Cosmic justice: infantile and nihilistic
Social class, home environment, genetics and other factors all contribute to differences between individuals. People differ in looks, height, income, social status, morality, various kinds of intelligence and athleticism, musical ability, industriousness, discipline, and nearly every other human characteristic. Differences in culture, history, and geography generate differences between groups. Being born into a culture that emphasizes hard work, education, conscientiousness, and thrift is a tremendous advantage.
“Social justice” advocates describe the resulting disparate achievements as “inequalities” with the suggestion that these represent some kind of injustice. Unequal achievement is treated as though it must be the result of discrimination, “privilege” or some other unfairness, while it is in fact the inevitable consequence of differences between individuals and groups. These differences will exist no matter how a society is organized barring a race to the bottom where the laziest, least talented individuals set the bar and every achievement that surpassed that pitiful measure got confiscated and distributed – removing any incentive to do anything much at all.
Very young children and even some animals have a sense of justice or fairness. In humans this starts out with an intuitive perception, later gets modified by reflection and culture, which in turn influences what gets perceived as just or unjust. Iain McGilchrist describes this as right hemisphere perception, left hemisphere mid-level processing, returning once more to the right hemisphere.
An egocentric child, without prompting, can perceive that receiving a small ice cream while his brother gets a large one is unfair and unjust. However, he is also likely to think that the fact that his older brother has fewer restrictions on what he can do than he does is unfair. Both cases generate resentment. However, only one is justified.
In the second case, being older and thus a little wiser, the older brother does not need as much supervision. He is more capable, self-sufficient and responsible, and therefore has more privileges. These privileges might seem unfair and unjust in some “cosmic” sense, but it is in fact perfectly reasonable. His parents are not being unjust at all. It is merely that age and experience are on the side of the older brother. To harbor resentment at the parents is unreasonable, unfair and unjust. They are blameless. To resent the brother is also ridiculous. There will always be an older sibling as long as siblings exist. The protest is misguided.
Part of the maturation process is learning to distinguish between events that are due to favoritism, attempts to solicit elicit sexual favors, or some other inequity and occurrences that are the result of relevant differences between people. To feel resentful towards someone merely because he is better in some way, such as in looks, status, wealth, or popularity, is in some sense natural. It is also puerile and undeserved. It is a sin in the literal sense of missing the mark. Certainly the envied person is not at fault simply for being superior. The defect is in the heart of the malicious resentful one.
It is true that even a relatively happy, mature person will almost inevitably suffer occasionally from this kind of inappropriate resentment, but he recognizes that the fault lies in his own breast, not in the other person.
By failing to distinguish between deserved resentment and inappropriate hatred towards someone or some group simply for being superior in some way, “social justice” returns people to an infantile inability to differentiate between resentment based on actual unjust treatment, and resentment that is generated simply by the desire to have or be what someone else has or is.
If the universe itself can be considered unjust in some way, due to the unequal distribution of admirable characteristics, it is not the fault or responsibility of man and it is not in man’s power to fix. It is certainly not the fault of “society,” which the phrase “social justice” implies. Justice and fairness appropriately considered enter the picture only with regard to human institutions and rules.
To reject inequalities is to rebel against reality itself. All people bar two are superior to
some and inferior to others in any conceivable characteristic. To reject that fact is to renounce the character of existing at all.
One response to existence and Being is to reject it; to decide that it is better never to have lived and then, having lived, to end it as soon as possible. Mass shooters act out the intention not just to end their own lives, but to kill as many as they can in a rejection of Life itself. Social justice warriors are engaged in a similar kind of nihilism. Scapegoating and killing the “kulaks” in the manner of Stalin has no logical end. Since differences of achievement are unavoidable, the logic of social justice is the complete destruction of the human race. By encouraging undeserved resentment against individuals and whole sectors of society, “social justice” activists ramp up intergroup hatreds that promote internecine conflict and if unchecked, will lead to more horrible violence than simply one individual picking up a gun. Once the scapegoated group is murdered, differing levels of success within the persecuting group remain and the process will continue.
To reward merit or productivity?
In thinking about economic success Sowell recommends simply jettisoning the notion of merit. He argues that “the concept of merit brings an insult to misfortune and arrogance to achievement.” It is impossible to separate how much achievement is the result of talent, for which a person can take no credit, and how much is the result of industriousness. On the face of it, hard work seems meritorious. However, even industriousness tends to be highly affected by familial and cultural influences; an unearned advantage. This means that it is not possible to assess merit. What can be rewarded; what it is known how to reward, is productivity.
Rewarding productivity creates an incentive to be productive and all tend to benefit. They benefit because rewarding productivity encourages using the latest technology and most effective methods, raising the quality of products while reducing their cost. Simply rewarding effort would not be optimal for that reason.
Asian Americans are the most successful group in America. They outperform all others in educational and occupational attainment. They are in no position to discriminate against anyone, being a small minority, and neither are they the beneficiaries of racial preferential treatment; quite the reverse. This means that an expectation that each identifiable social group will find itself represented in the workplace or educational institutions at the proportion to be found in the general population as a whole is erroneous. Differences of result are not evidence of a nefarious, evil conspiracy. Certainly, no one has ever provided evidence of an Asian plot or even imagines one to exist.
In practice, SJWs reserve their hatred for the scapegoating of white males; this despite the fact that the order of success as groups in the US is Asians, Jews, whites and blacks. The irrational arbitrariness of this is worth thinking about. It points to the social justice movement as a sacrificial cult. Such cults are a way of achieving social cohesion via shared hatred. If scapegoating white men and bonding in shared hatred were banned, subjects like women’s studies, black studies, and post-colonial studies could not and would not exist. They would be unrecognizable if they became instead devoted to the positive celebration of women’s, blacks, and post-colonial cultural and economic achievements.
Identity politics encourages exclusive concern for intragroup wellbeing and intergroup hatred and “social justice” is inextricably bound up with it. The world is divided between the saved and the damned and the latter are regarded as irredeemably evil. The moral obnoxiousness of this becomes apparent when white people engage in identity politics which becomes white supremacy or white nationalism. White men in particular, as the scapegoated group, might start to feel the need to bond together out of some belated sense of self-preservation. White male liberals are forced to hate themselves as male, and white, oppressors, regardless of their personal behavior, and self-hatred is no basis for a healthy and productive approach to life.
Many white people’s jobs and social standing are now dependent on social justice and identity politics, particularly in education, government and the media. Hatred thus becomes their bread and butter and the end of hatred would terminate their careers. Many politicians base their election prospects on scapegoating whites and depicting themselves as saviors, and are thus invested in reinforcing sacrificial attitudes.
Logically, some kind of John Brown-inspired rebellion seems an appropriate response with all white people, men, women and children being murdered. If any whites protested that they are one of the “nice” white people this would hold about as much water as a slave owner claiming to be one of the good ones. There is no such thing. The whole point of identity politics is that individual virtue or lack of it is irrelevant. It is race, class and gender membership that determine where a person stands in the moral hierarchy; an overtly racist, misandrist and classist taxonomy.
If people were instead to be judged solely on the basis of their characters, then race, class
and gender would be irrelevant – but that of course is the only legitimate way of judging anyone.
Sacrificial thinking and scapegoating is the default mode of human organization. René Girard argues that Christianity properly understood instituted a unique moment in human history where the scapegoat mechanism was revealed for the first time. Jesus’ disciples risked their own immolation by defending the innocence of Jesus – the victim of a lynch mob. The crucifix centers attention on the fact of the innocent murdered by the mob and stands as an injunction not to repeat sacrificial behavior. For the first time, the religious story takes the point of view of the victim against the mob.
Many serious thinkers have arguably correctly claimed that mankind seems incapable of living an entirely non-religious life. People want something to worship and a larger meaning in their lives. By rejecting Christianity and its prohibition on scapegoating, many people revert back to the “natural” perspective – namely, the point of view of the mob; the many against the one. In this way, the social justice movement is a religious one and returns us back to pre-Christian modes of behavior. Social media facilitate the mob by providing instantaneous means of rapid mob formation and an easy way to promote intergroup hatred.
Social Justice and Equality of Opportunity
Lyndon B. Johnson, argued in the 1960s that “you do not take a man who, for years, has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, and bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair.”
The reference to chains and liberation by LBJ is presumably an allusion to slavery. Slavery was truly, not “cosmically,” unjust, because it was a human institution that violated “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which is based on reciprocity and fairness. LBJ seems to have been trying to play on white voters’ feelings of guilt, getting them to agree to new rules for a special target class of people even though all the participants in the institution of slavery were dead.
Sowell points out that one feature of the quest for cosmic justice is to treat people as group abstractions rather than concrete individuals. Only in this way does it make sense that a harm done to certain concrete people can be rectified by doing a good to some other group of people. With affirmative action actual people who have not participated in discrimination will be discriminated against to benefit members of another group who also were not the victims of past discrimination.
This means people who did no wrong pay a penalty for something they did not do based on their skin color and ancestry, and people who have not been wronged themselves will be compensated, again based on skin color and ancestry. Since relatively few black people in the US have no white ancestry, this further complicates the situation. In those cases, part of them is mad at another part of them.
Correcting historical injustices requires a time machine. They cannot be rectified. Attempting to do so just creates new injustices against living people who are guilty of no wrongdoing.
If the idea of restitution is to make up for past historical wrongs by putting descendants of that group of people in an economic situation that they would have been in had slavery not existed, then this class of “victims” should be returned to economic conditions of the African country that they would now be living in which would most likely be worse than their current level of prosperity.
With regard to LBJ’s reference to “chains” hobbling a person’s chances of success, the evidence suggests that the residual differences between the white and black population are not in fact related to slavery.
In 1920, for instance, black marriage rates were slightly higher than white; black unemployment was lower than white and black poverty rates were steadily declining up through the beginning of the 1960s.
The decline of black marriage rates and the marked increase in black crime and incarceration came after changes instituted in the 1960s. If black employment and marriage rates were actually higher closer to the time of slavery, then the remaining differences between blacks and whites as groups must be due to something other than racism unless racism is imagined to be getting steadily worse for the last hundred years and especially after the 60s. See “Thomas Sowell in Intellectuals and Race.”
It cannot be that simply because some kind of disparity exists between people, real equality of opportunity does not exist. An inferior athlete loses the race. Just one person wins. That is not a reason to initiate a commission of inquiry or start a witch hunt. Each athlete does not bring to the event the same level of talent and dedication to training. However, so long as the same rules apply to both, the event is fair.
One way of characterizing the demands of “social justice” is the requirement not for equality of opportunity, but equality of result.
Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel Harrison Bergeron depicts a dystopian future where equality of result is rigorously enforced. Any person caught thinking at a level beyond the mediocre is blasted with a deafening sound until his thought pattern is disrupted, the beautiful must wear masks and the athletic are loaded with weights. His point is that “equality” is an impossible nightmare, not a desirable reality.
Just having an interest in a physical activity, an area of study or artistic endeavor will produce differences of achievement. Any benefits that resulted from this interest would thus become illegal in a world of forced equality.
Social justice and the free market
Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes that “of the 500 largest U.S. companies in 1957, only 74 were still part of Standard and Poor’s 500, 40 years later.” Given how hard it is to stay in business, irrational behavior is likely to be terminal.
Currently, some are claiming, for instance, that companies that have boards that include women are more competitive than ones without them. There is even a claim of 66% higher returns. This has become part of a social justice campaign. However, if this is true, there is no need to campaign for anything. Companies without women board members will simply cease to exist as they fail to compete in the marketplace. Competition is cutthroat. If businesses continue as usual without changing the sexual composition of boards, then the SJWs were wrong. Likewise, if businesses make irrational hiring and promotion decisions based on irrelevant criteria, such as skin color or sex, they will tend to fail. No company needs to be perfect. It just needs to be less irrational than its competition. This economic natural selection process will have a ruthless effect over time.
In this way, the business world has very little room for falsehoods. Eric Gans has called the free market a truth generator. Of course, marketing is mostly erroneous and intentionally manipulative, but thanks to the internet, it is easier and easier to get reasonably high quality information about most products and services.
However, the three areas of modern life most permeated by notions of social justice are impervious to reality and truth. These are education, the media and politicians.
Kierkegaard commented that journalists see it as their jobs to tell the public what to think, not to neutrally inform it of the facts and Taleb comments in Antifragile that academics, journalists and politicians typically pay no price whatsoever for being wrong. They have no skin in the game and being wrong costs them nothing at all. In fact, if political correctness and social justice are morally wrong and based on confusions and lies, then denying reality becomes a matter of career survival. A good rule of thumb espoused by Scott Adams, the writer of Dilbert, is not to trust any opinion, including scientific ones, when there is a stiff political, social and/or economic price for not upholding it.
Taleb would like to see any economist or financial advisor have to act on his own advice
and predictions. If any advise buying stocks, then he must buy them too. If money markets, government bonds, or putting money in a bank account is the recommendation, then that is what the person must do. Taleb’s suggestion would align the prognosticator’s words with his actions, and therefore his interests with those of the people listening to his opinions.
If it is claimed that companies that have large numbers of women on their boards do better, then the person or institution making this assertion must invest only in those companies and withdraw funds from companies that do not conform to this notion. If they have no money to invest and therefore no skin in the game, they should be ignored
Journalists who wrongly predict the outcomes of elections, for instance, are still asked for their opinion on the next one. Economists who failed to see the housing crisis coming and who even said it will not happen are then asked to give an analysis of why it occurred. Journalists who have contributed to misinformation leading the country to an unnecessary war, such as the second invasion of Iraq, still have their latest opinions published in venues like the New York Times.
In natural circumstances, Taleb comments that being wrong leads to an exit from the gene pool. Mistaking a bear for a rock might be the last error someone ever makes. But talking heads who do not actually do anything but merely talk can be wrong forever. This is true particularly when nearly everyone colludes in the falsehood. It even pays for someone to contradict himself over time because when confronted with his errors he can point to the publications where he made the opposite claim.
Tough love vs mother love
It would be a strange world in which absolute equality reigned. There would be no one to admire. To develop and get better in any regard; financially, musically, or athletically, would be impossible. Everyone would be exactly the same. It would be the least diverse world possible; a static, boring hellhole.
Sowell points out that even the same person is not equal to himself at different stages in his life. An older child will be bigger, stronger, smarter and more capable than the younger version of himself. This is natural and inevitable. Workers are likely to be more productive and become more capable over time. Teenagers frequently start out at the minimum wage while most millionaires are over sixty. Very few people start on minimum wage and remain there as older adults. As more experience and seniority is accumulated there is the likelihood of promotions spanning decades. For this reason the same individual is likely to occupy multiple economic groups over a lifetime. And when people retire their income is likely to decrease.
Age differences between individuals, or the median age of ethnic groups, alone would be enough to generate economic inequalities. The median age of American Jews is 52 while the median age of Hispanics is 40 and partly for that reason, Jews are on average better off than Hispanics as groups.
In America, most millionaires and billionaires have not inherited their wealth but have earned it. The titans of the tech industry, for instance, are nearly all self-made men.
This obsession with leveling differences between people can be linked to the love a mother has for all her children – an unconditional love looking out for the lost lamb. Agape is the Greek name for compassionate love and it is focused on acceptance and nondifferentiation.
Eros is a more masculine-style tough-love aimed at looking out for the welfare of people by encouraging them to develop and get better; to promote hard work, discipline and sacrificing present pleasure for future gain. In principle, anyone at all, no matter his talents and starting position, can get better. To truly care about someone, is to wish him to improve.
In metaphysical or religious terms, in the realm of the Absolute there are no distinctions, all is one. Everything is equally divine and good; Agape. In the realm of the Relative, distinctions exist and the possibility of things being better or worse relative to other things or relative to itself at different points in time comes into being; Eros.
Ken Wilber in A Brief History of Everything argues that real nonpathological love is a combination of Eros and Agape. The push to grow and develop combined with an acceptance of someone just as he is. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in popular culture at the moment to regard masculinity, and thus masculine virtues, as “toxic.” Thus, Eros-derived achievement and success is looked on as suspicious and a reason for others to feel resentful.
