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Tilting at Windmills

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June 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

WEALTH AND STATUS....Via Tyler Cowen, Will Wilkinson summarizes a new bit of research on how people adapt to changes in income and status:

Folks on the left get used to money, but not status and the reverse for folks on the right. This is funny, since I've been reading a bunch of papers on inequality, mostly by political philosophers on the left, and they are positively obsessed specifically with the status effects of material inequality.

This doesn't surprise me, actually. Well, it partly doesn't surprise me, anyway.

My guess is that lefties are generally much more class conscious than money conscious. Having money is one thing — what are you going to do, turn down a raise? — but egalitarianism is one of liberalism's core beliefs. Probably the core belief, in fact. This makes us uncomfortable with behavior that punctures our egalitarian self-image too overtly.

Conservatives, by contrast, are basically fine with heirarchy and adapt pretty well to being at the top of the heap. Somebody's got to be there, right? However, I confess that the money thing puzzles me. Why don't righties adapt well to having lots of money? They sure seem to adapt just fine, don't they?

....Oh. I see. I missed the part about this being a study of adaptation among Germans. The paper is here. That makes more sense. Great riches are not celebrated in Germany the way they are here, so it's not too surprising that German conservatives might feel some residual levels of guilt for accumulating large sums of money. Betcha these results wouldn't hold up in the United States.

UPDATE: In comments, y81 suggests I have this backwards. Upon more careful reading, I think that's probably right. Basically, the research shows that, in the long run, money makes conservatives happier but has no effect on liberals. Conversely, status makes liberals happier but has no effect on conservatives. The effect is small, but nonetheless strikes me as peculiar. And it might be different in America. Still, the bottom line is that my interpretation was completely wrong. Pretend I never said it.

Kevin Drum 12:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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I don't think you are reading the paper right: "adaptation to x" means the effects of x wear off. For a liberal, getting more money makes you happy for a little while, but it wears off. An increase in status makes you happy, and it doesn't wear off. That is why liberals go into fields like government and academia where there are lots of status markers even though no one gets any money.

For conservatives, an increase in status makes you happy, but it wears off. An increase in money makes you happy and it doesn't wear off. That is why (maybe) conservatives become entrepreneurs: you gets lots of money even though you're not part of a hierarchy that gives you lots of recognition.

Of course, conservatives also go into the military, which kind of contradicts what I just said, but whatever, it's just a tendency. Anyway, if you're a general, you can write your memoirs and get a lot of money, which never happens to university professors.

Posted by: y81 on June 8, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

y81, it might be that since the effects of status "wear off," someone with such an inclination might be forever obsessed with trying to go after the "next big thing" to improve his status to get that "high" again, with a similar reaction for seeking money. That's pathological behavior, of course, but it is certainly plausible within the frame of the argument presented.

Posted by: Constantine on June 8, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

That is why (maybe) conservatives become entrepreneurs: you gets lots of money even though you're not part of a hierarchy that gives you lots of recognition.

Conservatives don't become entrepreneurs any more than liberals do -- probably even less so than liberals, actually. (And I work in the Wall Street/hedge fund world, so I see lots of them). My experience has rather been that conservative personalities (which has a strong but not definitive correlation with conservative politics) attracts people to more hierarchical, openly status-obsessed milieus such as traditional corporations, etc.

The entrepreneurial types, people such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, etc. tend to be less conservative socially and politically than their peers in the business world (though tending, also, to fall more on the libertarian than the liberal range when it comes to economic issues).

Posted by: Stefan on June 8, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

y81 is right here that drum is not understanding the basic issues.

he talks about conservatives "adapting to" acquiring status as though that meant that they "become comfortable" with it, "feel good about it", "take it in stride".

whereas it actually means almost the opposite, something more like "enjoy no subjective benefit, experience no lasting increase in subjective happiness."

Posted by: Count Cant on June 8, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

um, yeah. You must be right, y81, because there are no conservatives in government and no liberal entrepreneurs.

Posted by: editor on June 8, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

For conservatives, an increase in status makes you happy, but it wears off. An increase in money makes you happy and it doesn't wear off.

Again, this has been the exact reverse of my experience. Conservatives love status (hence their attraction to "daddy type" political leaders and their obsession with fitting everything into narratives of dominance and submission) and will cling to that far more than they will cling to money.

