Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Inequality vs. Disutility

Enduring mantras defending or agitating against inequality seldom engage with a careful parsing of egalitarian ethics. The internet being what it is, a teensy oversight spirals into wasted communicational energy and communicational brick walls. As it turns out, polarized takes on equality/inequality are not immune to this. Shocker. To bypass the pratfalls of factionalist-styled demagoguery and sanctimony, I’ll point to crucial segmentations within the numerous schools of egalitarianism:

Numerical Egalitarianism:

Treats all moral patients as indistinguishable, apportioning the same quantity of a good per capita.

Proportional Egalitarianism:

Treats all moral patients in accordance to their distinct needs.

It’s hard to overstate how useful it would be to have interlocutors who actually pay attention to “numerical vs. proportional” parameters instead of carrying on as if everyone holds same idea of what is meant whenever “equality” is cavalierly uttered. During political discussions, it would be doubly useful to qualify one’s views in this way. Failure to do so enables this type of irritable backwardness to turn up as the top result for “equality vs. equity” keyword searches.

At the same time, our political aims don’t transition seamlessly into our ethical aims. There is a reason why political philosophy is little more than a synonym for moral philosophy. Any relationship between the two must be a sinuous one. Politics has to do with civilizational strategy, which may ultimately (indirectly) lend a helping hand to ethical know-how. That's the goal, anyway. As such, every policy comes with teleological constraints, provided that politics ought to compliment ethics when all is said and done, which I believe should be the case.