“Social justice” is the pathological promotion of Agape with no Eros attached. Superiority, and thus development, is then regarded as a sin.
Kindness and Charity
The idea of social justice is not a harmless mistake. The claim that all people who are less successful in a given economic system are the victims of discrimination and injustice divides the world into victims and victimizers; the oppressed and the oppressors. It is imagined that if it were not for these evil people, all people and groups would be at the same economic and social level. This kind of thinking has its modern roots in Marxism which divides the world into two groups; the bourgeoisie (capitalists) and the proletariat (workers). The exploiters were to be murdered and the exploited freed.
Marxism posits a cause for the proletariat’s suffering; they are being actively suppressed and kept down. This imagines the proletariat have all the ingredients for tremendous happiness and success but their fantastic potential is prevented from being actualized by nefarious others. In this way of thinking, it is not prosperity that needs to be explained, which is imagined to be the default and natural situation of man, but penury. Any failure to achieve economic wellbeing then must not be the fault of the individual but that of some external force, in exactly the same way the National Socialists claimed the Jews diabolically pulled the strings of international commerce.
Sowell argues that relative poverty and a hard scrabble existence have characterized humanity for most of its history. Prosperity is the anomaly, not the default condition. It is that which needs explaining. Japan studied the success of the Scots and English when they realized they were falling behind technologically, while the Scots copied the English to lift their own performance.
Failure is always easier than hard work and changing cultural attitudes. The majority of countries simply resent their higher performing minorities and seek to suppress them. E.g., Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia with regard to their ethnic Chinese minorities and Fiji against its ethnic Indians.
Economics is also not a zero-sum game. The standard of living of rich countries is high for everyone relative to poor countries. If wealth were attained by stealing it from the poor, the more wealth a country had, the poorer the masses would be. This is not the case.
Members of modern democracies tend to be fairly good at recognizing scapegoating when the targets are at the lower end of the success spectrum, such as the poor and the handicapped. However they tend to fail dismally to perceive scapegoating when the victim belongs to the higher ups. Scapegoating the king or the chief is historically very common. The powerful person is already singled out by his office and since he occupies a position of authority, he can be blamed when things have gone wrong. The individual can never succeed against the mob, so this person is as vulnerable as anyone else. When SJWs target the 1% this is classic scapegoating – the 99% against the 1%.
If SJWs want to benefit the world they could instead work to promote love and kindness and they can do this by giving up hatred and scapegoating and actually being loving and kind themselves. This will rarely involve angry mobs of people “protesting.” They can be charitable to widows and orphans, and they can identify behaviors and attitudes that contribute to economic and social success by recommending copying the more successful individuals and groups.
Moral and cultural relativism were invented to promote tolerance instead of ranking one moral perspective or culture as better than another. But if all moral perspectives and cultural practices are as good as another, then there is in fact no right or wrong, good or evil. Relativism is thus a swift path to moral nihilism which is conceptually incapable of identifying evil, let alone fighting it. Instead of introducing nonsensical and harmful metaphysical lies, the goals of the relativist and the SJW can be achieved by claiming that love and kindness are positively good and moral things. No bizarre self-contradictory counterfactual rearrangement of reality is necessary.
Hierarchies and equality
Jordan Peterson comments that dominance hierarchies have existed at least since lobsters evolved 350 million years ago, and thus can be regarded as natural rather than cultural. The top male lobster gets the best territory and the female lobsters rush to mate with him. Human women, unlike chimpanzees, are highly selective in their mating choices and they too choose men at the same level or higher in social status than themselves. Sexual selection by women is brutal and seems to have contributed to the growth of the enormous human brain. If men are unsuccessful in one dominance hierarchy they can try to invent a new one. If a man is no good at carpentry, perhaps he can be the best poet. The truly successful man can be regarded as someone who competes well across all dominance hierarchies. Women largely leave men to make up the rules of these games and then select from the winners if they too are high status.
Even extreme egalitarians will divide people into better and worse – at the very least, those who oppose hierarchy being considered morally superior to those who embrace hierarchy. Thus, those supposedly opposed to hierarchy simply introduce new hierarchies of their own devising with themselves at the top of the pecking order and the “deplorables” at the bottom.
A writer for Slate magazine, critical of Peterson on the topic of hierarchies, comments “If we instead chose to believe that all humans are unique and equal – and we have the power to make society fairer—this will change our brains too.” Humans are unique, but not equal in almost any regard at all. Choosing to believe a lie does not make that lie any truer. People have their position in social hierarchies and they know it. Try speaking at a social gathering and see how attentively and respectfully people listen or fail to listen and how frequently someone is ignored or talked over. On one occasion, a female professor simply spoke over the top of me every time I attempted to speak while the department were dining with a visiting speaker, to the point that the men I was trying to talk to became visibly embarrassed about the situation. This indicated a particular insecurity on the part of the professor and an apparent need to signal dominance.
The Slate writer clearly links the notion that “all humans are equal” with the power to make society fairer. Here the contradiction at the core of “social” justice is most clearly exposed. “Fairness” cannot be based on “all humans are equal” because they are not. Saying something does not make it so. Things do not go well when people get confused about reality. If this fantasy actually “changed our brains” then disaster would follow.
There is always the possibility that a hierarchy can become oppressive and tyrannical but life and thought are not possible without hierarchy. Development of any kind indicates a hierarchy. Moral development proceeds along a hierarchy of egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric. Schools are arranged hierarchically by grades and age groups. There are cognitive developmental structures which are mastered and transcended in order.
Education cannot exist unless there is a hierarchy of abilities. Literacy and numeracy must be rated as superior to illiteracy and innumeracy; being knowledgeable and capable must be considered superior to ignorance and incompetence.
Without social hierarchies, chaos and destruction ensues. If all are on the same level, then all are the competitors and rivals of all. Order is impossible.
The love of equality means demonizing hierarchies as “patriarchal.” In this iconoclastic environment, ten year olds are encouraged to pass judgment on whole civilizations and painfully acquired traditions.
In ancient Greek culture, hubris was one of the most criticized moral failings. Hubris means arrogance and over-stepping boundaries and one of the most important divisions was between the gods and man. Any attempt to usurp the prerogatives of the gods was harshly punished.
A modern person may feel tempted to regard this as quaint, but the twentieth century saw plenty of attempts made by fallible, weak, human beings to elevate themselves to god-like status; Mao Zedong and Stalin being good examples. The distinction between gods and man is a good one.
In family life, the younger a child is, the more he must be subordinate to his parents. Young children are simply in no position to judge what is good for them. Two year olds treated as little kings are insecure, unhappy tyrants who make those around them miserable too.
In order for classrooms to function, teachers and professors must be respected and obeyed by the students. Teachers and professors must set the rules for the classroom and decide when and if someone speaks, otherwise chaos reigns.
Employers are the boss of employees, judges of courtrooms, chairmen of juries, committees, and so on. Police, in order to do their job, must be treated as having special powers beyond ordinary citizens. These necessary facts are not the evil products of the patriarchy, but necessary elements of civilization.
Radical egalitarianism tends to be hostile to all hierarchies and thus to all social structure. While it aims at peace, love and understanding, with all people being mutually supportive equals, it in fact creates conflict, instability and destruction.
Well-functioning and stable hierarchies must be moral and reasonable, otherwise they risk being overthrown. Army officers, especially in the upper ranks, far from being arrogant bullies, tend to be calm, professional and competent managers of large numbers of people. If not, they will likely be replaced.
Even dominant chimpanzees that are tyrannical bullies will be attacked by two or more weaker chimps and killed. To survive, the top chimp must make alliances with other males and attend to the females and their babies.
Hierarchies of Achievement
If person A is 80% as good as person B, it might be expected that he get 20% fewer rewards, but in reality, he is more likely to get none at all. The prettiest girl in the class might get 50% of the social invitations, the second prettiest only 20% though she is merely 5% less attractive.
Reality tends towards winner takes all scenarios. The best house painter is inundated with job requests. The only slightly worse might get none. The silver medalist does not get fewer cornflakes box covers than the gold medalist. She gets zero. The Biblical quotation “For he who has much, much will be given. For he who has little, even that will be taken away” captures the phenomenon.
Taleb comments that what was once known as the 80/20 Pareto rule is now more like the 99/1 rule. For instance, 1% of internet sites account for 99% of traffic, while fewer than 1% of authors account for 99% of book sales.
In some cases, modern technology exacerbates this tendency. When only live music existed each place would need its own musicians. People would hire the best available local musicians who competed with each other on a small scale. With the advent of recorded music, people can listen to the very best musicians in the world according to genre. Why listen to the second best orchestra if it is possible to listen to the best? Do people want to listen to Bob Dylan wannabes or Bob Dylan? Inferior musical acts are likely not to get just fewer sales than the superior, but none or a tiny trickle. The Rolling Stones play to giant sports arenas. Someone nearly as good might play to perhaps twenty people.
A tiny proportion of musicians are responsible for the huge majority of popular music sales. Just four classical composers, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, wrote nearly all the classical music played by modern orchestras, and then only a tiny fraction of the music they composed is played.
If posters and prints were unavailable, people would have to buy the work of local artists. Being able to reproduce art cheaply means more people will gravitate towards fewer paintings. It also means more people can see the highest quality artworks and desire them, pushing up their price. In that case, the existence of mass produced images on TV and books actually increases the value of the relatively small number of original artworks; The Mona Lisa and The Scream being particular omnipresent examples.
Extreme inequality of achievement can be found in any area requiring creativity, including among scientists.
At the workplace, a minority of people at a job are likely to end up doing most of the work. For instance, one person’s analytical skills and writing ability will be superior to everyone else’s. This provides an incentive to keep directing work his way. Everyone competes for the attention of the person who is the best editor with the best command of English. Few will choose to forego success on the job because they feel sorry for the relatively incompetent. Embarrassing mistakes do not bode well for a career.
The winner takes all dynamic applies over a wide range of phenomena. A small number of cities have nearly all the people and tend to keep growing, such as London, Mexico City or Auckland. A small minority of celestial entities have most of the matter. 90% of communication involves just 500 words, 50% of the population accounts for just 3% of healthcare costs, while the sickest 10% are responsible for 64%. Out of 200 baseball players in 1931, 6.5% of players (13) accounted for 50% of all home runs.
The good news is that countries that have large numbers of millionaires and billionaires are also the richest. This suggests that the rich do not get rich at the expense of the poor. Sowell comments that “since the United States contains several times as many billionaires as any other country, ordinary Americans would be among the most poverty-stricken people in the world if the wealth of the wealthy derives from the poverty of the poor. Conversely, billionaires are much rarer in the most poverty-stricken parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa.”
Communism has been the economic system most devoted to redistributing wealth and minimizing economic inequalities, but it tends to simply lower the standard of living markedly, create shortages and increase misery. Certainly the victims of Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol pot, who number over 100 million paid a high price for the supposed worker’s paradise.
After World War Two, Germany was divided into the communist East and democratic and free market West Germany. As such, it provided a fascinating experiment. Two different economic and political systems were applied to the same ethnic groups with the same cultural and historical backgrounds. The communist East ended up with a much lower standard of living, a much worse economy in general, many more restrictions on what could be done or said, a police state, and suffered surveillance by their fellow citizens causing them to live in a state of fear. They were also not allowed to leave – and leave is what many of them wished to do.
The standard of living and quality of life in West Germany was far higher even for the relatively poor. Far more people, for instance, had cars. In the East, people wanting cars were put on a waiting list and waited between eleven and fifteen years for a substandard, nasty, polluting Trabant, while the party leaders under communism lived in absolute luxury with special privileges for them and their families, attracting to themselves justified resentment.
After all that, Walter Scheidel provides empirical evidence in The Great Leveler that inequality is unaffected by the election of right-wing or left-wing governments. This communist experiment was all for nought.
At the very least, Sowell points out that attempts to achieve economic power concentrate political power in the hands of the few who decide who gets what based on political considerations. Political inequality is increased with no net benefit to the masses.
Differences in achievement by sex and ethnic groups
Black players make up 70% of the NFL despite black males being just 6.5% of the population. Similarly, blacks are the majority of NBA players, 74%, and are routinely the top stars. The best Olympic sprinters and marathon runners are usually black. These are gross differences of achievement with social and genetic causes.
The idea that racial disparities are inherently a problem does not seem to apply when blacks outperform whites. Likewise, when it comes to the sexes, areas where women far outnumber men or do better are ignored. Sometimes the mathematics simply does not work. 75% of psychology majors are women; not a problem. 33.7% of philosophy majors are women; a problem. Since women are only 50.5% of the population, there are not enough of them to equal men in every field and also to be a large majority in other disciplines. However, to rectify this situation, numerically women would have to stop choosing psychology and other majors where they dominate simply to produce numbers more pleasing to those obsessed with “equality.” This would mean restricting freedom and choice to the detriment of women. This kind of social engineering pressure can be seen when stay-at-home mothers are frowned upon by their feminist peers.
There is evidence that the more egalitarian a society is the more the sexes make different occupational and educational choices. Being able to freely choose exacerbates differences and thus “inequalities.” Women as a group gravitate more towards socially oriented jobs if they are given the opportunity. This is why women who do well in STEM subjects frequently choose non-STEM careers.
Consider that Finland excels in gender equality, its adolescent girls outperform boys in science, and it ranks near the top in European educational performance. With these high levels of educational performance and overall gender equality, Finland is poised to close the sex differences gap in STEM. Yet, Finland has one of the world’s largest sex differences in college degrees in STEM fields. Norway and Sweden, also leading in gender equality rankings, are not far behind. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as this general pattern of increasing sex differences with national increases in gender equality is found throughout the world.
Three factors probably contribute to male ascendency in STEM areas. One is that men tend to be more “thing” and abstract-concept oriented, e.g., scientific theory, than women. Young girls are likely to draw social scenes, young boys an action scene. When women are interested in science, they tend to be more interested in living things – fields like biology, or veterinary science. Another is that sexual selection pressures from women favor men who earn more money with the associated high social status which STEM careers provide. Women who earn large salaries, on the contrary, find it harder to marry, especially given their proclivity to marry across and up the social strata. Finally, many males who have high math skills have a correspondingly low emotional intelligence. There is no such correlation with women. Women who are good at math are more often good readers than men. So, men gifted in STEM subjects tend to have fewer career options than math-savvy women with their superior social, linguistic and verbal skills.
When [women] first gained the opportunity to enter the workforce there were far more women in engineering [and computer science] than there is now. Numbers grew and then dropped steadily. Countries like India and Iran have higher numbers of women in engineering, even though they are far less equal. The reason [appears to be that] women wanted an education, regardless of what it was. In Scandinavia as women saw that they can choose what they’re interested in, as opposed to just choosing a college course for the sake of going college; we see that women choose socially oriented subjects.
Less egalitarian areas of the world have numbers like Central Asia (47.2%), Latin American and the Caribbean (44.7%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.6%), and the Arab States (39.9%) while the USA has (29%).
The so-called wage gap between men and women is often presented as a problematic inequality. Sexual selection pressures account for some of this, women choosing high earning men disproportionately. This forces men into different occupational choices – male-dominated jobs tending to have highly unattractive features like exposure to the elements, hard physical labor, poor chances of reaching retirement in that career and high chances for injury and death. These include firemen, policemen, loggers, roofers, contractors, miners, truckers, linesmen and so on. Consequently, supply and demand push up men’s wages.
Sexism seems to have little bearing on the topic. Never married women make far more than never married men, while married men with children make the most money. Men work more hours a week than women and commute, on average, twice as far. Factors like this mean that even when men and women do jobs with a similar description, men are likely to sacrifice more for their employment. See “Why Men Earn More, and What Women Can Do About It” based on the book of the same name by Warren Farrell.