Posted by: Stefan on June 8, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I used my work access to read the paper and can confirm what y81 says about adaptation. The paper also found that females get lasting value from status but not income (and v.v. for males) and that the self-employed get lasting value from income but not status (and v.v. for employees).

Another important thing about the paper is that their measure of status is based purely on occupation, using something called the Standard International Occupational Prestige Score. (See Appendix A at http://pages.towson.edu/mhughes/occpresdirex.htm if you have ScienceDirect access.) From the score list, it looks like level of education/skill is the primary factor.

The key point is that what this paper calls status isn't at all what the commenters here are calling status.

It's hard for me to make sense of these results--there are too many interpretations. Maybe people that value education more tend to pursue it more and then become more liberal? Or maybe young people who are more liberal also tend to be more concerned with education because it's more valuable to a young person?

My guess is that everybody only gets lasting value from status (in the usual sense--not the technical sense used in the paper) (which is after all the typical finding), but for liberals education determines status while for conservatives income determines status. That also fits with the known fact (see Pew surveys on American political attitudes) that conservatives tend to think material success comes from effort, while liberals tend to think it comes from luck. If everybody values skill and effort, then conservatives can measure it by income, but liberals need something else, like education.

Thanks for the link--I don't read Cowen or Wilkinson, so I wouldn't have seen it, but I really enjoyed thinking about it.

Posted by: This Guy on June 8, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

but egalitarianism is one of liberalism's core beliefs. Probably the core belief, in fact. This makes us uncomfortable with behavior that punctures our egalitarian self-image too overtly.

I'm really curious about your promotion of egalitarianism. Are you speaking here of equality of opportunity or equality of result.

I get the first. Everyone should be judged equally before the law and thus given equal opportunity. Notice this equal opportunity does not mean equal chance of individuals to succeed. There is no way of exercising equality under the law and make it possible for a black teenager of a single mom in central LA have equal chance of succeeding as Sam Walton's grandchildren.

Neither is it a good goal to make these two hypothetical individuals have equal chance of economic or societal success. Part of the motivation for people like the Walton's to practice the training and self discipline which built a great American enterprise is the ability to give your descnedants a better life.
Part of the iresponsibility which should be shamed by society is the selfishness of the black man who would not stay to raise his own children. But no privilege before the law should be afforded either the black teenager because of his poverty or the Walton child because of his wealth.

The wish to use the law and government to provide equality of result is just sanctioned coveting and AFIAK has led to totalitarianism whever it has been tried.

So which do you subscribe to true equality of opportunity or equality of result. If you yearn for the former welcome to conservatism. If it is the latter you wish for, you will always be for a government that IMHO needs to meddle more than it should.

Anyway, I welcome your thoughts even if you think my analysis is simplistic and stupid.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen, liberals' thoughts on egalitarianism means that no one should be judged or accorded higher status than anyone else based on their race or income. E.g., there is no reason why we should admire Sam Walton's kids or grandkids any more than the single mom in LA just because the former group has money.

Any legal remedies or laws with respect to class or race discrimination is a result of this egalitarian instinct, not its end-goal. You're hung up in a decades-old "equality of opportunity vs. equiality of results" false dichotomy which is inhibiting your ability to understand what Kevin is talking about.

Posted by: Constantine on June 8, 2007 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

"The effect is small, but nonetheless strikes me as peculiar."

yes, the effect is small and likely lost in sampling error. Please move on.

Posted by: richard on June 8, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK
Are you speaking here of equality of opportunity or equality of result.

The two are, ultimately, rather tightly entangled. Any individual's "Opportunity" at any given time is a function of the combination of that individual's "results" at all prior times.

I get the first. Everyone should be judged equally before the law and thus given equal opportunity.

Equality of opportunity does not follow from equality of treatment absent equality of initial conditions. So, the "thus..." in your statement here is improper.

The goal of equality of opportunity is to have results based on individual merit rather than pre-existing social circumstance.

Neither is it a good goal to make these two hypothetical individuals have equal chance of economic or societal success. Part of the motivation for people like the Walton's to practice the training and self discipline which built a great American enterprise is the ability to give your descnedants a better life.

IOW, you oppose actual equality of opportunity. Not only do you not seek to promote it, but you see it as an actively bad thing. If that is an honest preference, fine, you have every right to argue for it, but is it through gross ignorance or through dishonesty that you claim to support "equal opportunity" but then describe in detail your opposition to what equality of opportunity means?

