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This is a question Addicted

Cigarettes, gambling, porn and booze. What's your addiction? How low have you sunk and how have you tried to beat it?

Thanks to big-girl's-blouse for the suggestion

(, Thu 18 Dec 2008, 16:42)
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Usual ones I'm afraid
I've never been as 'bad?' as some of the people on here but I was on a similar path in my younger years.

I got myself into about £17k's worth of debt via alcohol, drugs and going out and ended up not being able to pay them off, so I strategically left a few credit card bills lying around for my parents to find.

So thanks to the bank of Mum and Dad all of my debts were paid off and I sorted out a repayment plan to them.

Unfortunately what I failed to do was actually cancel all of the cards..... yes, you can guess where this is going!

The banks loved me, I’d run up a load of interest and then paid the lot off, so how did the banks repay me for this? They upped my credit limits, Halifax for instance gave me £18k (I was only earning £22k at the time) and all the rest added up to just over £30k

My God! And they wonder why people get into debt?

I was having a great time, going out every night getting drunk/high, making loads of new friends. It's amazing how many hangers on you can get when you throw money around.

Problem was that nothing lasts forever and within 6 months I got to the point where I was drawing money on one card to pay another, until all the limits ran out that is.

And then do their attitudes change or what? Bailiffs, threats and courts. I refused to go bankrupt as that's a cop-out as far as I'm concerned, I'd spent it so I'll pay it back thanks, so interest was stopped and payment plans were arranged

Very little money = very little fun, so that stopped abruptly, within a week all of my new friends had found someone else to leech off.

7 years later it’s all paid off.

I have no credit rating at all, which is a good thing I suppose.

I earn a good salary now, so can afford the nicer things in life but now I only pay with cash.

Good luck to all those in the same boat as I was.

(And don’t get credit! Unless you’re sensible that is)

As a note I'd just like to say that I think the banks should do more to stop people doing what I did, it would have been very obvious what I was up to so they should have lowered my limits and/or stopped the cards, but hey!

(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 10:29, 84 replies)
I agree
Got in a mega mess when I was 18, and still paying for it now, 8 years later. Started out with one credit card, then it was loans, more credit cards, store credit. It's a slippery slope is what it is.

Yeah, at 18, you may be a legal adult, but how many 18 year olds are responsible enough to be handed a credit card with a grand on it? Banks make me very angry. Grrrr.

Glad to hear you got out of the debt :)
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 12:34, closed)
Sound advice on the credit
but why should or would they stop people doing that? Not that now is the time to eulogise about the good business sense of banks but I do feel that, from their perspective, if you look at it in the most shallow, short term way it's in their interest to let you do this - they're a business not a charity. By giving you a load of credit and you taking them up on that, they're duping you into giving them 7 years free money, ironically by letting you think that's exactly what they're doing for you. In fact "dupe" is unfair on them because they never even pretended you wouldn't have to pay them back with a vast amount of interest.

Having said that, maybe what recent history shows us is that you're entirely correct and ensuring the ability of the borrower to pay money back at all levels of the economy is ultimately in everyone's interest.

Sorry that was unexpectedly long and boring. I always seem to go to comment on something, realise I'm partly wrong then argue with myself.

*gives up*
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 12:42, closed)
Why should banks behave ethically?
Because everyone should.

(Saying which if someone is in a lot of credit card debt there is a very good chance they are a dick. The banks that lend irresponsibly and the morons who go "yay, free money" are both in the wrong here)
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 13:22, closed)
Oh, dear.
What, exactly, do you mean by "ethically"? They're out to maximise profit. Unless you can give some account along the lines that that's wrong, and why, then there's nothing wrong going on. Indeed, it seems more than likely that there's a moral duty of at least some sort to maximise profits.


EDIT: This is a wider point about the correct use of the word "ethics". You need to provide much more substance. At the moment, you're not saying anything meaningful.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 14:30, closed)
In this case ethically in the sense of not lending money to people who clearly can't afford it.
Which I'd have thought was pretty obvious in context.

So why are you wordwanking?
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 17:53, closed)
PhD in Philosophy mate. He looks at words in a different way to people without serious philosophical training. It isn't wordwanking - it's just a deeper and more critical analysis of the very fundamentals of discussion.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 19:12, closed)
Or, to put it another way...

Having a background in mathematical logic I know about getting the fundamentals right - start with the most basic axioms, and work from there.

In pure maths it's fundamental, but there's a time and a place for it. A discussion of financial responsibility doesn't start "first consider right and wrong" any more than proof of the length of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle doesn't start "consider the empty set".

(Or, to put it another way if you want to have a discussion about "ah, but how do we know it is a fork. Maybe in some other perception system it is money, or a lifeform" then cunt off and stop bothering normal people)
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:17, closed)
But... but... but...
It was you that introduced a baseless claim about ethics (which, I take it, you meant as a claim about rightness).

As for the "other perception"... what the hell are you talking about? Do stop being so silly, eh.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:53, closed)
The shit you talk
It's wrong to lend money to people when you know they can't afford to pay it back and you'll be ruining their lives for the forseeable future.

Could. Not. Be. More Obvious.

Do I need to be using smaller words?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:00, closed)
but you might consider looking at the bigger picture: why is it wrong? ("Because it is" is not an informative answer.) It's not wrong for a business to make money. The seller sells, the consumer has a choice. Caveat emptor and all that.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:40, closed)
No, you don't.
I'm not even disputing whether or not you're correct. I can't do that until you make a clear, moderately supported claim.

Until then, I guess I'll just keep banging my head against the wall.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:20, closed)
I have to say
I agree. Before I go on, I'd like to make it clear that I owe nothing to any bank. Not a bean.

However, if things are deemed illegal by a bunch of men in suits because doing said thing may but other people at risk, then fractional reserve banking should also, by the same definition be illegal as well.

Because someone may not have the skills/judgement NOT to become indebted to bank financially should not automatically give them [the bank] the right to push them into the ground with unethical practices (such as charging 150 quid for going a quid over an overdraft limit, or taking away an agreed overdraft at a moments notice knowing full well that they will 'offer' a loan to help pay it off at a higher rate etc...).

Yes, responsibility should be taken by the individual, but a greater responsibility should be taken by the bank - particularly as bad, unethical practices may (and have) resulted in tax payers - some of which, like myself have chosen to have nothing to do with their entire industry, having to bail them out when eventually the people they lend to simply cannot afford to live at the same time as paying back their loans.

That is where the individual/state argument came from.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 19:02, closed)
You're still smuggling in the word "unethical"
Are the practices wrong because they led to the need for a bail-out, or would they have been wrong anyway, even without any such need? And, either way, why? (We tend to think that society has a role to help individuals who make silly mistakes - why not companies? And is the help for their sake anyway?)
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:30, closed)
Thanks for that.
But it's nothing so fluffy. I just want to be clear about what's being said.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:51, closed)
t may be foolish for people who can't afford it to seek to borrow money.
But that doesn't mean that it's wrong to lend it.

Similarly, it might be foolish to lend money if there's a chance you won't get it back. But that's not an indication of wrongness either.

Whichever way you slice it, though, your hidden assumption is that "ethics" and "rightness" are somehow mutually indicative. They aren't.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:50, closed)
ethics - ethical motive: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong
ethics - the study of right and wrong in conduct.

In what sense are you using the word?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:19, closed)
So, what we need is an account of the right in abstracto - an account that you've failed to provide. Instead, your claim about an actions rightness is unsupported, and seems to be vulnerable to a fairly straightforward counterclaim about duties to maximise profits, not to act paternalistically, and so on.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:23, closed)
So you want me to explicitly say "preying on the vulnerable is a bad thing to do"
OK, there you go.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:40, closed)
At this risk of incurring your wrath
There's two sides to this. The vulnerable and the stupid. Do I want to fleece either? No. Do I secretly applaud others who fleece the vulnerable? No not for a second. Do I secretly applaud those who fleece the stupid? Yes I do.

The OP was from someone who knew he was in debt, knew he would have trouble paying back any more and still went ahead and did it for the sake of some immediate gratification. Not judging him, poor bloke, just using him to make this point. That was, as he readily admits, stupid. We're not talking about a gainfully employed single mother of six struggling to pay the bills here. To that your point would entirely apply, that is a victim and I don't think anyone's going to argue that the fact banks probably would lend her more money than she could afford is reprehensible. Still, that's not going to stop any of us from investing in them is it?

What's rubbed people up the wrong way here is people who knowingly, of their own free will and for frivolous reasons get themselves into this situation, then blame the banks. They are not being preyed upon, they are morons.And to be hones its probably best the banks keep them busy so they're off the streets. And I'm not being that harsh to just anyone who gets into a load of debt even, fine do that its none of my business, just don't blame anyone but yourself if you get into trouble.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:22, closed)
As you put far more concisely in your original post ;)
*accepts things have moved on since then*

*creeps away from ethics argument*
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:47, closed)
*in the words of Enzyme
But but but....

I never said it was the banks 'fault' It totally was mine, as I said further down the page I just said that banks could do more to help.

Yes I'm a cock for getting into debt, but I've sorted it out and learned from my mistakes.

Didn't meant to inadvertently cause a argument.

*runs away because I don't know what some of the big words in this discussion mean.

(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 14:47, closed)
I agreed further down the page ;)
You poor chap. Look what you have created.

I think some of us, myself included, are coming across a bit sanctimonious. I don't think you were a cock for getting into debt, you were a bit silly sure (plus you could have done some better stuff with all the cash :D) but who isn't at one point or another. Sorry I keep using your situation to say people are moronic, it's genuinely not aimed at you

(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 15:34, closed)
Yep - this has drifted somewhat from your OP, hasn't it?

(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 9:36, closed)
If that is true...
... you still need to establish why in such a way as to foreclose counterarguments. You need also to establish that the banks are guilty of it.

Please, feel free.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:23, closed)
If I may anwser that for him...
...then preying on the vunerable:

I once had an email from a middle aged lady who was disabled. She also had two kids, one of which was disabled as well. Her disability developed later in life, before I start an argument about the pros and cons of sterilising disabled people.

Her husband had left and to date has not been tracked down when their second child was born.

She had emailed me from a public library (one of the few still open no doubt) in the middle of winter. She couldn't afford to heat her flat or feed her family. She had half a box of cornflakes, which they were taking turns each day eating.

