The Outcome Fetish: Examining the Left.

I maintain the view that leftism, as defined by social liberalism, progressivism, socialism and communism, are more concerned with outcome than opportunity, where the right doesn’t care much about outcome at all, and would cease to use it as a proof of in-opportunity. For the right, as defined by conservatism, classical liberalism, libertarianism and protectionism, inequality is a part of life so long as no inequity has taken place.

Equality, and Egalitarianism.

I used to see egalitarianism only in terms of base equality of opportunity. It is not a bad thing in my mind that there are rich and there are poor, nor is it a bad thing that some are better off than others; so long as that richness is achieved and that poorness is achieved, and so long as one did not create the other. However, I have recently been told that this belief makes me un-egalitarian. I have been told that an egalitarian speaks in terms of distributive equality, backed up by questions used to define this ideology; “Are all persons of equal moral worth? Is variation in income and wealth just?” My answer is no, and “it depends”. Certainly morality should not be tied to conversations of wealth, not because wealth is immoral, but because it has nothing to do with it; wealth is a means of survival and the acquisition of luxury, am I moral or immoral for owning a television? Am I moral or immoral for starving to death or binge-eating? There is no moral action involved.

I think the left has taken this term hostage, and uses it to justify a redistribution of outcome. And I will explain, in simple terms, why outcome is irrelevant; If I get an A in an exam, and you get a C, has inequity taken place? Is it fair to say that because I have a better upbringing, on discipline and hard work, and because I have a more stable home life, that my A is undeserved, and that too, your lack of these things makes your C undeserved? Should the solution be to give us both Bs? No, because we took the same test, with the same examiner, with the same teacher, and with the same textbook. Or what if we had the same upbringing? Would we both receive As, or is there a disparity in intelligence or enthusiasm or memory?

It is the right that asks these questions, it is the left that assumes if one person received an A, and the other a C, then injustice must have taken place.

Priority.

Prioritarianism, a subset of utilitarianism, is originally defined that “benefiting people matters more the worse off these people are.” A base interpretation of which would imply that anyone in society that is seen as “worse off” should be paid special attention to, although some modern prioritarians have interpreted this as being more about the value of the benefit itself. I would argue that it is exactly the base interpretation the left has adopted (and maybe adopted falsely). It is this argument that is used to justify welfare states and socialised healthcare. Ironically of course both of these hurt the people who are  worst off, but unintentionally (from the welfare cliff to a demand-pull as people who can afford healthcare unnecessarily drain the resources).

On this, the progressive movement falls into identity politics, on “marginalised” people, a term which implies motive when is really only used to mean “minority” characteristics, and they assume that because of these characteristics, whether black, or disabled, or trans, or gay, or Muslim, or women (even though that is not a minority group), these people are worse off in society and therefore must be protected. More moderate, social liberals however fall into a similar trap of collectivism only on an economic level. They use wealth as a measurement of need, if you do not have money, by definition you “need” it, and if you do, by definition, you don’t “need” it (while all the while claiming there is more to life than money). Well that isn’t true for one reason, and it wouldn’t matter if it was for another. First, it depends entirely on what people spend their money on, a rich man may need money to start a business (which may require more than he has, although he would still be considered rich), and needs to make money from that business in order to sustain the investment, to avoid losing money – or perhaps to appeal to the humanitarians reading this, he needs money for a certain cause. Equally, a poor man may not need money if he spends it unnecessarily, also he may not be looking to make money but just to live within his means – this brings us to the reason why it wouldn’t matter either way. It will never be true on a collective level that those who need money should be given it, nor those who don’t need money should be impeded from earning more; this is because for some people earning your money is important (and living within your means), for others the opportunity to have more money can work as an incentive.

Take corporations for example, the corporation tax is designed and morally defended because, as a recent panel on BBC question time discussed, “why should the rich be getting richer?” What is not understood is that repealing or lowering tax on businesses and corporations incentivises them to invest in that country, to do more business in that country, which ultimately trickles down with job opportunities and lower prices (because the supply is easier to meet).

So back to the question of outcome, if outcome is greater across the whole, it doesn’t matter if there is a disparity in outcome individually, especially if no disparity may reduce the outcome across the whole. This is why providing opportunities to everyone, exempt from priority, can greater benefit everyone.

Privilege.

Privilege is one of those words used to invert the prioritarian stance by focussing on those who are “best off”. Again the distinction can be drawn between the progressive identity politics, that being white is a privilege or being male, and the social liberal view on economic privilege. First, to get the former out of the way, any notion that someone is “privileged” because of an arbitrary characteristic is as collectivist, and as bigoted, as saying that someone is a victim because of an arbitrary characteristic, remember the whole “judge people not on the colour of their skin but the content of the character”? It also operates on the assumption that western countries at least are systemically racist and sexist enough (even ran by black or female politicians) that a poor white man in a rust belt state or working in a factory 13 hours a day is more privileged than some of the most powerful people in the world.

On economic privilege, I would argue that money itself is only a privilege if you have been afforded it (by definition), which is why I find it so unusual how many people who claim that rich people are privileged enter the lottery, which, to win, would be the ultimate privilege. But obviously this is more used in relation to what can be done with the money, that money grants privilege rather than is a privilege itself. In which case… so? Everything people want grants a privilege of some sort, otherwise they wouldn’t want it, so if we’re framing things in terms of privilege, anyone who achieves something is afforded the privilege in question and every one who doesn’t, isn’t. That’s how society works, what’s your solution? Allow people the privilege without the achievement? Wouldn’t that eliminate the need for that achievement?

Going back to the earlier analogy, I want to get an A in order for the privilege of a higher chance of getting into university. If I work hard, and achieve it, and you have not, should you be offered an equally high chance as me of getting into that university? If so, why would I bother trying to achieve an A?

Consequentialism.

The finally topic I want to cover on the left’s desire to resolve “outcome” disparity, is the means by which that resolution is achieved. Consequentialism is a philosophy defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the belief “that whether an act is morally right depends only on the consequences of that act or of something related to that act, such as the motive behind the act.” This view of the ends justifying the means is very dangerous, and something adopted by the left in almost every area of modern leftist policy. It is the politics of morality over rationality.

The more extreme proponents of this view will use it to justify violence in the name of political activism, see UC Berkeley, or warrant the punching of “Nazis” on moral grounds because the action is forgivable by the morality of the actor. Why both of these are dangerous is because anyone can have a different moral opinion, and how often are people referred to as “Nazis” or “white supremacists” unjustly because they’re right wing, or voted for Trump? If the left can make an enemy out of you on moral grounds, even if you’re on their side politically but disagree, it can justify any action to stop you under consequentialism.

Now, think of the two dividing factors I’ve outlined previously, the progressive “identity” line vs. the social liberal “economic” line. Any action, however extreme, which resolves a disparity on race or gender by the progressives will be seen as morally justifiable. And any action which resolves a disparity of income or wealth will be seen by social liberals as morally justifiable. In extreme cases, the former leads to misandry, and anti-white violence (especially if privilege is a defining factor); the latter leads to socialism. In moderate cases however, it would be the use of government policy to affect outcome, which prioritises in favour of the worst off, punishes the privileged, and framed in terms of “equality” to make any refutation of the action or policy comparable to being anti-equality, and therefore immoral (for which action may be taken against you also). This is the recipe for a totalitarian state.

Conclusion.

People say I lack compassion because I’m not a liberal. They say I don’t care about people, that I’m robotic when it comes to how the world should run, and yet I am the only one it seems who would feel bad for a white man who grew up dreaming of success, and maybe holds some more conservative positions, having his money forcibly taken away, refused a job on the grounds of race or gender in the name of “diversity”, told that he only succeeded because of his race or gender or economic upbringing, told he’s privileged and that he should be grateful for all that is being done to him, told that he’s not doing enough to help others, forced into permanent government programs, told that he’s living in a country which benefits him the most, and then called a Nazi for wanting to limit the size of the state.

I think we can find common ground on the protection of people’s rights and freedoms, limiting the size of the state, and wanting truth in the media. But I don’t think any of us can come together until we resolve the dispute between those who want equal opportunity and personal responsibility, and the “morally superior” proprietors of outcome resolution.

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Our Modern Day Weathermen.

“I cherished my hate as a badge of moral superiority.”

             Mark Rudd (The Weather Underground).

In 1969, the Weathermen (later referred to as the Weather Underground) took over the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and from then lead an anti-government charge focussed at first on opposition to the Vietnam war, and then attaching itself to the black liberation movement. The WUO became a youth counter-revolution, based on a line from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, and claimed responsibility for approximately 25 bombs from 1969 to 1975, although no civilian was seriously injured, except for 3 of their own members who were killed after a bomb went off accidentally at a Greenwich Village townhouse in March 1970. It would seem strange to compare this violent movement to the watered-down Facebook activism of the modern left, however the intentions and some of the rhetoric is hauntingly similar. Does this mean a new Weatherman-style group will form? Probably not, but the group could just as easily have formed today.

The rise of certain political figures like Jeremy Corbyn, or Bernie Sanders in America is testament to a growing opinion from (mostly middle-class) youth; an embrace of socialist ideas. In 4 days from the posting of this article I will be graduating university with an Arts degree, and I can see this undying yearn for revolution still present today in modern campuses. Maybe there’s something about the student brain that lends itself to anti-government or anti-capitalist ideas, or maybe it is a lack of student brain I don’t know, and maybe we’ll save the “why” for a separate topic, but the embracing of communist ideas was something the Weathermen also prided themselves on. In You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows, the WUO manifesto, they state that “the goal is the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism,” and that “imperialism is a predatory international stage of capitalism. Defeating imperialism within the US couldn’t possibly have the content, which it could in a semi-feudal country, of replacing imperialism with capitalism or new democracy; when imperialism is defeated in the US, it will be replaced with socialism- nothing else.” Although perhaps the difference between their manifesto and the unwritten cult of the student-left is that they acknowledge that “any conception of ‘socialist revolution’ simply in terms of the working people of the United States, failing to recognise the full scope of interests of the most oppressed peoples of the world, is a conception of a fight for a particular privileged interest.”

Another comparison that can be made between the modern left and the WUO, is their expression of white guilt, and certainly the affiliation with the Black Panthers and the black liberation movement. In May 1970, the Weathermen issued a declaration of a state of war with the United States after recent retaliatory efforts to the Panther 21 trial; accused of coordinating bombings and rifle attacks on two New York city police stations. After the death of black anti-cop activist Fred Hampton in 1969, the Weathermen first began latching themselves on to the anti-law enforcement movement with the Panthers, taking the assumption (which has been debated over several decades) whether Hampton’s death was justified. Whatever your opinion on that is, there are undeniable similarities with a similar black, anti-cop movement that the modern left has attached themselves on to: Black Lives Matter. However, while the Panthers had arguable motive, BLM often proceeds to attack white people on the streets solely because they’re white (as seen in Charlotte, when a white kid was stripped naked in a car park and beaten by a group of young “activists”). What underpins this collaboration between the wish-they-weren’t-white left and black activism is the notion of a clear cut American two-class system; the oppressors, and the oppressed. It would take only one of the several videos from BLM chanting “what do we want? Dead cops!” to liken them to the rhetoric of the Panthers, the only real argument is whether or not the cases are equally valid. The Weathermen held their own slogans above their heads, the words of which were praised as being above the heads of others, which read that “the streets belong to the people”. As architects of white guilt, the Weather Underground arguably began the notion that white skin is comparable in itself to a form of privilege, a recurring talking point of the regressive left.

Another interesting comparison that can be made is the idea of breaking down personal identity and “traditional” sexuality. Whilst the sexual revolution in the 60s may not have been orchestrated by the Weathermen, they certainly participated in it and I think it was along the same revolutionary track. In a documentary about the Weather Underground by Sam Green in 2002, they quote from an unpublished memoir by Mark Rudd; “it was a moment of extreme sexual experimentation. Group sex, homosexuality, casual sex hookups, were all tried as we attempted to break out of the repression of the past into the revolutionary future… legs, arms, genitals, interlocked with no particular identity attached.” Anyone reading that quote should instantly tell the connection I’m trying to make, from the break down of monogamy or “smash monogamy”, to the modern day Gender fluidity, and hyper-bisexualism.

There is a certain trend among youth, and I think it’s important to identify the external reasons why the young feel so imperatively to break free from what they’re taught. Maybe it’s the way they’re taught, or maybe it’s just a tenet of youth itself, and I certainly feel like it’s healthy to want to challenge the system, but to challenge something for the sake of that challenge rather than the real issues within the system is a facade that I don’t believe is healthy – and I think the modern left probably falls into the latter of those two categories. The WUO maybe had some cause, although their actions can be queried, the modern left seem hellbent to bring those same causes and fight in similar shoes to activists like the WUO, without being able to preach necessity. To be honest, I think more and more people are starting to realise that the true youth revolution of the modern day is a conservative one, and a nationalist one, not a communist revolution like the left may want it to be. Although any revolution breeds extremism, and whether you are right or wrong, “when you feel that you have right on your side, you can do some horrific things.” (Brian Flanagan, member of the WUO.)

(Image by Weather Underground [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)