Apologies for the big delay replying, and getting back on the HEF ingeneral, but I've been back from Australia, and things have been pretty busy. Anyway, first of all, I was watching
, and Richard Dawkins answers a question about 8 minutes in, which goes back to a large part of this discussion, when we were talking about the reliability of the study we were talking about.
Wise Son, even without making value judgments, the objective fact is that sexual promiscuity, the undermining of the institution of marriage, and the skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births and single mothers raising children, have had and continue to have disastrous social consequences.
I still think you're stating your opinion as 'objective fact'. I@m not saying you're wrong, so much as I am saying that there are other sides to several of those points which are not disastrous. I would argue that there is a world of difference between 'sexual promiscuity', and the changes in attitudes characterised by the 'sexual revolution', and; that part of the 'undermining' of marriage has been the shift away from seeing it as a transfer of property from a father to a husband (the property being the woman), which is undoubtedly a positive.
You talk of "getting out of a bad marriage" but the reality is that over the years virtually every marriage that involves real human beings has significant ups and downs, and the "easy out" at the first signs of stress (assuming the couple even bothered to get married) is destructive to the family, and to children, under circumstances where marriages and families could be saved.
You are talking about very different realities. Yes, any
relationship will have difficulties, and I have seen proof of that in my own family, marriages that have been stressed by outside pressures, pushed very nearly to breaking points, but which were eventually endured through love, mutual support and compromise. There are also marriages which were 'unhealthy', and could not survive, despite both partners' love for each other, and for their children. Furthermore, although I am lucky enough not to be a child of divorce, asking those who are, and people who work with children, the general consensus is that a divorce is better for the children than being raised in an unhappy marriage, and that 'staying together for the children' is among the worst things a parent can do.
Also, I realised I have a personal reason for disliking that argument, which is that I have been in an abusive, long-term relationship, one where marriage was discussed several times, and whether we had or had not got married, the only healthy thing for me was to get out of that relationship, and if we had been married, it would still have been the only healthy thing to do, rather than trying to 'work through' the problems. Therefore, I find that you're dismissing situations like that in the way you made your points.
Indeed, a lack of responsibility and laying blame on others usually go hand in hand.
True, but I have also found that it can be just as irresponsible to keep taking personal responsibility for problems caused by your environment or by others. The only truly responsible position is surely to just be honest about where responsibility lies, and sometimes it will be with us, sometimes it will not.
Moving beyond this specific point, to the totality of the discussion above: The potential explanations for income inequality are complex, and cannot and should not be summed up in the inflammatory "sound bite" of "white privilege."
I would argue that the nature of "white privelege" being a soundbite is pretty subjective. To the people discussing it in this thread, there has been a demonstrable understanding of the complexity of the concepts rolled up in it. I understand that not everybody shares that understanding, but I think there is more value in using Political Correctness here, and forcing people to be honest and to justify what they mean when they use the term. Basically, discuss it, rather than censor it.
The hardships the black inner-city poor experience have little to do with the experiences of a member of the educated and upwardly mobile black middle or upper classes.
I can support that statement, as I think it would be accurate to make that comment without 'black' being in there, or with 'black' swapped for any other identifier.
Which is not to say some people's perceptions of racism are not real at times; but some folks may be predisposed to characterize behavior as prejudiced when it is in fact behavior experienced from time to time by everyone of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Many of the incidents people have recounted over the years on this Forum as evidence of their experience of racism are similar to things I've personally experienced, for example.
I understand what you are saying there, but I think that there is a need to acknowledge that the same experiences might have very different aspects, causes and subtext, and that the people going through them might be more sensitive or aware of these than we are.
The real solution, as I see it, is as I've said many times already ... education. In a culture that values economic mobility, education is key.
I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I have often felt that there's a difference between our stated valuing of economic mobility and our demonstrated value of it.
Unlike some other cultures, in the United States there is a long history of admiration for the "self-made man" (now woman as well) who came from humble beginnings and forged a business empire or successful professional career.
Yes, but I have to ask, what if you don't want to have an empire or a career? Why should we not admire equally people who choose a different constructive life? A lot of this debate has been about people who are trying to just get by, or even just raise a family, not excel in the professional or business arena. These people still need and are entitled to the same fair access to society though.
