Monday, January 24, 2005


I am brewing a large blog or two, but haven't finished them satisfactorily. In the middle of the day I had a little moment of political enlightenment on the difference between left wing and right wing. There is one point that is different on which everything else is built: It is the understanding of equality.

Left-wing ideology says that equality needs to be attained, sometimes through artificial contrivances. Equality should always be the goal, anything else is unfair and against human rights.

Right-wing ideology says that we have equality already and we are all free to break forth and seek to create inequality by achieving, to put ourselves ahead. Inequality should be your goal.

All other things flow from this perception of equality.

On a slightly different tack, a curious situation cited in the Saturday Herald reflected back to the nature of these systems. It described the situation in South Africa since apartheid, saying that the change over has not alleviated poverty in any way, it has just meant that there has been the creation of a black elite and the impoverished are growing poorer. The quote, I believe from Desmond Tutu, was (paraphrased): You cannot expect capitalism to deliver socialist outcomes. This is very interesting and true. Why would you expect that the economic liberation of the blacks to alleviate the poverty?


James said...

The quote at the end is interesting. I would reply that the goal of alleviating poverty doesn't have to be done through socialist means. Why can't it be one of the goals of a capitalist system? The result might be greater inequality, but if everyone's standard of living happens to increase, then what is the worry?

My understanding of the difference between left wing and right wing is that each has a different interpretation of justice. This reconcilies to your view if justice is treating people the same (equality) in the appropriate circumstances. For the socialist, this could mean equality of outcome. For the capitalist, this could mean equality of opportunity. Each system has faults and assumptions that don't always work, so that's why we have a system which is somewhere in between the two extremes.

Crypticity said...

"Why can't it [alleviating poverty] be one of the goals of a capitalist system?"

As pointed out by both of us, capitalism creates inequality, in that the opportunities are never really equal (as a capitalist may idealistically wish or offer as an excuse).

I believe the important differentiation to note in the analysis of any economic situation is that of wealth redistribution and wealth creation. In a newspaper discussion between Roger Kerr and some other guy rambled on about the virtues or evils of the governments welfare money to working families. Roger, of course, said that this is redistribution and wastes the potential of that money to grow wealth (e.g. tax cuts good), whereas the other guy said this is time for a redistribution etc. saying that it was the low income working families that were harmed by the 1980s reforms. I think I can actually understand those arguments better now that I have had a chance to ruminate a little over them.

Capitalists may hopefully wish that there is some naturally occurring wealth distribution tendency in a capitalistic system, i.e. 'the trickle down effect'. In simple economics, it makes sense. The more money people have (even if just the rich), the more they spend and invest, which turns itself into wealth for others. But that is more or less thinking in terms of a closed economy.

There is no necessary compulsion for created wealth to go downwards. For example, if all wealth that was created is spent on high value imported products, there is no downward movement of wealth. With a surplus of labour (in an area of high unemployment) there is no reason for wages to rise either.

I think in the example of South Africa in the article was that the impoverished are actually comparatively worse off! (as in, comparing them over the 5 years) So perhaps even though the economy may be generating more wealth, there is no redistribution effect occurring, or if anything the wealth is being distributed to the wealthy, which of course is theoretically fine in capitalism.