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What Really Matters?

Entry 1974, on 2019-04-09 at 21:33:17 (Rating 3, Politics)

There are some things that matter a lot, and things that really don't matter quite so much. Most people would agree with this statment, but the real problem arises when deciding on which is which. One group of people might say that economic growth is important and social justice is less so, and another might claim the opposite. The reality is, of course, that they are both right and both wrong. But a more useful question we might ask is how far should we go in pursuit of those aims (economic growth or social justice) or in pursuit of anything else which might appear relevant?

I'm going to look at those two issues in this post, although I do agree that there are others which might be equally important, such as environment protection including climate change mitigation. But I chose those two because they sort of represent the contrary opinions of the left and right today. The left seem mostly interested in social justice issues, and the right in economic growth.

As I said, they are both right and wrong, but why would I say that? Surely increasing social justice is important, and the economy drives wealth in our society so why wouldn't we seek growth there? And why is it rare to find someone who supports both? Well in answer to the first question: we can't just continue to grow either of those phenomena because they have side effects. And in answer to the second: people are tribal and most of them associate themselves with a particular political movement (left or right), so maybe they feel they need to stick with the issues that movement traditionally represents.

So first let's look at economic growth: what is so wrong with that?

Well, where do I start. I'm not an economist, so what I am about to say is based on my own opinions and observations about the world, rather than any rigorous research or well-founded theory, but lack of formal expertise has never stopped me expressing an opinion in the past, so here goes!

Look at the periods of strong growth in the past and there have always been unwanted outcomes and effects. For example, our previous period of strong growth was built partly on the use of cheap energy from fossil fuels, and partly on the introduction of automation to replace human workers. Other periods of strong growth in the past have been based on phenomena such as slavery or extremely cheap labour, and the necessity of increased production due to war.

I'ts not difficult to see where the problem is here. If you want a strong economy there are going to be associated costs. Either you will damage the environment by engaging in economic activities like burning fossil fuels, cutting down forests, or destroying land by strip mining; or you will damage society by using slave labour, forcing people into doing degrading and low paid work, or by simply increasing unemployment through use of automation.

So maybe economic growth isn't something we should be aiming for, unless there is a really good justification for it apart from the simple claim that it is what our economic system requires to thrive. Maybe that claim is true, but if it is, then we should be looking at a different economic system.

So what about the social justice claims of the left? If you follow this blog you will be aware that I am just as critical (maybe more so) of extreme political correctness as I am of uncontrolled capitalism. So I am going to make a similar claim here: that the simplistic actions the left use which they claim increases fairness and justice don't really do that at all. In fact, they often achieve the opposite, because giving one group extra privileges inevitably takes them away from another.

And the assertion that the groups losing in this push for social justice are those who have been over-privileged in the past is simply not true in many cases, and an irrelevant justification in others.

For example, you can't give black people extra rights to attend university without taking them away from others, and Asian people in the US are often blocked from attending universities even though their abilities are far greater. Is that fair? Is that social justice?

A similar argument applies to some feminist initiatives (and I'm using a very generous description there) where women are given jobs they are not necessarily that good at when far better qualified men miss out. This is happening at Google according to some contacts I have there, and I'm sure it is also common elsewhere. So a less well suited person is given a job because of their gender. Is this social justice? If it is, it's an odd use of the word justice!

And finally, what about gender-confused people. Wow, yes I said that, I would be fired from some jobs just for suggesting that idea. Is it fair for a biological man who thinks he's a woman to compete against "real" (there I go again into dangerous territory) women in sport? Well it obviously isn't because there are numerous occasions where men who were pretty average at a sport have "transitioned" to being a woman and smashed their opposition. Fair? I don't think so.

By the way, before I accused of being a racist and a misogynist and a homophobe (yeah, I score on all 3 there) I fully support the rights of all of those groups to live in society in the way that allows them to thrive. I just don't want it to happen at the expense of other groups who don't happen to fit into those convenient "underprivileged" groupings.

So my criticism of extreme social justice is really the same as my criticism of unfettered capitalism: that supporters of either ideology really have to look at the negative consequences and side-effects of their political ideas as well as what they think are the immediate consequential outcomes.

But both groups tend to blame the victims for the negative consequences. If a group becomes worse off as a result of economic growth we're told it's because they don't work hard enough, or need more training, or can't adapt to change. And if a group is disadvantaged through social justice activities, such as affirmative action, it is because they were too privileged to begin with. Note that there may be some situations where both types of justification are true, but there are many where it is not, and even if it is, does really justify those consequences?

Both groups are wrong and both are also rather pathetic and sad, because neither of their obsessions really even matter that much. What we should all really be concentrating on is technology and our social reaction to it. If we can get almost limitless free energy through fusion and other technologies, and if we can get limitless workers through AI, who cares about the silly fiddling about with economic factors we are doing now? And the left's obsession with trying to make everyone the same is both pathetic and dangerous. People don't like it and the left don't get it because they just keep failing worldwide and wondering why. Sheesh, how stupid can you get?

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Comment 1 (5010) by Anonymous on 2019-04-16 at 12:53:45:

Are you really equating economic growth with some crazy lefty social justice nonsense? The economy is, and always has been, the engine of our society. These SJW issues are just a fad.

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Comment 2 (5011) by OJB on 2019-04-16 at 13:37:46:

One of my points was how trivial the left are in their interests, and I agree that the economy is the "engine" of western democracies, and I guess all countries. But my point was more about the type of economies we have, especially in regards to the need for constant growth, which has the negative consequences I mentioned here.

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