Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Right and Left

The common refrain from the left of the political aisle is that society must provide for the common good at the expense of the individual. If we must force the individual to pay his fair share then so be it. The right would have us believe that the individual is supreme, and that infringing on him by robbing him of his property through taxes is a violation of justice.

I find this curious dichotomy to miss a crucial element. It would appear to me that this view of humanity is incomplete. Society in the form of the state vs. the indiviual. I find that the social justice/redistributionists lack an understanding of how the "resources" that we need to redistribute came into being in the first place. Likewise I find that the individualists to curiously forget how it is that the environment that created the ability for the individual to create such resources comes about.

Now it is laudible that the social justice folks care much about the poor. They do indeed want to see that the basic rights of the poor are met and are appalled at the idea that the basic rights of the poor (life, food shelter) are not respected by those groups of people we call "society". However I do not know how they arrive at the conclusion how these resources come about. I assume that the social justice advocates assume that the recources are hoarded by the "uber-rich" or "selfish rich." There is no doubt that such people exist. I also believe that there are rich who wish to impart those riches on the needy. One only needs to look at Oprah or Extreme Makeover Home Edition to see rich people or corporations attempt to help the poor.

The individualist in turn respects that the individual is a person, not a "resource." That the individual, by nature of his being human, is not a resource producing cog but a man. And as such he has a certain "right" to that thing we refer to as "his." But in emphasising the the role of the individual the individualist fails to see that man is more than a "person." He participates in "community." The Sistine Chapel, or any construction of large magnitude, is not built by a man but men. Also missing is the idea that men do not reach their full potential alone but in working with others.

In short, the individualist see only trees and the social justice advocate see only the forest.

I think the basic problem stems from a lack of imagination. The social justice cannot see how to solve "societal" issues without erroding the rights of the individual, and thus sees the individual as less important. Likewise the individualist sees the individual rights as too important to infringe upon to solve more "societal" concerns.

To me neither view is correct. By pitting the two views against each other we receive an incomplete picture. Man is neither an island nor a cog in a "societal" machine. In adopting either view we sacrifice too many dimensions of man. We identify problems but not solutions.

In order to move past the obstacles that stem from these two views I believe we must abandon them and refocus our attention. We must ask ourselves "what is the smallest scope of humanity we can look at that incorporates all dimensions of a human being?" To do that we must turn to the Church's teaching on social justice. For in her wisdom she points us to that old and venerable institution, before nation states or Enlightenment individuality. I speak of the family.

No comments: