Equality vs. group equality

Paul Krugman wrote that the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries shows the fallacy of trying to appeal to a majority of Americans on the issue of inequality.

History shows that Americans don’t care about individual inequality; he wrote; what we care about is “horizontal” inquality—disparities between racial, ethnic and other groups.   Politicians need to realize this in order to be successful.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Defining oneself at least in part by membership in a group is part of human nature.  Even if you try to step away from such definitions, other people won’t.  A rueful old line from my own heritage says that if you should happen to forget that you’re Jewish, someone will remind you: a truth reconfirmed by the upsurge in vocal anti-Semitism unleashed by the Trump phenomenon.

So group identity is an unavoidable part of politics, especially in America with its history of slavery and its ethnic diversity.  Racial and ethnic minorities know that very well, which is one reason they overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton, who gets it, over Mr. Sanders, with his exclusive focus on individual inequality.   And politicians know it too.

Indeed, the road to Trumpism began with ideological conservatives cynically exploiting America’s racial divisions.

Source: Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Adolph Reed explained the problem with this kind of thinking in an interview on the Benjamin Dixon show.

Adolph Reed Jr.

Adolph Reed

We have a national politics now that has for 20 years at least, longer, given us two choices. And one of them is a party that’s committed to Wall Street and to neoliberalism and is deeply and earnestly committed to a notion of diversity and multiculturalism, and a party that’s committed to Wall Street and neoliberalism, and is deeply opposed to multiculturalism and diversity.

So, if we have to choose between those two, obviously for most of us who are committed to the ideals of justice and equality, the one that’s committed to multiculturalism and diversity is less bad than the one that’s opposed to them. 

But the deeper problem is that they’re both actively committed to maintaining and intensifying economic inequality, and … that ideal of a just society is one in which one percent of the population can control ninety percent of the stuff, but it would be just if twelve percent of the one percent were black, fourteen percent Latino, and half of them were women, and whatever percentage were gay, and what that means, then, is that most Black people, and most Latinos, and most white people, and most Asian Americans would would be stuck holding like the end of the stick with the stuff on it that I assume I can’t call by its right name.

Source: Adolph Reed | naked capitalism

It’s human nature to care more about yourself and your family than about strangers, and to identify more with people of the same religion, race or ethnic background than with others.

But the American national motto is “E Pluribus Unum” – “out of many, one”.  The greatest American leaders proclaimed an ideal of liberty and justice for all.  Even George W. Bush sought to “a uniter, not a divider”.  Even Barack Obama became a national figure through his “One America” speech.

Belief in equal justice for all is the only reason to advocate for the interests of a group to which I don’t belong.   I think that failing to put group interests in the context of a common good is both morally wrong and a political mistake.

It would mean my choices as a white man would be to embrace white guilt or to embrace Donald Trump.  I refuse to do either.


Hillary and the Horizontals by Paul Krugman for the New York Times.

Adolph Reed: Identity Politics Exposing Class Division in Democrats, a segment of the Benjamin Dixon Show via naked capitalism.

Identity Politics and Interest by Ian Welsh.

There Are More White Voters Than People Think: That’s Good News for Trump by Nat Cohn for the New York Times.


Added Later

I linked to a post on naked capitalism consisting of a segment of an interview of Adolph Reed on the Benjamin Dixon show.  Later I watched the whole interview.  I thought it was interesting.  Maybe you would, too.

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2 Responses to “Equality vs. group equality”

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety Says:

    This may be the poorest appeal to vote for Hillary I have ever seen. Will. Not. Happen.

    I didn’t vote for ANY presidential candidate in either election which Obama was the winner. Only in the state and local elections. I suppose I may as well do the same this time. One thing I WON’T be doing is voting for Hillary. We already had a Clinton and what we got was scandal and the repeal of Glass-Steagull. We can’t AFFORD another Clinton in office.


    • philebersole Says:

      The main point about Paul Krugman’s article, as I hope I made clear, was the fallacy of arguing that racial justice matters and economic justice doesn’t.

      It means that Hillary Clinton can put herself forward as anti-racist and support economic policies that harm that vast majority of Americans, including the majority of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

      Liked by 1 person

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