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Reflections on Ethics 111
Do unto others...

by: John Tyrrell

This is a considerable expansion and revision of a brief and quickly written item I wrote on our Facebook page this week.

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In a video on her web-channel, Sarah Palin was reported as saying :

“We believe? Wait, I thought fast food joints, hurh. Don’t you guys think that they’re like of the Devil or somethin’ I was. Liberals, you want to send those evil employees who would dare work at a fast food joint then ya just don’t believe in, thought you wanted to, I dunno, send them to Purgatory or somethin’ so they all go VEGAN and, uh, wages and picket lines I dunno they’re not often discussed in Purgatory, are they? I dunno why are you even worried about fast food wages because dha."

People are actually paying about $100 a year to get these words of wisdom from her regularly.

As a personal exercise, I decided to attempt to divine her actual intentions and translate her comments into reasonably understandable English. What I think she wanted to say was something like:

"Why are liberals, who wouldn't eat in fast food restaurants because they disdain them on principle, so concerned about the low pay of fast food workers?"

Or generalizing her comment, she is asking (if my "translation" is correct) "Why would anybody care about anyone else who they don't directly encounter in their regular lives."

Remember, this babbling incoherent nincompoop identifies herself as a Christian. And so do the vast majority of her followers.

Perhaps they have mixed up two of the commandments attributed to Jesus and choose to live by "Do unto your neighbour as you would have your neighbour do unto you."

And by neighbour, they are deliberately being very limiting. It amounts to "I live at #57 Christian Way. The people in #55 and #59 are doing OK, and Jesus does not want me to worry about anyone else because they are not my neighbours"

It's a form of Christianity which is currently an epidemic within the USA. It's a type of Christianity which has a leading megachurch pastor proclaiming "Jesus would have wanted a border fence" on the US - Mexican border to keep children out. On the same subject, another influential preacher stated "borders are God’s idea, and that such borders are to be respected. They are not to be crossed without permission.”

It's a Christianity that says "Screw 'em. Screw 'em all"

And that's not a position I can buy into.

What should we do about others less fortunate? What's the right thing to do? What's the moral thing?

I think this graphic I grabbed from British Humanists sets out some reasonable guidelines for deciding what is right and wrong.

But what if someone does not believe in fairness, equality, justice, freedom, or happiness as guiding principles? I'm pretty sure that Sarah Palin, her followers, and the rest of the American Christian Right do not. And even some of our fellow non-believers don't buy into humanism.

Then is there a logical argument to treat the more unfortunate members of society better? Setting aside the morality of the issue, is it in everyone's rational enlightened (good luck with rationality and enlightenment with the Christian Right) self-interest to treat others better?

Let us consider, for example, minimum wage workers which Sarah Palin apparently figures nobody should give a damn about.

While there is a very simplistic economic argument (based solely on the supply and demand of labour) that raising the minimum wage will reduce employment, studies have shown that raising the minimum wage (particularly when that wage is not enough to live on) actually increases employment. Why?  Because more is involved that simple supply and demand of labour. Minimum wage employees tend to spend 100% of a wage increase on the necessities of life. Even with a wage increase, they do not have enough money to start saving. All their added income goes into buying the basics - and those purchases are largely from businesses that employ low wage individuals. The increased business means more people are hired at the higher minimum wage rather than fewer.

This also has the side benefit of reduced demand on various government funded services for the lower paid.

It truly is a win-win situation.

No doubt there is a level of minimum wage at which this breaks down (I'd estimate that would occur when the minimum wage is sufficient that two full time jobs can truly support a family of four), but the current levels in the USA are far from it.

The point is that it is generally in society's interest to look after minimum wage workers by paying them a decent wage. It is to everyone's benefit - with the possible exception of those that need an underclass just to feel good about themselves.

And I would suggest (I'm not going to write a textbook here covering all possible examples) a similar case could be made for helping pretty well every class of the disadvantaged. It is to our own benefit to do so.

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