Philosopher: Loving Families Perpetuate Injustice

 

shutterstock_91954007Down in Australia, social justice thinking exists on a far more advanced plane than up here in the benighted, backwoods, bitter-clinging USA. Just to take one example, here are a couple of Aussie philosophers on Australian radio, bemoaning the fact that children raised in loving families receive unfair advantages in life – advantages that perpetuate social and economic inequality. Says one of the philosophers:

“The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.”

He continues:

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.”

The deep thinker does not propose a solution to this “problem,” exactly, but he does suggest that Plato may have been onto something when he recommended that children be raised communally by the state, far away from the malign influences of family, and that this idea deserves much further lucubration:

“One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

There is no question that the Antipodean Aristotle is correct, but he fails to take his reasoning far enough. Being born into a loving family is certainly a very great injustice that should be done away with as soon as possible. But it is only one of many similar injustices. For example, I know a guy who knows a guy who won several hundred thousand bucks playing the lottery a couple of years ago. Is this fair? Why should some people be allowed to have good luck but not others? And why should their good luck be so lavishly rewarded?

Furthermore, much of life is a lottery, and parents pass on more than just a loving or broken home to their offspring – they pass on winning and losing tickets in the form of DNA. It burns me up inside that in the Powerball of life Michael Jordan, George Clooney, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Feynman all hit the big jackpot and I didn’t. Shouldn’t our government be doing something about this outrageously inequitable distribution of good looks, talent, and IQ?  Shouldn’t they be leveling the playing field somehow?

There is also another, flip-side problem that the government needs to fix, and it is this: different people want different things out of life. Some people I know simply aren’t interested in accumulating wealth and won’t put in the effort even when given the opportunity. Instead, they prefer to spend their time and energy on their Tuvan throat-singing careers or studying ornithology or spending time with the kids. There is even some very small percentage of people who will affirmatively choose to a live in a monastery or a cabin in the woods or to be homeless.  On the other hand, other people are very much interested in making huge piles of money.

So the fact that human beings have vastly divergent temperaments, appetites, and preferences also perpetuates social and economic inequality. This is grossly wrong and the government needs to do something about it. If we want equal social outcomes, then people have to start all wanting basically the same stuff.

Folks, to answer Claire’s question, we are definitely toast, as so many of you have already concluded.  But at least we have the satisfaction of knowing that it isn’t just us. It’s all of Western Civ, including Albion’s far-flung seed down under.  I am beginning to think that Spinoza and Descartes did a very rash thing when they started pulling that loose thread on the tapestry of civilization – the distilled wisdom of 10,000 years of human experience, arrived at through trial and error. Now it can’t be unpulled, no matter how much rationalism and empiricism we throw at it.

Published in General, Religion & Philosophy
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  1. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    One answer to these deep thinkers is: yes, it is unfair.  Therefore we should promote the idea that people should strive to form loving, stable marriages, and then have children.

    • #1
  2. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    I remember a Saturday Night Live sketch when the Secret Service agents were trying to not embarrass Gerald Ford for his clumsiness. So the order was given that whenever Ford did something clumsy, the other agents were to fake doing the same thing, so as not to draw attention on the president.

    This is a proposal to do the same. Rather than draw attention to the tragedy of a missing family structure, we’ll just take away the family structure for everyone.

    At least on SNL, it was intended as a comedy sketch.

    • #2
  3. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Good post. I object though to associating these philosophers’ ideas with Aristotle, who regarded the family as a natural association that exists prior to political society and criticized Plato’s notion of the community of wives and children and proposal to abolish private property.

    • #3
  4. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Yes, Chevy Chase was very funny. Again, how is that fair? I am not nearly that funny.

    • #4
  5. Oblomov Member
    Oblomov
    @Oblomov

    Snirtler, I agree, but I was going for alliteration.

    • #5
  6. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Oblomov:Snirtler, I agree, but I was going for alliteration.

    I understand. There are never enough opportunities for clever use of the word “antipodean”.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    This story has indeed gotten a lot of media play recently.

    That’s fair enough, as far as it goes.  Wacky philosophers make for good click-bait.  I, myself, am no stranger to posting the inane rantings of obscure academics for fun and profit. It’s too easy to pass up indulging in such a low-cost online rhetorical tactic.

    But, that being said, it’s two philosophy professors at one Australian university.

    In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization,” and it’s exponentially so for Internet news.

    • #7
  8. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    There should be an island that we can send these people….wait a sec.

    • #8
  9. civil westman Inactive
    civil westman
    @user_646399

    This is an emblematic insight into the statist/socialist idea of governance. Rather than design policies which will actually elevate the “downtrodden,” enact ones which bring down the successful – Obama’s policies, in other words. The proverbial equality of misery will result. We have witnessed 50 years of the liberal welfare state encouraging and subsidizing out-of-wedlock childbirth. Now, we are told that the remedy is to impair the ability of two parent families to raise children in a manifestly superior way. Disgustingly typical of liberalism.

    • #9
  10. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @TarasBulbous

    Some children are better looking than others. Rather than encouraging exercise and cosmetics for the uggos, let’s just throw acid in the face of every newborn child. Equality!

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Taras Bulbous:Some children are better looking than others. Rather than encouraging exercise and cosmetics for the uggos, let’s just throw acid in the face of every newborn child. Equality!

    Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut

    • #11
  12. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    At least one of those “Aussie Philosophers” teaches at UW-Madison. (I’m told the other one taught here previously, too.)

    Here’s a related piece at Reason.

    Top of the list of things parents ought not be allowed to do is send their kids to private school. Add to this “inheritance and other predominantly economic ways of conferring advantage.” Their whole take on permissible family activity has been extended to book length in 2014’s Family Values: The Ethics of Family-Child Relationships, which “explain why a child’s interest in autonomy severely limits parents’ right to shape their children’s values, and why parents have no fundamental right to confer wealth or advantage on their children.”

    Oh—in case you’re wondering, reading bedtime stories to your kid is OK, even though it confers a bigger advantage than private schooling. Fortunately (whew!) it’s among the “kinds of interactions between parents and children that do indeed foster and produce these [desired] familial relationship goods.”

    • #12
  13. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Mis, while it is true that the idiots saying these things are outliers, they do participate in the logic of the obsession with “equality” right now.  I keep thinking that pretty soon everybody will wake up to the madness and we can get back to normal.  This kind of idiotic statement helps us along those lines.  People become skeptical of “equality” talk. The more sekptical people are of it, the better.   If we can show everyone that the emperor has no clothes,  we are not necessarily toast.

    • #13
  14. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Merina Smith:Mis, while it is true that the idiots saying these things are outliers, they do participate in the logic of the obsession with “equality” right now.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Harrison Bergeron was written in 1961. This sort of idiocy isn’t exactly new. Society has survived this sort of idiocy every time it has flared up in the past. It’s annoying. It can be painful, but (so far anyways) its influence has eventually waned nearly as quickly as it waxes.

    • #14
  15. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    If I slapped both sides of his face they’d be equal too.   What a loonie.

    • #15
  16. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Oblo,

    Isn’t it interesting that opinions that 30 years ago would have made you a candidate for commitment to a psychiatric ward are now suddenly peer reviewed knowledge.

    Let me make this perfectly clear. His ideas have nothing to do with philosophy. This is the grievance industry worming its way into Western intellectual life. Justice has nothing to do with it.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    James Gawron:Isn’t it interesting that opinions that 30 years ago would have made you a candidate for commitment to a psychiatric ward are now suddenly peer reviewed knowledge.

    In 1985 these professors would have been committed to a psychiatric ward?

    I was a university student in 1995. I remember plenty of crazy academics making crazy statements about crazy ideas in 1995. That’s 20 years ago. So, standards for psychiatric commitment changed that much between 1985 and 1995?

    • #17
  18. user_1030767 Inactive
    user_1030767
    @TheQuestion

    Yet more proof that poverty and inequality are not the same thing.

    We should all want to reduce poverty, both for ourselves and for others.  I think that’s what Adam Smith is all about.  When you substitute “inequality” for “poverty,” it doesn’t sound that different at first glance, but when you really put “reducing inequality” into practice, it puts you on a train that eventually stops in Crazytown.

    • #18
  19. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Unfortunately, the loony ideas of academia in the 60s are now mainstream thought.

    THANKS, OBAMA!

    • #19
  20. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The thing is, we mean different things when we say “equality.” Of course we’re for equality, and when we say it we mean “equal opportunity” or “equal under the law.”

    What they mean is “equal outcomes.”

    • #20
  21. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Also, remember that whenever someone talks about “privilege,” what they’re really talking about is “envy.”

    • #21
  22. Qoumidan Coolidge
    Qoumidan
    @Qoumidan

    Maybe it proves the point, but my 2.5yr old daughter’s current favorite book is a basic grammar book geared at 1st graders. She is learning all about nouns, verbs, and so on.

    • #22
  23. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family.

    Sounds like normative, run-of-the-mill libertarianism.

    RIMSHOT!

    • #23
  24. Tennessee Patriot Member
    Tennessee Patriot
    @TennesseePatriot

    The failure of Universities can’t happen soon enough. The sooner it happens the luckier for us all. What will those nutcases do for a living?

    • #24
  25. user_357321 Inactive
    user_357321
    @Jordan

    I had no idea people read Plato’s Republic and took him seriously about all the insane things like naked co-ed gymnastics, the abolition of the family, and the city of pigs, the guardians, all that nonsense was just that.

    Socrates always seemed to be, trolling, so to speak, in the Platonic dialogues.  He certainly didn’t argue in good faith, and usually does not address the core issues.  I always wish I could jump into the dialogue myself and pick up the interlocutor’s point. It’s like Plato actually wrote them that way, or something.

    I’ve read Plato as the beginning of a conversation, not a treatise.  Rather an invitation into a real dialogue.  Why argue with dead letters?  All written words are a kind of lie, no?  But perhaps this “Philosopher” has missed the point of Plato’s work entirely.

    • #25
  26. user_11047 Inactive
    user_11047
    @barbaralydick

    Qoumidan:Maybe it proves the point, but my 2.5yr old daughter’s current favorite book is a basic grammar book geared at 1st graders.She is learning all about nouns, verbs, and so on.

    That’s not fair!!!

    • #26
  27. Layla Inactive
    Layla
    @Layla

    I think my favorite bit is “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s kids.” Not unfairly advantaging my own kids, mind you; no, by reading to my kids, I’m actually taking something away from some other kids out there somewhere. It’s a total zero-sum outlook on parenting.

    • #27
  28. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    Misthiocracy:

    Taras Bulbous:Some children are better looking than others. Rather than encouraging exercise and cosmetics for the uggos, let’s just throw acid in the face of every newborn child. Equality!

    Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut

    Yep, just what I was thinking of.

    The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. 

    • #28
  29. Darth Vader Jr Inactive
    Darth Vader Jr
    @NedWalton

    Kevin Williamson over at NRO has a good article on this. The name of the  “philosopher” is Adam Swift. Some wag in the comment section said his middle name is Notso.

    • #29
  30. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Misthiocracy:

    Merina Smith:Mis, while it is true that the idiots saying these things are outliers, they do participate in the logic of the obsession with “equality” right now.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Harrison Bergeron was written in 1961. This sort of idiocy isn’t exactly new. Society has survived this sort of idiocy every time it has flared up in the past. It’s annoying. It can be painful, but (so far anyways) its influence has eventually waned nearly as quickly as it waxes.

    And Rush released The Trees in 1978:

    This is one of the most obviously evil parts of the Leftist worldview.  They hate the good for being the good, and want to destroy it in an effort to ensure equal misery for all.

    It reminds me of the joke about the Russian peasant who rubs a bottle and out pops a genie.

    “I’ll grant you one wish” says the genie.

    “My neighbor has a milk cow and I do not” says the peasant.

    Kill my neighbor’s cow.”

    • #30
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