Sunday, March 22, 2015
George Will's column on inequality today seems to answer both Charles Murray and (even) me! (as well as Thomas Piketty)
George Will’s Washington Post column on p A19 Sunday “Combatting inequality has a price” almost sounds like an executive summary of my 2014 “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book (check Amazon). In fact, I’ll note my own press release on Wordpres, here. The Post column has a more innocuous title online, “Social inequality’s deepening roots”, here. Will has also effectively answered Charles Murray’s 2012 book “Coming Apart” (March 14, 2012 on books blog), which indicates that libertarians are concerned about falling social capital.
Although some readers will be taken back by Will’s opening by saying that some career women will take on dogs when they can’t find worthy husbands. Back in the 1950s, a Lady’s Home Journal article had asked, “Whom would you rather have a college degree, you or your husband?” In those days, not going to college meant a greater chance of becoming front lines infantry.
The heart of the column occurs near the end, where, after explaining meritocracy (as John Stossel used to characterize it) when compared to inherited aristocracy or nobility (or chivalry) George Will quotes Joy Pullman, saying that although some individuals have advantages they personally did not earn, “very often someone else did earn them – by, for example, nurturing children in a stable family.” I thought about Luke and Jack Andraka, both in the news recently for their accomplishments (and Jack’s book, “Breakthrough”, reviewed March 18 on Books). Both got to their level or academic and science innovation achievement before they could have any personal sense of what a decades-long stable marriage (mixing complementarity with continued intimacy) means – and that would be true for all accomplished teens. So, yes, that’s very clear in my own history.
So, there is natural tension between freedom – and the innovation, raising living standards for everyone that goes with it – and equality and “fairness”. Government should not do too much about it (although I think, for example, it should do something about pre-existing conditions in health insurance, and here I disagree with the libertarian right). Socialization matters: brilliance can sometimes go very wrong without it. Giving back – and let it be personal sometimes – because a moral expectation, more than just a convenient choice to feel good (yesterday’s post), as it does help restore the idea that stability and fairness matter, and giver the less advantaged a reason to believe they can do better under the system.