Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, July 04, 2011

Further Thoughts on the Ideological Division of Labor

Earlier I posed about the social division of labor and how different ideologies approach it. Already Sarang has posted a comment about cross-cutting preferences, noting that he is hostile to non-inclusive institutions. This is an important point. Part of conservatives' taste for family and church is that these institutions are much more tradition-bound and identity-based than the state. An important element of conservatism is its taste for glacial, Burkean change and its skepticism of deliberate, rapid change. One might go "meta" here and say that liberalism is preferable where the need for change is urgent and compelling (as in the civil rights movement), and that conservatism is preferable where there is much path-dependency and much to be lost by abandoning tradition (as in property rights vs. collectivism).

So there is the Burke point, and there is also the question of cosmopolitanism. Liberals tend to be universalist and to seek diversity and pluralism - these are values that are generally (but by no means always) promoted by a strong, centralized, interventionist state. Conservatives tend to have more taste/tolerance for nationalism and other forms of group-identification, and are baffled by the idea of diversity as a virtue. So as far as I know, conservatives have no real problem with redistribution that occurs within a church (everyone tithes, or whatever, and some of the money goes to feed the poor). Liberals think this is fine, but insufficient, because it excludes non-church-members and imposes various intrusive behavioral controls. To some extent it's a question of choose-your-coercion: would you rather be taxed, against your will (but subject to democratic controls), to provide a social safety net? Or would you rather be ostracized unless you attend church, donate money, obey religious strictures, etc.? (To some extent, libertarians need to confront the reality of these trade-offs, though of course they are entitled to propose alternatives, including a let-them-starve approach.)

So one might argue that the division-of-labor question really comes down to these motivational questions of discrimination, nationalism, religiosity, etc. In that case, one could imagine a realignment as society changes. A lot of people may find themselves on the conservative side once gay equality has been accomplished, for instance, because at that point there may not be any real danger of discrimination no matter what institution controls any given social function (except I guess churches?).

I'm not sure what to make of this overall - it's clearly correct on some level to say that the choice of institutions stems from preferences about tradition, nationalism, etc., but at any given moment it does seem useful to ask the division-of-labor question.


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