In the Block 2B class, our discussion of Whitman's views of democracy veered into questions of equality and justice. The image above came up as an example of two competing views of fairness.
While it's definitely a generalization, conservative Americans typically see the redistribution of wealth and resources as unfair to the most successful, while liberals think that without redistribution, the least well-off don't get the same chance at success, which they see as unfair.
So which is it? More specifically, WHAT is a fair/just/good society, WHY is our society not fair/just/good enough, and HOW do we make it fairer/more just/better? That's what we're going to discuss here. Anyone interested in extra credit can post a paragraph with their thoughts, or respond respectfully and substantively to another's post. I'd like you to try to use some of the following terms and names from political philosophy if possible. So to begin, check these out:
The idea is that you can define a society by its economic system and its social system.
"Left" economics are more communitarian and cooperative - an economy based on shared wealth. "Right" economics are more capitalistic and competitive - an economy based on ownership rights and market trade. Authoritarian social systems are based on strict control of personal behavior; libertarian social systems are based on broad personal freedoms of action and lifestyle choice.
This boils down to four combinations: Do you think any offer a way to a strong society?
RIGHT LIBERTARIAN: An individualistic small-government society based on free-market trade
Examples: Philosopher Ayn Rand, Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, Candidate Gary Johnson
LEFT LIBERTARIAN: A non-hierarchical, cooperative society based on
Examples: Philosopher Noam Chomsky, Tibetian Leader The Dalai Lama, Candidate Jill Stein
RIGHT AUTHORITARIAN: A hierarchical society valuing tradition, order and nationalist ideals
Philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Candidate Donald Trump
LEFT AUTHORITARIAN: A welfare-oriented society with strong regulations and top-down leadership
Philosopher Karl Marx, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Candidate Hillary Clinton
(Note that the presidential candidates aren't exact matches to these philosophies.)
It's worth considering, too, that no of these ideas fully comprehend our situation...
For example, the best-off people (the 1% of the 1%) have far more than we sometimes realize.
And what if the real issue has to do with the nature of the fence blocking people in the first place?
(What would that fence be? Government? Social biases? Ignorance? What holds us back most?)
The picture below introduces these perspectives as additional possibilities to consider.
We've started reading Walt Whitman's groundbreaking poetry, which builds on Emerson's transcendental ideas of self-reliance, universal connectedness, and creative innovation. Whitman saw America as a nation with the potential to invent a truly democratic way of life, in which people of all backgrounds could come together to live freely, in harmony with nature and each other:
Your assignment is to read the following article on Whitman's democratic dreams for America: