Friday, January 30, 2009

The Need to Love

Just as there is a part of any population that is so uncomfortable with variability that it must vilify people who are different, there is another part that thrives on diversity, is uncomfortable with predictability and conformity, and considers everyone to be of equal value. These people prefer to let their lives be full of love and anticipation rather than hate and fear, choosing to make the world better for everyone than for just people like them. They tend to be political liberals because government as an institution affects all its citizens, and has the potential to do so positively.

Societies are perhaps just as successful accommodating the needs of those who desire diversity as they are accommodating those who can’t stand it.

A representative democracy like the United States explicitly grants equal rights to many, if not all, of its citizens (women and African-Americans were exceptions until recently). Laws are then enacted to protect those rights. Unfortunately, laws can only regulate specific behaviors, not intentions, and therefore cannot ensure cooperation.

Socialist societies are to diversity-seekers what fascist societies are to uniformity-seekers: dismal failures of extremism in the face of an unyielding reality. In this case, government attempts to do something it is structurally incapable of doing, which is the total management of an economy to ensure that no one has an advantage over another – equal outcomes are confused with equal rights – and diversity ends up suffering.

Communism, the conservative’s bogey man, is in its strictest theoretical form a forced distribution of wealth to meet the needs of the population; which is not the same as socialism, except perhaps in the rare case where a society has barely enough resources for its population to survive. Diversity-seekers like me would argue that this form is a rational foundation for any society, but is not sufficient by itself; rather, there should be a regulated form of capitalism built on top so that people can maximize their individual happiness to the extent that additional resources are available and such activity doesn’t take away from the needs of others.

Problems are perhaps most likely to appear when “needs” are redefined to include “wants,” and people who know their own wants better than anyone are forced to attempt meeting the wants of people they don’t know. Someone who is inclined to cooperate rather than compete will compromise willingly, without being forced to; but those who are more inclined to compete should have the right to do so (ideally, just with people who also like to compete).

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