I know this is looking like a proper sob story, the type of thing the Mail would dish out at this time of year, but bear with me, unlike the Mail this story is true, and I met with her. I received many letters and emails very similar to this, for reasons that I won't go into here.

There was a cock-up with her recieving disibility benefits that she was entitled to; they arrived late. Her gas and electric were both paid for by Direct Debit as on one of them she received a 5% discount for paying this way.

Of course, after being more-or-less forced into recieving these benefits into a bank account she had no control over when payments come in or went out.

She went to the bank to explain that her benefit payment was going to be late and she was told not to worry as it was clear from their records that this money had been going into her account on the same day for a long time.

One of the direct debits bounced. One was paid.

She was charged 39 quid for each. (You can probably work out which bank it was from that too)

Her benefit payments equalled 80 quid a week.

She still had to find the money to pay the DD that was bounced to the company as well.

Bang goes eating and heating for the first week then.

Spoke to the bank. Their answer was to give her an overdraft of 80 quid - very nice of them you might think.

Only, the charges didn't stop there.

Those 39 quid charges were only the tip of the iceberg. She was charged for two DDs bouncing AND going into an unauthorised overdraft (although how such a thing is unauthorised when the bank allowed it to happen is surely an oxymoron). So on top of the 2x39 she was charged another 35 quid, and then an arrangement fee.

This wasn't the end of it by a long shot, but this post is becoming extremely long.

To cut a long story short, she ended up with over 200 quids worth of charges through no fault of her own, and now also an overdraft with interest that would make Vanquis weep.

Now, that, I would say is preying on the vulnerable.

After a while, if I hadn't stepped in and put this situation right, she would have been in a position where the debt was worsening and she would have to have made a choice between paying them back or eating/heating and becoming a 'bad debtor'.

To that end, fractional reserve banking should be stopped. If they could only lend what they have in true reserve, they would need it back and might think twice about putting people in a position where they have to make such a choice.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 19:18, closed)
that isn't really the argument though
The argument isn't about whether it's fair or acceptable, it's about whether it's right. The bank is a business and, as such, is out to make money. If that means that vulnerable people get screwed over then that's pretty horrible, yes, but it doesn't necessarily mean the bank has acted incorrectly.

The questions I'm posing on this thread are not to do with whether or not a bank is being nasty. I'm interested in justification as to why the bank should or shouldn't behave this way - saying "because they shouldn't" does not satisfy my curiosity. Who decides they shouldn't? Why? And if anyone is able to tell me who, then can they also tell me why I have to go along with that?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 20:55, closed)
but it was an answer to the question, "prove banks act immorally" (or words to that effect).

...but in answer to your question:

Banks shouldn't be allowed to do as they please, simply because people who don't even use banks are being punished by way of taxes to pay for their shortcomings, short-sightedness and greed - and that is unfair. It's not right for a business sector to be in a position where their mistakes and greed can affect the lives of millions of people.

If anything that has the potential to cause harm to others is illegal, then this should also be covered.

The people who SHOULD decide are our elected representatives (don't get me started on the illusion of democracy) - just because they didn't/haven't done so, doesn't mean that they have got it right.

The banks here are even worse than the US ones in as much as here, regulations were relaxed allowing them to do pretty much as they please, but with a 'voluntary code of practice', in the US, they were forced into lending to people who they knew couldn't afford it by law (as it would be to discriminate against people to refuse)

Sadly, we are all forced to live in the society we are born into. You pay taxes, and in turn you expect a level of service (fire, police, government etc...)

Unless you live in a tent in a common-land field and live off the land, you have unwittingly agreed to live in that society. In return for that level of service, you agree to abide by laws.

If it were not for the law, would you agree that it's ok to steal an old ladies bag off the bus? Of course not - to take that to the extreme level, anarchy would rule and we'd be back in the stone age.

You could also say the same about immigration and land ownership - who is to say that people just cannot come and go as they please?

You don't have to go along with anything, but I think you'll find it pretty hard not to in this country.

If you agree to live by the rules of 'society' which you have done, then you are expected to live by those rules, and to expect a level of service in return.

Sometimes, one faction doesn't live up to it's end of the bargain.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 7:52, closed)
are you one of thoese people
who wants tobacco banned? Shops sell it and profit from it and it can cause nasty diseases and death, but currently the choice is there for the consumer to purchase it. They may well be vulnerable and addicted to it. Should there be laws preventing it being offered?

So where is the line drawn? How much autonomy should people be given?

It is possible to function without a bank account. It isn't easy, but it's perfectly possible and many people do it.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 9:36, closed)
at all. I don't advocate the banning of anything.

...but if the remit of the government is that anything harmful is banned (as seems to be becoming the case with smoking), then fractional reserve banking must also be covered by the same cloak.

I'm actually extremely libertarian in my views.

Banks should be left to their own devices, however, that said, they should not be able to operate in a cartel. If they operate on their own devices, the market will dictate that they act in a more humanitarian way.

The banks should be regulated so that they are unable to act as a cartel.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:21, closed)
But they are
And they haven't been. There's no cartel here.

And faith in the market relies on consumers who have the time, inclination, information (and ability to process that information) to know the score and make wise decisions. They lack all of these on the whole.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:33, closed)
I don't believe
that there isn't a cartel operating in this instance. I strongly believe that we have a banking cartel.

The fact that those virtues are lacking is evidence even more so that the banks have the upper hand, and therefore the responsibility that goes with it. To exploit people who do not possess the time, etc... to make the informed decisions that they should/could have is, by definition immoral (morals being defined as having a measure of beneficence - i.e. they have to make a decision that is best for their client).
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:39, closed)
That's a very big claim
I simply don't see why proper behaviour has to imply beneficence.

Nor do I see why a bank's first responsibility should be to the client. Legally, the first responsibility is to the shareholders. Morally, too, there's an argument that it ought to be shareholders who are the first concern.

Why on Earth should a company - or individual - be forced to act charitably? In idividuals, that seems supererogatory. In companies, it might well be downright wrong.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:44, closed)
I'm not
asking them to act charitably, but I do ask that they act morally.

If banks HAD acted in a more moralistic way, then they may not have lent money to those than can not afford to pay it back, and in this instance, they may well be still providing profits to their shareholders.

By acting the way they have, you could claim that they have acted in a way that is NOT beneficial to their shareholders and have not upheld that responsibility.

I'm pretty sure a shareholder in a bank does not want that bank to be in a position where it expects the taxpayer to bail them out of certain bankrupcy.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:56, closed)
I do operate without a bank account. It's far more difficult to do than you would imagine. In many respects you are actually punished for choosing not to have a bank account.

My girlfriend is penalised because of my choice as well - she is not allowed a debit card on her bank account because of my lack of credit history, despite the fact that I do very well thank you very much and hence the reason for not ever needing credit. We are financially linked somehow (apparently) according to one of those private firms who somehow have access to records of my financial dealings.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:25, closed)
You can be de-linked.
I expect you know this since you are into this stuff, but there is no reason for her to be liable for your credit history if you do not share debts. It's a matter of asking for the record to be changed.

My boyfriend also has no bank account. He has poor credit history and his earnings are way below the poverty line. I am all too aware of the trade off between eating/heating.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:45, closed)
(again) extremely difficult to be de-linked by all three, it's not simply a matter of 'asking' trust me. Indeed, I actually had to sue one of the bigger 2 before I could get them to agree to my abide by my legal right NOT to have my personal information given out in an automated search.

That, in fact, is another abuse of the system that they themselves set up.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:53, closed)
None of your story is evidence of immorality
It's evidence of something bad happening, but badness isn't sufficient to establish wrongness. There might be a perfectly good explanation for event E, in which case it would no longer be blameable, therefore no longer wrong.

What happened in your anecdote was bad, but it doesn't follow from that that there's any blame to be distributed.

Your claims about social contract baffle me, btw.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 9:40, closed)
I'm not
sure why you are confused.

I'm also not sure why you say that there is no blame to be distributed.

Morals are defined and created by society. To be immoral means to act without 'proper' behaviour.

To recklessly push people into life threatening debt without considering the repercussions is not proper behaviour as defined by the society in which we live, therefore, the way in which banks have operated is, ergo, immoral.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:22, closed)
I'm confused becasue your claims about social contract came from out of nowhere, and seem to have no direct link to the discussion.

I didn't say that there's no blame to be distributed. I said that you have to establish that there is before you can talk about badness equalling wrongness. The mere presence of badness doesn't generate a cause for blame. (When the surgeon leaves a scar, that's bad. It doesn't follow that it's wrong. So badness and blameability, though often related, are separable. The same could well apply here.)

The idea that morality is simply a matter of social fiat has never convinced me; and, again, you're being unrealistically simplistic in your description of the situation. Not all consequences are foreseen or intended.

Indeed - the protagonist of your story may simply be unlucky. After all, we'd expect banks to act dispassionately, wouldn't we? We'd want the same rules to apply to everyone. Now, this may mean that some people get into trouble. But it's practically, and morally, much more problematic to try to come up with different rules and exceptions for everyone. That is: there's no reason to assume that the banks have been reckless with a particular customer, or pushed them into problems intentionally. What seems much more likely is that there's one set of rules, and an open market. That banks don't monitor each and every account and make exceptions ad hoc seems to be completely straightforward.

Just for the record, I'm no lover of the free market. But I do think that if we're going to make a moral claim about the way it operates, it behoves us to get things straight to begin with.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:41, closed)
It seemed
to me that there was an argument leading the way of "who owns land" in as much as "who says I have to abide by the way society is laid out" - that was the point of the social contract argument.

I agree that a set of rules exists and that they are applied equally to every one of their customers - the fact that those rules are very deliberatly designed to push people into debt that they cannot afford, and that those rules are operated by ALL banks (and thus the cartel element) is fighting against morals as defined by the way we live. Morals HAVE been defined, and most arguments on here seem to suggest that they haven't been. To act in a way that is detremental to the whole of society and the banks own customers IS immoral as it breaks with these definitions.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:51, closed)
I still don't know what you mean by social definition. Different members of a society will have different accounts of rightness and wrongness. Talking about what society as a whole thinks is therefore specious - it doesn't think anything, and what its members think is often fractious.

But suppose for the moment that there is an aggregate social view, and that that does determine what morality is. That'd imply that it was wrong to think differently, or for that view to change, since it'd necessarily involve moving away from "the right". It'd also probably be incoherent, since it's possible that public virtues such as wealth rest on private vices. Some things are for the public good - but public goodness isn't much of an incentive for private individuals.

