Sunday, December 15, 2013

Philosophy 101, revisited: Is pure meritocracy ethical at all?

Here are some thoughts I’m trying to put into logical sequence.

I don’t get the “joy” out of “helping others” for its own sake that others would like to see me experience. I can’t stand being recruited to other peoples’ causes unless I have already made a chice to have a direct stake in them.  If anyone can be a victim then no one is.  There are so many pleading for dire needs, that no one need seems more urgent than another.

I agree my attitude is a bit Calvinistic, but that seems to come from logic, not faith.

We say we are different from most other animals because we want to regard every human life as intrinsically sacred.  But to carry out that belief, we need rules.  True, in a democracy people make the rules, indirectly.  But someone needs the power to enforce the rules.  Therefore there is a risk of corruption.   So we say that the law should do as little as possible, be hands off.  That is essentially the basis of libertarianism.

Inevitably, in any system, some people do better (or at least “look better”) than others.  A Calvinist says that’s because some people are intrinsically better than others, as a simple mathematical postulate – any finite or countable set with a measure or metric can be well-ordered.  What we don’t like to admit is that fortune and luck (sometimes turning on small incidents) play a much bigger part in how people turn out than we (libertarians) want to admit.  And we don't like to see that some of us who are better off depended on the unseen sacrifices of others, sometimes under coercion, and possibly inviting huge payback.  The pure libertarian position would let the weaker ones die off, which creates a cultural, although not legal, impulse and obligation from others to step up, even when it costs something.  Such a capacity is supposed to comport with the permanent complementarity of traditional marriage. The alternative could be an accidental redirection toward fascism.  Religious systems try to get around this paradox by just claiming some rules of human behavior (especially with regards to sexuality and family) are simply scriptural edicts, determined to please a higher power, a God or Allah.
  
 Logic alone could make pure individual meritocracy seem moral, but that would seem to contradict a dedication to the value of human life. Anyone could suddenly be in need, and need to accept attention from others that could have previously been unwanted/ 

While inequality, unfairness and poor "performance" of many people does have roots in public policy choices (particularly encouragement of extreme capitalism, or sometimes the opposite in collectivism) ultimately the only place we can start addressing all this is with out own attitudes and behavior choices, and values.


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