This post spurred some conversation which led me to further reflections.  My neighbor the Jewish Atheist (blogging here), remarked:

You don’t see it as “problematic” that person A has to work his ass off for minuscule wages, send his kids to the crappy local public school, and go without decent health care, while person B gets paid a king’s ransom to sit on a thousand-dollar office chair in a climate-controlled office for 40 hours a week? B should just count his lucky stars and live it up and not worry about A?

Consider the following:

 Examine a group of  kids in elementary school (or secondary school), compete. Our measure of merit for the day, instead of schooling, healthcare, and wages is speed in a running race. One kid will win, one kid will come in last. It is also likely that the one of the kids coming in close to last will be far greater than those who come in the top few places. Effort it seems does not necessarily grant results.

One might ask, if the winner should feel “guilty” because he won the race, perhaps even won it easily. My contention is that the answer is no. There is no “guilt” inherent in being gifted with greater talents, better circumstances (one might imagine in this second case some of those in the bottom of the race had less “opportunity” at home and had less chance to exercise, perhaps too much food, or other disadvantages).

The (correct) answer it seems to me to this question follows the Scriptural suggestion noted by Mr Carter (linked in the above linked post), to whit the Pentateuchal suggestion that we not covet that which is our neighbors. The winning kid not feeling guilty is the other side of the coin to the losing kid not coveting the winner’s athletic gifts. Neither feeling is any way to arrive at love (agape/charity) for the “Other”.

There is however a few key points on which the points of view we hold, on right and left differ:

  • It seems to me, the left views the differences of opportunity and ability as a thing which needs correction, and that the failure to correct this is a sign of imperfect or incorrect ordering of society. In part this drives the “progressive” urge to reform, to fix, to tinker hunting (fruitlessly) for a way to graciously undo the uneven gifting of our natural talents and the uneven distribution of the blessings of Lady Luck.
  • I would offer that a better view is that suffering is the thing to ameleriorate to the best of our ability, not inequality.
  • My interlocutor asks if this inequality and if the resultant guilt should not spur us to great lengths to reverse that inequality. However … there is the problem that the conservatives both don’t view this inequality as such problem as on the left but at the same time polls have suggested that the conservative right gives more freely to charity (which may of course badly flawed).

Filed under: ConservativeEthics & MoralityLiberalMark O.

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