Your accusation that banks are deliberately putting people into debt is huge and unsubstantiated. Another way to view it is that they're selling money in the form of credit, and if people buy credit they can't afford, that's foolish in exactly the same way as is buying a kitchen they can't afford. That's the consumer's problem: you can't blame the seller for that, can you?
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:01, closed)
not unsustantiated.

I have proof, and in fact was involved very heavily with a BBC programme which was aired about a year ago, called "The Whistle Blower".

I have absolute proof that his goes on, and I have circumstantial proof, and two witnesses that an 'unofficial' cartel is operating between the largest 8 banks in the UK with regards to 'price fixing' with charges, insurance etc... Admittely, with this part there is nothing set in stone and nothing that anyone should take seriously, until that proof becomes more solid at least.

These claims are NOT unsubstantiated at all. If they were, do you think the BBC (and Sky News/Five) would have run with the story on national TV? These are corperations/companies that would actually sympathise with the banking industry, yet faced with the proof that I provided STILL went ahead.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:08, closed)
Now we're getting somewhere.

You've gone some way to establishing a factual claim. Nevertheless, that won't tell us anything morally important on its own. There's a huge difference between a fact and a value.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:12, closed)
fact that a national broadcaster ran with the story, despite the fact that the law says it's perfectly acceptable to do as they did, should surely show that society in the main see the way those particular banks acted as imoral?

If 'good' is defined by majority rule that is.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:16, closed)
It's unethical
...as they don't actually have the money to lend.

If they could only lend out money they had in reserve, they wouldn't be quite as free with it and that would ensure that they only lend it to people who can pay it back (for the most part) and then we don't end up with a society where one in four people are paying for the basic nessecities of life (utility bills, water, heat, food etc...) on a credit card, which can only, in turn, ensure that they carry on doing more of the same.

Everyone in society has a moral obligation for the upkeep of that society, and that includes banks. Yes, they are there to make a profit, and profit they can do, without slamming people into the floor at the cost of the whole of our society.

(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:01, closed)
I've not studied economics since I was an undergrad, but I'm sure that the relationship between capital and lending isn't as straightforward as you suggest, and that it needn't be.

Everyone in society has a moral obligation for the upkeep of that society.

Really? Really?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 10:55, closed)
Fractional reserve banking is the problem - simply, they can lend money they don't have. It's even written in law that they can actually lend over and above by a certain % of their wealth (liquid and assets).

Really? Really?

Of course they do, otherwise you end up with this mess we have at the moment, where responsibility is taken from the individual and the state is relied on to sort all ills.

If someone behaves amorally, then it's the fault of the state - apparently; if the state were to butt out and stop telling everyone things like 'Christmas tree baubles may break and hurt you', then people will eventually re-learn to act with a moral concience, not least because the state will no longer be held responsible for the actions of the individual.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 11:13, closed)
I ask this as a genuine question:
what motivation is there for me to have a moral conscience? I fully get the idea that it would all be very nice, co-operative and reciprocal if we all did have some kind of moral obligation to some hazily-defined 'society', but since this is not innate, what underpins the moral duty you describe?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 11:38, closed)
What is the motivation to be good?
Isn't that a bit of a sociopathic question? (Not saying you are a sociopath, just that I'm skipping the answer that most people would take as read)

But for ignoring a sense of right and wrong there is still the carrot and stick:- (Appear to) behave well and generally people will have a higher opinion of you and life will be easier. Behave badly (and get caught) and there is likely to be punishment.

If it works this way most of the time then society forms ... erm, the behavioural equivalent of an evolutionarily stable system, which I can't remember the term for. So the strategy "I'll be quite nice" will generally give a better outcome than "I'll mug grannies".

So - the reason "a society protects itself" is sufficient reason to behave well. There are others.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:15, closed)
Not necessarily.
One might argue that a degree of private vice is a necessary component of public good. (Think of the Borgias.)

You're also running together goodness and rightness, and making a claim about getting caught - which has nothing to do with the moral question.

EDIT: Your last sentence doesn't make any sense at all.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:24, closed)
See where I say "ignoring a sense of right and wrong"
...That's me saying "I think saying you should behave morally can be taking as read. If you don't then there are other reasons to do such. Here's a statistical one".

(Nature has several examples where an organism benefits from altruism. Because under some circumstances the creatures displaying altruistic behaviour have done better than those that didn't.)

I've used goodness and rightness to mean the same thing because, in the context I used them, they do.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:57, closed)
It's clear to anyone who's used the words that there's a huge difference between them. You can't be a Humpty Dumpty and ignore that.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:25, closed)
What do you mean by "moral" here?
I'm not sure that a moral conscience is something that needs motivation. It's incomprehensible that someone should act in a way that they think neither right, good, nor justified. It simply doesn't make sense.

On this basis, I think we're entitled - forced - to think that everyone's actions are based on an account of the good. Of course, some people might misidentify the good, or misatribute goodness to their means of achieving it. But that means we're talking about a false moral belief - motivation has dropped out of the account.

"Moral" doesn't mean nice, cooperative or reciprocal. Why should it?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:21, closed)
I see your point,
if your point is that whatever I chose, I'm choosing it on the basis that I consider it moral, whether it is widely accepted as 'good' or not.