Part of the iresponsibility which should be shamed by society is the selfishness of the black man who would not stay to raise his own children. But no privilege before the law should be afforded either the black teenager because of his poverty or the Walton child because of his wealth.

Wealth is, in and of itself, a privilege before the law.

The wish to use the law and government to provide equality of result is just sanctioned coveting and AFIAK has led to totalitarianism whever it has been tried.

Insofar as they can be distinguished, no one advocates that policy should seek detailed equality of result, though people on the right, like you, like to paint what "equality of opportunity" has meant since the term was coined as "equality of result".

And, of course, since what you mistakenly call "equality of result" has been a focus of policy in many modern democracies, including the United States, and not led to totalitarianism by any reasonable definition, your argument that, as far as you know, it has done so everywhere it has been attempted demonstrates either that you know very little, or that you are an exceptionally dishonest practitioner of the art of equivocation.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I did read the paper, but only for two minutes, whereas This Guy was a little more conscientious. Given the rather specialized definition of status, I don't know what these results mean, if anything.

In response to some comments above, I'm pretty sure that no matter how you define "conservative" (libertarian, social conservative, etc.), you will find hedge fund managers as a group more conservative than university professors. Although everyone in New York may be liberal by Oklahoma standards.

Posted by: y81 on June 8, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Given the rather specialized definition of status, I don't know what these results mean, if anything.

I couldn't access the paper directly, so don't know how "status" might be defined -- I'm certainly skeptical about it's getting used here.

Really, part of the problem here is that for many people -- particularly conservatives -- money IS status, so I don't know how that distinction can be made out for them.

Posted by: frankly0 on June 8, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

The goal of equality of opportunity is to have results based on individual merit rather than pre-existing social circumstance.

CMDicely - I don't want to put words in your mouth especially because you are usually very good at expressing yourself.

I am not clear what you mean by individual and also what you mean by "pre-existing social circumstance"?

Do you mean that I as a father should not have the opportunity of securing for my son a leg up on the competition through my own hard work and diligence. Why should the son of a father who has abandoned them and left them to fend for themselves get preferential treatment to balance for my hard work.

It seems like you are saying that my son, who comes from an intact home and has had a very good private/public education should be penalized for this in application to college because you must try to "equalize the opportunity" at the college level between him and the product of a broken home.

I find the desire to do this absurd and evetually detrimental to society. I do not believe in complete meritocracy. I do believe in private charities trying to provide opportunity for those who are underprivileged. But I don't see how it is profitable for the state to try to pick an arbitrary level like "admittance to college" to try and level a playing field that was made unlevel by personal choices.

Please clarify what you mean if I have misunderstood your position.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

2 thoughts come to mind...

"Money can't buy happiness, but it's a good downpayment." - my college room-mate Seth

"If money can't buy happiness, I guess I've got to rent it." - Johnny Dangerously theme, by Weird Al Yankovic

Posted by: Adam on June 8, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to remove the original author's parentheses keys. But anyway, Drum said...

Basically, the research shows that, in the long run, money makes conservatives happier but has no effect on liberals. Conversely, status makes liberals happier but has no effect on conservatives.

What it really showed is that across everyone, an increase in status had a longer lasting bump in happiness than an increase in income. I wonder, though, just how a big a split it was between liberals and conservatives, and since these were German liberals and conservatives they looked at, how accurately that maps to the good old US of A.

Posted by: Confused by Parens on June 8, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Do you mean that I as a father should not have the opportunity of securing for my son a leg up on the competition through my own hard work and diligence. Why should the son of a father who has abandoned them and left them to fend for themselves get preferential treatment to balance for my hard work.

To flip it around, your son could be a talentless doofus who gets into Yale based on who he knows and the schooling he gets while the fatherless child wastes a good mind selling crack on the street corner. That's not exactly beneficial to the country or fair. Your son should be securing a leg up on the competition through his own hard work and diligence, not yours.

Posted by: Confused by Parens on June 8, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

It seems like you are saying that my son, who comes from an intact home and has had a very good private/public education should be penalized for this in application to college because you must try to "equalize the opportunity" at the college level between him and the product of a broken home.

