Series on the book “Illusions of Egalitarianism” (plus my thoughts)

“Illusions of Egalitarianism I – Intro and Overview”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism II – The Inconsistency of Aims”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism III – The Denial of Responsibility”:

“Illusions of Egalitarianism IV – Remainder of Review”:

Today I’m listening the the 4th and last part in the series on the book Illusions of Egalitarianism by John Kekes reviewed by YTer and AVFMer Victor Zen.

I especially appreciate Keke’s list read at about the 26 minute mark. Pausing right there, I must say Keke’s views as relayed by VZ strike me as along the same vein as my own when it comes to egalitarianism. He’s obviously demonstrated his position in much more detail, and I haven’t read his book for myself, but I’ve nodded along with everything presented about his views in this video series and am wondering how I haven’t heard of that author before now.

But views take time to form, and once upon a time I would have described myself as an egalitarian so far as understanding people deserve to be treated equally in the eyes of the Law and that extreme social and economic imbalances are creating tons of problems for our society. Views evolve alongside coming to terms with reality, and through gaining experience in living we do see that not all people are truly equal, nor can they be transformed into being so. We obviously do possess different moral compasses and modi operandi in our approaches to living and being. That’s just a fact of life, and it’s made blatantly evident when we examine cases of psychopaths and extreme sadists. Criminality of the most heinous varieties signal to us what some people are capable of, and we’re horrified precisely because we’re not geared in those same sort of ways. There are lines most of draw that some do not, and that proves true in respect to both good and evil inclinations and orientations. In simplest terms, we’re not equally constituted when it comes to moral character, as Kekes pointed out as well.

Acknowledging that alone issues a major blow to egalitarian logic.

Furthermore, the road to hell may be paved with good intentions, to paraphrase Mark Twain. We see how much power conformist pressures have over us, and this speaks to a big reason why I yammer on about individualism as I do. It’s easy for humans to get caught up in group-think when it comes to shared ideals and collectivist political strategies, and that has the effect of framing dissidents and supporters of different principles as either unenlightened or criminal. When special interest movements and ideologues become entrenched in our political institutions, freedom gets jeopardized and undermined, as we’ve been witnessing in action up through the 20th century.

It’s interesting that the author brought up liberal optimism. The way I see that is it’s a movement that’s optimistic about being able to use the coercive power of the State to usher in an ideal regardless of whether there’s a true consensus among the people. Once again, dissidents are deemed irrelevant or enemies of the new objectives and are treated accordingly. They are optimistic because their advocates have become entrenched in the power structures-that-be and because they utilize immense social pressure to either convert or silence others who may disagree with popular programs. Here I’m focusing on the Political Left, but the Political Right has a game of its own that’s proving just as detrimental (i.e., economics-worshiping neoconservatism) — that’s just outside of the scope of the topic.

So why wouldn’t they be optimistic when the plan of harnessing political power is to appeal to the power-hungry and to force consensus among the rest? Sounds like a winning strategy, though it undoubtedly won’t turn out as most had hoped and intended.

That leads to what VZ shared about Keke’s views on how egalitarians tend to prefer not to commit to set courses of action and in designing an overarching framework when it comes to the political process and sphere. And that I find very interesting and am glad he brought up, because that’s precisely what is missing there. The libertarian ethos can at least be boiled down to relatively simple principles capable of being used to fashion laws that do treat people as equals in the eyes of the State, and yet the liberal approach appears to be more of a hodge-podge of thrown together preferences and knee-jerk demands in response to this or that perceived travesty. The latter presents no coherent gameplan for structuring society in a functional manner, thereby leaving the internal workings of the system up to chance by not being well thought out. It’s a political movement based more on wishful thinking than determining how such a scheme would work.

For example, many state their desire to eradicate racism and prejudice, but how could such an ideal be universalized, much less by the State? Certain laws can and are placed on the books to address prejudicial treatment where it’s unwarranted and inappropriate, but that does nothing to change individuals’ hearts and minds, nor can it. Therefore, it’s fair to assume prejudice will live on and, if acted upon, will be carried out in more covert fashions less easily detectable or proven or where claims of unfair discrimination can be blamed off on other factors (as happens all the time already). This doesn’t actually change people or make them more respectful toward one another; it encourages them, in defiance, to find better ways around the system so as to maintain their own freedom to choose and rebel. Because we all harbor prejudices and practice discrimination for a wide variety of reasons, and this will not and cannot be effectively remedied through legal action. And yet that seems to be the dream, that we can all be coerced into accepting what we previously didn’t want to accept, even when it comes to our personal values and principles. Instead, the best these people can hope for is suppression, and that likely will result in blowback by the most resistant.

And around and around it goes. I’m on the side of favoring fewer, smarter laws and a government limited in scope at all levels, but it’s argued that that sort of setup no longer can effectively address the complexities of our society as it stands today. But at least it leaves room for judges and law enforcement officers to exercise discretion and for dialogue to continually remain important among the people. An important component often missing from these sorts of discussions which can’t be implemented by law is the need for better self-governance. We all struggle with this, and yet we now live in me-me-me times where we expect instant gratification with little-to-no effort on our individual part. That’s a problem at a fundamental level that legal and political measures alone can’t sufficiently address.

It also goes back to the do-gooders he mentioned and how we can mean well all day long and even work hard in support of an objective, only to turn out wrong and misguided. It happens all the time and is probably the norm more often than not. We can envision an ideal and even the steps toward arriving there, but are we taking into consideration all other variables that may play into and skew the results? Very often we ignore what doesn’t support our arguments and visions, to the detriment of the ideals we espouse. Plus there’s plenty we can’t possibly predict that may someday stem from actions taken today and yesterday.

. . . based more on what you want rather than what is true in society . . .

Yep. Some seem to be missing the understanding that humans possess various potentials that can play out in countless ways across the masses (and even within each individual). Our social sphere(s) absolutely matters, but so does our biology and how it interacts with our environments, and no two persons are receiving exactly the same input there, nor are our outputs identical either, nor our intellectual and emotional capacities, etc.

We vary — we just do. Obviously. From motivations to how we’re constituted on all possible levels, to how much effort we put forth (and whether that’s coerced or personally chosen or any and all combinations therein), to where we place our focus and what we value. There can be no full-on consensus view here. And context really does matter — very little can be universalized in the way some hope for.

As always, it’s a complicated web. I appreciated that book series up above and wish one of these days I’d get the gumption to reread and review some books in my own collection that others might get something out of as well. Kinda low on motivation though at present.

[Lightly edited for clarity’s sake and to correct typos 11/26/2014.]

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