So, bearing in mind that I am not a philosopher and I don't even play one on the Internet - er, what's the point of having a moral obligation if there's no definition of morals?

No, I don't get it. I don't see how how you can make the assumption that everyone acts in a way that is right, good or justified. Sure, they can act in a way that they feel is right, good and justified, but that might conflict with everyone else's ideas of what is right, good or justified, therefore if you can't establish a fundamental definition of what is morally acceptable and what is not, why bother talking about morals at all?

I'm a bit RIS. We don't get to do this sort of shit in computer science.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:31, closed)
The fact that noone can agree on the right thing isn't going to demonstrate that there's not a right answer to be had in principle: "can't agree" in this sense simply means that there's an ongoing dispute, not that its irresolvable. Indeed, if everyone did agree, they might still be wrong - unless you think that morality is simply a matter of consensus. (I don't.)

So how would we resolve the debate? Well, in this case, there'd be a second-level argument - some people might look to the outcomes and hope to be able to say that the world is objectively better or worse for this or that action, or for this or that kind of action (and there's a third-level debate for you...). Others might think that outcomes are irrelevant, and that some things are just right or wrong.

What I meant by my claim about people's actions is pretty much as you say. Imagine the opposite: it doesn't make sense. Not just would we have to imagine someone acting wrongly, but someone acting because it's wrong or admittedly not worth doing. (A terrorist planting a bomb might think his action is wrong, and do it with regret, but think that it will be worth it in the long run. In this case, the dispute is about his beliefs concerning justification. Still, that he thinks his action is justified seems indisputable.)

The point is, I suppose, that talking about this stuff is indicative of a belief that there is an aswer to be had. Were we to abandon that belief, then we'd also have to relinquish a lot else besides - the very idea that people act for a scrutable reason would seem to be in danger. That seems like a very high price to pay.

There are problems with my account - it's hard to see how Hitler could have misidentified the good so radically, for example. But this is a problem that I share with everyone else and every other account, so it doesn't bother me all that much.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:41, closed)
Hang on a tick...
Are you talking about amorality, or immorality? That'll make a difference.

Now, you've moved from a claim about the responsibilities of individuals - on which more anon - to a claim about one about the relationship between the state and the individual. I'm not sure you can run the two together like that. It's not clear why your first claim leads to your second.

Now, about those responsibilities. There's a problem of scaling down - even if we think that social life is a good thing, it doesn't follow from that that the responsibility for its upkeep is anything that falls on any one of us. The most it would seem to be possible to say is that we have an obligation not to set out to fuck things up - but that's pretty trivial. Indifference, in this account, is not all that blameworthy.

Note, too, that "society" is a horribly vague word...
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 12:18, closed)
Both, really.
With power, any power - be it the power an average person has to be able to put food on the family table, or the power of a bank to break a whole economy, comes with resposibility.

I have the responsibilty to make sure my kids don't eat crap food and end up with heart attacks etc...

Banks have the responsibility to make sure they don't break a whole economy and pushing people into life changing debt on the way.

Healthy profits can be made without going about it the way they have.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 16:49, closed)
Ahhh... the power/ responsibility saw.
I don't see it. Power means you can discharge responsibilities more easily, but I don't see how it generates them. So we still have to establish what a person's (or organisations's) responsibilities are. (We'd have to do that anyway...)
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 9:42, closed)
we are talking moral responsibility then normative ethics must apply.

These are defined (by who? Can't remember) as: justice, beneficence anhd fidelity if my memory serves me correctly.

Even if morals are defined as utilitarianism (as is the case with some sociologists) then what we have here is anti-utilitarianism being practiced by the banks on a very large scale, and again, thus, immoral and unethical.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:35, closed)
Oh, dear.
1. Agreeing that we're trying to figure out what the relavent norms are won't tell us anything about the content of those norms. That's what seems to be at issue here, though.
2. Spouting someone's principles isn't going to establish that those principles get things right, or that the person you're citing is correct. Moreover, "justice" can have any number of different and incompatible interpretations. Beneficence seems not to be a criterion of minimal decency (see my post above from a minute ago). Fidelity seems irrelevant.
3. Utilitarianism is not opposed to the use of principles. Adherence to principles presupposes a substantive account of morality that might be utilitarian or might be non-utilitarian. There's an argument to be had here - that's what normative ethics is, at least partly, about. (I take "normative ethics" to be distinct from metaethics, which deals with values fit into the world, and applied ethics, which is about the application of principles. Normative ethics is about what those principles ought to be.)
4. I don't see what utilitarianism has to do with sociology, any more than it has anything to do with chemistry. (Except that chemistry says interesting things...)
5. Being non-utilitarain is not the same as being immoral. I'm anti-utilitarian by instinct - for the record, I'm somewhere between Aristotle and Kant. I think that utilitarianism gets morality wrong. But, whatever one thinks along these lines, there's an argument to be had, and a position to defend. A normative ethical claim has no substance: it's no more moral or immoral than is a claim in the natural sciences.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 10:53, closed)
I'm not
sure the 'oh dear' is in order.

You continually ask what morals are and where they are defined. I gave you an answer as to where people have attempted to define morals and ethics.

