Are First World Problems Justified?


One thing that often happens in debates I’ve seen is when someone points out a problem with the world, another answers that there is something worse.

Depending on its context, this is the fallacy of relative privation:

A well-known example of this fallacy is the response “but there are children starving in Africa,” with the implication that any issue less serious than that is not worthy of discussion; or the common saying “I used to lament having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

On one hand, you’re giving attention to a bigger problem, but on the other, you’re derailing the discussion from the current one. To one extreme, we should only be concerned with the absolute core problems of humanity such as poverty, and to the other, we could be perfectly content with giving significant attention to first world problems. How much moral obligation must you have to problems outside your circle?

I’m interested in what people’s opinions are on this problem.

2 thoughts on “Are First World Problems Justified?

  1. I think it’s silly to dismiss problems on the basis there exists another worse problem out there. To me it’s analogous to dismissing someone’s accomplishment on the basis other people have accomplished much more. I think a lot of what into deciding whether or not a problem warrants further discussion are the moral / philosophical principles in play. People complaining about having slow Internet access to regional monopolies may sound trivial, but I think it’s important. It paints the familiar picture of big businesses screwing the common man.

    Now when other people go and complain about issues like not knowing which pair of shoes to wear since they have so many, then most people wouldn’t consider that a ‘problem’. When you go and post something like that you subject yourself to comedic mockery and criticism. For one reason or another #firstworldproblems is a popular response.

    I think awareness of humanity’s core problems is important, but I wouldn’t go far as to say every individual is morally obligated to help with the problem. That role seems more appropriate for governments and world organizations. Individuals could be expected to play an indirect role such as paying some sort of tax, but some may argue why they should pay to help fix problems which aren’t directly applicable to them. Though I’d say they already do it when they pay taxes in general, since not every dollar goes to something which has direct application to them.


  2. I don’t care about Africans, starving or otherwise. Or Indians. Or (fill in the blank).

    I care about my own people: productive, intelligent, competitive, altruistic. The people who have created the lifestyle to which EVERYONE on this planet aspires, which EVERYONE wants.

    But not everyone is equipped to play in that system. Some people are simply too lazy, too stupid, and too violent to participate. We shouldn’t be pandering to them and destroying excellence, order, public health, etc., in the process.

    I already pay tons of taxes and have had enormous segments of my productivity bled off in my working life, so that the low IQ segments of humanity can be kept from failing (which some social worker or politician or preacher or rich philanthropist pumps themselves up).

    I would much rather support two-plus-sigma humans, because those are rare. Starving African babies are being pumped out by the thousands every hour. It isn’t rocket science, it’s what happens when a horny male squirts a gamete into the region where a female gamete resides. Considerably more is required to produce both a math major and the society where he can be raised, trained, and put to creative ends.

    Poverty is a function of IQ, or more accurately of g, general intelligence. This is a genomic fact. IQ/g is highly heritable and not subject to outside influences.

    Thus no amount of money can save the stupid and degenerate from themselves. It’s terribly sad, and in my view the most humane thing we can do is stop incentivizing the breeding of more low-g humans. In my own nation, the US, that means no welfare after the first kid, no welfare after the first year, unless one is in a program to pay it back. Everyone contributes. And nobody gets a free ride for knowing how to have sex that turns into babies.

    But politicians have created voter demographics (e.g.–urban blacks for the Democrats, illegal immigrants for the Republicans) to win elections without the larger context in mind. Not that most politicians have big enough brains to think larger…. The more these low-IQ voters elect their own people to Congress and local offices, the more they vote for programs that appeal to the unproductive, the stupid, the dregs.


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