“There Is No Class Here”

There exist some battles in American politics such that to fight them is to lose them. The Republican Party seems to have stumbled squarely into one of them — unrepentant defense of the rich. More’s the pity.

Specifically, Politico spotlights not one but two examples of Republicans adopting the rhetoric, if not the solutions of the Occupy Wall Street movements. On an interview with Eric Cantor (R-Va):

[T]he majority leader said he’s interested in sparking a “policy discussion” about the gap between the rich and the poor because “that’s what’s really at the heart of trying to figure out how we’re going to solve these big challenges.”

“It is the empathy required for those who are down on their luck and making sure that we speak to them and that the middle class in this country understands that we’ve got the leadership that understands how to deal with that, and at the same time, go about fixing these major problems,” Cantor said in the interview. “And how do you go and demonstrate empathy and how best to do that — and that’s really what that speech was about.”

Call it the first real victory for whatever we’re going to call the occupiers, a major repudiation of the Tea Party position that equality of result is irrelevant in a system of assumed equal opportunity, and continued proof that reframing any discussion of the rich/poor gap as “class warfare,” or obfuscating the issue with culture war distractions, only goes so far. We are not a civilization that entertains defense of rank and privilege for its own sake, and a Republican Party that comes too close to resembling the Roman Optimates will fail.

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4 comments

  1. Please explain that result/opportunity thing better. I can’t think of any time equality of outcome is desirable, since input is never equal. You seem to be implying otherwise but I’m not certain.

  2. There’s a strain of conservative economic thought that says that if we have equality of opportunity, the specific lack of equality of output is attributable ONLY to lack of, as you say, input. There is no such thing, so this world view goes, as structural barriers, glass ceilings, racism, red-lining, or the like,

    1. I don’t think you understood what I meant, and that’s my fault for rushing things and not explaining fully. I meant “input” in the equation sense.

      Here’s the thing: “All men are created equal”? I believe it’s a self-evident falsehood. The combination of factors that define a person – genetics; pre-natal maternal health and nutrition; childhood education, nutrition, medical care, family structure, and enculturation; life experiences; age; health; belief systems; job performance; hobbies; allergies; skills; activities; etc. – leave no two people equal. And those are the inputs. They dictate the output: every individual’s position within the ordinal ranking of humanity. Let’s call it the Human Worth Function. You, me, Marius, Mr. Kjeldsen, Mike, Oneiroi, Didion’s Mommy (whatever happened to her?), Frank, Erik J – one of us is has the highest output when plugged into the HWF, one of us has the lowest, the rest of us are in between. That means one of us is better than the rest of this small sample of people, one of us is worse than all the rest, and the other seven of us are ordered in between, and therefore each of the nine of us deserves a different quantity and quality of life, which is why inequality of outcome is a desirable state of affairs. Now, within the overall human overpopulation of seven billion, for any particular value y’ of the Human Worth Function W(x)=y, there’s some range of people x-sub-i through x-sub-j whose values y-sub-i through y-sub-j approximate y’, so we can treat them as equal – but only because of rounding and significant figures and it doesn’t justify treating rounds-to-a people the same as rounds-to-b people as rounds-to-c people and so forth.

      I’m not disputing the existence of things like glass ceilings and racism. Those aren’t bad because they cause inequality, though. They’re bad because they cause the wrong sort of inequality for the wrong reasons. They’re bad because they supplant the Human Worth Function with other functions and create an incorrect ranking of humanity. We shouldn’t be striving for equality, though, because that means treating some people better than they deserve and other people worse than they deserve just as the current inequality does. All equality would do is shake up who (and possibly how many) got treated worse or better than they deserve. Instead, we should be striving to bring about the correct bases for inequality.

      Oh, I should point out I simplified things, since really your place in the ranking at any moment – and thus your deserved quality of life and minimum future quantity of life at that time – is based on the integral over your life up to that point of the Human Worth Function of you.

  3. More I think about it, the more that comment’s one of my favorite things I’ve written in years.

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