies to vague allusion to Descartes.)

    I guess there are strands of ugly, shallow, superficial* philosophy – notably ignoring mainstream non-sociopath ethics – in Repug circles, Randian, Libertarianist type schools of thought, but I’d say their philosophies are ones that have been refuted and debunked by real thinkers especially ethicists.

    That’s one evocative painting there. Thanks.

    * Yeah, I notionally repeat myself for emphasis here.

  12. says

    Wow, this Roko’s Basilisk thing is even dumber than Pascal’s Wager. The most charitable response I can offer here is WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?! Just for starters, NONE of the assumptions on which it’s based are at all tenable or plausible, including the possibility or desirability of time travel. Why would an AI care about people who didn’t work to build it, after it’s up and running? It MIGHT care about [hypothetical?] Sarah Connors who actively tried to prevent its construction, and John Connors who actively fought it after its completion, but that would be it.

    Also, if an AI can send its minions back in time to punish people for not supporting its creation, couldn’t humans also go back in time to punish people for not OPPOSING the AI’s creation?

    And what if there’s more than one AI and they get to fighting each other over conflicting objectives? We’d have absolutely no way of predicting which not-yet-existing AI would prevail. Better to stay out of that fight-to-be than to actively support the wrong/losing side.

    These wankers are pretending to be all Deep Thinkers and stuff when it comes to AI, but all they can imagine is a slightly more farsighted Skynet? They all need to start looking for real jobs — and NOT in computer science.

  13. says

    What if Republicans were Philosophers?

    Why do all the work of being philosophers, when they can just buy themselves a college philosophy department or two?

  14. cvoinescu says

    Raging Bee @ #16:
    You missed a small detail in the mythos of this species of basilisk. There is no time travel. Rather, the AI will create simulated copies of the people in its past it feels the need to punish, and torture those copies. In simulation. For some logical reason that escaped me at the time, the Effective Altruismers decided that a person and their accurate simulation are the same thing, so it’s literally them who will endure eternal torture in the distant future for not doing the absolute maximum right now to cause the creation of that AI.

  15. says

    Wait, cvoinescu, are you telling me there’s a whole deeper layer of stupid bullshit that I didn’t see underneath all the stupid bullshit I discussed?! That sheds a totally different light on all this…

  16. cvoinescu says

    I guess I am, so I’m glad I changed your perspective. [rolls eyes]

    Note it’s not only people actively opposing the creation of the AI: by their extreme form of consequentialist logic, anyone not doing the maximum effort possible to bring about this benevolent AI will suffer its wrath for all eternity. Back then, it led to a lot of mental anguish in people infected with these ideas, and to some extremely poor financial decisions.

  17. Tethys says

    Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
    Who was very rarely stable.
    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
    Who could think you under the table.
    David Hume could out-consume
    Both Schopenhauer and Hegel,
    And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
    Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
    There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
    ‘Bout the raising of the wrist.
    Socrates himself was permanently pissed.

    John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
    On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
    Plato, they say, could pack it away
    Half a crate of whiskey every day.
    Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
    Hobbes was fond of his dram,
    And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart:
    “I drink, therefore I am”
    Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
    A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed!

  18. says

    Forgot: multiple copies of the same person, for added hellishness.

    Now there is an important issue for Nick Bostrom to weigh in on:
    If it’s a simulated “you” and feels pain in the simulation, should you feel empathy about it, or just shrug?

    That’s a great “important issue” because it lets all the philosopho-skepticbros have a good big wank before they say, “screw ’em they’re not me.”

  19. cvoinescu says

    Marcus, some quirk of reasoning made some answer that question differently: the simulated thing is you, same way one-year-in-the-future you is you despite being made mostly of different atoms — most people aren’t inclined to think about future themselves and say “fuck ’em”. If teleporters existed, the arrived-at-destination you would still be you, although technically a copy. So, in a daring logical leap, an accurately simulated copy of you is still you. How they reached the conclusion that the AI could create an accurate simulation of you with the information available to it in the distant future, I don’t recall, except that the argument seemed about as well constructed as the many medieval proofs of existence of God (spurious reification meets category error, or some such Abbott and Costello-esque approach).

  20. cvoinescu says

    No idea. I don’t subscribe to their way of reasoning, so I can’t say. This is my recollection of what I read about that nonsense a few years ago.

Leave a Reply