Paternalism

Rahul Mahajan rahul at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
Wed Apr 12 11:44:04 MDT 1995


It seems to me that the standard Marxist/revolutionary answer to the
problem of paternalism is that this contradiction points clearly to the
need to educate people into political consciousness. The flaw,
unfortunately, in that conception is that it assumes that once people are
properly "educated" they will necessarily come to the same point of view,
at least assuming they come from the same class, material conditions, etc.
I would claim instead that any non-(or at least not totally)coercive system
of education will at the least produce people capable of honest
disagreement about their "interests," among other things.
       Why do we need to tell everyone that socialism is in their best
interests? It certainly isn't true for everyone. And what does it mean to
say that affirmative action is "really" in the best interest of white
workers? It doesn't seem to produce any class solidarity, so it's hardly
hastening the revolution. And what about inequality in the world? Would an
equitable distribution of the world's resources leave the average American
better off materially than she is now? I think not. Furthermore, when we
tell any given worker anywhere to join the cause, knowing full well, the
likelihood of a genuine social revolution in the United States, we are very
likely causing that worker to act against his own best interest by joining
(the standard Prisoner's Dilemma-type argument from game theory -- if
everyone cooperates, then society is best off, but you then stand to gain
from defecting). So let's get off our objective/objectivist high horse and
tell people to struggle because it's the right thing to do -- that's all we
can say with surety.

BTW, ought implies can because no sensible system of morality requires the
impossible.

Swadesh M. Mahajan: Ph. 512-471-4376, FAX 512-471-6715,
Mahajan at hagar.ph.utexas.edu




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