Actually, John, what it means is that no matter how much money you might have, it won't be able to buy a better education than the product of a broken home, because the latter child will have access to superior, publicly-funded schools as well, with their own built-in support systems. The "egalitarian instinct" of liberals is one which does not regard you or your family as any better of a person simply because you display the trappings of financial wealth. As frankly0 points out, conservatives think that money IS status. Liberals point out that money can't make you a better person, so if you're looking for good people, expand your horizons beyond merely those who happened to have money.

It's not that your child will be penalized, it's that money won't make up for a lacking intellect and ambivalent work ethic.

It's funny that you would say "equality of opportunity" is what we should have and then go on to argue that personal wealth should be able to buy better social/educational opportunities. Who's missing out on those opportunities because you're trying to buy your way into them?

Posted by: Constantine on June 8, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just trying to point out the ridiculousness of trying to completely abrogate the good or bad choices of parents by the infusion of government finances.

Of course my son is going to have the benefit of my hard work. This is why family, not individual is the basis of a good society.
The rewards of goodness remain intact in a family directed society because it usually takes more than one generation to raise a family from poor to middle class. Your idea that the "...son should be securing a leg up on the competition through his own hard work and diligence, not yours.. is as impractical as it is absurd.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, John, what it means is that no matter how much money you might have, it won't be able to buy a better education than the product of a broken home, because the latter child will have access to superior, publicly-funded schools as well, with their own built-in support systems.

Don't you see the scary "Brave New World" implications of your statement. How are you going to enforce that this poor child from a broken home takes advantages of the "built-in support system" that is supposed to give him the same opportunity as my son. Are you going to monitor the family? Are you going to take away the parental privilege of someone not taking advantage of the "..superior, publicly-funded schools...".

Don't you see how the ideal of making everything equal leads to loss of freedom?

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

And, Kevin, on a personal note, I can see how committed you are to egalitarianism. Where did you say you live again?

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Pretend I never said it.

Said what?

Posted by: tomeck on June 8, 2007 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

John, I'm not really proposing a "mechanism," only pointing out that one of the tenets of egalitarianism is that "money doesn't make up for poor quality" when it comes to human beings.

You seem to believe that people have to be punished by bad circumstances as a means of creating incentives for people to work harder-- after all, why would anyone have any motivation to make lots of money to pay tuition for good schools if just ANYONE could get a good education? That seems, to the ear of an egalitarian, to be a rather pathological mindset. That's like claiming, "why should we confiscate taxes from people to pay for law-enforcement? people make money with the hope of being able to move their families to a safe neighborhood, and we shouldn't be enforcing some kind of equality of outcome!"

ow are you going to enforce that this poor child from a roken home takes advantages of the "built-in support system"

Might I point out that we have laws requiring minors to attend schools? Doesn't seem to me to be any reason why schools should not be places where we inculcate values of hard work, reading, and a love of learning. Do you? Unless you feel that this is unfair to parents who spend the time and money to do it themselves.

Posted by: Constantine on June 8, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Spend five minutes in any faculty lounge or not-for-profit and tell me liberals aren't more interested in their place in the pecking order than conservatives, who are usually very content with more money in place of a fancy title.

Posted by: minion on June 8, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Spend five minutes in any faculty lounge or not-for-profit and tell me liberals aren't more interested in their place in the pecking order than conservatives, who are usually very content with more money in place of a fancy title.

Posted by: minion on June 8, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

And here I thought you were going to talk about Paris Hilton..

Posted by: Andy on June 8, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

And, this is why conservative bosses give possibly more-liberal employees titles and not monetary raises!

Workers of the world, UNITE! You have nothing to lose but your silly affectation for social status.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on June 8, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The "egalitarian instinct" of liberals is one which does not regard you or your family as any better of a person simply because you display the trappings of financial wealth. As frankly0 points out, conservatives think that money IS status. Liberals point out that money can't make you a better person, so if you're looking for good people, expand your horizons beyond merely those who happened to have money."

But it is egalitarianism that defines man primarily in economic terms. It sees inequality of result and says, "Something must be done. This isn't fair!" Conservatism sees inequality of result and says, "That's okay, having less money doesn't mean you are less happy, fulfilled, or righteous."

Posted by: Hans Moleman on June 8, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals care more about being genuinely liked by lots of people, but conservatives care more about being liked specifically by "their own" - often because of the very fact that the "other side" hates them.

