In Should socialists smoke good cigars? (1932), Bertrand Russell considers whether it is unethical to consume more than one’s share, if everything ought to be divided equally. Many would perhaps admit that it is unethical, but defy the principle anyway. However, Russell suggests it is not so clear.
If it were unethical to consume more than an equal share of the world’s income, then in order to live ethically, one would need to make do with about $10,000 per year. For many of those living in industrialized countries, this would be plainly impossible. So, if the principle holds, we’re left with the result that the majority of people in such countries are living unethically, and perhaps cannot do otherwise, including many of the very poorest in these countries.
Try to advocate for a more equitable world on that platform.
David Shaftel tries as he might in his Brunch is for Jerks, writing:
There’s something more malevolent at work than simply the proliferation of Hollandaise sauce that I suspect comes from a packet. Brunch has become the most visible symptom of a demographic shift that has taken place in our neighborhood and others like it. As rents have gone up, our area has become unaffordable to much of the middle class, and to young families who want more than two bedrooms — or can’t even afford one.
This leaves an increasing number of well-off young professionals who are unencumbered by children — exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch. Our once diverse neighborhood now brims with the homogeneity of an elite university.
Shaftel shows his concern for social justice by chastising those who have the resources to eat breakfast foods at lunchtime hours. Inequity is captured best by the endless stacks of starch and sugar that the Fortunate consume.
However, it would be a mistake to insist that Shaftel’s disdain for pleasure is primarily motivated by his concern for social justice. He’s actually just feeling a little old:
For me, having a child — and perhaps the introspection that comes with turning 40 — made me realize what most vexes me about brunch: Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture1.
So before you eat brunch, if you won’t think of the poor, think of the children.
- If anything shows that one is of the people, it’s a reference to some controversy in the New York art world. ↩