Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Equality

Liberal Hypocrisies and the Alternatives to Them

All social orders are supported by “legitimation stories”. These are the reasons orders give us to support them, or at least to stay out of their way. Legitimation stories don’t have to be true, but they have to be persuasive. The social order has to create a set of conditions that are similar enough to the stories that we mistake what we have for what we were promised. Legitimation stories are chiefly about “good order”. Order is straightforward–social orders promise to protect us from violence, starvation, instability, and precarity. They promise to make us feel secure. “Good” is less obvious, because “good” tends to mean different things to different people in different contexts. Liberal legitimation stories understand “good” in three senses:

  1. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are “free” or have “liberty” in some relevant sense.
  2. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are treated as “equal” to one another in some relevant sense.
  3. A good order is one in which the order “represents” the subjects in some relevant way.
  4. A good order is “dynamic”, it is capable of delivering real change.

The trouble is that terms like “free”, “equal”, and “representative” don’t have stable social meanings. Our understandings of these terms can easily slide out of alignment with the understandings we need to have for legitimation stories to work. If we understand “equality” to mean “a fair distribution of resources” but the liberal order wants us to understand “equality” as “everyone gets to have their say”, the order has to convince us that we’ve misunderstood the meaning of equality. It has to get us to think about it in a whole different way. When gaps open up between the conditions the order produces and our expectations, it is often because the order has lost control over how we understand the words it uses to tell its stories. When this happens, the order appears “hypocritical”–it appears to say one thing and do another, to tell stories it has no intention of realising. That’s what today’s post is about–the liberal order’s hypocrisies.

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I’m a Political Theorist, and I Hate the “Equality”/”Equity” Chart

Have you seen it? There’s this chart that goes around and around the internet, with three people of different heights attempting to watch a baseball game. I hate it so much, but I suppose I have to show it to you, in case you’re not familiar:

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Are We Trying to Make Everyone an Aristocrat or a Peasant?

On the left, we care a lot about equality. But we really, really don’t agree on what that means. Some of us want everyone to be an aristocrat. Some of us want everyone to be a peasant. Some of us want everyone to be a worker. Some of us want everyone to be middle class. Some of us want everyone to spend some time doing all of these things. We don’t talk about this difference very much, but it seems kind of important, because these proposals are not at all the same thing.

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A Radical Proposal for Kindergarten and Pre-K

In our schools, we are often trying to accomplish two conflicting goals at once:

  1. We want our quickest students to maximize their potential–this means we want them to be in classes that move at their pace.
  2. We don’t want our slower students to be dismissed and devalued, so we are reluctant to separate them from the quicker students and put them in remedial classes where they may be given a low priority.

If we put fast students and slow students in the same age group together, the class will either move at a pace that’s too slow for the quick kids or too fast for the slow kids. If we separate them, educational resources tend to flow disproportionately to the kids who are already at an advantage, as they tend to have the most involved parents.

I have a suggestion to get around this problem while at the same time resolving public policy disputes about state support for expanding Pre-K education.

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Hillary Clinton Isn’t Particularly Good for Feminism

In reply to my post from the other day about the differences in economic ideology between Bernie Sanders (the Keynesian egalitarian) and Hillary Clinton (the neoliberal), some are replying that Hillary is still worth supporting because a Hillary presidency would be an important victory for feminism. Indeed, there are prominent women accusing female Bernie supporters of being traitors to feminism. Madeleine Albright says that women who don’t support Hillary are “going to hell”. Gloria Steinem says that female Bernie supporters are doing it to chase boys (she has since apologized for that remark). Yet in some places, Bernie continues to enjoy the support of the majority of women under 45–winning as much as 64% of that demographic. These women are making the right choice. Hillary’s feminist credentials are much weaker than is popularly believed, and if elected there are strong reasons to think that she would do little for the feminist political cause.

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