Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greed, Justice and Revolution

The philosopher, Bertrand Russell pointed out a hundred years ago that human beings may be motivated broadly by the desire to possess things or the desire to build things. Property is the direct expression of possessiveness. Science and art are direct expressions of constructiveness. The dominant feature of possessiveness is hostility toward others, either because what others possess is envied, or because the possessor of something others desire is concerned to prevent them from having it. Generally anyone taking what is another’s is doing wrong, but, in the case of great injustice in society, redistribution of wealth in favour of greater fairness is just, and then resisting this justice is unjust. The reason is that society must be stable to survive, and gross injustice renders it unstable. John Rawls allowed that this is so. Even wealthy people have a greater interest in keeping the society which has allowed them to get very wealthy stable rather than collapse in disorder or revolution, and to yield a little of vast wealth is no hardship to them. And the United Nations Charter of Human Rights—much maligned by the right wing press—also recognizes that revolution can be justified when society is grossly unjust.
…it is essential, if man is not compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…
Rawls, bending to US realities, allowed that a society did not have to be egalitarian when inequality helped the poorest in society to be better off, but he saw that excessive inequality could only destabilize society, and consequently that class differences, if necessary, ought to be small. The modern USA has ignored this hitherto, and, if Obama, now is trying to do something about it in the one field of health care, Americans ought to be glad. Regrettably, too many of them are conditioned by bigotry and selfishness. The dangers to America are not from outside. Americans need to examine themselves more closely.

No comments: