How You Define A Problem May Define You

February, 2015 Feature--Truth Based Logic

How one defines a phenomenon, problem or political issue, as clue to his perspective & bias. Conservative, Egalitarian/Collectivist & myopic Corporate Management approaches, analyzed.

How a specific person describes a particular problem or phenomenon, or the solution he offers with respect to a political issue, may tell you more about that person than about that problem, phenomenon or issue. Conversely, learning to recognize how clearly a distorted perspective can warp or prevent reasoned analysis, may be the key to reversing a nation's rush to self-destruction via insane social & economic policy. Consider two poignant current examples: First, the problem that many employed, yet only semi-skilled, have in living on their current wages. Second, trying to cure the poor results in much of America's "Public Education."

In addressing the first, most Conservatives will appeal to a history of people climbing out of poverty; discussing multi-generational paths to self improvement, savings (where possible), and market benefits for one who finds that which he can do best. The Conservative recognizes that each of us has a different complex of aptitudes; that the resulting division of labor was actually the key to Man's social & economic progress from a primitive state, where all men performed one job, all women, another. The Conservative will also address such problems as the effect of open borders & unrestricted immigration from nations accustomed to low wages, which must, inevitably--if one understands the "law of supply & demand"--suppress wage rates & even employability of the semi-skilled ethnic American. Some of us will even lament the folly of "Civil Rights" legislation that makes it illegal for an employer to favor a native born American over someone who just entered the United States.

The Egalitarian/Collectivist (a category that includes most Western Leftists, from Jacobins, through Marxists, Bolsheviks & the current President) will, instead, address--endlessly address--the growing "income inequality." The "problem," they would define, involves "wealth distribution"; which they see as something Government must regulate. In order to temper the outrage of an affluent American middle class, who have prospered for generations by frugal behavior, saving & investing, they seek to redefine "Middle Class," so as to include the struggling semi-skilled; suggesting that taxes intended to confiscate wealth achieved over generations of labor & investment, are somehow going to benefit an "American Middle Class." They do not, of course, urge restricting the flow of immigration from low wage nations, because their perspective on human differences is purely Environmentalist--that changing social environment, changes the nature of a person;--that people are interchangeable, and heritage of little consequence.

This is not just a repudiation of a family's right to the fruits of their own labor. It is a denial of what every observant person understands at least subconsciously: Almost none of us are "equal." No one reading this ever sat in a classroom, with his equal on either side, unless an identical twin or triplet. Some are good at one thing, some at another. Some have problems with this type of endeavor, others with another. Interfering with how each of us addresses the complex of our aptitudes, aspirations, deficits, etc., prevents the optimum development of any social/economy. Trying to redistribute any people's earned success, will not truly benefit anyone else. Rather as a disincentive to continue the struggle, it will have very different consequences. (See how & why "Welfare" actually worked in Jefferson's Virginia: Welfare In Virginia.)

We have written a number of pieces dealing with the myopic, short-term, outlook of many high in the managerial structure of major American Corporations (Corporate Managers & Immigration Reform; or Another Variation On Demonic Theme, for examples). While Corporate Managers do not define the struggle of the semi-skilled American worker as a problem caused by "income inequality," their answer to such worker's dilemma is peculiarly self-serving. They recognize a benefit to the whole economy, if our Corporations prosper, and that high taxes clearly stifle growth. But their basic tax focus goes to efforts to secure a major reduction in Corporate tax rates--the rationale being to make American business more competitive with foreign business. Such argument has validity; but the same spokesmen are far less concerned with the potential benefits of individual tax cuts. They also refrain from confronting an underlying environmentalist fantasy, which supports an Egalitarian/Collectivist approach to determining cause, effect & solution to social problems; thus actually ignoring a greater long-term problem.

