Monday, January 30, 2012

Pure Philosophy: Nuture or Nature: Are we locked into one station in life?

On the face of it, especially to conservative thought, this question is so ridiculous as to have no meaning.  The United States of America was founded on the principle that you can make of your life whatever you want, given the effort and ability.  Not for us, those silly notions of "the Nobility" or the "Aristocracy."  We don't subscribe to the ideas of Castes or Classes.

And yet.

Our normal rhetoric embraces some of these concepts.  What is "The Rich" other than an epithet for "High Born?"  What is "poor" other than a euphemism for "low class?"  Oh, certainly those terms have their own meanings.  We just rarely use their actual meanings. 

The problem here is an old one.  We can trace it back to the days before our Great Republic, if not even further.  Perhaps at its height in the Middle Ages, the idea of being born "high" or "low" was hardly new even then.  The Founding Fathers rejected this notion, and believed that everyone was "Created Equal."  That is, that personal wealth was not the same as personal worth.  There were still those, however, who believed that people were "born to a station."  That someone born to the Nobility was, simply by birth, of more worth than someone born to a common family.

This is an important distinction which exists even today.

Though they won't admit it, Liberals believe (or, at least, much if their philosophy is based upon the idea) that a person born into certain circumstances is locked there for life.  At the least, they won't be able to "move up in life" without assistance and/or extreme measures.  Thus the idea that the poor go into the army to escape their poverty.  It is this belief that leads them to the idea that Government must "do something" about poverty.  Since those "low born waifs" have no prospects of advancement on their own, the Aristocracy must (noblesse oblige) assist (read: subsidize) them.

Conservatives, however, believe that a person is what a person does.  We believe that your birth station does not limit your options, in itself.  We believe that a struggling college kid, selling custom built computers out of his car, can become a CEO of a leading computer company.  We believe in upward mobility.  We believe that the Aristocracy, even granting it the highest motives, does more to harm those born to lower circumstances than it can ever do to help them.  We believe that the best way to help the poor is to enable them by getting government out of the way, and letting them find their own solutions to their poverty.


  1. Wow! You changed the log in?
    Took me forever to get back in!
    Now to see if this disappears.

  2. Success.
    I never noticed this as a topic of discussion between Americans until the Kenyan Stole the election and divided Americans.

    1. It was around before, but it didn't get a lot of play. It's fairly fundamental, though: do we believe in a caste-less/classless society, or not? If we do, there are certain consequences. If we do not, there are different consequences.

  3. I blame Google for most of my travails in cyberspace. My provider changed my email to google mail and it is very difficult to use. Not to mention unsafe.

  4. I have a somewhat more meta view of this. I think liberals are fundamentally terrified of disorder. Free markets working without technocratic oversight are disorderly. People being able to change their station in life is disorderly. People being able to use a car to go anywhere at anytime is disorderly. And so on. Conservatism is somewhat misnamed from this perspective, because we like disruptive technologies while liberals are trying to bring back medieval Europe.