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Anon_prime comments on Torture vs. Dust Specks - Less Wrong

41 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 30 October 2007 02:50AM

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Comment author: Anon_prime 30 October 2007 04:35:03AM 12 points [-]

Even when applying the cold cruel calculus of moral utilitarianism, I think that most people acknowledge that egalitarianism in a society has value in itself, and assign it positive utility. Would you rather be born into a country where 9/10 people are destitute (<$1000/yr), and the last is very wealthy (100,000/yr)? Or, be born into a country where almost all people subsist on a modest (6-8000/yr) amount?

Any system that allocates benefits (say, wealth) more fairly might be preferable to one that allocates more wealth in a more unequal fashion. And, the same goes for negative benefits. The dust specks may result in more total misery, but there is utility in distributing that misery equally.

Comment author: DanielLC 27 December 2009 02:39:08AM 2 points [-]

I don't believe egalitarianism has value in itself. Tell me, would you rather get all your wealth continuously throughout the year, or get a disproportionate amount on Christmas?

If wealth is evenly distributed, it will lead to more total happiness, but I don't see any advantage in happiness being evenly distributed.

I don't see how your comment relates to this post.

Comment author: byrnema 17 December 2010 07:49:48PM 1 point [-]

Perhaps it could be framed in terms of the utility of psychological comfort. Suppose that one person is tortured to avoid 3^^^3 people getting dust specks. Won't almost every one of those 3^^^3 people empathize with the tortured person enough to feel a pang of discomfort more uncomfortable than a dust speck?

Comment author: jimrandomh 17 December 2010 08:18:36PM 8 points [-]

Only if they find out that the tortured person exists, which would be an event that's not in the problem statement.

Comment author: Mestroyer 27 May 2012 02:36:27PM 1 point [-]

Well, there's valuing money at more utility per dollar when you have less money and less utility per dollar when you have more money, which makes perfect sense. But that's not the same as egalitarianism as part of utility.

Comment author: JasonCoston 17 August 2013 08:25:47AM -1 points [-]

Third-to-last sentence sets up a false dichotomy between "more fairly" and "more unequal."