A long time ago, when I was first forming my political and economic ideologies, I gave each view some serious consideration, to be fair. Now I’m a pretty liberal guy, but for a time, I wanted to work out the thought process of the far right, and why I don’t agree with it, instead of why I agree with the left.
I started with one of the base generalizations, one of the core areas of disagreement between economic sides. This was the dilemma of the downtrodden, the poverty-stricken, the unemployed. The right side of the economic spectrum suggests more heavily that it is only personal responsibility (or lack thereof) that causes one to end up in the class which they reside. The left side is quicker to assume that it is one’s circumstances, or the means with which one was born that cause the ultimate downfall of the have-not. This question irked me, because my circumstance was not exactly optimal for many years, and I met people who made both assumptions about me. I, of course, took the right side’s assumption as infuriating, a personal insult. Why, though? Why is the right’s assumption wrong?
In exploring this question, I thought of a second question first: Could the right side’s assumption be right under different circumstances? I decided that yes, it could be. In the early stages of the development of the human race, when we were still hunter-gatherers, a human ate only as much as they reaped, and anyone could do the reaping. Anyone theoretically could spend X amount of hours gathering foods, and therefore they would have X units of food. In this sense, anyone could readily convert work into quality of living, and one’s quality of living could be easily determined by the amount of work they were willing to do.
As humans expanded and developed horticulture, pastoralism, and agriculture, the equation was still generally true, but it had some flaws. A human’s work herding their animals or working their crops equated to increased food or wealth, and therefore standard of living, but if someone was not born with any animals to inherit, then they could not increase their flock, if someone’s fields were bordered on all sides by their neighbor’s fields, then it would be impossible to increase the size of their own field, even if they had the work ethic to do so. But for the most case, the world had open fertile land to settle, and work was labor intensive and unskilled, therefore if one was willing to work, one could increase their standard of living.
Now in the age of large cities where generations live, all schooled in urban, white-collar subjects, the same rules that applied in early civilization can’t apply here. That old “standard of living directly equals work ethic” goes out the window. This is because of two problems that I have thought of: First, we have the problem of skill. The children of early humans grew up in the wild, and therefore learned sustenance skills, how to go out in nature and very efficiently turn hours of work into standard of living. Modern children receive none of these skills. The skills they are taught are math, reading, writing, and science. This is a problem, because someone who was raised to have these particular skills cannot just use them at will to produce a higher standard of living. Doing math problems, or reading words all day will accomplish as much as digging holes all day. The skills that urban children learn can only be potentially used for a higher standard of living, for sustenance, if someone is demanding these skills; only if someone in the world needs an educated person to do some math calculations, or write some papers, to do some research on a subject, and is willing to pay some form of increased standard of living to whomever they hire. If there is no (or even not enough) demand for these skills, then all the people who have these skills will have absolutely no way to turn work hours into standard of living, and therefore it does not matter in the slightest how much work ethic they have. The second problem is the problem of space. The world is pretty much already covered with people. Even if a person does have the skills to forage and sustain themselves in the wilderness, or plant some crops, or raise some animals, you can’t just go do that anymore. All land is someone else’s property already, if it’s not private property, then it belongs to some government, and you can’t just walk somewhere and start living. If all the demand for the skills that you were raised with is gone before you can get to it, then all that’s left for you to legally do is wait until you die; and that’s not very enticing, which is why people turn to crime, the only other method for sustenance there is. That’s why I came to the conclusion that unless society demands the skills it teaches to its children, or teaches its children skills that will be demanded in the future, then it is society’s own fault that it has a class of downtrodden, hence my left leaning economic views.