The economic foundation of racism

Is racism an ugly fact of life or is it a symptom of a much larger problem?  I suspect it is mostly the latter in which  case it is a serious problem with lots of potential for inflicting injustice on people who really do not deserve it.

A discussion of racism should start with some basic principles.

* We do not have to like everyone and it is okay to disagree with others.  We do not have to associate with people we dislike.

* Some people enjoy hurting others.  If you want to really hurt another person say something negative about them that is true.

* Physical violence is wrong.

* Verbal and psychological violence is wrong.  It is disgusting and immoral but it should not be considered criminal  because it involves values, morals and some very fine lines.  It may be that a part of growing up is to learn how to cope with negatives and some people may have to do more learning than others.

* Some members of minority groups are obnoxious and we do not have to like or associate with them.

* We sometimes fear the unknown and strangers.

* Minority groups can be racist against majority groups

There is some anecdotal evidence that racism and negativity based on being a part of a group is increasing.  The question is whether or not this is itself a problem.  This writer thinks it is mostly a symptom of a deeper and larger problem of a shortage of energy and mineral resources.  There are lots of these resources left on the surface of our planet but we have “cherry picked” the most easily accessible and those that are left require a lot of time and energy to extract.  The result is that our economy has started into a serious decline.  Lots of people sense that the decline is happening but do not have a clue as to why.

This is where racism comes in.  When things go poorly, we need scapegoats so that we do not have to ourselves take responsibility – in this case for using up the resource base.  Actually we have a double scapegoat scenario developing.  Some people are blaming foreigners for our problems while others are blaming these evil racists among us for the problems.  This writer blames everyone.

Whoever is to blame, we are facing a very difficult situation around the world.  Normal people are aware of this – Brexit, Trump, the Italians – even if people do not understand the negative forces at work.  Some people have a propensity to hate but to treat the rest as criminal is itself an injustice.

The native Peoples in our part of the world have and Indian prayer – that they not criticize another person until they have walked a mile in that persons moccasins.  Most of the people who are considered racist deserve the benefit of that prayer and the rest of us have a need for some clear understanding without which the problem will not be solved and we will all experience a lot of suffering.

My ebook Funny Money: Adapting to a Down Economy discusses this problem and outlines some policies which might ease the suffering.  You can  get a free copy from the link at the top of this weblog.


Why we have injustice

Ensuring justice is one of the most essential functions of government because without it one has anarchy.  It is also one of the most difficult because injustice is pervasive throughout society and history and is a part of a lot of personalities

The easiest thing about injustice is to document it and some people make careers out of doing that.  The most difficult thing is to correct it.  Often ideas for correcting injustice are a function of the personality of the person speaking.  For example, some people like to tell others how to live their lives and these people promote solutions that do that.  .

What is injustice?  My favourite verse from the Panchatantra, an ancient book of wisdom literature from India, may help answer the question.

Forget your prosings manifold,
the moral law is easily told.
To help your neighbor, that is good,
to hurt him, that is devilhood.

This simple verse is a lot more complex than it first appears because psychological violence has to be included in the devilhood.  From this it follows that whenever somebody is hurt by another person, physically or psychologically, they are the subject of an injustice.  This is a general definition and calls into question the commitment by our society to law and order. Some laws, especially those that legislate morals, values, sexuality and religion are themselves unjust.

There are two sources of injustice.  The first arises from a shortage of resources such that not everyone can have a comfortable standard of living.  Shortages can be temporary such as during a famine or they can be long term such as we are now experiencing where we have used up the most easily accessible energy and mineral resources and those that are left are expensive to extract.  This is a long-term problem and to deal with it we have to reduce population and move to a more sharing economy.  Easy to say but difficult to do.

This guy believes everyone should have the opportunity for the same standard of living as most other people.  If I am right in thinking we are in for a long period of a down economy then  we will have to go through a painful adjustment in which many people will think they are being treated unjustly.  Justice will require the pain be felt equally.

Most of us most of the time think and act in our own short-term interests as opposed to the long-term interests of the community.  This in itself will lead to some injustice.   Economic injustice is even worse because of the corporate culture of greed.  Many people believe firms have a responsibility to maximize their profits regardless of ethics.  The result is that we live with a highly exploitive economy.

The second source of injustice is the negative aspects of human personality.  There are people who like to hurt others, who are greedy, who are inconsiderate or who like to tell others how to live their lives.  To satisfy these personality traits these people inflict injustices upon others.  These are difficult injustices to deal with because we are dealing with people and people who often have a strong commitment to their behaviour. Sometimes they may not see their behaviour as being unjust. The most evil of all people are those who try to force their morals, values, religion or sexuality upon others.  Over population makes it difficult escape from injustice inflicted by others.

There are two ways of hurting other people.  One can deliberately do something that hurts another or one can refuse to do something another person wants you to do.  The second way will at least stress a relationship and may even terminate it.  We do not have to have relationships with everyone.

