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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #33

Worldview Theme #42: Ethical Orientation

Worldview Theme #43: Seeking Wealth and Power

absolute moral code -- absolute or universal standards of what is ethically or morally right or wrong. For many religious people, particularly fundamentalists, the word of God as it appears in sacred texts, provides this absolute moral authority. The opposing belief, that no such absolute or universal standards exist, is termed ethical or moral relativism.

affirmative action -- in decision making related to offering jobs or extending other opportunities to individual applicants, preferentially favoring members of some minority group to make up for this group’s past, unjust exclusion from the chance to have certain employment, educational or other opportunities.

altruism -- putting the interests, welfare, happiness, and perhaps even survival of other people or living things above one’s own interests, etc. This devotion often involves self sacrifice. In an extreme case it can even mean giving up one’s own life so that another can live.

bioethics -- ethics as applied to medicine and the biological sciences. A field that lies at the heart of dealing with many dignity and sanctity of life related controversies: doctors, medical insurers, biotechnologists “playing God”; “Brave New World” fears about cloning; environmental concerns about genetically engineered plants; animals suffering as medical researchers conduct experiments; etc

brotherhood -- an idealized situation in which people treat each other in a highly considerate way as if they were members of the same family (brothers or sisters)

capital -- an economics term referring to accumulated goods and resources (or their value) devoted to the production of other goods or set aside to produce income. Capital can take the form of money, raw materials, buildings, equipment, inventories, etc. While economists have long distinguished between “physical capital” and “human capital”, some have recently extended this scheme to include “natural capital”.

capitalism -- an economic system involving 1) private individual or corporate ownership of capital goods, 2) private rather than state control of investment , and 3) pricing, production and distribution of goods (for the most part) by agents or forces operating within the free market system. 

collusion -- a secret agreement between businesses or firms that sets price and output in a way that decreases competition and increases profits

common good, the--can be defined in various ways depending on one's perspective. Some define it narrowly as that which is good for every member of the community; others broaden the community here to include all human beings. While libertarians argue it is a meaningless concept, utilitarians equate it with "the greatest good for the greatest  number of individuals."  

conflict of interest—a professional ethics related term. Writing in 1993 in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dennis F. Thompson defined it as, “a set of conditions in which professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as a patient’s welfare or the validity of research) tends to be unduly influenced by a secondary interest (such an financial gain).” He goes on to identify the need for professional ethics guidelines that “regulate the disclosure and avoidance of these conditions.”

Confucianism -- an ethical system / agnostic practical philosophy based on the teachings of the 6th century BC Chinese sage, Confucious. Its key teachings include: 1) Ultimately the happiness of society rests on sincere investigation that produces relevant knowledge; 2) Happy societies are built on a foundation of disciplined individuals in disciplined families; 3) Respect for and fidelity to natural obligations, most notably to parents and family, is essential. 4) The right relationship between individuals is important, one based on sympathetic “fellow feeling”, treating those subordinate to you as you would like to be treated if you were the subordinate -- ideas which provide the basis for a Confucian Golden Rule; 5) Avoiding extremes and embracing moderation --finding a Golden Mean -- is important.

conscience--a sense of 1) what is morally / ethically right or wrong, and 2) which actions a) will produce more pleasure and happiness vs. more pain and suffering, b) will be praised vs. blamed, c)  potentially promise benefits vs. involve risks and potential liabilities.  When conscientious behavior and actual behavior diverge, guilt and feelings of remorse can result. H.L. Mencken referred to it as "the inner voice that tells us that somebody might be watching." Some connect conscience with religion: it has been termed "God's voice."  Others make no such connection.

conspicuous consumption -- a term coined by Veblen in the early part of the 20th century that refers to people buying expensive things just to show that they can afford them -- a snob effect that flies in the face of a cheaper is better orientation, or practical utility considerations.

