119 Inequality is not right, fix it
Voluntarism v confiscation
Problem to solve: government is not a function of taking assets from one party and giving them to another. However, when the parties realize equality makes them all better off, they can learn to use government as a tool for implementing the commonly desired distribution. That puts government into its rightful perspective as an agent for accomplishing the common will.
When we are physically or economically associated, we constitute a society. The sum of our desires and actions determines what that society will be.
I propose that we think not in theoretical dogmas but rather in results. I describe my ideal society starting out with the wish “we all have enough to eat.” When enough of us share that description, we are on the way to having enough to eat—for all of us!
It is futile to think in terms of government function until we settle on desired results. Do we want a peaceful society of mutual support, sharing peace and plenty? Do we want to live with respect and dignity? Do we want a good foundation for our children’s development? Do we want living conditions conducive to good health and longevity?
The key, voluntary unselfishness
It disrupts the harmony to add “for me” to these wishes. There is a symmetry among people— making allowances for birth defects, inherently all human infants are equal. Humanism concentrates on this shared condition of life without labels. Religion posits that we are all children of the same God. All the expressions conclude that humans count equally. Therefore, I shape my society to that end.
“Equal” is not “identical.” Diversity is the rule, not the exception. For example, I live my life with much less physical strength than the average person. I don’t see that as unequal. The environment accommodates the difference. Social contract theory allows that one person is better at the manual tasks and another at the mental tasks. There are also people who are much smarter than I am. In practice we seek compatible levels of activity so that together the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and, importantly, every part has a place. Human ingenuity weaves a rich tapestry.
A grave misunderstanding is the notion that equality means identical distribution of money. The first fallacy is the idea that money measures happiness. The next is that money can always achieve happiness. The next is that happiness can be bestowed. In fact, happiness is pursued in all its idiosyncratic glory. Thinking carefully teaches us that we long for equal happiness, not imposed conformity.
Real equals meaningful
Using meaningful standards is necessary for defining human equality. I have described the basic Humans’ Needs (FISH, article 27). Equality means adequacy of all the ingredients, none of which is money. Our ideal society constitutes meeting all those needs for all people.
Some mental conditions impair appreciation of happiness. There are unhappy people who appear to have all they need to meet their requirements (humans’ needs). Other people radiate happiness while appearing to be short of some necessities. Closer examination is required for more refined understanding of happiness.
The differences in what people have and what they expect are all part of the tapestry. An “ideal society” is at most an environment or framework in which people have freedom to work out their happiness. That freedom does not include learning to starve happily. It is obvious that physical and mental ingredients must be supplied in sufficient quantity for health. The balancing, the adjustment of tensions within the fabric, combines sensitivity and empathy. Happiness does not mean instantaneous gratification. We are happy when we are making realistic progress toward the circumstances of our choosing. We individually and collectively balance our strengths and our expectations (article 40). To the extent that our perceptions (sensitivities) are accurate, we equalize our adequacy in meeting needs.
I or we
This blog has used several articles to blur the distinction between self and other. The foregoing paragraphs apply that thinking. As interdependent and interconnected humans, we dare not think “I want.” The description used in ideal society is “we have.” Only by combining our talents with the common end in mind can we get to that common end. Politically charged labels destroy the pervasive sense of happiness that is evidence of good governance.
Self-regulation is the foundation principle of this good governance. With it, every individual blends voluntarily with every other individual. That is the measure of our adequacy. This means we do not equalize by shifting money. Instead, we equalize by sharing empathy and doing what the vision requires. While retaining full individuality, we experience mutual adequacy. That equal dignity is our humanity.
Does the article help you feel better about paying taxes? Taxation is not confiscation. The process is a funds aggregator. Imagine all housing construction being processed through Habitat for Humanity, a praiseworthy organization that effectively satisfies basic humans’ needs. The rest of the industrialized world outside the United States already applies the principle to healthcare: funds are not collected to enrich profits; instead, they universally satisfy a critical human need. Some countries apply the process to universal free education tailored to the capacity of the student and meeting the labor force needs of society. In all these cases the funds aggregation amounts to shared fair distribution of costs and benefits. The collection and distribution systems do not bleed profit.
Consider manufacturing: a factory is built because humans need what it produces. The function is to meet those humans’ needs, not to reallocate funds into the hands of “owners.” When the factory has enough cash flow to provide a safety net we call a rainy-day fund, all income above costs goes equally to the workers, including administrators the same as personnel on the production floor. Once their pay is up to standard (average income for the local community), any further revenue is turned into reduction of prices. This model efficiently meets payroll and efficiently serves customer needs. There is no virtue in selfishness in the form of wage or price gouging. Among morally aware people, this fair sharing model is voluntary.
There is a bedrock principle: when nobody earns above average, then, by definition, nobody earns less than average. Keep in mind that money metric is only a measurement system used to accomplish the one real goal, which is universally satisfying humans’ needs. The social contract is distribution, not enrichment.
Government is not taking assets from one party and dropping them on another. However, when the parties realize equality makes them all better off, they develop tools for working toward that condition. Then government is an agent for accomplishing the common will. We must think in results, not slogans. When we wish for enough food, we must not add “for me.” A worthy desire says, “for everyone.” Equal is not identical; happiness is idiosyncratic. Sensitive, aware people don’t look at “I want.” Instead, they describe society as “we have.” Moral self-regulation concentrates on meeting “our needs” ahead of “my needs.”