The Philosophy of Safety Nets

File:Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmore 3.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Achieving happiness is easy. I don’t mean eudaimonia – that oversophisticated happiness for Pinot-snuffling yuppies. I mean ordinary, practical happiness for ordinary, practical folk: utility. Achieving eudaimonia is definitely not easy; at your very approach it dances away like a will-o’-the-wisp on gossamer winds of pretentiousness. But utility? Utility is solid and graspable. In fact, Australians say ‘utility’ to refer to what Americans call a ‘pick-up truck’. A ute, we normally say. What’s more blunt and practical than that? Eudaimonia is a concept for sprinkling on your puy lentils to add that certain je ne sais quoi. Utility, on the other hand, is a concept you could change your sparkplugs with.

So, achieving ute is easy. Here’s how you do it. Start with the things you have. Now exchange them with people for other things you would prefer to have. People will participate in these exchanges whenever their preferences are different to yours. This will be often, since humans are psychologically diverse. Keep exchanging for as long as your preferences fail to be maximised, and you’ll always be getting closer to full happiness.

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Bonus payments: A special form of greed?!

GeizGreed is nowadays most often associated with money and courtesy to the recession, now mainly with bankers. A simple definition of greed is that those who are greedy want more of what they already have. And studying ethics, we know that greed is a vice and therefore wrong.  Since the recession bankers are portrayed as greedy and as acting against their clients, and therefore against society at large. For the past weeks a new “problem” in the world of banking has cropped up: the payment of bonus payments. By definition bonuses are paid for extraordinary work. If employees really outdid themselves, they receive a special reward. Only that this definition does not seem to be valid anymore. Bonuses have become a part of employment contracts and of employment deals. They are seen as something the employee is entitled to. Therefore bonuses seem to bring about a new form of greed. It is not only greed about the money it seems, but also about the gratification. Bonuses are more than sheer payments, they give the employee perceived job-security. But the problem now is that if bonuses are paid to bankers from banks that have received money from the government, that same government de facto gratifies bankers for making mistakes in the first place. The clients that were mistreated are, via their tax money, now rewarding the bankers. The bankers on the other hand claim that they earned the bonuses and will be motivated to work more successfully, which is then beneficial for the client. It is a vicious cycle!?!

A times article dealing with the bailout is here, and a whole plethora of articles about the topic at large is here.

$1.99 - small Business Ethics: An Overview
By Jeffrey Moriarty, Bowling Green State University
(Vol. 3, August 2008)
Philosophy Compass