Social Agendas

Since the end of WW II the country as become divided into two opposing philosophical camps. One side believes in an authoritarian hierarchy, frequently based upon religious precepts, to dictate public morality.

The other side believes in an authoritarian hierarchy, primarily based upon 18th century social philosophers, to dictate business morality. Each side sees the immanent decline of society if their ideals are not met. So how has each side faired in achieving their objectives?

The principal ethical precept proposed in the 18th century was the concept of human rights and the equality of all peoples. Since then the world has been in continual conflict as one minority group after another has sought to claim it's rights. Those in positions of authority have uniformly resisted throughout history. But, even though there have been reversals the rights of minorities have increased. Appeals to "divine rights", "white man's burden", immutable religious doctrines and the like have become discredited.

We have seen the acquisition of rights, just in the US, by Native Americans, Blacks, Women, Asians, Jews, Irish, Italians and other ethnic groups and most recently by homosexuals. While the equality is not perfect it is a big step from rights in 1800. So those who appeal to the past as a justification to maintain their privileged position have lost the battles and are continuing to lose today.

On the other side there has been a relentless rise in the power and consolidation of big enterprises. The commercialization of public life has never been slowed to any appreciable degree. Laws regulating consolidation and and the scope of business privilege have generally been ineffective. There has been no successful anti-trust case of any consequence since the breakup of ATT. And even most of that industry has reconsolidated. In addition the ties between the military industry and government have grown closer since Eisenhower's warning about the "military-industrial complex". In many cases it's not clear who is making foreign policy, the businessman on loan to the government, or the government servant working in business. So those who appeal to the great ideals of the trust buster have lost many of their battles as well.

So if the "liberals" have lost and the "conservatives" have lost who has won?

Apparently appeals to an imagined golden age in the past don't work as a tool for shaping social policy. Is there a way to promote social equality not only for persons, but for institutions as well? Can this be extended to the world stage as well as domestically? I certainly don't have the answer, but what's being done now isn't working well for either side.

Moral: History doesn't repeat

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Copyright © 2004 Robert D Feinman
Feel free to use the ideas, but the words are mine.