The general expression of the most ethical kind of our behavour is surely expressed by the so called "Golden Rule" (taken from the Biblical Liviticus) about loving our neighbour as much as ourselves. However this subject has certain features which are difficult to accept in practice.

Unless we are saints we find it very difficult if not impossible to share all our wealth with our neighbours so that everybody has a roughly equal share. Indeed attempts in the past to do this have resulted in the kinds of failure for which socialism and communism are known to have suffered. Politics aside, the inability for sincere people living together to share in equal amounts or according to their productive abilities and needs, forces us to have to accept the fact that ethics and communal idealism make for difficult bed-fellows.

In taking this rule seriously we are also somewhat limited to our closer neighbours, which implies that for all its good intentions we can help only a very few out of the poor people who would like to enjoy a higher living standard. Thus when we give alms to charity we do so without trying to help more than a very few of our poorer neighbours.

Because of these difficulties or perhaps inspite of them, the Sanhedrin sage Hillel the Elder, suggested to a potential proselite (and taunter, who wanted to hear the basis of the whole Torah whilst standing on one leg, that is in summary) replied: "That which is harmful to yourself, do not do it to your neighbour. The rest is commentry, now go and study."

This double-negative version of the Golden Rule no longer suffers from these disadvantages and it can be applied to a large number of people without a personal loss to oneself (unless one enjoys causing others grief). Saintly behavour is not required only ethical kinds of respect and trust. Therefore in general following this rule is the most ethical thing. The question remains about how it can be applied in practice and for this subject the Carnegie Council is surely able to show the way!

There are many applications, perhaps the most basic of them is for each of us to be able to provide for our families with a decent amount of the basic necessities of life, food, clothes, shelter, security, warmth, social acceptability and absence of religious persecution. But today we do not have the equality of opportunity to work and produce useful output for exchange, in order to supply these things. So as far as I am concerned my attitude to this Council is to try to express how equality of opportunity may best be provided and how a good government of the people might go about providing it.

For those who wish to examine this in greater depth I have attached a file which indicates the pros and cons of such a solution.

 

 

 

Tags: Opportunity, equality, ethics, government, land, macroeconomics, taxation

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