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B. on June 8, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

People who identify with the American Right have a near monopoly on hate. It is a characteristic feature of their personalities, along with fear, deference to authority and a tendency to use oppressive violence against perceived deviants. They are clannish followers no matter what the opinions or feelings of outsiders. “Liberals”, by which we mean non-authoritarians, are more likely to be skeptics of power and group orthodoxies.

To be more precise, it is the leaders of the Right, men that are both oppressive and amoral who are the haters. These so-called double-highs cultivate hate toward gays, or women, or Jews, or Mexicans or whoever in the hearts of the obedient authoritarian followers.

Posted by: bellumregio on June 8, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Your idea that the "...son should be securing a leg up on the competition through his own hard work and diligence, not yours.." is as impractical as it is absurd.

I'm mostly conservative, but I'm also military, which is about as close as you get to a meritocracy in America. Where you enter the military (Officer or Enlisted) can be affected by circumstance, but performance in it not so much.

I understand as a parent that any parent who gives a damn will try to give their kids the best shot they can. But I also know there will be a "sink or swim" moment for my kids too, when they make their own way. As a college prof I see parents interjecting themselves into their kid's college work all the time.

Posted by: Confused by Paren on June 8, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK
Do you mean that I as a father should not have the opportunity of securing for my son a leg up on the competition through my own hard work and diligence.

No. Look, the liberal egalitarian impulse is based on the intuition (and, several centuries after it was well established, there is some empirical evidence of this being true in studies of, e.g., IQ and academic performance) that, up to a certain point, social environment (which can include a lot of things, wealth, nutrition, etc.) is strongly determinative of outcomes, but beyond a certain point improvements innate factors and free choice come to dominate outcomes, and environment becomes less important.

Liberals, for reasons moral and practical, see a social need, benefit, and/or obligation to provide for all (and particularly children) an adequate environment up to the point where innate factors and free choice become dominant in determining outcomes.

Why should the son of a father who has abandoned them and left them to fend for themselves get preferential treatment to balance for my hard work.

A person who society at large undertakes to provide an adequate environment for in the failure of parental action is not treated preferentially over one for whom society at large holds the parent responsible for providing an adequate environment.

It seems like you are saying that my son, who comes from an intact home and has had a very good private/public education should be penalized for this in application to college because you must try to "equalize the opportunity" at the college level between him and the product of a broken home.

I think that's an extraordinary leap from what I said. Could you point to where I said anything about broken homes vs. intact families, or about college admissions?

Frankly, if you are teaching your son reasoning skills like yours, I think he'll have enough disadvantages to overcome in higher education.

I do not believe in complete meritocracy.

It seems to me the word "complete" is unnecessary.

I do believe in private charities trying to provide opportunity for those who are underprivileged. But I don't see how it is profitable for the state to try to pick an arbitrary level like "admittance to college" to try and level a playing field that was made unlevel by personal choices.

First, it is you who suggested the arbitrary level of "admittance to college", and, second, the inequalities often do not stem from personal choices of the people disadvantagedor those of their predecessors in interest so much as the decisions of those who are advantaged by them, or their predecessors in interest.

That is particularly true in the case of the overall disadvantages of, for example, US Blacks as compared to US Whites, but true across many other divides in society, as well.


Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

People who identify with the American Right have a near monopoly on hate.

Your stupid is showing. From Huffington Post comments on Dick Cheney's latest heart procedure. I doubt the commenters were conservatives. Also, check out the DU following Falwell's death for a dose of unfiltered hatey goodness from the left.

3. So near and yet so far. Close but no cigar.
"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...
"Come on , little blood clot that could.
June 07, 2007 at 05:39pm PM EDT

18. Die asshole.
June 07, 2007 at 05:54pm PM EDT

32. Let's hope it doesn't go well
June 07, 2007 at 06:12pm PM EDT

36. This is why Mary Cheney got knocked up - so there will be a barely-used heart available to replace Dickless's own barely-used heart in case he needs a transplant.
June 07, 2007 at 06:15pm PM EDT

50. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, he dies!
June 07, 2007 at 06:27pm PM EDT

53. Impeach! Indict! Incarcerape! Unplug!
June 07, 2007 at 06:31pm PM EDT

Posted by: Confused by Paren on June 8, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Last comment on topic...if you look at the other folk's kids as future cops, firemen, lawyers, competitors in the global marketplace, taxpayers, payers of your social security, etc., it becomes easier to understand that what is good for them can be good for you too.

Posted by: Confused by Paren on June 8, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals, for reasons moral and practical, see a social need, benefit, and/or obligation to provide for all (and particularly children) an adequate environment up to the point where innate factors and free choice become dominant in determining outcomes.

But this is an impossible goal. No matter how you do it, a child of someone who is an , for example, a neglectful parent is going to have a disadvantage in life. It is an admirable goal to wish to help someone in these cases, but I think private charities and churches do a much better job at that point.

For example, I am all for the state intervening in the case where a child is being abused - but what if the child is being home-schooled in a backwards religion. Should the state intervene and say that this is going to lead to a child who can not compete and so we must override this family's freedom of religion so their individual children can compete on a level playing field?

What if the Father and Mother have very liberal ideas about sexuality and regularly commit adultery with their children's knowledge? Should we remove the children because they may not be able to handle this psycholoically and therefore will have a disadvantage later when trying to compete with children from different homes.

What if parents think it is more important for their 18 year old child to learn a trade rather to go to college. Should the state intervene and force the child to go to college so he will be better able to compete?

You're ideas are compelling in a theoretical sense, but when applied in practice always end up with the majority enforcing some kind of choices based on what it thinks will result in a level playing field. Unfortunately the world works that children will be affected by the decisions of their parents. To try to reverse this by state interference always ends up in an overbearing government.

I am not saying there should be no public welfare and that parents should be able to do whatever they want. Obviously our disagreements are on matter of degree, not absolutes. I just think it is a counterproductive goal to try to "level the playing field". It neglects the big influence that childhood has on what kind of adult is produced. It leads to the desire to intervene in family life where the state does not belong.

This is why the American revolution which was centered on liberty was so much better than the French revolution which included the desire for egalitarianism.

Equality and freedom will always be at odds with one another. I would rather be in a world with less equality and more freedom than one where equality is imposed by the state.

Posted by: John Hansen on June 8, 2007 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Talk about your time-wasting generalizations. On other hand, don't talk about them.

Posted by: Kenji on June 8, 2007 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK
But this is an impossible goal.

Most policy ideals are; the idea is to approximate it as closely as possible without compromising other valuable goals so much as to outweigh the benefit of more closely approximating the goal in question.

No matter how you do it, a child of someone who is an, for example, a neglectful parent is going to have a disadvantage in life.

No doubt. Which is why one of the means in which the goal is approached is policies which seek to discourage parental neglect.

is an admirable goal to wish to help someone in these cases, but I think private charities and churches do a much better job at that point.

I don't think there is any rational basis for believing that. Further, even assuming, arguendo, that it was true, so what? Its not as if private charities and churches stop acting where the state also acts.

For example, I am all for the state intervening in the case where a child is being abused

This seems directly contrary to your immediately prior statement, but okay.

but what if the child is being home-schooled in a backwards religion. Should the state intervene and say that this is going to lead to a child who can not compete and so we must override this family's freedom of religion so their individual children can compete on a level playing field?

Provided the child is being homeschooled in the academic subjects of general applicability, the religious or moral content of the instruction is not a concern of the state; freedom of religion is also a liberal value.


What if the Father and Mother have very liberal ideas about sexuality and regularly commit adultery with their children's knowledge?

Plenty of people with very conservative ideas about sexuality do this, too, you know.

Should we remove the children because they may not be able to handle this psycholoically and therefore will have a disadvantage later when trying to compete with children from different homes.

Unless the knowledge is deliberately structured to be of the eyewitness variety, again, this is probably not a matter for the state. Nor, for that matter, is there any objective reason to believe that your speculation that this would produce some kind of later disadvantage is generally true, anyhow.

What if parents think it is more important for their 18 year old child to learn a trade rather to go to college.

I would think that the adult in this case would be allowed to make up their own mind.

Should the state intervene and force the child to go to college so he will be better able to compete?

No, nor do I see anything I've said that suggests that adults should be denied freedom to do things that would reduce their own personal competitive edge.

You're ideas are compelling in a theoretical sense, but when applied in practice always end up with the majority enforcing some kind of choices based on what it thinks will result in a level playing field.

I really wish you wouldn't refer to your strawmen as my ideas.

Unfortunately the world works that children will be affected by the decisions of their parents.

And I haven't argued that the world should be such that children are not affected by the decisions of their parents.

