Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby
By the gods, almost every day I find myself confused trying to understand the problems you moderns face. The wise country of New Zealand recently announced that students will receive a free year of university education. This, to me, is a triumph of modern society. To be able to offer its people free education surely is the sign of a successful country. But people are complaining about it. People think this is a big problem. Why? Because the free education will be paid for by the government, which means it is made possible through taxation. And many people don’t want to be paying for other people’s education. They think people who want an education should pay for it themselves.
Let us represent the argument:
P1. (premise) If Fred wants something that costs money, Fred should pay for it
P2. (premise) Fred wants an education
P3. (premise) An education costs money
C. (conclusion) Therefore, Fred should pay for his education
In my usual style I questioned someone about this. I asked if premise #1 means that people should no longer receive the Christmas gifts they want. Good readers, I am sometimes astounded at the responses I receive from such questions. There is much anger in people. I wonder if anger is a symptom of the society in which we happen to live. I wonder if a more educated society might be a less angry society.I asked another group of people if they wanted to live in a good and happy society. With the common sense I expected, they replied in the affirmative. Of course they do. I then asked if they think improving the level of education in society would help make society better. They said yes and gave a number of reasons. For example, they think improved education leads to improved understanding of science and technology, which leads to improved health and happiness, which leads to a good and happy society.
My next question sought to clarify their position. I asked if, based on what they had said, they would want to live in an educated society. Unsurprisingly, they said yes. So I decided to plug their desire into the argument above:
P1. (premise) If I want something that costs money, I should pay for it
P2. (premise) I want to live in an educated society
P3. (premise) An educated society costs money
C1. (conclusion) Therefore, I should pay to live in an educated society (from P1, P2, P3)
I then extended the argument:
P4. (premise) If I should pay to live in an educated society, a portion of my tax should contribute to making society more educated
C2. (conclusion) Therefore, a portion of my tax should contribute to making society more educated (from C1, P4)
P5. (premise) The process by which tax contributes to making society more educated is known as providing free education to students
C3. (conclusion) Therefore I should contribute to providing free education to students (from C2, P5)
Perhaps unsurprisingly my deduction was received with scorn and anger. I am unsure whether this is because people don’t like having the tension in their opposing beliefs exposed or whether they don’t like the way I dress.