Redefining equality (Elizabeth Anderson)

#1
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/...g-equality

EXCERPT: . . . At fifty-nine, [Elizabeth] Anderson is the chair of the University of Michigan’s department of philosophy and a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent, enmeshed in changing conditions through time. Working at the intersection of moral and political philosophy, social science, and economics, she has become a leading theorist of democracy and social justice. She has built a case, elaborated across decades, that equality is the basis for a free society. Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. Because she brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality, Anderson may be the philosopher best suited to this awkward moment in American life. She builds a democratic frame for a society in which people come from different places and are predisposed to disagree.

[...] “If you look back at the origins of liberalism, it starts first with a certain settlement about religious difference,” she said. “Catholics, Protestants—they’re killing each other! Finally, Germany, England, all these places say, We’re tired of these people killing each other, so we’re going to make a peace settlement: religious toleration, live and let live.”

She spread her hands wider. “Then something remarkable happens,” she said. “People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home, or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains?” She paused. “That is what it is to be free.”

[...] As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. How do you build up a society that allows for such variety without, as in the greater-Detroit real-estate market, turning difference into a constraint? How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way?

In 1999, Anderson published an article in the journal Ethics, titled “What Is the Point of Equality?(PDF),” laying out the argument for which she is best known. “If much recent academic work defending equality had been secretly penned by conservatives,” she began, opening a grenade in the home trenches, “could the results be any more embarrassing for egalitarians?”

The problem, she proposed, was that contemporary egalitarian thinkers had grown fixated on distribution: moving resources from lucky-seeming people to unlucky-seeming people, as if trying to spread the luck around [Luck egalitarianism]. This was a weird and nebulous endeavor. Is an heir who puts his assets into a house in a flood zone and loses it unlucky—or lucky and dumb? Or consider a woman who marries rich, has children, and stays at home to rear them (crucial work for which she gets no wages). If she leaves the marriage to escape domestic abuse and subsequently struggles to support her kids, is that bad luck or an accretion of bad choices? Egalitarians should agree about clear cases of blameless misfortune: the quadriplegic child, the cognitively impaired adult, the teen-ager born into poverty with junkie parents. But Anderson balked there, too. By categorizing people as lucky or unlucky, she argued, these egalitarians set up a moralizing hierarchy. In the article, she imagined some citizens getting a state check and a bureaucratic letter:

To the disabled: Your defective native endowments or current disabilities, alas, make your life less worth living than the lives of normal people. . . . To the stupid and untalented: Unfortunately, other people don’t value what little you have to offer in the system of production. . . . Because of the misfortune that you were born so poorly endowed with talents, we productive ones will make it up to you: we’ll let you share in the bounty of what we have produced with our vastly superior and highly valued abilities. . . . To the ugly and socially awkward: . . . Maybe you won’t be such a loser in love once potential dates see how rich you are.

By letting the lucky class go on reaping the market’s chancy rewards while asking others to concede inferior status in order to receive a drip-drip-drip of redistributive aid, these egalitarians were actually entrenching people’s status as superior or subordinate. Generations of bleeding-heart theorists had been doing the wolf’s work in shepherds’ dress.

In Anderson’s view, the way forward was to shift from distributive equality to what she called relational, or democratic, equality: meeting as equals, regardless of where you were coming from or going to. This was, at heart, an exercise of freedom. The trouble was that many people, picking up on libertarian misconceptions, thought of freedom only in the frame of their own actions. If one person’s supposed freedom results in someone else’s subjugation, that is not actually a free society in action. It’s hierarchy in disguise.

To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that people should be equally free, regardless of their differences. A society in which everyone had the same material benefits could still be unequal, in this crucial sense; democratic equality, being predicated on equal respect, wasn’t something you could simply tax into existence. “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote....

MORE: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/...g-equality
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#2
Nope. Positive rights always require the forced labor of others, i.e. slavery.
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#3
How tragic that some see people as “lucky” and “unlucky.” To assign such labels is what actually creates a mindset of “lacking,” as opposed to encouraging people to see themselves as not limited by their circumstances.

Oprah was born into poverty, and Stephen Hawking never gave up following his dreams. He wrote a book and countless others who to some, would just be considered “unlucky.” I’m glad that they didn’t let their lack of luck stop their dreams.

Equality of persons though is an imperative, but we are not equal in ambition, desire and capability. But everyone should be treated equal in human dignity.
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#4
(Jan 15, 2019 05:54 AM)Leigha Wrote: How tragic that some see people as “lucky” and “unlucky.” To assign such labels is what actually creates a mindset of “lacking,” as opposed to encouraging people to see themselves as not limited by their circumstances.

Oprah was born into poverty, and Stephen Hawking never gave up following his dreams. He wrote a book and countless others who to some, would just be considered “unlucky.” I’m glad that they didn’t let their lack of luck stop their dreams.

Equality of persons though is an imperative, but we are not equal in ambition, desire and capability. But everyone should be treated equal in human dignity.

True but what are your thoughts on meritocracy, Wegs?

This is short. Only five minutes or so.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTDGdKaMDhQ
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#5
Nonsense. Welfare is largely what keeps people poor, as poverty, at least in the US, was steadily improving until the "war on poverty" social programs which flattened that trend. And even with its halted improvement, the poor today are still vastly better off than at any time in history, and solely thanks to the meritocratic free market. One could argue that the only reason they have the luxury of fretting over being looked down upon is because there is actually class mobility. There are countless stories about poor people succeeding, and that can only happen in a meritocracy.

Excusing failures as "bad luck", greedy capitalism, etc. is exactly the mindset that keeps people from improving their own lot in life. After all, if something/someone else is to blame, there's nothing they can do about it. It's learned helplessness. Winners do make their own luck.

Arguments about people getting "exactly what they deserve" are a nonstarter, as no system is perfect, and demanding that it be is naive or ignorant. The real faith in this argument is assuming there can be a perfect system worth abandoning meritocracy for.
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#6

Article quote: The problem, she proposed, was that contemporary egalitarian thinkers had grown fixated on distribution: moving resources from lucky-seeming people to unlucky-seeming people, as if trying to spread the luck around [...] By categorizing people as lucky or unlucky, she argued, these egalitarians set up a moralizing hierarchy. In the article, she imagined some citizens getting a state check and a bureaucratic letter:

"To the disabled: Your defective native endowments or current disabilities, alas, make your life less worth living than the lives of normal people. . . . To the stupid and untalented: Unfortunately, other people don’t value what little you have to offer in the system of production. . . . Because of the misfortune that you were born so poorly endowed with talents, we productive ones will make it up to you: we’ll let you share in the bounty of what we have produced with our vastly superior and highly valued abilities. . . . To the ugly and socially awkward: . . . Maybe you won’t be such a loser in love once potential dates see how rich you are."

By letting the lucky class go on reaping the market’s chancy rewards while asking others to concede inferior status in order to receive a drip-drip-drip of redistributive aid, these egalitarians were actually entrenching people’s status as superior or subordinate. Generations of bleeding-heart theorists had been doing the wolf’s work in shepherds’ dress.

In Anderson’s view, the way forward was to shift from distributive equality to what she called relational, or democratic, equality: meeting as equals, regardless of where you were coming from or going to. This was, at heart, an exercise of freedom. [...] “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote....


"Distribution of resources" roundaboutly sounds like a society focused on wealth status or evaluating "equality" in terms of that measurement (or projecting that characteristic upon it). But tying equality to "freedom" still runs into the problem of freedom being tied to access. The latter is subject to regulation and bound to security concerns, responsibility, training, self-control, ownership, membership, etc. Which in turn gives birth to ranks/hierarchies and special privileges even if a society chooses not to directly call such that (an entire adult public engaging in a formal, theatrical pretense like the Emperor's New Clothes, in a semantics context).

