Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: pt1 "No Man is an Island".

The messaging streaming from the political right centers on the concept of the self made man. That in isolation some people have intrinsic capabilities that have allowed them to become the most financially successful in our society. This narrative implies that modern captains of industry would have inevitably achieved greatness regardless of what country they were born in or what advantages they garner through birthright. This also implies that those less advantaged in the world lack some innate drive or capability.

I like paying taxes. I like paying taxes because I like having roads and bridges, civil services and the myriad of other benefits that can only come from collective action. These very same accomplishments of previous generations, are often discounted in the conservative philosophy, yet without these shared resources the success of the wealthy would have been impossible.

To prove this point I ask, "why are there no Fortune 500 companies founded and based in central Africa?" There is no significant biological or cognitive differences between people in the developing world and industrialized nations. Entrepreneurial spirit, artistic ability, effort and drive are all equally distributed through-out humanity. So it must be a lack of resources and opportunity that accounts for the vastly different outcomes between those born in industrialized nations and the developing world.

So if life outcomes are determined more by having access to publicly funded systems and infrastructure, then a gaping hole is exposed in the very foundation of the "self made man" argument. This even has a parallel in American society. Access to higher education and other necessary ingredients for success are not evenly distributed domestically. While it is possible for anyone with the GPA and the drive to get an ivy league education, other social factors like showing up to elementary school with a empty stomach has proven to be the barrier for the less advantaged early on.

It is no secret that our collective social systems work better for some than others. Often trends upward or downward for a community are self perpetuating. Less education leads to less opportunities and people have to resort to activities that are again detrimental to the community as a whole. Today, a child born into a poverty level household is much more likely wind up incarcerated than attend college.

I contend that by focusing on increasing educational opportunities universally, the social benefits will be felt by all. For one thing, education leads to community investment on the part of the individual. If someone has developed a skill set that they can capitalize on, they are much less likely to engage in illegal activities (the financial sector excluded) to make ends meet. Reduced crime rates benefit us all, not only because we are less likely to be a victim of crime, but because less of our tax dollars have to be spent on the justice system.

This pattern is clearly defined by: housing prices, incarceration rates, health outcomes, and access to healthy foods. The deeply flawed philosophy at the core of conservative thinking often fails to account for this phenomena to the point where it must be either cognitive dissonance or sociopathy. My personal view is toward the later as the tendency to blame the victim of unequal opportunity distribution is often present in conservative argumentation.

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