A major factor is women interrupting their careers to look after children and also working part-time for the same reason. Given women’s superior interest in living things, social relations and generally more nurturing tendencies, this kind of division of labor makes sense.
When it comes to race, in education and employment, the top achievers are Asians, followed by Jews, then whites, then blacks. Asians with an IQ of 100 perform at a level of a white with an IQ of 120. 100 IQ Jews at the rate of 110 IQ whites and 100 IQ blacks at the level of 85 IQ whites.
Thus “white privilege” is a misguided notion; a label that must be particularly galling for so-called “white trash.” The white child of a dirt farmer finds herself to be ineligible for affirmative action or perhaps the same degree of federal subsidies despite having similar economic disadvantages as minorities. Any apparent plausibility the notion of white privilege has probably stems from the fact that the majority of Americans are white and so it seems in principle that they might be in a position to somehow prevent black achievement. But in fact, as previously mentioned, Asians are by far the most successful ethnic group and as a fairly small minority they have no ability to discriminate in a way that could change the economic performance of much larger groups.
Due to their superior economic performance, Asians are more likely to get bank loans and less likely to be fired than whites. Their educational success is so notable that top schools routinely discriminate against them to minimize “racial disparities.” Harvard, for instance, invented the admissions category of “leadership” qualities which can mean anything they want it to mean and cannot be objectively assessed in order to cut down on the number of Jews and Asians admitted.
It is relevant that only 2 in 10 Asians are born out of wedlock, 3 in 10 whites, 5 in 10 Hispanics, 6.6 in 10 Native Americans, and 7.7 in 10 blacks. When black children have two married parents, their chances of economic success increase enormously and the likelihood of poverty decreases nearly to single digits.
It seems that between 70% and 90% of violent crime is committed by fatherless men and partly for this reason blacks are a slight majority of offenders despite being a tiny proportion of the general population. As such, a black man is far more likely to interact with the police than a white man. The more interactions, the more chance things might go badly. Blacks are also more likely to get suspended from school due to behavioral problems. A future criminal is unlikely to have been a model student.
The notion of “disparate impact” has been invented to try to claim that rules against disruptive behavior at school are racist if they “impact” members of one racial group more than another. Asian students are the least likely to be disruptive, followed by whites, then Hispanics, then blacks. That is also the order of academic achievement and the reverse order of likelihood to be criminals. Rules affect those most who are most likely to break them. This is not unjust. When students are disruptive, all learning is negatively impacted by all racial groups – and it is the poorest students who are the most dependent on receiving education from schools rather than their home environments. So, well-behaved black students are likely to suffer the most from badly behaved students, a disproportionate number of whom will be black. Nevertheless, the Obama administration sent what is called a “Dear Colleague” letter backed by the Department of Justice suggesting that black and Hispanic students’ civil rights were being contravened by their heavier involvement in disciplinary actions.
The Obama administration in another Dear Colleague letter, went so far as to complain that there were racial disparities in special education classes and suggested that more white students should be admitted. Forced attendance of students who do not need special education would be a very strange waste of time and money just to satisfy an elite’s taste in equal numbers.
Resentment is endemic to the human condition and can never be eliminated. In The Discourse on Inequality Jean-Jacques Rousseau commented that when social life consisted of sitting around a bonfire telling stories, singing or dancing, the less popular storyteller would resent the better. The inferior singer would wish he had the talents of the superior and feel resentful at the extra attention and praise the other received. The worse dancer admires the better, wishes to change places with him, and resents his rival.
Rousseau correctly postulated that as societies develop, these differences between people tend to produce more and more divergent results. In an “information” or “post-industrial” society, differences in IQ are likely to lead to relatively big differences in income, whereas in an agrarian situation, it might make far less difference.
Rousseau commented that comparisons generate hatred in the human heart. This led to his fantasy concerning a state of nature where individuals lived in total isolation punctuated by brief and random matings. Since humans are born and raised in human company resentment is here to stay and no gross inequality of income is necessary to generate it.
Jordan Peterson comments that to exist is to be limited. Limitations are a source of suffering. No matter how powerful an individual is, there will be limits to his abilities and these will generate frustration. This means that some individuals will decide that they want to reject existence itself. They might also resent God as the infinite out of which their puny finite existence is carved. Thus resentment is something endemic to the human condition. Only by consciously affirming the value of existence can this be overcome. Each person must be careful not to take out his resentment on his neighbor who will in some ways be his superior and thus symbolize the annihilation of limitation. For instance, a tenured professor might come to wish he had the status of an adjunct with no committee work or necessity to publish. The mighty can come to resent even the lowly.
In Gnosticism, Sophia, the next step down the metaphysical ladder from The One, is depicted as resenting the creative abilities of The One. In response she creates the Demiurge in imitation of The One and the fruits of her resentment are evil. Gnosticism recognizes that anything short of absolute infinitude can generate resentment and the Gnostics imagined that the proper goal of all individual souls was to be annihilated by being reabsorbed into the One; their divine sparks merging with The Divine itself. By desiring the infinite, Gnostics desire nonexistence and thus reject Life and Creation.
Resentment is an almighty “No!” directed at Life and God. This seems to account for the behavior of those horrible individuals who insist on murdering others before committing suicide themselves.
Resentment is not something to be cultivated and nourished. The social justice advocate, in order to garner support in a democracy for his cause, must actually foster resentment in himself and others. If the aim is to reduce resentment, then the SJW is the problem not the solution.
Unjustified resentment is a strange combination of love and hate. One person wants someone else’s social status, wealth, looks, intelligence, way with the opposite sex, musicality or taste in clothes. In that regard, he loves the person’s qualities and wishes to possess them. However, he cannot be that person, since that position is occupied. Thus, the admired person is viewed as an obstacle to the admirer’s happiness and hated. A desire forms to destroy the obstacle and to take his status and possessions as his own.
This is the story of Cain and Abel. Abel is blessed by God and his sacrifices – the denying of current pleasures for future gains – are well-received. Cain’s efforts pale by comparison. A murderous rage and resentment overtakes him leading him to kill his brother.
No huge disparity of wealth or power is necessary to have these feelings. At one point in English history the “Lord” had the right to take and wear the shirt of a low-born peasant when he died. The shirt had been worn for years and probably never washed.
The living conditions of Cain and Abel or the Lord and his peasant; the singers, dancers and storytellers of Rousseau would have had the most minor of differences by other standards and yet resentment believably arises. One professor looks with jaundiced eye on some minor award or promotion received by another professor of the same rank; the beauty-show runner up resents the winner – though both are far prettier than nearly everyone else and an Olympic champion might envy the two-time Olympic champion.
Even where humility is the aim, there can be competition. In an old joke, a bishop stands up and says he is humbled to be in the presence of so many worthy gentlemen. The Archdeacon takes to his feet and repeats that he too is humbled to be addressing such an estimable audience. This goes on down the ranks until finally the lowliest, least prestigious priest announces how humble he feels. The Dean turns to the Archdeacon and says “Who is HE to feel humble?”
Under communism, the State itself and elite party leaders would be resented, this time with some justification since the state becomes a tyranny. The pathological fantasy of communist equality eviscerated the general standard of living; everyone had to endure a police state driven by fear and mutual suspicion and still the dread beast of resentment lived on.
Trying to reduce economic-based resentment in this way is comparable to throwing acid in the faces of beautiful people when their beauty is resented, or cutting the tendons of top athletes; in short, of creating the world of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.
Sowell points out the unstoppable nature of resentment. Each person can potentially find one reason or another to resent another. A rich sibling might resent the happy marriage of another; a beautiful person might resent an intelligent one; an intellectual the satisfactions of manual employment with its tangible results; a wealthy person the job satisfaction of someone who actually enjoys his job; a successful person might envy parents who do not have a handicapped child, the stay at home parent envies going to work, the worker, staying at home. Eliminating all differences of wealth would not eliminate resentment.
It is possible even to envy those who feel less resentful. Resentment is a painful affliction and to feel less of it is desirable. In a related fashion, on a meditation retreat it is possible to envy the apparent equanimity of fellow meditators and wish to possess their state of mind and self-control.
Any talent, natural or cultivated, can arouse admiration and thus resentment. The solution is not to ban talents. Any circumstance might appear enviable in some other circumstance. Do we ban circumstances?
Inculcating a feeling of gratitude might be more productive than dwelling on such differences. In other instances, envy can be used productively as an inspiration to copy the behavior of the envied person and try to learn from them.
With regard to resenting the success of companies, it is no skin off anyone’s nose if Apple makes an obscene profit. It is not as though the money Apple earns would otherwise find its way into the pockets of the average American citizen. Admittedly, there is something annoying about their high prices and their cash mountain with which they purportedly do not know what to do. But if their customers like their products and are willing to pay their prices, it is not up to anyone else to second guess the transactions involved.
Who gets to be a student?
In the 1980s in New Zealand, university students tended to be the children of parents who had also been university students. This was at a time when only five percent of the population was admitted to college. Universities were funded by the government at great expense and reserved for the academically capable. Standards were high with no grade inflation. Every student was literate and/or numerate and tended to be interested in his studies. Nearly every student pursued his own reading agenda and most would take an interest in classic literature and foreign (i.e., difficult) movies.
This fact about the parentage of university students was presented as a problem.
However, far from being unfair, it only stands to reason. The children of academically successful people are likely to have inherited a higher genetically derived intelligence. They are more likely to be exposed to a larger vocabulary from their parents, along with relatively sophisticated concepts. Their parents are likely to read to them and to treat education as valuable and important. There will likely be easy access to books with frequent trips to the library. The parents are more likely to be exemplary role models in their own reading habits. Academic subjects might be treated as interesting and discussed around the dinner table.
It is important not to overlook the influence that actually being interested in academic subjects has on educational attainment. It is incredibly rare and possibly corresponds to that 5% admitted to New Zealand universities until the 1990s. Most people simply do not care about topics taught at university. How many of us actually care about, say, organic chemistry, or any other academic subject? Having an interest will mean someone is self-motivated and willing to go over and above anything his professors might ask of him. He will pursue his own reading or research agenda. Studying outside the context of the classroom is where real learning takes place. Very little is really communicated in lectures. It is self-directed study that produces the best results. Funding the interested makes the most sense and the children of university students, as they once existed in New Zealand and elsewhere, stand a better chance of possessing this trait due to his parents modeling such interests.
Many of these New Zealand students grew up wanting to be educated and knowledgeable. Some of it was just vanity and fear – not wanting to be the only person at the party who did not know about, say, Freud.
In my own case, long before attending university, “The Academic Calendar,” a bound book in which all university courses were listed along with their reading requirements, would be eagerly examined. Practically salivating at the books that would be read and discussed, fantasies of alternative course loads ensued. Imitating a friend of the family meant wanting to be a philosophy professor from the age of seven, before even knowing what philosophy really was.
The advantages of having university educated parents were ones of class, family and genetic inheritance. Are those advantages fair? They are neither fair nor unfair. They are certainly an undeserved good fortune A.K.A. luck.
Crucially, what is the alternative to such a state of affairs?
Social justice would require “fixing” these advantages. One problem with this is that a student who is less able, less literate, less motivated, less interested, with a smaller vocabulary, having read fewer books would take the other’s place. This is a poor use of resources and creates its own unfairness. The other problem is that social justice attempts a kind of unknowable counterfactual – one of putting someone where they would have been had not social, familial and genetic factors counted against him. Sowell points out that social justice requires non-existent God-like abilities to determine what might have been.
Unintended consequences of social justice
One thing that was tried in many countries to try to counteract disadvantages acquired “through no fault of their own,” was to take children away from parents who were poor, unemployed, perhaps drug or alcohol-addicted, unsuccessful, with bad attitudes towards education and industriousness and to put those children in more middle class and successful households. This happened to Australian Aboriginal children and to Native American children among others. This attempt at cosmic justice is now regarded as an abomination, though it was well meaning. Ripping such children from their birth home changes their likely educational and employment attainments positively, but destroys families and the parent/child bond. It is now completely out of fashion and widely condemned.
However, the desire for cosmic justice continues in other forms and similar sorts of things result from it.
In the 1960s liberal judges argued that amateur criminals often implicated themselves in ways that professional offenders would not. Bizarrely, the judges wanted to even the playing field for the amateurs and instituted the Miranda Rights rule. This means more violent criminals wandering the streets, getting off on technicalities, and more difficulty prosecuting them. A certain number of extra victims will have died as a result of judges wanting amateur criminals to avoid conviction as often as the professionals. Those living in high crime areas such as inner cities will have particularly suffered and a very high proportion will have been black. Similarly, justices wanted hard luck stories concerning murderer’s childhoods to be considered even though there is no way to tell how much this contributed to their offending. These kinds of considerations mean murder trials commonly extend for three years at great expense, while violent criminals are out on bail.
“Social justice” for criminals means more victims, rapes and deaths, especially among the poor.
Traditional justice means one rule for all. Social justice for vicious murderers means the punishment will vary depending on how bad the killer’s childhood was. This means a different punishment for two criminals who commit the same crime. A criminal who could prove he had a particularly harsh childhood could expect a reduced punishment. Reducing the punishment means there is less of a disincentive to offend. If anything that contributes to his greater chance of offending should mean a lighter sentence, then the rule that criminals with bad childhoods should get lighter sentences will justify giving criminals even lighter sentences, thereby reducing the disincentive to offend, ad infinitum.
Affirmative action programs in California, for instance, were shown to actually reduce the graduation rates of blacks and Hispanics. By putting such students in colleges for which they did not qualify based on their grades, the students found themselves outgunned and at the bottom of their classes. This discouraging state of affairs tends to undermine self-confidence and reduce graduation rates. When the University of California system was forbidden by legal decisions to engage in affirmative action admission policies, the graduation rates of blacks and Hispanics rose by 55%.The number of doctorates among that group in the sciences went up 25% after affirmative action policies were banned. 
Affordable housing initiatives, 90% of which are in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, “increase the cost of housing and limit the supply of new affordable units.” One method involves forcing developers to make a certain percentage of their new units “affordable.” This means selling them at below market rates. This eliminates any incentive to build such dwellings. If the developers go ahead and produce them, in order to stay in business, they will need to charge more for the other houses – thus pricing them above market rates. But who would want to pay higher prices than available for the rest of the market? Pricing the affordable units artificially low mimics the effects of lower demand and pricing regular units at inflated prices will really produce lower demand, thus hurting the entire housing market, reducing the supply of houses overall and thus raising average house prices, which will hurt the poorer most of all.
Price controls for food lead to food shortages as the incentive and reward for food production is reduced. Food shortages will either mean higher prices or the least powerful will go hungry.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were set up to offer mortgages to poor people who could not otherwise afford them and would not qualify due to poor credit ratings, etc.. Giving a mortgage to someone who cannot afford it is not really to do that person a favor. Although not officially government guaranteed, these mortgages were frequently regarded as though they were. Thus, there was effectively a government intervention distorting the market. Mortgage lenders went ahead and offered loans to those who could not afford them and these mortgages were sold in bundles with good loans mixed in with the bad. Yes, it was crummy behavior on the part of finance companies, but without the implied government backing of the loans, there would have been nothing to exploit. The result was government bailouts and the near collapse of the banking system on a worldwide scale.
Black progress educationally and employment wise actually declined in the age of affirmative action compared to equal employment opportunity policies and even before EEO policies.
Reformers in the nineteenth century, comparable to modern SJWs, fought against the existence of slums for immigrants. Some of these slums housed several men in one room. It might seem as though the reformers were doing something good. However, what they were actually doing is harming the options of the slum dwellers. Slums are cheap and in many cases the immigrants had actively chosen their housing conditions to minimize cost. Many of the Eastern European immigrants were fleeing persecution and their lives were in danger. They needed to save money to pay for transportation to America. Irish immigrants also needed money to bring family members out from Ireland to avoid starvation due to the potato famine. Poor Jews commonly saved their money via cheap accommodation for a better future for their children. Sometimes the money saved on rent was needed just to buy food.