OTOH, if the so-called "Michigan school of thought" is practical -- revolves around a posteriori operation rather than aprioricity mode, then I assume it doesn't have to be permanently shackled to whatever it plugs into an _X_ currently/locally. Is adaptable, evolvable.

Part of the novelty in Anderson’s approach came from a shift in how she practiced philosophy. Traditionally, the discipline is taught through a-priori thought—you start with basic principles and reason forward. Anderson, by contrast, sought to work empirically, using information gathered from the world, identifying problems to be solved not abstractly but through the experienced problems of real people.

Shortly after arriving at Michigan, she had been struck by the work of a law-school colleague, Don Herzog, which incorporated a turn-of-the-century school of American thought called pragmatism. To a pragmatist, “truth” is an instrumental and contingent state; a claim is true for now if, by all tests, it works for now. This approach, and the friendship that had borne it, enriched Anderson’s work. Herzog has offered notes on almost everything she has published in the past three decades.


But it's difficult to see how organization could avoid hierarchical structures. Despite whatever claims of Unorganization "going mainstream" in the 21st-century, at specific levels there is still systemic management of people taking place, with different grades of access and authority. And anomie and literal anarchy are afflictions, not societies or another possibility of systematically arranged populations and their lives / work. An alternative like wirearchy, which supposedly disrupts traditional hierarchies, applies to knowledge and information eluding regulation in the internet era, not really people themselves.

~
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#7
(Jan 15, 2019 03:05 PM)Secular Sanity Wrote:
(Jan 15, 2019 05:54 AM)Leigha Wrote: How tragic that some see people as “lucky” and “unlucky.” To assign such labels is what actually creates a mindset of “lacking,” as opposed to encouraging people to see themselves as not limited by their circumstances.

Oprah was born into poverty, and Stephen Hawking never gave up following his dreams. He wrote a book and countless others who to some, would just be considered “unlucky.” I’m glad that they didn’t let their lack of luck stop their dreams.

Equality of persons though is an imperative, but we are not equal in ambition, desire and capability. But everyone should be treated equal in human dignity.

True but what are your thoughts on meritocracy, Wegs?

This is short. Only five minutes or so.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTDGdKaMDhQ

I'd side with it being positive, in that no matter one's social position, there should be opportunities afforded to them. Not handed to them, though, unless one through no fault of their own, can't gain access to those opportunities. Truly, there isn't any merit or compassion in ''handing'' people jobs that they didn't earn, or things that they didn't purchase, rather it suggests that they are incapable of a better quality of life, and need to enslave themselves to powers-that-be in order to survive.
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#8
@SS thank you for the meritocracy youtube. Certainly in the UK there exist geographical regions of low-level crime supported by a background of welfare payments. There are few jobs [none] (at a low starting point) that will pay as well as well and in so few hours as welfare payments backed up by low level crime.
I've worked in some of those areas as a 'youth worker' and for other reasons and I have known (and liked) some of the people but, as my mother would have said "They are not like us.". When my mother (would have) said "...not like us." I think she would have been referring to something other than our ongoing rat infestation. What to do (if anything) is beyond my pay grade.
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#9
(Jan 14, 2019 09:22 PM)C C Wrote: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/...g-equality

EXCERPT: . . . At fifty-nine, [Elizabeth] Anderson is the chair of the University of Michigan’s department of philosophy and a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent, enmeshed in changing conditions through time. Working at the intersection of moral and political philosophy, social science, and economics, she has become a leading theorist of democracy and social justice. She has built a case, elaborated across decades, that equality is the basis for a free society. Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. Because she brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality, Anderson may be the philosopher best suited to this awkward moment in American life. She builds a democratic frame for a society in which people come from different places and are predisposed to disagree.