corporate crime–corporations and/or their employees break laws and use their power to ruin lives, endanger public safety, or pollute the environment in their quest for profits.  Its negative impact on US society is great.  In 2008, Russell Mokhiber, founder of the Corporate Crime Reporter, wrote "The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds–Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron–swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.  Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.  The savings and loan fraud...cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion..." Of political campaign contri-butions & lobbyists, Mokhiber wrote, "Corporate criminals are the only criminal class in the United States that have the power to define the laws under which they live." 2009 brought news of Bernie Madoff's corrupt investment firmthought to have ripped off $50 to $65 billion, and concerns about ripoff of government furnished bank bailout funds. The 2010s began with the continuing  painkiller drug addiction --what one writer referred to as “Pharma and the Poisoning of America”--and speculation as to whether any corporate executives would go to jail over the “sub-prime mortgage crisis” which triggered the “Great Recession” in 2008 (none did). The decade brought a number of major scandals, with these ten ranked the worst by the Wall Street Journal: 1) the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill; 2) Foxconn suicides; 3) Liber scandal; 4) FIFA corruption scandal; 5) Volkswagen emissions cheating; 6) Turing Pharmaceutical HIV drug price gouging; 7) Theranos; 8) Fyre Festival; 9) Mossack Fonseca and the Panama Papers; 10) Wells Fargo account fraud.

corporate executive pay issues–according to many observers of top U.S. companies, the ratio of top corporate executive compensation to that of an ordinary private sector worker is outrageously large.  Based on figures compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies, in 2019, a typical worker at one of the top 50 (in terms of pay gaps) publicly traded American companies would have to work at least 1000 years to earn what the company’s CEO earned in one year.  Average annual pay at these firms was $15.9 million,  whereas that same year median worker pay was $10,027.  While some feel all such high corporate executive compensation is unjustified, many single out the outrageously high salaries, bonuses, and severance pay packages of executives who led companies which performed poorly for special ridicule.    

corruption—dishonest, unethical, possibly illegal behavior, especially while serving the public in a position of trust, with the motive of personal gain (increase in wealth, power, etc.) / pleasure. Theft through cheating or embezzlement, bribery, conflict of  interest, and unequal treatment of people with favors for  friends / penalties for opponents are examples.

distributive justice--is concerned with right or just ways to allocate the goods, benefits and burdens of economic activity to members of society.  Plans for doing this vary according to 1) what is to be distributed: wealth, income, utility, opportunity,  welfare, etc; 2) over what group is the distribution to be made;  3) how is the distribution to be made.    

ecological conscience--a term popularized by Aldo Leopold who connected it with treating the land right--in accordance with his land ethic.  More generally it involves feeling obligated to treat the natural habitat where one lives right: 1) not making a mess of it, and  2) not incurring ecological debt.  

ecosharing -- an environmental ethic for people to live by: that their own impact on the Earth’s biosphere be limited to no more than their own fair ecoshare. An ecoshare is determined by overall assessment of the human impact on the biosphere, computer models of its future condition, and necessary limits imposed by sustainability criteria.

egalitarianism -- the belief that all human beings should have the same rights, opportunities and privileges.

egoism--the belief that individual self interest is the basis for all human behavior and that this is how it ought to be.

egocentric -- the selfish, self-centered viewpoint that narrowly limits a person’s outlook to focus on his or her own feelings, needs, concerns, problems and activities

empathy -- concisely it refers to “fellow feeling” , that is imagining that you are in the other person’s shoes and experiencing his or her feelings, struggles, etc.  Emotionally immature people, in particular those who after experiencing so much pain as children have learned how to block it, may not feel compassion for other's pain. Empathizing with others thus requires being in touch with your own feelings.

envy -- painful or resentful awareness of someone who is more fortunate or enjoys some advantage

ethics–the study of right and wrong in matters of conduct.  A basic division is between metaethics and normative ethics. A goal of metaethics is understanding gained by considering questions like “What is the meaning and nature of moral judgments?” and  How are they defended and supported?” and  “ In what way or ways are they actually used?  A goal of normative ethics involves identifying universal rules (or norms) to guide human behavior with respect to the key question, “How should one act or behave?” Normative ethics can be broken up into (most notably), consequentialist ethics, deontological ethics, utilitarianism, and egoism.

ethics, consequentialist—has its focus on rightness or wrongness of  the consequences of one's actions

ethics, deontological-- focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, rather than the consequences of those actions (as consequentialist ethics does).

ethical (or moral) relativism -- the belief that ethical guidelines or moral rules cannot be evaluated outside of the particular cultural / ethical setting to which they belong. It holds that there are no absolute or universal standards of what is ethically or morally right or wrong. Fundamentalists abhor ethical relativism. For them, the word of God as recorded in sacred religious texts provides not only rules to live by, but an absolute authority on moral questions.

ethical behavior evolutionary pyramid -- the depiction of how human ethical behavior has evolved over a long period of time (over one million years) using a pyramid. When people were little more than animals their behavior was dictated by self interest in meeting basic biological and survival needs -- depicted at the broad base of the pyramid. Amongst precivilization humans ethical behavior extended to include family and biological relatives. As culture developed and survival pressures eased, ethical behavior was extended greatly-- moving up the pyramid -- to eventually include community, tribe, regional neighbors, ethnic group, and nation. Today, at the top of the pyramid are those who feel a sense of belongingness to the whole human species and to the planet , and behave accordingly

evolutionary ethics--approaches ethics from the role that evolution has played in shaping human behavior, including instinctual behavior.

feudal society--the dominant social order of the Middle Ages in Europe (and perhaps elsewhere) in which power was decentralized: resting in an aristocratic, land-owning elite who provided peasants with protection and land to till in exchange for labor and part of what the land produced.  The Catholic Church was heavily invested in this system: its moral authority counterbalancing the civil / military authority and associated injustice. 

financial literacy--according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, this is "the ability to read, analyze, manage, and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. Financial literacy includes the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future, and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy."

financial market participants' roles / strategies --consider four of them: 1) investors / investing--buying financial instruments (stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, real estate, etc.)  and holding them (often on a long-term basis) for income and a stake in whatever is invested in; 2) speculators / speculating--buying financial instruments to profit from (typically short-term) fluctuations in price; 3) hedgers / hedging--a strategy to minimize financial risk by planning for different contingencies and still making a profit; 4) arbitrageurs / arbitrage--taking advantage of price differences in different markets to make a risk-free profit.  

Golden Rule, negative and positive formulations -- Confucius, in the 6th century BC, is generally credited with the negative version of this universal principle: "Do not do unto others what thou wouldst not they should do unto you" The Jewish sage Hillel provided a slightly different version in 30 BC: "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor."  In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave us the positive version: "All things whatsoever ye would men do to you, do ye even so to them."

grabber -- a derogatory term to be associated with those who succeed wildly in their search for wealth and power (sometimes through ethically questionable means) and, instead of using what they’ve won to help those in need or to make the world a better place, excessively indulge, waste and revel in luxury. It has been charged that their real religion is based on “a gospel of their own wealth”.

greed -- a dictionary definition is "excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness".  Brian Cruver, author of Anatomy of Greed (a book about Enron), argues that greed should be "defined by means, not the end" and adds "It's the behavior that should be tested for excessiveness." He goes on to connect "greedy" with "someone who lies, cheats, and steals in the name of possessing more than they need or even deserve." 

"Greed is Good"--one of several notable quotes from the character Gordon Gekko, a cutthroat businessman and corporate raider in the 1987 movie Wall Street.

guilt -- an emotional state produced by knowing that one has committed a breach of conduct or violated moral standards. If one accepts society’ s version of acceptable behavior, the punishment guilt produces is self administered. From a different (equation based) perspective, guilt can be considered to be: guilt = conscientious behavior — actual behavior .                                              

happiness principle -- from moral theory, the principle that seeking happiness for oneself with someone else’s happiness in mind takes moral precedence over seeking happiness that leads to the loss of happiness for someone else.

Hobbesian view of human nature -- According to 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, human beings were selfish, aggressive, fiercely competitive, highly acquisitive creatures who were incapable of self restraint. With this dim view of human nature, he felt that authoritarian state offered the only way to keep human beings from killing each other in constant warfare and destroying civilization.   

hunter-gatherer society--one in which people derive their sustenance from wild plants and animals, and often (seasonally or otherwise) move if necessary.  Before the domestication of these resources, beginning over 10,000 years ago, all humans lived in such societies.  

insider trading--the (generally illegal) practice of corporate executives and other insiders using company information not available to the general public to profit from trading in their corporate stock or securities. Such trading was outlawed in the United States in the 1930s, in Britain and Japan in the 1980s, and is similarly frowned upon by most of the world's securities and commodities markets.

investment decisions, basis for--typically the key piece of information behind whether to invest in something or not  is whether the expected annual rate of return on the investment exceeds the annual interest rate charged for the money borrowed to make the investment or finance the project. 

justice -- implementing what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc. For some, justice is intimately connected with fairness, a connection with three dimensions: equal treatment, the degree to which exercising freedom and liberty is to be allowed, and reward for contributing to the common good .

justice, scales of–a metaphorical scale—imagine a rod with two pans attached at each end hanging down perpendicular to the rod, with the midpoint of rod sitting on a pivot point—that can be used to weigh the strength of arguments for or against some appeal to the rule of  law.  They are linked to the Roman goddess Justitia--often depicted holding them in one hand, and a sword—representing the power of reason and justice—in the other.

kinship metaphors -- examples of these abound: brotherhood, sister cities, fraternities and sororities, mother country and fatherland, “Brother, can you spare a dime?”, “Our Father who art in Heaven”, etc. All of these seek to extend the natural love or special treatment that exists between blood relatives to those who are unrelated. Evolutionary biologists explain the special treatment of kin in terms of relatives sharing many more genes than nonrelatives and that natural selection can work to insure survival of common, favored genes by promoting favored (altruistic behavior) treatment of relatives.

kleptocracy--a government characterized by greed and corruption in which the ruler (or rulers) loot the national treasury and use his (their) position(s) to extend his (their) personal wealth to the detriment of the people he (they) are supposed to be serving. In a 2004 study, the German group Transparency International identified five national leaders of recent decades who directed at least $1 billion of their nation's wealth into their own private bank accounts. Former Indonesian and Philippine presidents Suharto and Marcos topped the list--ripping off an estimated $25 billion and $7.5 billion respectively.  

  land ethic--as first formulated by Aldo Leopold in his 1948 classic A Sand County Almanac, "a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."

law: civil vs. criminal--the former refers to the means by which individual rights are protected, the latter with offenses that harm (or potentially could harm) the entire community. In civil cases the responsibility for demonstrating harm and seeking remedy lies with the individual affected; in criminal cases the state must pursue violators and seek remedy--which may be imprisonment.

law: private vs. public--the former involves relationships between individuals (including corporations), the latter with issues involving the state and welfare of society (including penal law, and regulatory statutes, etc.)

law, rule of– a fundamental component of democratic society, defined broadly as the principle that all members of society are bound by a set of clearly defined, universally accepted laws.

leveling mechanisms--customs and social policies that serve to reduce differences in wealth between members of a society.

liberty principle--from moral theory, a principle that states that seeking liberty for oneself with someone else’s freedom in mind takes moral precedence over seeking such liberty that leads to the loss of liberty or freedom for someone else. 

lobbyist--a person paid to act on behalf of a particular corporation, union, organization, etc. in aggressively promoting their agenda to elected representatives or those in positions of power in governments.  In some democracies, (like the United States), lobbyists help funnel campaign contributions to politicians--which often subvert the will of the people critics charge. 

machiavellian -- an approach to getting what you want summed up in the famous quote, “The end justifies the means”. Specifically, the desired end is increasing power and control. The opportunistic means employed to achieve this are whatever it takes, including deception, deviousness, duplicity, and cunning manipulation of others.

marginal utility -- the added satisfaction to be had by consuming an additional unit of a commodity. Economic theory suggests that as a person consumes increasingly more of a commodity the marginal utility eventually declines

master -- a derogatory term that refers to an individual or group -- historically often associated with a man or men -- who dominates and controls another person or group of people, and to some extent exercises authority that keeps those subject to it in a submissive state of servitude.

microeconomics --the branch of economics focused on individual decision making units, such as a person, household, or business.  To be contrasted with macroeconomics.    

money--a token or object that is generally accepted (both legally and socially) as a medium of exchange in paying for goods provided, services rendered, or settling debts. It also provides a measure of value or standard for gauging relative worth / wealth. Most economic transactions directly or indirectly involve money--one exception being a barter economy where money is not needed.

