Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Three in a row
The search for exemplary ideas or the struggle for exemplary behavior: what should take precedence?
Nigel Warburton: So do you think that individuals have any responsibility to redistribute their own wealth when they are benefactors of genetics and good behavior that's resulted in them being richer than other people?
Cohen: Yes I do think that but I also think a person's not a hypocrite if he votes for a government that is going to take away say 30 percent of his income but doesn't volunteer that 30 percent. It's human and natural that it's easier to give away your 30 percent when everybody else is having to give away their 30 percent by law. It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms.

Warburton: We're sitting in All Souls College in Oxford; it's a very plush room. You have servants effectively coming to look after you; you have meals laid on. Now that for many people is an incredible luxury. Some people would say, if you're a real egalitarian you shouldn't wait to be taxed.

G.A. Cohen: The basic question is, if you have a salary -I don't want to say exactly what my salary is but obviously it's maybe two, three times the average wage in the society- and you don't believe that you ought to get all that, which I don't. Then you believe that you ought to sacrifice quite a lot of it which I don't -I give away some but not very much- and the explanation is that I'm a less good person than I would be if I were as good as I could be. You know I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all. That's the reconciliation.
"...a person's not a hypocrite if he votes for a government that is going to take away, say 30 percent of his income but doesn't volunteer that 30 percent."

"I just think that I'm not a morally exemplary person that's all."

I've transcribed the entire interview. G.A. Cohen now has his own tag.

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