[...] “If you look back at the origins of liberalism, it starts first with a certain settlement about religious difference,” she said. “Catholics, Protestants—they’re killing each other! Finally, Germany, England, all these places say, We’re tired of these people killing each other, so we’re going to make a peace settlement: religious toleration, live and let live.”

She spread her hands wider. “Then something remarkable happens,” she said. “People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home, or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains?” She paused. “That is what it is to be free.”

[...] As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. How do you build up a society that allows for such variety without, as in the greater-Detroit real-estate market, turning difference into a constraint? How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way?

In 1999, Anderson published an article in the journal Ethics, titled “What Is the Point of Equality?(PDF),” laying out the argument for which she is best known. “If much recent academic work defending equality had been secretly penned by conservatives,” she began, opening a grenade in the home trenches, “could the results be any more embarrassing for egalitarians?”

The problem, she proposed, was that contemporary egalitarian thinkers had grown fixated on distribution: moving resources from lucky-seeming people to unlucky-seeming people, as if trying to spread the luck around [Luck egalitarianism]. This was a weird and nebulous endeavor. Is an heir who puts his assets into a house in a flood zone and loses it unlucky—or lucky and dumb? Or consider a woman who marries rich, has children, and stays at home to rear them (crucial work for which she gets no wages). If she leaves the marriage to escape domestic abuse and subsequently struggles to support her kids, is that bad luck or an accretion of bad choices? Egalitarians should agree about clear cases of blameless misfortune: the quadriplegic child, the cognitively impaired adult, the teen-ager born into poverty with junkie parents. But Anderson balked there, too. By categorizing people as lucky or unlucky, she argued, these egalitarians set up a moralizing hierarchy. In the article, she imagined some citizens getting a state check and a bureaucratic letter:

To the disabled: Your defective native endowments or current disabilities, alas, make your life less worth living than the lives of normal people. . . . To the stupid and untalented: Unfortunately, other people don’t value what little you have to offer in the system of production. . . . Because of the misfortune that you were born so poorly endowed with talents, we productive ones will make it up to you: we’ll let you share in the bounty of what we have produced with our vastly superior and highly valued abilities. . . . To the ugly and socially awkward: . . . Maybe you won’t be such a loser in love once potential dates see how rich you are.

By letting the lucky class go on reaping the market’s chancy rewards while asking others to concede inferior status in order to receive a drip-drip-drip of redistributive aid, these egalitarians were actually entrenching people’s status as superior or subordinate. Generations of bleeding-heart theorists had been doing the wolf’s work in shepherds’ dress.

In Anderson’s view, the way forward was to shift from distributive equality to what she called relational, or democratic, equality: meeting as equals, regardless of where you were coming from or going to. This was, at heart, an exercise of freedom. The trouble was that many people, picking up on libertarian misconceptions, thought of freedom only in the frame of their own actions. If one person’s supposed freedom results in someone else’s subjugation, that is not actually a free society in action. It’s hierarchy in disguise.

To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that people should be equally free, regardless of their differences. A society in which everyone had the same material benefits could still be unequal, in this crucial sense; democratic equality, being predicated on equal respect, wasn’t something you could simply tax into existence. “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote....

MORE: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/...g-equality

Quote:In Anderson’s view, the way forward was to shift from distributive equality to what she called relational, or democratic, equality: meeting as equals, regardless of where you were coming from or going to. This was, at heart, an exercise of freedom. The trouble was that many people, picking up on libertarian misconceptions, thought of freedom only in the frame of their own actions. If one person’s supposed freedom results in someone else’s subjugation, that is not actually a free society in action. It’s hierarchy in disguise.

Respect for people Vs fear of power

from what i can surmise...
fear of power by assigning absolute priority excluding all else removes the human element from the environment
it breeds mental illness

modern big inclusive forward looking businesses are aware of this and work to evolve.
i see it happening.
the authoritarianism that hearkens back to 19th century sweat shop patriarchal toxicity is a constant negative human element that requires parenting & mentoring to always shine a light away from.
"mad-max-morality"
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