I recently read an article on equality and fairness titled, surprisingly, People Don’t Actually Want Equality, by Paul Bloom published October 22, 2015, in the Atlantic. That article triggered a number of thoughts for me. I wrote about some of them in Equality, Fairness and Me.
In this piece, I want to go in a different direction. I have friends on who span the spectrum of political ideology. I tend to fit somewhere on the conservative side of things, but, as I suspect with most people, you might find my views on either side of the spectrum, depending on the issue. I am not sure how some things came to be labelled “conservative” and other things “liberal”. As for economic issues, I would probably be labeled conservative.
I don’t like the label. All labels are self-limiting. They stand in the way of true understanding. They polarize people and reduce issues to platforms. They inhibit resolution and progress toward commons ends.
We do have common ends! When we get right down to the core of what people want, we pretty much want the same things. We want fairness. We want equal opportunity. We want to be left alone. We want everyone to get along and be happy.
Some people feel that private enterprise, left to itself, will do the right thing and everything will balance out, while government intervention just messes everything up. Other people feel we need government intervention to balance everything out because private enterprise creates inequality. People run the government and people run private enterprise. (Maybe people are the problem!)
I suppose the solution is obvious: some combination of private enterprise and government is the ideal solution. That is also obviously easier said than done. How we get to the ideal solution and what it looks like is a matter of great disagreement.
I do not just speculate that we all want basically the same things. It is not just my opinion. That premise is the exact conclusion of people who have studied these things:
“[W]hen asked about what distribution would be ideal, Americans, regardless of political party, want a far more equal society than they actually live in or believe that they live in. In an article published in The Atlantic, Ariely writes, ‘the vast majority of Americans prefer a distribution of wealth more equal than what exists in Sweden, which is often placed rhetorically at the extreme far left in terms of political ideology—embraced by liberals as an ideal society and disparaged by conservatives as an overreaching socialist nanny state.’”
Ironic, isn’t it? Maybe all of our fighting based on labels of “conservative” and “liberal” are just getting in the way of getting to the resolutions that we all want.