Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What are the root elements of equality that could be adopted as a socio-political ideal ?

An open reply to Thomas Piketty on inequality 

Dear Prof. Piketty, 

We had reviews in Indian Newspapers about your book Capital recently. That lead me to wiki search about you, and I was lucky to get your e. mail id from your personal web pages. 

This is an attempt to convey to you, that basic concept of 'equality' may not be based on economic terms alone,but more on various other social factors

Ayn Rand, though she had pointed it out to stress a different argument of her, what she brought out exposed a central shift in the base of equality, ie.from political to economic, in the mid 20th century. She writes in her book 'Capitalism- an unknown ideal' :( page 324)  

 " The 'gimmick' was the switch of the concept of rights from political to the economic realm" She describes the then Democratic administration's reaffirming the 'economic bill of rights',  which 'Roosevelt had written into the conscience of the nation 16 years ago', like the rights for jobs, right to earn enough for food and clothing, right for decent home, education, health etc.etc. 

The vital shift from the 'self-evident' inalienable rights of man endowed by God or Nature has ended up in modern world as certain symbols of such rights, such as what has been listed above in the economic bill of rights !( food,clothing,home etc) The concept of equality  also has followed the suit, by an equality purely in economic terms. You have very rightly offered the conclusion that such an 'income based equality' is an impossible proposition under modern capitalism ! 

While the earlier concept of purely 'political' rights was more around equal relevance, or equal dignity in society, it has been sadly replaced by an impossible ideal of equality of income! When the equality of 'opportunity' also has been firmly pre-engraved in the new bill of 'economic rights', reasons for any complaint also has been taken away from the scene. The ones who are rich and powerful are there because they made better use of their opportunities ! It was a very tricky clause,enough to silence the critics of modern inequality.  

You were once again right in concluding that ' unless capitalism is not reformed, the very democratic order will be threatened' ! But as the values of capitalism have dangerously  influxed into the institution of democracy, the threat you have envisaged has already taken roots. I politely invite you to my blog that narrates this already existing danger, at link: http://influxofcapitalisticvalues.blogspot.in/

As democratic order and capitalism have almost become one and the same entity in the modern world for all practical meaning and purpose, for achieving the modern concept of country 'development', the former original concept of 'political equality' has lost its chance of any revival. If any rethinking is to emerge, it will be possible only through the realization of this fundamental by the acclaimed economic thinkers like you ! The way your book has attained mainstream attention, about the lost-for-ever meaning of original political equality also will gain public attention and relevance only by further research and writings of entities like you !

What are the predominant features of the above referred, non-economic(political) concept of 
equality ? 

It is an empirical fact that there can not be any drastic difference in the degree of contentment of different income groups based on what they eat, what they wear, or the kind of roof they sleep under. These are predominantly matters of custom and habit than that of any drastic class distinction. As Rousseau had stated in his writings on inequality;

' the mirth of the rich is in his awareness that he is free from the wretchedness of the poor'. Take away such wretchedness of the bottom class from the society, there will end the mirth of the rich too; thus believed Rousseau.  

What derives from the above is that the real inequality in modern societies is NOT that of income difference, but that arise from the degree of social and political relevance, and the individual dignity and social status enjoyed by different strata of citizens in society. Modern societies have set certain unwritten standards for gaining one's social relevance and status. It is unfortunately based on one's income and wealth. What richness or wealth bestow to a person first and foremost is an increased degree of freedom and relevance in society. In other words, wealth and political power are two sure and certain means to gain individual Freedom and social dignity in society ! When citizens compete each other for more and more wealth, or instead more and more political power, what they seek at the bottom is simple human freedom, and individual dignity and relevance in society.  Yet in other words, the root cause of increasing inequality in modern society is due to the failure of modern political system, especially that of modern democracy to ensure basic individual freedom and dignity to each citizen ! Every one seeks out wealth, or political power so that it ensures him his fundamental freedom and dignity of self ! It at least safe-guard citizens from the possible assault and abuse from the hands of the ones in power !

In the 'economic caste-system' of today,everyone desires to go up in the ladder, and enjoy higher social status.The government apparatus and its agencies accord different degree of entitlement and relevance to citizens from different income groups. Every citizen is not equal before the modern country governance system, except, perhaps, before law or judicial system of comparatively open democracies ! 