You, in turn have not given me any reason to doubt their reasoning, but at least I have attempted to give you a definitive answer.

Fidelity may well be irrelevent in this arguement, however, I'm pretty sure that the three as defined by whomever it was, were not mutually exclusive.

In short, having morals IS the difference between right and wrong, and what that society as a whole believes right and wrong to be.
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:01, closed)
An attempt to define a moral code isn't the same as doing so successfully. The principles you've outlined here strike me as woefully inadequate. There doesn't seem to be any reasoning to doubt.

And you're just wrong about societal beliefs being the final word on matters of right and wrong, as I pointed out above. There's no way at all that that claim could be correct.

Right. I'm going home. My freelance consultancy fee is about £170 an hour, by the way. I might set up a PayPal account on the way out...

(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:06, closed)
like most consultants - charge a hefty price for providing big words and very little sustance.

(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:10, closed)
I'm happy to talk substance once the ground as been cleared.

I'm still trying to get rid of the rubble.

And I don't get much freelance work. :(
(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:14, closed)
you know I'm only jesting, right?

(, Wed 24 Dec 2008, 11:26, closed)
Sorry dude
But it really hacks me off when people blame the banks for letting them get into debt. You are a grown up after all and the easiest way not to get into debt is to not spend more than you have. Pretty simple really.

Blaming the banks for this is a bit like fat people blaming Tescos for putting all those lovely chocolate cakes on the shelf.

Too many people these days love to shift the responsibility onto others, rather than taking it. All credit to you for paying off the debt, but you are only one who is to blame, in my opinion.

*steps off soap box*
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 13:01, closed)
I have to agree.
No offence and all that - well done for getting out of debt but...

I am 19 years old, I have four credit cards and i use them just for conveniance, i.e if I want this before pay-day i will use my card and pay it off on payday. In the 3 years i have had cards I've never incurred interest. It's just about how strong your self control is.

(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 13:45, closed)
That's how I started out...
But as you may notice the question of the week was about addiction, which as the dictionary describes as:
the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

Anyway, well done on the card no interest thing but you may find in the future that you're a bad credit risk because you aren't making the banks any money..:


Credit card companies may reject you for always repaying cards in full.

While you feel like the perfect punter, for credit card companies you’re a nightmare. If they can spot this trend, you’re likely to be rejected. The most profitable credit card customers are those who are perpetually in debt, never defaulting, but always managing to meet the minimum repayment.

Pay off in full every month, don’t use cards enough, or always shift debt to 0% cards, and if they can spot you, they may reject you.

From: www.moneysavingexpert.com/banking/credit-rating-credit-score
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 16:30, closed)
I totally agree that
I was stupid and out of control.

But look at it a different way:

You let your mate drive your car all the time then one day he gets pissed and dents it...

Do you lend it to him again?

It's technically his fault for doing the deed but you're the one who put the keys in his hand.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 14:18, closed)
if you profit from him denting your car,
then yes - lend it to him again. And again. And again. Banks are businesses.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 14:19, closed)
But they didn't (ish) they may have made money the first time around, but the second time they had to freeze the interest so they won't have made much.

At the end of the day I could have been worse by going bankrupt but fair's fair!
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 15:39, closed)
I agree with this
This is not a good analogy as you would not normally profit from your mate smashing up your car. By your own admission, your bank has done well out of you.

Banks have an obligation to their share-holders to maximise profit, not to their customers. The only thing banks have done wrong here is to push the situation so far that they have started losing money. In this sense, they have wronged their shareholders, not the people they lent too much money too. Obviously we have all been indirectly affected now as the government has had to bail them out with our cash.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 15:48, closed)
I'm going to bail out now....
I'm in a lose lose situation, either I'm at fault for getting myself in debt (true and I admitted it)

and/or I'm totally at fault that the banks got bailed out by the government/you/us.

Happy fucking Christmas!
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 15:53, closed)
Ah dude!
Don't be like that. Yes you were at fault but you admitted it and sorted it out and good on you. That makes you the hero, at least you didn't bail. People just don't get why you go that far, dig yourself out of the myre and kinda half blame someone else for putting you there - that's usually the attitude of the people that bail!

Plus its an interesting argument for us bored types ;)
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 15:59, closed)
And most definitely not your mates
If we alter the analagy to fit the situation you (the bank) are a greedy stranger lending out fleets of cars to hundreds of strangers for a ton of cash. Occasionally one of them gets pissed and dents one of them and you lose a bit of income on that car for a bit, whilst rolling in the cash you're still generating from all the other cars that are being driven fine. You still get tons of cash and some schmuck you don't know got hurt in a car crash - where's the downside for you?

Ethics, morality etc. only come into it insofar as the banks are required to comply with the law and whatever other rules the FSA or whoever lays out for them (that's their "ethics" right there. Man.). Any action that furthers their goal, to make as much money for investors as possible, and doesn't contradict the rules they are bound by is kind of a no brainer as I see it.

What's interesting though is that responsible lending, as it turns out, would have been in their interests all along, in the long term. So maybe the rules do need to be re-written after all - not to protect frivolous borrowers, but the economy, the rest of us and the banks themselves. So however irrelevant this is or isn't to them as a moral, ethical or legal issue, looks like its an important business issue.

