In the gym, a guy was asked why he worked out and his reply was “so that I can drink more”. The funny thing is, it makes a lot of (common) sense, doesn’t it?
There’s a whole offsetting industry built around the idea that (environmental) harm or damage in one area can be offset or paid off in another (e.g. ETS). Do you want to pollute (this planet) then simply buy some (carbon) credits and all is well (and forgiven).
You don’t want to pay your workers enough to live off and raise a family? Don’t worry; the Government will offset your Scrooge behaviour with tax credits and WFF.
The uber-rich appear to pat themselves on the back for their generosity and philanthropy hoping or even believing that this somehow offsets the humongous inequality gap that they helped creating and maintaining at all cost. Coincidentally, money can offset much bad behaviour, all the way to the justice system, or the Tax Office.
Let’s tax the hell out of them, that’ll fix it! The more they earn, or the wealthier they are, the more we’ll tax them. Redistribution will cure inequality; treat the symptom, but not the cause.
Tax cuts for the rich, you say? A marvellous idea, old chap, but it’ll need to be offset with a rise in the GST rate to be fiscally neutral. Don’t worry about the poor; we’ll offset it by a rise in the minimum wage and a token increase in benefits with a few more new allowances for good form.
Whole books have been written about the moral-religious question whether a good deed offsets bad behaviour (e.g. a sin). From a more pragmatic perspective, it may be more useful to think in terms of intended and unintended consequences.
If it is unavoidable, because it has already happened or because it is inevitable, certain actions could offset the unintended consequences to re-balance, repair or correct the harm inflicted. Usually, the scales are not tipped back to the old equilibrium; that’s life, they say …
On the other hand, when unintended consequences are entirely avoidable, the excuse of being able to offset the harmful behaviour doesn’t wash. The only right thing to do, in terms of intended consequences, is to avoid harm in the first place. We also know this as “prevention is the best cure” or the medical (ethical) principle “do no harm”, for example.
Why continue (with) a socio-economic and political system (or paradigm, if you like) that knowingly and willingly produces unintended consequences, on the one hand, and invents all sorts of ingenious (read: complex and complicated) measures to partially (at the best of times) offset these, on the other hand? Is this a form of madness? Or some kind of sado-masochistic club or cult where you can’t check out any time you like let alone leave alive?
Are we unable to change because it is some kind of self-referential and self-reinforcing system (think: the Matrix)? I don’t think so. The fact that we’re mesmerised by offsetting prevents us from taking real action and treating the root cause of the disease that’s killing humankind and this planet for that matter.
Every journey begins with waking up, getting up, and then a single step (unless you’re a sleepwalker). Most people don’t want to wake up and they hit the snooze button as fast as they can to return to and stay as long as they can in La-La land where everything is perfectly offset and nothing bad ever happens. I could get upset about this but maybe I’ll just have a drink instead and watch one of those new shows on Netflix before going to bed; tomorrow is another day … [must remember to set the alarm]