August 31, 2010

Sins of left and right

I mentioned in yesterday's post that the political terms left and right are the result of which side of the room people happened to sit on in the early days of the French Revolution. The terms aren't particularly apt, but the difference between perspectives is real by whatever names they are called.

Using the old terms for now, it's probably safe to say that people on the right have been more supportive of the existing or old order and particularly of hierarchy, while those on the left have advocated a more egalitarian position, although I can imagine any number of arguments with that statement.

It seems to me that both perspectives have their own characteristic errors or excesses. People on the "right" have tended to believe that existing inequalities are something like facts of nature that cannot be changed. People on the "left" from the French Revolution onward have made a different kind of error by viewing human nature as a blank slate which can be changed given different conditions.

I think the reality is a bit messier. We probably do inherit a bit of evolutionary baggage which can get in the way of an egalitarian society. For example, many animals--especially but not exclusively males--strive for status all the time and many of both sexes are biased in favor of their own offspring. But that doesn't mean that any particular system of inequality--monarchy, feudalism, plutocracy--is a feature of nature that can't be changed.

THIS IS WHAT I'M SCREAMING. Here's a call for more action to get the economy moving by a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

TO LOAN OR NOT TO LOAN? Some banks are thinking about the environmental impact of their lending practices.

WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD. Health care reform passed Congress (finally) last spring. Now a lot of the action is happening at the state level. Here's an article about how things look in West Virginia.

CLEANLINESS is next to self-righteousness.


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