One of the dangers in fighting injustice is that it is easy to replace one with another. Feminism and black lives matter are good examples.  Women do sometimes experience  injustice and it is wrong for police to kill. However men also experience a lot of injustice and even more when women demand special privileges.  Police do not always care about the colour of the people they kill.  The greatest injustice against women is that so many end up being lonely old ladies.  When a police officer kills somebody they are denying that person the most fundamental premise of justice – the right to answer charges against you.

One of the ways to control other people is to make them feel guilty.  A lot of the feminist and black rhetoric is intended to make men  and white men feel guilty. We have to suspect some people are trying to power trip us.  If you acknowledge that others than just your group suffer injustice, it is more difficult to impose the guilt trip.

It is easy for judicial systems to become a source of injustice.  Just ask non custodial parents. Here in British Columbia and probably around the world the feminists have been so successful with their sophisticated arguments (based on sophistry) that fathers are treated to a lot of injustice.  We are assumed to be criminals, our children are kidnapped and we are denied the basic principles of justice. It can be very painful to be a caring parent and have your children taken away.

A problem with the courts is a commitment to the rule of law.  Some laws are unjust and sometimes laws are applied to situations they were never intended to cover.  Judges are/shoud be appointed because of their wisdom and we should demand that they earn their high wages by doing justice rather than just enforcing laws.  Judges should have a responsibility to overrule a law they believe unjust and should be required to state their reasons.

Referring back to the verse about hurting people, maybe the guideline for judges should be to minimize the pain.

I want to close this post with three further ideas all of which are sort of related.  The first is that justice and the lack of it are religious issues.  The Buddha tells us the first truth is that there is suffering.  He should have added that there is also pleasure and we should try to minimize one and maximize the other.

The second idea is that sometimes there are no satisfactory answers.  People will probably continue to hurt each other forever.  One of the functions of religion is to help us cope with this.

Finally, all of us should strive for the best possible relationships and for this we need a more or less equal exchange.  A person who has a psychological need to hurt others may be able to find someone with a need to be hurt.  For the rest of us, we need to go back to the verse near the top of this post.

The sophistry of feminist economics

My experience of women is that a lot of them naturally use the techniques of sophistry in their arguments with men.  A recent column on feminist economics in The Economist is a good example of this applied to economics. The column mentions the number of women teaching economics, the pay gap and mostly the unpaid work done by women.

The first thing to say in a criticism of feminism is that if your can make a person feel guilty then it is a lot easier to control them.  On this count the feminists have been very successful.  Us guys are supposed to feel guilty about our personalities, our relationships and our sexuality. Some feminists would have us believe that everything we do is to put down and control women.  Some feminists have DBS degrees. (The D stands for doctor.)  If you repeat an untruth often enough some people will come to believe it.

Most of the complaints relate to injustice of which there is a lot in this world.  The truth is that men inflict injustice upon both women and other men and women inflict injustice upon both men and other women.  We would be a lot better off fighting injustice wherever it is rather than having a competition to see who has experience the worst injustice.  The sophistry comes from focusing on a very narrow injustice and ignoring the rest.  We will not be able to deal with injustice or violence against women unless we also deal with injustice and violence against men

The column points out In 2014 only 12% of American economics professors were female, and only one woman (Elinor Ostrom) has won the Nobel prize for economics. This could be because male economists discourage women from studying the field or it could be because women are generally smarter than men and stay away from a field which is based largely on misconceptions and false motivators.  Maybe women are more reluctant to sell their souls to the almighty dollar.

The same may also be true for the pay gap.  A lot of women do not want the stress that goes with higher paying jobs.  It is a lot less stressful to encourage men to take these jobs and a lot of women put their partners under pressure.  Probably rates of pay are more a function of supply and demand for workers rather than a conspiracy of men to keep women from equal pay.

The issue of unpaid work is another case of a very narrow focus in order to promote the false premise that women are cheated because they do not get paid for the housework and child rearing that they do.  We are now talking about relationships and the fundamental of good relationships is that there must be a more or less equal two-way exchange. I believe this even though I have been accused of being selfish for saying it.  In a lot of traditional economic and marriage partnerships all or most labor was unpaid. In our industrial society some work is paid and some is unpaid. As technology has reduced the household work of the partnership and as standards of living have tightened, more women are working outside the house for pay.

Sometimes historical marriage relationships have involved a division of labour and in some cases the division of labour has been essential for survival.  This may be less so now and the division of labour should be for each couple to work out without the interference of feminists.  The important thing is that for the relationship to be satisfactory  the exchange needs to be more or less equal.  These days couples are not so dependent for survival on a relationship with a member of the opposite sex and any woman (or man) who feels cheated can easily break up.  With house work some women do it to themselves in that they decide what work should be done and how often.  It may be that asking men to help is really an attempt to power trip.

One of my concerns about feminism is that it does not encourage good relationships.  How can you hope for a good relationship when one partner is using sophistry to  make the other feel guilty so you can control him?

One of the greatest injustices against women in our society is that so many end up as lonely old ladies. It may be  this would be eased if women were to focus on building good relationships.  Statistically people in good relationships live longer than others.

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