Thursday, June 16, 2011

Humanist Article and Political Reasoning

In general, I would consider myself a humanist. I generally think that humans need to uphold to ethics, reason and justice. I also don't believe in supernatural things such as ghosts and other pseudo-sciences. Tonight I was at the library and discovered a magazine dedicated to humanist reasoning. While there was a lot of things that I like about the magazine, there was several articles in the most recent publication that attempted to provide a humanist examination of "social justice." As I figured, the reasoning of the article generally followed what I would call a typical Americanized liberal view of the topic ( There are several things that I think are incorrect about the reasoning used in the article that I would like to talk about here.
In the article, the author compares life to a race. The author says "So while the racetrack may look nice and shiny, the runners don’t begin at the same starting point." The purpose of this sentence to provide reasoning for why a libertarian philosophy would not work. They are saying that because we don't start out equal, a "free market" system will not work. Namit Arora makes her definitive and conclusive by saying "In Rawlsian terms, the problem in the United States is not that a minority has grown super rich, but that for decades now, it has done so to the detriment of the lower social classes." However, I have several problems with this.
First, life is not a race. One person's victory is not another person's loss. Life is not a zero sum game. So, the fact that some people start out with some "advantages," such as a higher intelligence or wealth level, does not mean that this distracts from the abilities of others. For example, does Bill Gate's immense wealth make me any less wealthy? No, in fact the products that his company provide makes my life significantly better of. So, the wealth of Bill Gates was created by making me better of. Again, the fallacy of Namit Arora's argument is the assumption that wealth in life is some type of zero sum game, where the wealthy's success, even if unearned, has somehow come at the expense of the poor, or some other group.
Secondly, lets assume that Namit Arora is correct and wealth is in fact a zero sum game. What options does that provide us? Sure, people that are smarter, or have parents that are wealthy, will start off with some advantages. But this point just begins the discussion. Experiences throughout history has shown that inequalities are a fact of life. No matter what system we have, some will have advantages because of the way they look, or their level of intelligence. At the same time, some will have power over others, in a capitalist system it may be people with more money. In socialist, or communist, systems it is the people with political power and social connections. There will always be people with more power over others, and ultimately systems that attempt to eliminate disparities in power are ultimately self defeating, as it requires some to have a significant amount of power to distribute power in a "fair" way.

1 comment:

  1. What's kind of funny is that unions have unintentionally done more to reduce inequality than any intentional effort by government...The Dialectic of Unintended Consequences.

    So what do you think would happen if taxpayers were allowed to directly allocate their taxes? Would the result be so good or no good?