My sense is that the "class-barriers" are far more permeable in the U.S. than in the U.K. (with the latter being based on very old traditions going back to the landed gentry - though maybe my view of the U.K. is based on an old stereotype that doesn't really apply anymore).
Depends on who you ask: Some people will tell you that class is dead in the UK, and that the only people who argue differently are just hung up on old Left-wing prejudices. Interestingly, pretty much all of the people that argue this tend to be doing pretty well for themselves.
Also, I would point out that, with the Bushes and Clintons, you came close to having more than 2 decades being ruled by only 2 families - that's an aristocracy by anyone's reckoning.
Educational opportunities have become widespread in the U.S. as well;
From the discussions I have seen on here and elsewhere, I think you, like us in the UK, have far to go. After all, the constant debate about how to 'fix' education, whether to use vouchers or some other system, shows that there is still a lot of concern about making sure our children are in 'good' schools. This in turn shows that there is at least a perception that there are 'bad' schools, and that children enrolled in those schools will, regardless of their own personal qualities, face more barriers to success than others (after all, if you believe it is all down to personal effort and drive, why worry where they are schooled, or indeed sending them to school at all?)).
Your points on the playing field imply that you feel that the threat of poverty as a means of motivation is a higher or more useful ideal than the fairness of the level playing field. I have to ask, how does that match up with the fact that social mobility has been falling over recent decades in our countries, while the gap between rich and poor has been rising? If the poor are getting poorer, surely they have more motivation to succeed, and would therefore close that gap, and conversely, the rich getting richer would mean their motivation to succeed would be constantly falling, and they would get poorer, again closing the gap.
We live in a society where the people who need money the least are making the most, and vice versa, so I don't the benefit of the motivation as you describe it.
I do agree that changing our systems to ones that do actively promote the equality they claim to desire would be difficult (look at the opposition to the baby steps Obama has taken), but then I guess we're into the question of whether diffcult is more important than right.
I do find it interesting that conservatives who believe that people should only have what they have earned always make that exception for their own children. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but it does seem to indicate that there's some degree of recognition that it's a principal that is basically unrealistic in practice. What I do think is positive is that it means accepting that we can be motivated by the benefit of others, rather than just for ourselves. Once that principle is established, I think it leads to the conclusion that being motivated for the universal, rather than the personal good is entirely possible, which would provide motivation in a 'level playing field' situation (a rising tide lifts all boats, as they say).
Because, while the poor might get a larger slice of the redistributed pie, the pie is a hell of a lot smaller.
I don't see the problem here. If everyone gets enough
of a smaller pie, that's surely better than some starving while others gorge themselves on a bigger pie (to extens the metaphor).
What we really need are pro-business policies that foster real economic growth and opportunity in the private sector. Instead of always viewing "businesspeople" - the "capitalists" - as the bad guys.
That works if 'trickle-down' economics works. Unfortunately, it doesn't. What you are suggesting could be the beginning of a workable solution, as long as the private sector is also forced to maintain equal opportunities for those that are qualified, and to provide practical and useful support to make such qualifications genuinely open and promoted to all. Simply, I don't trust organisations who are legally bound to put profit above all else to do anything for the benefit of society without some coercion.
And again, I keep repeating, the pursuit of education (in economically productive areas of study) is the key to this individual success.
...Along with its promotion
, as well.
The article you posted isn't entirely convincing to me. I do understand what it says that a rapidly expanding economy does benefit everyone, at least in the short term, but that kind of rapid growth also leads to the cycle of boom and bust we've endured since atleast the 80s. The article seems to suggest that what we need is some kind of sustainable rapid growth, which I (although an admitedly complete amateur) don't think is realistic. What they seem to be criticising Obama for seeking is a slower but steadier growth, with more distribution of wealth. This does mean that those at the top are making significantly less than they would be making under a conservative administration, but they can afford to lose out. I can't help thinking that what Obama's administration are building will be a more sustainable, but less spectacular setup, if it is allowed to continue.
I fully acknowledge my own personal prejudices and influences, but with my most objective head on, that is honestly how I see it.