The reformers had good intentions, but by being interfering busy bodies they were actually harming many of the people they intended to help who ended up being evicted from their dwellings precisely because the apartments were considered slums.
Slum clearance to this day does not result in poor people living in wonderful accommodations. Instead, gentrification simply prices the poor out of that market and forces them to relocate. Many poor people, thanks to cultural habits that have contributed to their poverty, will in fact turn whatever accommodation they have into slums by their own behavior. Then what?
When communists collectivized farmland, farm production plummeted. The Soviet Union and other communist regimes managed to convert countries that had plentiful food to countries suffering from food shortages and starvation. Small private plots of land, which were permitted to a limited extent, produced an outsized proportion of food produced. Rights to private property benefit everyone, not simply the possessors of private property.
Likewise, primogeniture, the eldest son inheriting farmland is not fair. However, if farmland is repeatedly divided between multiple children, especially across several generations, the resulting tiny plots are insufficient to sustain anyone. In this case caring only about justice would result in economic ruin and starvation. There are also economic efficiencies in farming larger plots of land. The eldest son traditionally has some responsibility to look out for his siblings and the whole family will be better off by following this unequal distribution of land.
Justice is just one virtue among many. If there were only 200 life vests for 300 people, justice might demand that all drown. Most people would instead vote for using the life vests even while knowing that the more selfish people would probably prevail. Likewise, if a tax rebate were denied and an author knew he had the documents to prove the IRS was wrong, but had a very limited time frame to appeal the decision, he might give up collecting his rebate which he is justly owed if it meant canceling his book tour.
The rage for equality has led to moral and cultural relativism – no culture, behavior, books, being considered better than any other. So-called black English is being taught as being as good as standard English, even though the professors who teach this can themselves write grammatically correct standard English. Black English condemns the student to being unemployable in any profession requiring the ability to write well. Sowell writes that well-behaved students in high school are asked to listen sympathetically to the ideas on behavior of delinquents and ne’er do wells and face condemnation from their teachers if they demur.
Where all achievement is regarded as the result of privilege, then the disadvantaged are given no incentive to imitate the behavior of high achievers. If the deck is stacked against someone, only a sucker continues to play by the rules.
And from the other side of the putative “privilege” divide, if success is supposed to be guaranteed merely by the color a person’s skin, there is also no need to make an effort. So the erroneous “privilege” notion is demotivating for those on either side of the imaginary line.
When I was young I knew that my parents were two of the better educated people in New Zealand. My mother came 27th in the country on the “scholarship” exam (age 17) and had an MA when they were extremely rare and hard to attain. My father had two MAs, one from Oxford. I remember thinking that being the child of such successful scholars presented a puzzle. Why did I have to work hard for academic success with such a background? Years later I realized that I had overlooked the fact that my parents’ success had been a combination of native talent and very assiduous study. For instance, both parents studied dead languages like Latin, Greek, Medieval English and French, and Hebrew, as well as living ones. There is simply no way to learn such things without effort. And for other subjects, they were competing with similarly smart and motivated people for the relatively rare spots at university. Luckily for me, although puzzled at the time why things were not easier, I went ahead and made an effort. If I had been foolish enough to think that my background, genetic heritage, or “privilege” was sufficient for success, I would have failed.
There is also the danger, often realized, that the successful will be regarded as class traitors and sell outs. To adopt a positive approach to education will then be regarded as “acting white.” Similarly negative attitudes to education can be found among white working class children in the UK where race is not a factor.
In those cases where social justice advocates guarantee not opportunity, but results, then the beneficiaries know the usual rules do not apply to them, once again reducing the motivation to actually change behavior. This is the case with many black students intending to attend graduate school. Why work if it is not necessary?
A professor was pressured to pass a black student some years ago at a Central New York college. After detailing all the steps he had taken to help this student, who adopted a rather ingratiating manner in his office and an outrageously bored and non-cooperative attitude in the classroom – refusing to take notes, scowling and leaning against the wall while apparently trying to sleep, but mostly signaling his disgust at having to be there – the professor was informed that “you will deal with this” or some such strange linguistic formulation. It was not a request, but a vaguely worded command; simultaneously clear in its implications and verbally opaque at the same time. The head of department could presumably deny any imperative aspect to what she had said if need be. If this student thought the rules did not apply to him, he was correct.
Equality in education leads to low standards and higher grades so the less able need not feel badly about themselves. Poor students suffer more from this because the richer students are more likely to have access to books and educational resources at home plus having parents more interested and engaged in the students’ learning.
One fourth grader who surpassed twelfth graders’ on the SATs in mathematics was refused harder math assignments by his principal in the name of “social justice.” Likewise, including the mentally handicapped and unusually gifted students in the same class in the name of “mainstreaming,” also emphasizing equality, puts enormous strains on teachers. Often most resources are put into slightly raising the standards of the sub-mediocre imperceptibly rather than into the training of the highly gifted who could benefit the most from the extra attention. This means other members of society lose the benefits of what those highly gifted students might otherwise have attained.
Military deterrence vs summit meetings
Sowell extends his discussion of the quest for cosmic justice to matters of war. Social justice advocates are likely to belong to or feel sympathetic to “peace groups.” The idea is that dialogue to eliminate “misunderstandings,” summit meetings and peace talks are the way to avoid war. Heightened emotions are thought to cause war rather than rational decisions to attempt to gain territory or glory. Bertrand Russell and others like him thought that the actual existence of armaments led to war. But in fact, Hitler and Mussolini were well aware that what became the Allies were poorly armed and imagined the latter had no real will to fight, bringing the Axis powers to declare war.
Neville Chamberlain talked scornfully of arms races where an advance on one side is immediately cancelled by an advance by the other with no net gain. Sowell points out that what Chamberlain failed to notice was that if one country increases its militarization, it is in the interests of countries that might be invaded to similarly increase their armaments. Doing this may create no net advantage, but it will be a deterrent to the potentially belligerent country. Matching the level of armaments of a potentially hostile enemy is not of “no use” if it helps to avoid war. Sowell argues that if Winston Churchill’s calls for Britain and other countries to arms themselves in the 1930s had been heeded, World War Two might have been avoided.
Between the two world wars there were plentiful peace talks and summit meetings and pacts not to attack and they did nothing to stop WWII. Having a strong military as a deterrence is the best defense. However, social justice warriors are likely to be fans of disarmament and summit meetings and to consider the military deterrent camp not just wrong, but evil. The military deterrent camp might well be right about the best means of achieving peace, but, Sowell comments, only one side calls itself the “peace movement.”
As a dual citizen of New Zealand and the USA, I am aware that NZ is safe, probably, only as a result of the likelihood of America coming to its defense; certainly not because some treaty was signed.
Overturning the American Revolution
What was distinctive about the American Revolution, Sowell argues, is that it was concerned to limit the top down exertion of power. It gave the ordinary person the ability to veto decisions by the rulers and provided mechanisms for replacing those leaders. Most white people who emigrated to the US were indentured servants, with very few aristocrats, and most black people were slaves, so the American Revolution was quite a victory for hoi polloi.
Other revolutions, like the French and the Bolshevik, focused on installing regimes regarded as “right thinkers” with the preferred doctrines, rather than restricting the power of the ruling elites. The French Revolution included “Representatives on Mission” who could “correct” any injustices they saw fit, overriding local laws and representatives; even carrying their own personal guillotines for carrying out their idiosyncratic ideas of justice.
The American Revolution, contrariwise, was more skeptical about human wisdom and focused instead on minimizing tyranny. The power of Congress to interfere in the affairs of its citizens was to be very limited. The default position was that Congress could not do anything it was not expressly authorized to do, while private citizens could do anything they were not expressly forbidden from doing. Constitutional rights are protections from government interference. The Tenth Amendment states “Powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States, or to the people.”
The rule of law that arose makes free markets and other interactions between citizens predictable and stable. The rules are known in advance and plans can be made accordingly. Best of all, perhaps, is that they are the same rules for everyone.
Social justice, however, allows unelected judges and others to impose their vision of how the world ought to be. The unwashed masses are not to be trusted to manage their own affairs, but must be second-guessed by liberal, “educated” elites.
