“A Clash of Models” by James K – latest posting in the League of Ordinary Gentlemen’s virtual symposium under the question “What, if anything, is wrong with inequality?” – resembles previous submissions in that it seems to assume that something called “productivity” is virtually synonymous with “the good,” and furthermore is susceptible to simple quantitative amplification or augmentation – i.e., the more of it, the more “goods,” the better.
One typical intermediate product of this applied ideology of productivity, as the posts in the series generally acknowledge early on, is material inequality – the last being the supposed subject of the symposium, in connection with the question of “the wrong,” therefore “right and wrong,” the “just,” and the “good.” Yet the typical rhetorical movement of the League’s “what is wrong with inequality?” post is to suspend both elements of the question in order to analyze something seemingly else altogether – as it becomes clear that the author has already presumed the answer, and may not actually be interested in inequality in relation to the good: For the author, inequality does not matter, has no bearing on right and wrong, as long as that absolute good of productivity can be actualized.
As for James K’s five concluding points, his 3 through 5 seem to be dependent upon – implied by or logically contained within – 1 and 2, so I will focus on 1 and 2, which in any event may be illustrative enough:
1) There are actual economic reasons inequality is growing, which can’t be reversed.
This statement entails the simple fallacy of extrapolation of observed circumstances un-boundedly into the future. Some mixture of political, economic, ecological, and military catastrophe – even in the near-term amidst the continued discovery by the global capitalist system of inadequate rates of profit, aka “the global financial crisis” – could terminate this irreversible process of growth tomorrow, and irreversibly.
2) This is not to say the reasons are fair, but the mere fact something is unfair doesn’t imply any particular solution, or even that a solution exists.
I cannot disagree with this classically conservative statement as far as it goes, but the fact that no general “fair” or particular yet somehow complete and comprehensive solution exists does not necessarily relieve us, individually or as citizens, of responsibility to seek a less “wrong” way of life.
In other words, #2 seems to re-state the already noted reductive nullification of the implied moral dimension of the main question. The observation that there may be no morally sound (“fair”) comprehensive solution is easy to turn into a declaration of the irrelevance of the moral dimension. As is also typical, and not just of posts at the LOOG, this drift into amorality re-produces the reductive nullification of the moral dimension within the same economic processes that are being quietly declared to be as unquestionable as they are irreversible.
The notions of un-questionability and irreversibility may even be the same notion. Yet the counter-evidence accumulates in support of the the antithetical position: That the end product of the civilization of productivity must be its own extinction, alongside the return of questions.
The main by-product of the civilization of productivity, productivity’s product of products, has been the destruction of every other conceivable “good,” the conversion of “good” to mere “goods” – as we can observe occurring in relation to the moral and effectively religious commitment to equality embodied in the founding documents of the US of A: Over two hundred years and by libertarian/liberal philosophy and policy, in the manner of a vast social enterprise of self-parody, converted into its own opposite.
To continue from the initial analysis under James K’s point 1: The penultimate product of productivity would be its own de-materialization, generally anticipated as mere destruction by its proponents, whose every effort of resistance materially accelerates the process. The aforementioned inevitable final product of productivity as a global system would unfold as its own principle of annihilation and conversion, having exhausted everything else with which it has come into contact, finally reveals itself concretely as comprehensive action upon its own possibility, allowing for the deferred return of the moral question – including the good in relation to equality – under transformed circumstances. The political-historical question seems to be the shape of those circumstances.
Inequality is temporary and reversible, while goodness is definitely inevitable and irreversible, and even if badness is as inevitable and irreversible as goodness, the stasis would be keeping everything equal so inequality can’t really exist.