Political Morality: Three Kids and One Big Cookie

Political Immorality
Political Immorality

Political morality is simply about sharing power; or, in the case of political immorality, NOT sharing power, i.e. domination by a privileged few.

We are born with a sense of justice, or fairness, as shown by the fact that as soon as we can string a sentence together, we are heard to say, “That’s not fair.” Interestingly, no one actually denies that we should be fair. Instead, the unfair argue that in this case, they ARE being fair in some way. For example, it is not fair that a secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than a billionaire, but the billionaire may say that it is fair because he is the Job Creator and as Creator he should be afforded certain privileges.

Here is a thought experiment: three kids and one big cookie. The kid who found the cookie wants to eat it. The other two kids would also like some cookie. If you prioritize private property over human beings (the Anglo American default position) then the kid who found the cookie gets to eat it all. He discovered it, so it is his. If you view resources as the common possession of all, then you would say that Mom (or Mother Earth in the case of natural resources) actually made the cookie and she made it for all of her children.

If Mom actually hears all this squabbling, she will intervene and say, “Share.” Moms say this a lot to toddlers, many of whom grow up and forget what Mom taught them. But how to share?

Ron Paul Libertarians say forget that sentimental stuff about Mom, put the cookie in a bunker and defend it with your second amendment fire power. Certain conservatives say do not share with the other two kids, lest they become dependent on your cookie discoveries. Certain other conservatives say if those other two kids weren’t lazy moochers, they would go out and find their own cookie. The kid who discovered it should get it all, or why would he ever want to look for cookies again? Then nobody would have any cookies.

Thatcherism says there is no such thing as a family of kids at all, just individual kids and There Is No Alternative (TINA) to just letting them duke it out. Reaganism says let the first kid eat the cookie and crumbs will trickle down to the other two.

Jeremy Bentham says follow the greatest good for the greatest number. Sound good? You might think Bentham would agree with Mom and say “Share” but no, he would whip out a chalkboard and do elaborate equations to find the ephemeral and illusory Greater Good, which would end up, for some bizarre reason, favoring the already powerful.

Thomas Malthus had a solution, and it is the same solution taken up by some environmentalists. One big cookie and three kids? There are obviously too many kids! If you let the two without cookies die of starvation-voila! Problem solved.

Emmanuel Kant says you are obliged to do the right thing. No if, ands, buts or bulls**t rationalizations. People are not to be used or abused. Jesus says treat those other two kids as you would want to be treated. John Rawls says imagine you are any one of the three kids and divide the cookie accordingly.

This situation actually arose in my family once and I tried what someone had recommended. I gave the discovering kid a butter knife and told him to cut up the cookie and he would get the last piece. No surgeon has ever labored over precision cuts harder than that child; no audience at a surgical procedure was ever more attentive. They all got a pretty dang precise one-third of the cookie and they were all happy, the discoverer because he was in charge of the cutting and the youngest because she got the first choice of the cookie parts.

To achieve moral solutions, we will have to yell, “That’s not fair,” when the situation is not fair. Otherwise .01 percent of the kids will run off with all the cookies and grow into bloated brats while the other kids grow thinner and fade away.


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