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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: Re: An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Priori
Date: Sun, May 18, 2014
Msg: 100994

Thanks to Lawry for making this important point about human subjectivity, with its implications for individual empowerment and participation.

I have just asked Rick R. and Michael S. about how the cap on federal spending they propose would be determined: by whom, through what type of process, according to what criteria? I asked whether participatory budgeting could be bent to that purpose. It seems to me that PB honors the values of empowerment and participation.

Michael Briand

From: Lawrence Chickering Sent: Sunday, May 18, 2014 9:52 AM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] An Ideological Turing Test featuring arguments against Raddatz's "Cap and Prioritize" proposal

Michael (S),

I regard myself as a 'bleeding heart libertarian', and I have thoughts about supporting Raddatz's proposal. Here goes:

The vision of helping the disadvantaged that is currently dominant in our debate sees the problem as entirely an objective problem, which is 'solved' by resource transfers. This vision (unfortunately) sees the disadvantaged only as objects, which is a pitifully limited view of human beings. Worrying only about resource transfers to objects reduces human relationships to the level of the care and feeding of farm animals.

Objective inequality exists in many dimensions, most of them unsolvable by resource transfers (it exists in all dimensions in terms of which people differentiate themselves -- besides wealth, intelligence, beauty, appreciation of art, etc, etc).

Fifteen seconds' reflection will make it clear that 'progressives' preoccupation with objective equality is impossible as a policy objective. The real challenge is the impulse to differentiate because the more equal one term of differentiation becomes, the more important others become (assuming constant need to differentiate).

The really unfortunate thing about our current philosophical idiom is that objective equality is the gold standard principle of moral discourse. I believe this is utterly bankrupt as a defining principle of our moral life. The idea, ultimately, that everyone can be above average in everything is not only laughably (because logically) impossible; it is also brutally cruel because it steers masses of people to believe their lives are failures.

I am here, of course, critiquing the order-left. But many on the right are also guilty of a brutal (though different) focus on equality. Many on the right argue that equal opportunity is the touchstone of justice: equal opportunity to 'get ahead' and achieve 'The American Dream'. Why is this also brutal? Because if you can only achieve The American Dream by being a 'winner', it follows that masses of people are cut out of The Dream; they are 'losers'.

I believe both visions are unacceptable -- much worse than that, both visions are vile.

People as Subjects

Let me try starting in a different place (in terms of what is important). Assume for the moment that people are more than farm animals. Assume that we need to worry about more than people as objects; we also have to worry about them as subjects.

A very wise man once told me that the key to joy is creation. I would argue that the key to opportunities for creation is empowerment, and this -- I would argue -- should be the great principle underlying our political morality. Empowerment, I believe, is what connects your references to Mohammed Yunus, Hernando de Soto, etc., as well as my own program, Educate Girls Globally. I believe that empowerment is the central value underlying everything that is working.

Empowerment is a complicated concept, which includes both individualistic and collective elements (empowerment needs to liberate people to 'be themselves', but it also needs to do it understanding that connection -- to self, others, nature and cosmos -- are also important).

The central deficiency in our current idiom is its mechanistic, objectified core. Empowerment depends on understanding that we live in a Connected World of subjects. Unfortunately, we have no language that bridges the gap between the formal practices of traditional religion and informal spiritual practices. The absence of such a language makes it impossible to have a coherent conversation about this subject. [I would suggest that the search for such a language might begin by examining carefully the concepts of God that range from preconscious subjective (in The Garden) to increasingly conscious and objective (especially in institutionalized Christianity) to increasingly conscious and secular (Enlightenment and beyond) to increasingly conscious and (now) increasingly subjective and 'spiritual'.]

Please forgive this diversion from the subject at hand, which I could not avoid because I think engaging these issues is essential to get us away from the desiccated notion of people as objects that now strangles our debate. I believe that a major priority for the transpartisan movement should be to bridge this gap between 'religious' and 'spiritual', opening up a much wider subjective vision of human possibility that animates people and programs everywhere.

People from other cultures often critique American culture with thoughts like: 'Is there anything Americans think they can't buy?' The critique has important elements of truth in it, and one of them is in the vision of social justice that is preoccupied with resource transfers. As long as our debate is dominated by this as a moral principle, we will never address the real challenge of justice, which has to do with people as subjects. An important way to redirect our discourse is to cap the money we can spend. For this reason I support Raddatz's proposal.

Lawry Chickering Educate Girls Globally


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