To try to reverse this by state interference always ends up in an overbearing government.

Well, that's several steps down from your earlier claim that attempts to acheive egalitarian results always result in "totalitarianism", but still inaccurate, IMO.

I am not saying there should be no public welfare and that parents should be able to do whatever they want.

Then, except for arguing against things no one has argued for, what are you saying?

Obviously our disagreements are on matter of degree, not absolutes.

I don't think that's at all obvious. But then, I don't think your actual position is at all obvious.

I just think it is a counterproductive goal to try to "level the playing field".

Then, clearly, our difference is not one of degree, since I've stated that that is a productive goal. Those are diametrically opposed positions, not ones that differ only in degree.

It neglects the big influence that childhood has on what kind of adult is produced.

No, it doesn't. In fact, most attempts to "level the playing field" focus on the big influence that childhood has on what kind of adult is produced.

This is why the American revolution which was centered on liberty was so much better than the French revolution which included the desire for egalitarianism.

The US breakaway from England which was largely conducted by the established local governments, and the French Revolution which overturned government and religious institutions at every level were so radically different in every way that to try to explain one being "better" than the other in the simplistic way you do, without any evidence or logic connecting the differences to the source you present, is pretty laughable.

Equality and freedom will always be at odds with one another.

The absence of either freedom or equality limits the realization of the benefit of the other.

I would rather be in a world with less equality and more freedom than one where equality is imposed by the state.

And I would rather be in a world in which the institutions of the state strive to advance both freedom and equality, rather than sacrificing either to advance an (ultimately illusory) idea of the other.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 8, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Politics these days is mostly status-striving. Conservatives like to see themselves as economically and morally superior, liberals as culturally and ethically superior.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on June 8, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

At least I now know what the sound of a thousand ridiculous hypotheticals is.

Posted by: Disputo on June 8, 2007 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Money isn't about happiness, it's about the opportunity to pursue happiness. Without some level of economic freedom, no other freedom is possible as we are all slaves to survival and profit.

Posted by: soullite on June 9, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Liberals have heard of King Midas and take the lesson. Conservatives think that the economic value of anything is everything.

Posted by: slanted tom on June 9, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think that thinking of 'status' only in terms of a job title is very misleading in this context. Behavioural economics often use the term 'esteem' which I generally think is more descriptive. People value esteem to varying degrees but slightly oversimplified you could say that people who do nice, seemingly unselfish (liberal?) things do it in part to get esteem. However, people who put a high value on esteem and care about what people think of them can also be shown to be more genuinly generous and fair-minded. Assholes are too much of assholes to be bothered by the fact that people think they're assholes....in a nutshell.

Posted by: George on June 11, 2007 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

I think that thinking of 'status' only in terms of a job title is very misleading in this context. Behavioural economics often use the term 'esteem' which I generally think is more descriptive. People value esteem to varying degrees but slightly oversimplified you could say that people who do nice, seemingly unselfish (liberal?) things do it in part to get esteem. However, people who put a high value on esteem and care about what people think of them can also be shown to be more genuinly generous and fair-minded. Assholes are too much of assholes to be bothered by the fact that people think they're assholes....in a nutshell.

Posted by: George on June 11, 2007 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

Equality and freedom will always be at odds with one another. I would rather be in a world with less equality and more freedom than one where equality is imposed by the state.

Me too.

Well, so long as I get to be in one of the "right" families.

Posted by: Brian on June 11, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Both parties use status to motivate people to do what society expects. Republicans believe in unlimited status change, i.e. if you are good, you get to be a billioaire, if bad, you go straight to jail or the gutter. Democrats share this belief is using status to motivate, but believe in a marginal tax rate system, and a social net for the failed. Money is simply a measure of status in most cultures, especially ours.

Posted by: George on June 11, 2007 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

In response to some comments above, I'm pretty sure that no matter how you define "conservative" (libertarian, social conservative, etc.), you will find hedge fund managers as a group more conservative than university professors. Although everyone in New York may be liberal by Oklahoma standards.

Again, I work with hedge fund managers every day. While they are possibly more conservative than university professors (not a high bar to clear) they are generally more educated and hence more socially liberal than the vast majority of the population. They tend to be socially liberal, and I know few of them who are planning to vote Republican after the clown show of the last eight years. Most hedge fund money is going to the Democrats.

Posted by: Stefan on June 11, 2007 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

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