Corporate Managers correctly argue a common benefit to the general public, if the "whole pie"--the overall economy--grows. Yet this benefit presupposes that all else is either in balance, or nearly in balance. When they go on to claim that a loose immigration policy is positive to growing that "whole pie," they engage in a bit of verbal legerdemain. While cheap labor & additional customers may confer an obvious & immediate benefit to the Corporate "bottom line," such benefit is hardly evident to the general population. The increased supply of cheap labor may absolutely ruin segments of the American work force; while those additional "customers" for the Corporation may bid up prices that the rooted population have to pay, overcrowd schools that the rooted population rely upon, and further impact the effectiveness of those schools, with language & cultural problems; as well as cause over-crowding, higher crime rates, traffic grid-lock & loss of cultural comfort in the native venues of that rooted population.

A parallel example of myopic focus may be seen, not necessarily in every effort to move American corporate manufacturing operations outside of the United States, but certainly when those moves are not coupled with a compensating effort to provide some form of direct benefit to the communities in which those corporations were once rooted. In this respect, we quote the late Henry Cabot Lodge, Sr., speaking on the floor of the Senate, August 12, 1919:

You may call me selfish if you will, conservative or reactionary, or use any other harsh adjective you see fit to apply, but an American I was born, an American I have remained all my life. I can never be anything else but an American, and I must think of the United States first, and when I think of the United States first in an arrangement like this I am thinking of what is best for the world, for if the United States fails, the best hopes of mankind fail with it.

I have never had but one allegiance--I cannot divide it now. I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league. Internationalism, illustrated by the Bolshevik and by the men to whom all countries are alike provided they can make money out of them, is to me repulsive.

While Senator Lodge clearly errs in referring to the United States as singular in the first paragraph, the rest of his remarks reflect a sentiment, now unfortunately far less common among spokesmen for some of our major Corporations.

Comparing reactions from the same interest categories, on the subject of curing an achievement deficit in American public education, will again confirm the premise that how one defines a problem, phenomenon or political issue, will also define the analyst.

The Conservative understands that education, like health care, is inherently local, involving the interaction of an actual teacher--whether a parent, sibling, friend, tutor or school employee--and a particular child, with particular aptitudes, particular hurdles, particular motivations. Thus the phenomenon can hardly be dealt with effectively by layers of outside bureaucracy; nor by "Common Core" check lists, dictated curricula or egalitarian political fantasy. The maximum input of the child's family, which will largely tend to have similar--or at least kindred--personality traits, is of the utmost importance; so too a curriculum which relates well to the actual--as opposed to a theoretical--social environment, which the child can relate to. The Conservative understands that nature assures that some children will be "left behind," particularly as to subject matter beyond their natural aptitudes; but that by addressing the actual child involved in any course of development, it is possible to maximize the benefit to that child, and to maximize that child's potential in life. The Conservative would avoid the "bigotry" of fantasy "expectations," which can often alienate a child from even wanting to participate in the "educational" process.

The Egalitarian/Collectivist approach to public education, has often sought to blame American cultural norms & American historic perspectives for the problems of certain children, yet seeks to impose ever greater uniformity in school conditions across all areas & venues. The rationale for ever increasing Federal involvement in "aiding" local education, since the 1950s, was a "need to equalize" available resources, while ignoring the fact that some of the most brilliant Americans, historically, were better educated without the frills & interference, now offered from Washington. Again, the cloud-borne fantasy of the Egalitarian dictates his choices & definitions for a political solution to the "problem" of unequal performance; even as an irrational bias against allowing the earned advantage of more affluent communities, to provide better resources to their own children, motivated a demand for yet more wasteful Federal intervention. (Note the recent proposal by a notorious Egalitarian/Collectivist to tax private saving accounts, established by families for their children's education, in order to pay the tuition of other children!)

Finally, the myopia of some Corporate managers shines through in a typical discussion of contemporary educational needs, by many prominent in American business. The approach is unapologetically self-serving, while rationalizing that perspective by an, admittedly undeniable, recitation of the job seeking advantages for a student given specialized training, in areas in contemporary demand in the Corporate world. This has the ring of pragmatism, but ignores a broader reality that includes the aspirations of those less materially oriented. It addresses the niche of the expounder, yet ignores the needs & aspirations of those who "dance to a different tune"; those for whom Jefferson allowed when he modified the Lockean view of natural rights, from "Life, Liberty & Property," to "Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness"--to include both the material & spiritual, artistic & philosophical aspirations of each of us.

William Flax

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