To that end, Congress has found ways to extend its powers by attaching conditions to federal subsidies. To refuse these subsidies is to be put at a severe disadvantage. Educational institutions and healthcare providers who accept subsidies then have rules imposed on them by the government. Le Moyne College for instance, an ostensibly Catholic institution, is not allowed to conduct prayers in most places on campus for that reason.
Another method is for judges sympathetic to the extension of centralized power and to the supposedly superior wisdom of the elite to which they belong to rule that practically everything is a matter of “interstate commerce,” which provides another means for governmental interference.
Social justice tries to produce economic equality at the expense of massive concentrations of political power, i.e., by increasing political inequality. And by definition, this power is to be exerted by a liberal and progressive elite, who imagine they know better how the affairs of man should be regulated in order to produce a universe more pleasing to their cosmic vision. If excessive taxation drives out entrepreneurs, investment and employers the resulting income distribution is likely to be more equal, pleasing the visionaries. The fact that employment, the economy and the general standard of living is markedly reduced is the price paid for pleasing social justice warriors.
Medieval European kings gave up the ability to control prices and instituted free markets in order to attract superior craftsmen and merchants. Inferior producers like a fixed price. The superior, however, can expect higher prices. The king could then tax the resulting free market transactions and bolster his own political power. Of course, it was a deal with the devil as far as he was concerned because he had to give up power to maintain power. Such a king had more money to fund armies for both defensive and offensive purposes. He could not afford to maintain his power over the economy. Few kings if any wish to give up power, but they often had no choice. Free markets produced a new class of rich merchants who superseded the landed gentry and who demanded political power to accompany their new economic power.
Thus free markets played an important role limiting tyrannical power and thus in producing freedom. Political freedom is the freedom to live life with the minimum of interference by the authorities and to conduct transactions with someone’s fellow citizens as the individual sees fit.
Social justice represents a return to centralized power wielded by overlords who are convinced they know better. If they are wrong, there is no mechanism to correct them. And even imagining counterfactually that SJWs were right, life is more fulfilling and rewarding if lived by a person’s own lights. Part of freedom is the freedom to make mistakes and not having to justify decisions.
Visionaries are the new tyrants. Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot were all visionaries determined
to mold the populace to their vision and to kill and suppress those who did not fit. Convinced of their moral superiority, they did not let little things like facts and misery curtail the implementation of their visions.
Social justice gives politicians and judges the ability to select beneficiaries and victims, turning both into supplicants, using the people’s tax money in the process.
Actual justice requires the rule of law; the same rules for everyone without regard to race, class, ethnic background, religious belief or lack of belief, etc.. For this, no supernatural knowledge is required. Social justice, on the other hand, means “let me know the color of a person’s skin, his class and sex, and we will let you know what his rights are.” The former creates a relatively orderly predictable society. The latter is an unpredictable mess. Day-care centers, for instance, must hire people with mental illnesses. These people must then be “reasonably accommodated.” However, what counts as reasonable accommodation cannot be known until some judge arbitrarily decides what that will be. The other question that arises is to ask why the day-care provider must be asked to bear the cost of dealing with the problems of the mentally ill. These costs might include financial and organizational problems. The mentally ill are to be made whole again via preferential treatment not extended to other employees.
Similarly, the notion of a “hostile working environment” is largely subjective. An employer might find out what it means only after the fact and at the cost of millions of dollars. No ill intent is required to be found culpable.
The fact is that attempts to create social justice do not necessarily actually reduce inequalities and frequently hurt those it is intended to help.
Sowell ends by writing that unbridled governmental power is a great evil afflicting many countries. The Tenth Amendment was meant to strongly limit this power. Yet SJWs are not content with it and have eroded it through “strings attached” government subsidies for highway building, hospitals, schools, university research, urban redevelopment, and adoption agencies among other things. SJWs tend to disdain the average person and his life choices. The many are regarded as the deplorables. The idea that people should be largely left alone to live the lives they have chosen, mistakes and all, is not appealing to SJWs. Current society with its traditions and customs will never be appealing to SJWs, partly because sanctioning current rules and traditions would forestall their role as visionaries and imaginary saviors of the oppressed and victimized and partly, since their ideas are usually not subjected to empirical verification, their imaginary ideal world will always be better than the messy, imperfect real world. Imaginary worlds do not come with costs and trade-offs and reality can never compare to second reality perfection.
 Iain McGilchrist The Master and His Emissary, Ch. 3.
 Notice this is still egocentric. The brother with the larger ice cream is unlikely to complain on the other child’s behalf, just as the capuchin monkey getting the grapes continues on obliviously.
 Thomas Sowell equates social justice with what he calls “cosmic justice” in his book The Quest for Cosmic Justice upon which major portions of this discussion are based.
 Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p. 147.
 Kulaks were comparatively affluent Russian peasants. Characterized as leeches, they were exterminated by the millions. Killing anyone productive enough to be able to afford to hire other workers is economically ill-advised.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 26.
 On a trivial level, some who reject Christmas as religious, embrace the Winter Solstice, or New Year’s Eve instead, apparently not realizing their religious origins. Even if they did recognize it they would be likely to prefer anything pagan to something Christian without realizing that their preferred celebrations would have historically involved human sacrifice.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, pp. 11-12.
 Taleb, The Black Swan.
 http://www.catalyst.org/media/companies-more-women-board-directors-experience-higher-financial-performance-according-latest – They do not actually claim causation – just correlation.
 https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2016/06/23/the-truth-about-womens-impact-on-corporate-boards-its-not-good-news/#4a9425105ecb – It seems richer companies higher more women. Women are not why the companies are richer. In fact, evidence suggests they make no difference or that they hurt performance.
 “Joseph Stiglitz, with two colleagues, the Orszag brothers (Peter and Jonathan), looked at the very same Fannie Mae. They assessed, in a report, that “on the basis of historical experience, the risk to the government from a potential default on GSE debt is effectively zero.” p. 387.
 E.g., Paul Krugman.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 61.
 Ibid, p. 66.
 Bearing in mind its lack of compassion and aggressive hatred for white males.
 Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p. 11.
 See Frans de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics.
 Matthew 13:12.
 Taleb, Antifragile, p. 305.
 Peterson, 12 Rules for Life, p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 9
 Ibid, p. 9.
 Taleb, Antifragile, p. 306.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 179. Sowell could have picked any time period but used this date in the context of rebutting someone else’s claim.
 Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies, Ch. 5 “Income Facts and Fallacies.”
 Many sex differences are larger in gender-equal countries. Lippa, R.A., Collaer, M.L, & Peters, M. (2010). Sex Differences in Mental Rotation and Line Angle Judgments Are Positively Associated with Gender Equality and Economic Development Across 53 Nations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 990-997.
 Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, “Table 35: Out-Turn/Pass-Out at Under Graduate Level in Major Disciplines/Subjects (Based on Actual Response),” All India Survey on Higher Education (2015-16) (2016): p. T-103.
 James R. Flynn, Asian Americans: Achievement Beyond IQ, Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1991, p. 1.
 https://www.nationalreview.com/blog/corner/latest-statistics-out-wedlock-births-roger-clegg/ and http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/77-black-births-to-single-moms-49-for-hispanic-immigrants/article/2622236
 Exact numbers are hard to come by because the Bureau of Justice does not reliably track family backgrounds and when they do, they put step-parents in the same category “two parent” – though having step-parents also makes juvenile delinquency more likely. https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-real-complex-connection-between-single-parent-families-and-crime/265860/
 “Upward Mobility,” Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal, p. A19, 02/14/2018.
 An anecdote mentioned by Bill Bryson in his history At Home.
 Richard H. Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It, New York: Basic Books, 2012, p. 152 and p. 154.
 Paul Kupiec and Edward Pinto, “The High Cost of ‘Affordable Housing’ Mandates, Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, 2/13/2018, p. A17.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 42.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 134.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 29.
 Ibid, p.76.
 Ibid, p. 40.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 84.
 Ibid, p. 116.
 Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, p. 101.
 Ibid, p. 187.