monopoly -- a situation in a market economy when but a single seller exists for a commodity that has no realistic substitute

morality--knowledge, teachings and practices related to deciding the rightness or wrongness of actions, that is in making moral judgments, which together define a code of conduct for a society.

moral hazard–results when a person,  institution, or large group of people is partly shielded from risk (due to insurance, prospects of government bailout, safety features, etc.) and acts differently (is less careful creating a hazard.)  Examples: 1) drivers with airbags drive more recklessly, confident that if they crash the airbags will protect them; 2) a person wearing a face mask mingles more closely and more often with people during a pandemic like corona virus than he or she would without the face mask; 3) an investor buys non-investment grade (junk) corporate bonds because of the perception that the company is “too big to fail” and the government will come to the rescue, if need be, to prevent that from happening

moral obligation -- the feeling of being bound to act or behave in a certain way given one’s acceptance of some moral code or set of rules.

narcissism -- an exaggerated sense of self love or heightened emotional investment in one’s self , detracting from one’s appreciation of or emotional investment in others . It has been suggested that this masks deep feelings of unworthiness and emptiness -- unacknowledged, but unconsciously lurking. Critics of individual excess in the consumer culture have linked the psychology behind it to narcissism.

Noble Eightfold Path, The--a practical prescription for behaving ethically, gaining meditative discipline and wisdom. The Buddha taught that following it was the way to end suffering.  

noble savage view of human nature -- the belief that people, if they lived in a natural state away from the corrupting influence of social institutions, are fundamentally peaceful, co-operative, and altruistically concerned with each other’s well being -- not aggressively greedy, acquisitive, competitive and merely out to advance their own self interest. This view was popularized by 18th century French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau.

non-aggression principle--the idea, as expressed by Ayn Rand, that coercive physical force or the threat of such use against person or property should never be used first, and that its only legitimate use is for defensive purposes by individuals or by governments to punish law-breakers.  

objectivism and the virtue of selfishness -- as popularized in the 1950s and 60s by Ayn Rand, objectivism values rational selfishness and views altruism as contrary to human nature. It sees the central purpose of a rational person’s life as productive work, and trade (which it links with justice) as “the only rational ethical principle for all human relationships”. Not surprisingly, this philosophy embraces laissez faire capitalism. Socially, objectivist ethics places the highest value on an individual’s happiness, and denigrates his or her putting aside self interest and sacrificing for others -- singling out as mistaken the belief that one person’s happiness necessarily leads to others’ misery. Politically, its basic principle is “no man may initiate the use of physical force against others”. Rand’s philosophy is embraced by many libertarians and many who rail against “the social welfare state”, “the common good”, "progressive income tax structures", etc. 

plutocracy--government by or conducted in the interest of the rich.  Generally in societies governed like this, the level of economic inequality--measured by the gap between rich and poor--is high, and social mobility-- measured by the % of once poor who escape their poverty and become rich--is low.  "By 2000 the United States could be said to have a plutocracy" argues Kevin Phillips in his book Wealth and Democracy.  

political campaign contributions--the money and favors that individuals and groups give to candidates running for political office. Supporters view this as people extending their free speech rights; critics charge that the contributions are an attempt to buy influence and that such money from a relatively few wealthy people can subvert the will of the majority of the people.

positive thinking, the power of -- This phrase is the title of a 1952 best-selling book by Christian preacher and author Norman Vincent Peale. The basic idea behind his book--and behind similar routes to empowerment advocated by various New Age enthusiasts-- is that repeating good thoughts brings good things, while continually dwelling on negative thoughts can bring bad things. In short, people create their own reality by their thoughts.  Many, Peale included, consider thoughts to be things.  Some New Agers don't stop there, but connect whatever they are promoting with the mysteries of quantum physics in claiming that all matter is condensed thought.  For others, similar positive thinking / visualization techniques--and belief that God wants you to have abundant wealth--serve as the basis for teaching others how to get rich.  Coupling such "ask, believe, and receive" recipes with the idea that "you can control the world by what you think" methods provides the essence of numerous books about how to obtain wealth and power.

power elite, the -- refers to the class of people in positions of power in the corporate state. The term was first used in the 1950s as the title of a leftist assessment of who runs America (a book by C. Wright Mills).

profit–the revenue taken in minus the cost outlay associated with a business transaction.

Protestant work ethic -- an ethic based on self reliance, hard work and frugality being the path to salvation that has been important in shaping post Reformation western (especially American) society of the last five hundred years. Thus, ingrained in my people’s heads, since their earliest childhood, were sayings like “God helps those who help themselves”, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, etc. Only recently has a consumption ethic begun to seriously compete with, some would say replace, this work ethic.

prioritarians--in assigning social value to benefits, they favor benefits going to those less well off.

reciprocity (or reciprocal altruism) -- in human interaction, the idea that one good turn deserves another, or that one should return a favor. Example: If you’ll pick lice out of my hair, I’ll pick them out of yours!”

religion, social function of -- according to Michael Shermer, in his book The Science of Good and Evil, religion is “a social institution that evolved as an integral mechanism of human culture to encourage altruism and reciprocal altruism, to discourage selfishness and greed, and to reveal the level of commitment to co-operate and reciprocate among members of the community.”

risk vs. return--in seeking to profit from investment, greater returns are generally associated with taking greater risk.  Thus an investment earning 10%/yr has more risk (greater possibility of loss of principal) than one paying 3%/yr.  

social contract--its most important meaning refers to an agreement between the people and their rulers in which the  duties and rights of each are defined and constrained.  While rulers would say it serves to maintain order, the people point to it as establishing the principle that rulers have legitimacy only if they have the consent of those they govern.   

Social Darwinism -- the application of Darwinian principles (natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc) to social practices as a natural defense of entrepreneurial capitalism

social justice—refers to 1) a relationship between individuals and society in which people have what is just, defined in various ways as being reasonable, proper, lawful, right, fair, deserved, merited, etc; 2) if the condition described above does not exist, then taking steps to make it so. In practice, in affluent Western societies, seeking social justice is concerned with seeking a fairer distribution of wealth and privilege, equal opportunity for all, ending unfair discrimination or exclusion, and providing a safety net for the especially vulnerable. It can also involve recognizing / rewarding those who contribute to the common good more than those who behave in more self-serving fashion.

tao / Taoism--the former is a concept from ancient China that can be thought of as the way of nature and, as related to human behavior, the path of virtuous conduct in accordance with nature; the latter refers to the Chinese mystical philosophy or folk religion built around conformity to the tao. Founded by Lao-Tzu in the 6th century BCE, Taoism is polytheist / animist / shamanist in a traditional Chinese way. Ethically it values compassion, moderation, and humility.

Ten Commandments, The--behavioral and moral rules found in the Old Testament of the Bible and important to Jews and Christians. They are traditionally believed to have been written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai over 3000 years ago.

Tooth and Claw Ethics / Law of the Jungle--both of these date to the late nineteenth century, the former was made famous by "Darwin's bulldog" Thomas Huxley, one of the founders of evolutionary ethics, the latter by Rudyard Kipling (perhaps influenced by the Social Darwinist currents of the time) in The Jungle Book   Earlier in that century, British poet Tennyson had characterized nature as "red in tooth and claw".  The Law of the Jungle is basically "kill or be killed".

union busting--aggressive, sometimes brutal, practices employed by management to prevent employees from joining labor unions, or to break strikes / destroy the power of unions which get in their way.

universalism -- the belief in sociology that there are universal ethical standards.

utilitarianism -- the belief that the moral value of actions and associated outcomes should be judged according to the degree to which they are useful and benefit those affected. Utilitarians evaluate the moral rightness of actions by  the extent to which they produce the greatest benefit to all concerned. Utilitarianism has two aspects: 1) it links evaluating consequences of actions to human welfare, and accordingly, 2) how it ranks values (value theory) and ties them to human welfare. The latter involves all the complexities of arguments over what gives individuals pleasure or happiness, conflicts between individual choice and societal preference, what benefits society in the long run, etc. And it recognizes that assigning value is not merely done by adding benefits, since what is beneficial to some may be detrimental to others, and both the benefits and risks of possible actions must be weighed.

