HAT FORUM, Sat Oct 13, 11:00-1pm OISE

[this topic has been rescheduled from Sept to Oct 13 - note unusual room change]

DATE:  Oct 13, 11:00-1pm.  
LOCATION:  OISE, 242 Bloor Street West, 2-198, 10-200

How resources should be apportioned in society lead to some very basic questions: namely, what are the core ideals of society? From a Canadian or “western” perspective, many would claim that our ideals are aimed at maximizing individual freedom coupled with group responsibility. By using this formula for guidance, the topic of “Distributive Justice” can be addressed under the general category of “group responsibility”.

Here are some “distributive” ideas for discussion:

STRICT EGALITARIANISM:  Because people are inherently “equal” they must be entitled to an equal share of all goods and services.  This view holds that differences in wealth between people promote envy and discord, ultimately undermining the stability of society. Would this approach have an impact on incentives for productive people resulting in the entire society being significantly poorer? What if an equal share was not enough or too much?

INDIVIDUAL NEEDS: “To each according to his need, from each according to his ability”. What mechanisms would society require in order to determine how much a person needs and what their productive output should be? Can this be accomplished in a large, complex society?

LIBERTARIANISM: Individuals are entitled to retain everything they legally acquire. Helping those in need would be a voluntary act. Would the lack of a proscribed “safety net” result in people becoming alienated from mainstream society, developing into a “pariah” class and aside from having a wretched existence themselves, threaten the stability of society?

BASIC ENTITLEMENTS: To be “moral” a reasonably affluent society should be prepared to ensure that poor people, the disadvantaged or those who suffer bad luck should be helped by receiving sufficient food, shelter, medical care and clothing to function modestly. Should basic entitlements be absolute or relative?

RESPONSIBILITY OF THE RECIPIENT: Assuming that the majority in society agree that seriously disadvantaged people should be helped, is it reasonable to expect that those who are physically and mentally capable, be prepared to work, to the best of their ability, in exchange for such help?

PROGRESSIVE VERSUS FLAT TAXES: If there were a flat tax of 25%, a person earning $ 200,000 per year would pay $ 50,000 in taxes.  Progressive taxes could force the same person to pay $ 100,000 (50%) or   $ 120,000 (60%) etc.  The government, by “redistributing” this taxpayer’s “surplus” revenue, is then challenged to use the money in a productive, efficient and “just” way for the benefit of society.  Would this “redistribution” affect the taxpayer’s incentive to be productive in the future?  If the taxpayer earned the money honestly,  by working hard, being productive and creative, is it possible that leaving a greater share with him/her would benefit society more than having the government absorb it?

Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto