Vislor Turlough wrote:Our hominid ancestors cared for their young not in response to any socialised ideals (love et al) but in obedience to the genetically hard-wired imperative to perpetuate the species.
I don't think we necessarily disagree here. For our welfare, we are dependant on a complex, highly specialized economy, which functions because of the rule of law. The rule of law is accepted because of the social contract, which says we
and our families will be better off if we all participate. (Consider that policemen and enlisted soldiers, the strongest individuals in our society, don't make much money, nor do they have glamorous career prospects. Yet, instead of beating unarmed, unathletic IT guys like myself up for their lunch money, they instead put their lives on the line for my safety.)
When enough people feel the social contract sucks, the law falls apart, corruption thrives, and eventually, revolution. Hence the justification for democracy, which is an attempt by the strong to prevent the weak from ganging up on them and rolling out the guillotine.
Vislor Turlough wrote:Put it another way: fairness is the price we pay for the advancement of our own interests. Once it was with our eye on a mammoth stake; now we have our eye on a fatter pay-check.
Ha, and by mentioning the fatter
pay check, you've put your finger on the sore spot. So much of our economic activity is aimed not at surviving and thriving, but at keeping up with the Joneses. This makes me suspicious of those who, living in first world countries, claim to be poor (what they mean is that they have a low social status, that they feel socially excluded by the tribe. Heartbreaking perhaps, but 'poor' in Western societies means nothing compared to the familiar statistics of the billion people surviving on less than a dollar a day).
But by the same logic, I have no time for Howard Roarks who feel that this social contract nonsense is getting in the way of their ... competing with the Joneses. Without the social contract they'd be competing with the Joneses' subsistence farm.
If you'll excuse me for wearing out your patience, let me get to my main point.
If you see the struggle between left and right as periodical re-negotiation of the social contract, the political struggles in every society seem far less threatening for their impact, but far more threatening for their myopia.First example
: The economic ascent of China and India means that the spending power of Sandeep the programmer in Hyderabad is fast converging with mine. It als means that the spending power of Mary the cleaning lady in Birmingham is fast converging with that of Mei Ling the cleaning lady in Shenzen. This isn't wingnut left-wing economic theory, this is fairly simple mainstream economics.
In the past thirty years, we've seen a dramatic increase in our ability to buy cheap stuff from China (an iPhone, fully produced, not just assembled in a first-world country, would probably cost upwards of $2000). In the next thirty years, this advantage is going to disappear again for the bottom 50% of the labour pool. No more cheap electronics for them, no more cheap clothes. This the kind of social change that facilitates the ascent of sunglasses-wearing leaders in white dress uniforms. Am I really supposed to be worried about unfair distribution of tax money now
: A more familiar one. Oil. Even if we switch to nuclear at a really fast pace, it's unlikely that we'll be able to catch up even to the demand currently filled by oil. Energy fuels an enormous part of our economic growth, and nobody disputes that oil is running out. Yet nobody seems to be worried about this.
We're like a society of hunter-gatherers, very good at killing mammoths and fighting over the spoils, but utterly uninterested in storing and curing meat for the coming winter. And this, more than anything else, is why I am so contemptuous of the myth of unfairness.