Would I see the situation the same if I were lending you money? No. I am an individual with the capacity for pity and the ability to make a judgement on whether my conscience can bear the weight of your misery, not the faceless hive-mind of a Corporation.

Essay over. Good thing is, you're not the bloke who dented the car - you sorted yourself out and paid all the money back, learned from your mistake and won't do it again. Given that I think I just find it strange that you don't accept 100% of the blame (though I appreciate it has a lot to do with wishing there was something to prevent others getting into the same situation).
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 15:54, closed)

Although I didn't say at any point that it wasn't my fault entirely, I just said that banks could do more to help.

(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 16:14, closed)
Aye twould be good
I don't think anyone with the ability to empathise would argue with that (with the exception of big stakeholders ;]). But let's face it, even if it is now demonstrably in their business interests to lend responsibly, if they can find what they think is a way to push on the same that is risk-free to them, they will.
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 16:34, closed)
Very well put
You are right that the bank's irresponsible lending has actually screwed all of us, including them. The fault probably lies with the bodies that set the rules in which banks can work. They should have forseen this issue and stopped it happening.

On the subject of blame from an individual's point of view, I think that there is one more thing to consider here and that is how much of people's over-spending could be put down to an addiction and a result of things that may not be their fault (such as depression). For example, my sister got into shed loads of debt and ended up bankrupt. I am sure that part of her over-spending was down to her being depressed (she was and still is). I always feel better when buying stuff (don't we all) so maybe this was a just a symptom of her illness.

I am not one of those people who has an addictive personality. I have never smoked, don't drink all that much etc, so it easy for me to say, just don't spend. Maybe it isn't as simple as that for many people.

The government protects us from ourselves in a number of ways so maybe this is one more things they should protects us from.

Can you tell that I am very bored and just waiting for Christmas to start?
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 16:25, closed)
Heh, me too.
Poor old kipper has to bear the brunt of our boredom.

I think its a societal thing. We do all feel better buying stuff because essentially the meaning of life in this country for a lot of people is to amass as much stuff as possible. That sounds really cynical and like I feel I have some higher purpose, but its not quite what I mean. Some "stuff" is important on a higher than material level, e.g. arguably the better your hi-fi equipment the more transcendent your musical experience (ignoring the whole "culture industry" thing for the moment). So its not to say that the pursuit of better possessions of any kind is a bad thing or something that I sneer at, excepting perhaps that pursuit as an end in itself.

I definitely have an addictive personality and readily admit, that whilst I have no time for "status symbols", designer clothes, whatever, I'm as much a sucker for cool stuff of varying kinds as the next person. My circumstances just meant I've never fallen into this particular trap (parents in debt - never went there! Also lucky enough never have had to NEED to get in debt, touch wood). My addictions are emotional. And food. 2 years of not being overweight any more and counting!! :D
(, Mon 22 Dec 2008, 16:45, closed)
"Ethics, morality etc. only come into it insofar as the banks are required to comply with the law"
So the law is the arbiter of ethics?

You really think that?
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 11:09, closed)
Not in the way I conduct myself
but in the way I expect big business to act when I'm dealing with it. I'm playing bank devil's advocate here. The law and professional codes of conduct are the only things there to regulate how banks conduct themselves because at the end of the day no one person is really taking personal responsibility for their actions. A bank doesn't have a conscience. It has the law and subsidiary rules that are laid down for it to abide by to protect the people it is dealing with and, it seems, everyone else. Leaving the philosophical complexities of conscience aside for today, if you don't have one morals and ethics are meaningless. You need the explicit rules and penalties.

If customers need added protection that's where it needs to come from - explicit rules. Yes of course everyone SHOULD act ethically, everyone should act morally. But we realised that particular paradigm for society wasn't working out way back sometime BC - they don't, and they never will, not everyone, not anyone (to varying to degrees) if you ask me, part of the reason being everyone's varying definition of ethical and moral standards and/or willingness to abide by even their own. Hence the law.

Beyond this you rely on the kindness and conscience of individuals, but is the loan manager going to jeapordise his job by going against policy and turning down a loan application from a desperate family who need something to keep the electricity going next month but he knows will ultimately default (a moral dilemma in itself)? Will you and I take the decision to stop investing in banks that have unethical loaning practices by our own standards when that means that we can't have a bank account with anyone (and therefore find life very difficult)?

I could be way out of line here, but that's how I see it today :)

For myself, I like to think that when I choose not to take advantage of someone (were it legal for me to do so) it's because I'm highly empathic and understand the hurt I might cause them if I do so. That's my ethics right there - do unto others... But the making of money is not my raison d'etre.

Bringing it back home, whilst I wouldn't personally loan money to someone I knew would have terrible trouble paying it back, whilst fleecing them of a load more, I still think that anyone who borrows money from a bank does so entirely of their own free will and is entirely responsible for having done so. The suggestion that they weren't is entirely analagous, as someone else said, with the fat person suing McDonalds and is everything that is wrong with the world.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:02, closed)
You're all bastards!! I'm sitting here still not dressed when I was supposed to go to pick up meat about 3 hours ago. Damn your stimulating ways
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:37, closed)
It's tricky.
I haven't done any work since February 2007.
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:39, closed)
- Safari
- Quit safari
(, Tue 23 Dec 2008, 13:48, closed)

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