Follow by Email

Monday, April 30, 2012

Value clarificatiion

Cousin Vern is a good conservative who helps me clarify my thinking. My last couple of posts relating to Morris Berman's pessimistic view that America has already failed led him to counter that money, finances were important. It is the economy, stupid.

I agree.  Money is important.  Money = the ability to consume.  And we are living bodies (e.g. animals) and need to consume to live.  And because we need to consume, we also need to produce. Production/consumption (i.e. the economy) is essential to life. The human capacity to increase production (first hunting/gathering, then agriculture, then crafts and trading in the market, then industrialization, now information technology) is definitely a progressive advance of the human species to provide all that is necessary for life.

But when life becomes the only good, when we just keep expanding our economy to get more and more ability to consume, we are losing some other goods. Association to shape common space (e.g. "politics" in its root meaning--not the way we use it today) is a fundamental good as well and the source of our power and freedom. I would argue that while economy is a basic good, association for common good is a higher good--that we seem to be losing today by making the economy the only standard of success.  

Another important good is value itself, that which a culture expresses in its language, art, religion, manners, science, sports, architecture, cities, and spaces for recreation and discovery.  Civilization (derived from "civis" meaning city/state) also articulates this concept.  

For me these are the three different, but interdependent, goods and relate to three motivators of human existence: self-interest (production/consumption measured by money), affiliation, or what Aristotle called "recognition," (association for common good), value (culture and its activities and expressions).  When culture and politics are subordinated to economy, you have what Berman is talking about and what have been becoming as a nation of "hustlers." And we have a politics and a culture which is corrupted by money.

Again I am not saying self-interest, the pursuit of the ability to consume (money), is wrong or bad.  It is a basic need (and I would say a "right") for all of us so we can be about higher pursuits. I am just saying let's not make it the end-all, the purpose of our existence. I can see young people thinking they need to secure the basic needs of life and so are focused on "making it."  But we older, wiser people should be much more progressive and balanced than that.

The solution is correct balance and proper subordination. Human dignity is #1 and that means ability and opportunity to speak and act with others to shape our common space and time (i.e. freedom and power). This ability is only there if people have their basic material needs satisfied and are civilized--i.e. through education can express themselves creatively.  Economics, Culture, Politics--self-interest, value, affiliation--money, language, power--private wealth and cultural value for common good.

Economic behavior is a means to the end, Civilization is the expression of the end, Associational Being (Friendship, Love) is the end.

Our problem today is that we have reversed the order.  Let's make this election more than the economy but about who we want to be as a people.

No comments: