I wrote here that, just as the Left is right to struggle with the possibility of too much diversity, the Right is left to struggle with the possibility of too much inequality.
It’s a struggle all right, and a familiar one. As Orwell wrote (and as writers as diverse–and unequal–as Steve Sailer, Paul Krugman and Andrew Sullivan have re-posted), “to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”
Why is this? Faced with this kind of question I suggest doing what I usually do–resort to some good old fashioned evolutionary biology just-so stories.
People apprehend social ideas in binary terms, as black/white, good/bad. But ideas are like all things in an ultimately Darwinian universe improvisations made up for adaptive traction. We can’t help but be beguiled by them–that’s part of the trick that makes them work–but improvisations they are nonetheless (IMHO as a Darwinian–all are free to disagree).
So we promote diversity, fairly, as a way to cope with inevitable cultural complexity–but close our eyes to an honor killing in a Western nation. We say, fairly, that inequality is a good and necessary thing for growth–but is that a guillotine I see before me?
Accordingly ask not whether something is good if it promotes diversity, or if it signifies growth because there is an unequal outcome. Ask what the situation demands.
Assuming you can see beyond your own nose. If you are predisposed a certain way, it is likely you have already decided what you will see past your nose, even while bravely quoting Orwell. It’s a problem.
What is the way out? Keeping to the Darwinian theme, I suspect what happens is that sooner or later some underlying forces and issues become unavoidable, and cause various styles of reinterpretation, as advocates attempt to square their past shaky assumptions with new challenges. That puts a premium on the ability to fit the shocking new in with the comfortable old.
I think we are seeing that now on the Right where inequality is concerned. epiminondas and I both linked to a Weekly Standard story in which fretting about inequality was manifest. But the author, in true contempo partisan style, needed to come up with a way to raise the issue without conceding anything to the opposing camp (we are all in camps nowdays donchaknow?). So the concern about inequality was framed in the context of the hypocrisy of left-leaning, green Silicon Valley millionaires.
It’s like the Fifites, where one only had to say what you were not. An anti-communist, or an anti-anti communist. Figuring out where one truly stands, well . . . well, that requires a constant struggle now, don’t it?
Now comes Mark Steyn, by far the most entertaining pundit around and one who is very often . . . er . . . right. But even Steyn is not immune from the anti-anti spin mentioned above. From time to time he too can take something that truly matters and convert it into anti-matter. Such must be the pressures of punditry in the modern era . . . you get invited to show up on a radio show hosted by a hyper-partisan like Hugh Hewitt and soon you are spewing and spinning with the best of them. IT’S ALL ABOUT OBAMA!!! RUN!!!
So here is Steyn tackling inequality. A very interesting column. As with the Weekly Standard article, the concern over inequality is manifest. Give Steyn a lot of credit for bearing down on an important aspect of the problem, which is whether our economy is headed for a situation in which capital does not need labor. Tyler Cowen and others have been pushing the notion of the inevitability of increased inequality, and it is a real topic. But Steyn can’t help it. Rather than embrace the problem and take a stand, it is all once again reduced to a problem manufactured by the other side’s mendacity. But how does his conclusion that the problem is all about government dependency square with the notion that there may well be deeper structural components?
That will have to wait for another day, a day when score settling and one-upsmanship take a back seat to problem solving. If I were a Hegelian, I’d say it is a dialectic, one being worked out as we speak.