utilitarianism, act vs. rule--the former involves deciding, of available alternative actions being considered, which alternative to implement based on a calculation of which will produce the greatest utility, the latter involves following basic, generally accepted moral rules instead of basing action on (an often difficult) assessment of the utility of several different possible actions

utility -- in economic theory, this refers to the amount of use and satisfaction that a consumer gets from a particular purchase. 

value judgment -- comparing either something concrete (person, object, etc) or something abstract (quality, principle, etc) to some idealized standard. A value judgment is what bridges the gap between “what is” and “what ought to be”. Closely related is the act of valuing, which can be thought of as choosing (from alternatives) and taking appropriate action to acquire something (concrete or abstract) or hold onto it.

values -- abstract qualities, principles, beliefs, or aspects of behavior that a person or a whole society holds in high regard after making value judgments.

wage and wealth inequality --a gap in pay between the sexes or those of different ethnic groups exists in many parts of the world  For example, in the U.S., despite passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, which makes it illegal for employers to pay men more than women doing the same work, by the start of the 21st century, women made only 76% as much money as men.  The inequality is even worse when white and black income and wealth are considered. In 2020, USA black males on average earned only 51% of what white males were paid for the same work. And USA white family net wealth exceed that of  black families by 41 times!

wealth inequality and capitalism—while history suggests the market-based capitalist economic system does a far better job at creating wealth than centralized socialist state non-market systems, it also suggests it promotes wealth inequality. In his 1867 book Capital, Karl Marx argued that in such a system capital would accumulate and wealth become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  Analyzing whether this has occurred based on economic history and data is a key focus of Thomas Piketty’s nearly 700 page 2014 book Capital in the Twenty-First Century. There he concludes, 1) “the history of distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms, and 2)  “there is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently

wealthiest,  the world’s and inequality—according to the annual Forbes list, in 2008 the number of  the world’s billionaires numbered 1125 with a total cumulative net worth of $4.4 trillion; by 2020 that number had grown to 2095 with total net worth of $8 trillion. In a report released in January 2020, Oxfam International counted 2153 billionaires and estimated they have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people--60% of the world's population-- at the bottom. Dividing these two numbers of people--4.6 billion by 2153-- reveals that each billionaire has over two million times the wealth of the average ordinary poorer person. 

wealth vs. income--wealth is often measured by an individual's net worth = assets or holdings minus debts or liabilities--it has money units. Income has units of money divided by time ($ per year, or whatever). It measures inflow of money (or its equivalent) over some time period, whereas wealth corrects holdings by subtracting off potential outflows and provides a cumulative measure.  

Winner Take All Society--a phrase used to characterize what many see as a disturbing societal trend toward greater inequality.  The phrase is from the title of a 1995 book by Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook about income inequality in America and why, in the words of Molly Ivins,  "A few people get ungodly rich, and the rest of us fall behind!"  Simple-minded example of such a trend: Imagine a hypothetical state lottery switches from awarding $1 million prizes to twenty people and instead decides that one lucky person should take all $20 million!   

Win, Win  / non-zero sum outcomes– an outcome of a conflict, dispute, or negotiation where both people or sides come away with something they value, while at the same time feeling like they have not compromised or given away too much.  For those negotiating from an admittedly much weaker position, the “victory” achieved may simply be avoiding shame. For those negotiating from an admittedly much stronger position  it’s important that the agreed outcome is not so unequal or unfair that is not sustainable.  Situations where Win, Win is possible—or made possible by skilled framing of situations—are to be contrasted with Zero Sum games where the outcome is someone clearly wins and someone clearly loses.  The contrast is like shades of gray vs. black & white.  Lessons from Game Theory suggest that resolving disputes to mutual satisfaction means making it a non zero sum game in which both sides win.  Researchers have shown that a TIT for TAT strategy is a good one to use in such games.  They assert its importance in the evolution of co-operation.  Similarly, author Robert Wright says "perception of non-zero sumness underlies religious tolerance."

zero sum game -- generally speaking, a game (which can represent a social or economic interaction or conflict) in which someone wins and someone loses, to be contrasted with a game in which someone can win without someone else losing

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