This malady has originated chiefly because, as mentioned once above, despite having democracy everywhere, it ( such democratic order) has terribly  failed to establish universal sense of rights and dignity of citizens. In its contemporary avatar, it does mean only politico-economic order with close-cronyism of poly and the industry. Hence, everyone is compelled to struggle for gaining his space and place in society on his own, under fierce competitive conditions ! For every practical meaning, mankind is back to their old jungle days, but with a great unfortunate, self-deceptive veil of openness and transparency !

Modern world have succeeded in creating synthetic marketplaces of class and status of its own,based on the consumer items citizens buy and use, the location of the city they stay, class of school their children attend, the clubs they attend, and the social contacts and company they keep. It also has created certain sophisticated vocabulary to be used in their social gathering. These synthetic echelons come for a certain price in hard-cash. Those who could afford the high cost of these special realms in society are only accepted here. Every institution in modern society, including the political institution, recognize and revere these special class system, and one's social respect, dignity, and relevance is measured, based on his eligibility into these highly classified economic realms !

In short, the issue of modern inequality is NOT that of equal distribution of income. It is more to do with the present-day obsession of people for belonging to certain special synthetic higher classes in society. The institutions of Industry and politics encourage the trend because, it naturally and conveniently serve their trade purpose !

This division is similar to the inequality in the ancient societies of warlords and warriors. Their kind of society had a different yardstick to measure one's social acceptance, predominantly based on one's physical , or combat related capabilities. Today, the yardstick is different. It is based on one's native ability to amass more wealth. Tomorrow, these yardsticks might be different. So, today;s social inequality is simply a matter of present world's special standards of measuring social status,dignity and relevance of citizens. It does not have much to do with equal income distribution in society. For those who desire to have belongingness to certain class in modern societies, it is possible only by acquiring its one and only recognized means; ie.hard cash in hand    

So in modern capitalism ruled world, when wealth is increasingly getting accumulated in fewer and fewer hands, ( ref. latest Oxfam and Zurich university studies) the real impact is in the fast turning of thousands of men and women every day into non-entities in nations, by lack of equal individual dignity and social relevance.
( see our blog: http://closedmodernworlddespitedemocracy.blogspot.in/) The distribution of wealth and resources can be compared to a piped municipal water supply system; water flows first into the huge storage tanks of the rich and powerful first. By the time it reaches areas where the poor and marginalized reside, there remains only very less quantity of water in the mother supply pipe ! It is an irreversible system. As far as modern democracy and capitalistic order remain the way they are, in close cronyism, world will also remain in the same wretched way  for ever.  

First and foremost need of the day is to reform our existing concepts of democracy that, instead of standing against such universal ethos and principles, it's close tie-up with capitalistic order passively encourages it ! If this task is first attended, reforming capitalism will naturally follow, by the proposed steps at blog: http://whatequalityshouldmeanindemocracy.blogspot.in/

About the menace of inflation too, we have a philosophic blog at: http://understandinginflationinanewlight.blogspot.in/

About what a true democracy must represent to its people is described at blog links: http://direneedofreinventingdemocracy.blogspot.in/

Apologize writing to you at very length, but I am sure your broad,open mind would recognize its utter social need, and respond to us meaningfully ! 

Distributing dignity of individual and strict social relevance EQUALLY in society will not cost anything for nations. If wealth and power do not automatically enhance a citizen's social relevance and dignity much, its attraction also will die out soon. It was to achieve this central cause that democracy had emerged in the world. But, it has turned out to be only another old kind of POWER-REGIME wherein those who have more wealth and political power only will gain social recognition and dignity ! Therefore, everyone is in a mad race for ensuring his/her share of relevance and dignity in the world, by amassing either more wealth, or a share in political power !  

sincerely,

Abraham J.Palakudy 
An independent researcher.seeker and writer in subjects like philosophy,Mind and Reason,Spirituality, and Polity
Profile and other blogs:https://www.blogger.com/profile/14249415589712707293
Contact: ajoseph1@rediffmail.com
Twitter: Voice of philosophy@jopan1






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