Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What's Your Favorite Color?

There is a story based on ancient Greek thought concerning a professor who teaches a young boy law without charging tuition. It is only stipulated that fees be collected upon the boy's first successful case. However, after countless hours of being taught law, the boy decides to become a musician instead, much to the chagrin of his professor.

Wanting to collect fees from the boy, the professor figures he can sue the boy and win whether the court rules in his favor or not. His reasoning is thus: if he wins, the court rules the boy must pay tuition fees but even if he loses, the boy wins his first case, which, as per the agreement, would entitle the boy to pay up. The boy, who represents himself in the matter, sees things in a slightly different light. If he loses, obviously nothing is owed the professor because he fails to win his first case. But even if he wins his first case, the court rules in his favor meaning he owes nothing to the professor. So who is right?

Both are right. Each argument is logically sound. This paradox has puzzled many a philosopher for centuries without resolution. It is impossible to resolve this with any sort of “absolute” solution. Ultimately, whichever “right” answer is chosen is as subjective as one's favorite color. Neither answer is the moral imperative. This is how I see much of reality. I think this paradox illustrates why accepting alternative viewpoints is so beneficial for society. We need to stop claiming there is necessarily a good/bad or right/wrong dichotomy to everything just as a means to feel more right(eous). I used to discredit the idea that what is right for one is not necessarily right for another as liberal nonsense but in light of the aforementioned argument I now deem this mantra valid.

An example of this argument might concern God and fairness. What is fairness concerning financial matters? Many “conservative” people believe God's fairness concerning financial prosperity is based on the idea that one should reap what he sows. People that are smart and productive will thrive whereas those that are not will struggle. Where then is the grace (as in a man should not reap what he sows)?

On the other hand, the more “liberal” types tend to believe God's fairness concerning prosperity is based on the idea that one should not reap what he sows. Prosperity should in this case be distributed more evenly than will naturally occur thus necessitating higher income redistribution. Take wealth from productive people and give it to those, God bless 'em, that just don't want to produce or are very poor at it. There is of course grace here but where is the personal responsibility (as in a man should reap what he sows)?

Before progressing further, I want to say it is my belief that both of these viewpoints are valid or invalid if you like. In other words, neither is a moral imperative in itself. They are different ways of dealing with the fact that reality as we experience it is a trade-off.

Many staunch conservatives will claim liberals use income redistribution as a means to buy votes. And this certainly is true. But can not the liberal perspective claim the same thing concerning conservative dogma? “If you vote for me, I will create income tax sanctuaries for your hard earned dollars!” It is the same method of “buying” votes that liberals use so effectively.

It is so hard for one side to see the other as being in any way valid because each so badly wants to be “absolutely” right. The challenge in dealing with this conservative/liberal dichotomy is that we ultimately must reach a compromise because there is little chance either extreme would or could ever happen.

And herein lies the dilemma. What is the “proper” level of moderation concerning, for instance, taxes and income redistribution? It's just like picking a favorite color! We will be arguing about this for the rest of time to no avail! How about trading democracy for a dictatorship?

Though many will likely cringe at the thought of a dictatorship, who do people think rules heaven? The Supreme (perhaps benevolent) Dictator a.k.a. GOD. So what could possibly be wrong with a dictatorship? Maybe democracy isn't the optimal form of government after all? So what's your favorite color?

1 comment:

  1. The rule of kings was based upon the idea of a benevolent dictator. The idea of there being a good king as opposed to an evil one was not whether they dictated but "HOW" they dictated and for what reason.

    THe importance of seeeing the BOTH/AND as well as teh EITHER/OR is a mark of maturity that most Black and White absolutists do not perceive. They fear "the gray" as an area of compromise.

    There is one more level beyond "the gray." THere is living color. I want to send you something so email me at garyh@garyhinchman.com and I will send something veray close to where you are thinking. And I am glad you are thinking it. But there are abolutes that deman a black or white state of being. But if we consider the "shades of white" that make "the shades of gray" that soften the darkness of black, we learn that right and wrong is a matter of spectrum in context. Great discussion Kurt. I am impressed. ;-)