For the Weekend: Let's Have Another Cup Of Coffee (1932)

I keep saying that Equitable Growth should cozy up to these people: they are our mirror image—and not in an evil-Mr.-Spock-with-a-beard way: Brink Lindsey, Will Wilkinson, Steven Teles, and Samuel Hammond: The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes: "We need both greater reliance on market competition and expanded, more robust, and better-crafted social insurance... government activism to enhance opportunity... less corrupt and more law-like governance... a new ideological lens: one that sees government and market not as either-or antagonists, but as necessary complements...

...Our approach to public policy begins with deep commitments to the basic liberal principles of a free and open society: individualism, understood as the belief that the ultimate standard for judging laws and policies is the dignity and welfare of actual, living, individual human beings; pluralism, or the recognition that there are many different conceptions of truth and the good life and that disagreement among reasonable people is therefore an inescapable fact of life; the rule of law; representative democracy; a competitive market economy; and a government that secures those collective goods that private efforts cannot supply well.... There is no substitute for ongoing empirical investigation and critical scrutiny....

Although we hold to high ideals, we do not believe there is any clear theoretical blueprint for realizing those ideals in practice. Many political philosophers, and most adherents of well-defined political ideologies, believe that an ideal vision of the best social, economic, and political system serves a useful and necessary orienting function. The idea that a vision of an ideal society can serve as a moral and strategic star to steer by is both intuitive and appealing, but it is wrong.... The greater the distance between an ideal vision of the best society and the historical examples that supply us with evidence about how social systems function, the more likely you are to be mistaken about how your ideal would work.... Counterfactual visions of the best society are more likely to lead us astray than to set us on the path of progress.

However, we aren’t therefore condemned to do without ideals. We proudly uphold the broadly liberal ideal of the free and open society, but we do so without being committed irrevocably to some specific conception of ideal freedom and openness, or a specific vision of the social system that best realizes it. This doesn’t mean we won’t be able to recognize—or fight—corruption, oppression, and exploitation when we see it. You don’t need a theory of the perfect shoe to feel where your shoe pinches, and you don’t need a theory of perfect justice to grasp the injustice of the boot on your neck. We can make real headway toward a better society by spotting and rectifying the most obvious and egregious injustices. We don’t need to know what awaits on the mountain’s summit as long as we can tell the difference between “down” and “up.” Emphasizing the minimization of cruelty and abuse, rather than relying on an orienting ideological lodestar, is how we combine moral idealism with a firm appreciation of the complexity of the social world and the limits of our knowledge....

We reject both market fundamentalism on the right and democratic fundamentalism on the left. In other words, we don’t believe that either a well-functioning market economy or a well-functioning representative democracy is self-creating, self- executing, or self-sustaining. Market fundamentalists are prone to arguing that all you need to get markets up and running is to get government out of the way—in other words, the less government, the better. Democratic fundamentalists make the mirror-image mistake, arguing that all you need to get democracy to work better is to grant government more powers—that is, to shift more and more decision-making from private actors to officials of a democratically elected government. We, by contrast, believe that the functioning of both markets and democracy depends on how they are structured: The right structures produce good results, while the wrong structures can cause disaster...


#shouldread #moralphilosophy

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