12 January 2020 ~ 19 Comentarios

“Sin ir más lejos” por Álvaro Vargas Llosa

Por Álvaro Vargas Llosa

“Sin ir más lejos” se titulan las memorias de Carlos Alberto Montaner, el escritor cubano, publicadas por Debate (Penguin Random House). Tienen muchos lectores posibles en distintos países. Pero el principal será, al interior de la isla, esa generación a la que toque reinventar la república cubana. Porque el intento se torcerá si no conoce bien el legado de las mejores cabezas entre quienes entregaron su vida a la causa de una Cuba libre. Será imposible para esa generación dejar atrás la noche totalitaria y una tradición de violencias, con su sentido tribal del poder, que nació en 1902 con la república, sin referencias cubanas que le enseñen dónde estuvo el problema y dónde la solución. Por eso, aunque Carlos Alberto habla de su “fracaso”, es pronto para saberlo. Si la generación a la que toque reinventar Cuba a partir de una mentalidad y unas instituciones nuevas tiene éxito, los precursores de esa hazaña, Montaner entre ellos, habrán sido los vencedores.

Este libro que empieza contándonos los orígenes pirenaicos de los Montaner y acaba relatándonos la actual convivencia del autor con una enfermedad incurable de lenta maduración, traza una vida en parte cinematográfica, que incluye el amor precoz, la cárcel a los dieciséis años, la fuga nocturna, el asilo bajo el fuego, la salida al exilio, el paso por el ejército norteamericano junto a tantos jóvenes cubanos que creían que, tras el fracaso de Bahía de Cochinos, Washington los enviaría a un segundo intento, más institucional, de liberación de la isla, y la cancelación del proyecto tras los pactos Kennedy-Kruschev. Pero lo importante, ya que no lo más cautivante, de este relato escrito sin amargura o truculencia, es lo otro: la evolución intelectual y política de este hombre que sacrificó una vocación de novelista (retomada en años recientes) para montar una editorial, ejercer el periodismo y dirigir durante unos años un quijotesco proyecto político. Esa evolución, que lo llevó desde el activismo revolucionario y contrarrevolucionario hasta el liberalismo, es también el aprendizaje de su generación y tendrá que ser el de la república cubana. Hoy que está de moda menospreciar la Transición española, es emocionante lo que significó, para este cubano exiliado en la madre patria durante cuarenta años antes de trasladarse a Miami, el paso del franquismo a la democracia y la modernidad económica y cultural. Como es agridulce el testimonio de lo que fue para él el derribo del Muro de Berlín. Inspirado en él, hizo en los 90, entre insultos dentro y fuera de la isla, lo humanamente posible, con la creación de un partido liberal y, luego, de una plataforma que contenía tres corrientes (liberales, demócrata-cristianos y socialdemócratas), por reproducir en Cuba una transición pactada, al estilo de Polonia, Checoslovaquia o Hungría, que la dictadura no permitió.

Cuba se privó así de tres décadas adicionales de sufrimiento. Y del papel orientador que el autor de estas memorias hubiese jugado en la isla para arrancarla de su tradición tercermundista.

 

19 Responses to ““Sin ir más lejos” por Álvaro Vargas Llosa”

  1. Manuel 12 January 2020 at 8:28 pm Permalink

    …y por su importancia, lo vuelvo a publicar:

    “At first, Michael and Angela plan to divide their money equally. Then they start to think about it. Chloe is on the fast track to remunerative Silicon Valley success; Will is burdened by debt in his quest to help the vulnerable. If James were to come into an inheritance, he’d likely grow even lazier, spending it on streetwear and edibles; Alexis, with her medical situation, might need help later in life. Maybe, Michael and Angela think, it doesn’t make sense to divide the money into equal portions after all. Something more sophisticated might be required. What matters to them is that their children flourish equally, and this might mean giving the kids unequal amounts—an unappealing prospect.
    The philosopher Ronald Dworkin considered this type of parental conundrum in an essay called “What Is Equality?,” from 1981. The parents in such a family, he wrote, confront a trade-off between two worthy egalitarian goals. One goal, “equality of resources,” might be achieved by dividing the inheritance evenly, but it has the downside of failing to recognize important differences among the parties involved. Another goal, “equality of welfare,” tries to take account of those differences by means of twisty calculations. Take the first path, and you willfully ignore meaningful facts about your children. Take the second, and you risk dividing the inheritance both unevenly and incorrectly.
    In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the “greatest dangers in the world.” A plurality put inequality first, ahead of “religious and ethnic hatred,” nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation. And yet people don’t agree about what, exactly, “equality” means. In the past year, for example, New York City residents have found themselves in a debate over the city’s élite public high schools, such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Some ethnicities are vastly overrepresented at the schools, while others are dramatically underrepresented. What to do? One side argues that the city should guarantee procedural equality: it should insure that all students and families are equally informed about and encouraged to study for the entrance exam. The other side argues for a more direct, representation-based form of equality: it would jettison the exam, adopting a new admissions system designed to produce student bodies reflective of the city’s demography. Both groups pursue worthy egalitarian goals, but each approach runs against the other. Because people and their circumstances differ, there is, Dworkin writes, a trade-off between treating people equally and treating them “as equals.”

    The complexities of egalitarianism are especially frustrating because inequalities are so easy to grasp. C.E.O.s, on average, make almost three hundred times what their employees make; billionaire donors shape our politics; automation favors owners over workers; urban economies grow while rural areas stagnate; the best health care goes to the richest. Across the political spectrum, we grieve the loss of what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “general equality of conditions,” which, with the grievous exception of slavery, once shaped American society. It’s not just about money. Tocqueville, writing in 1835, noted that our “ordinary practices of life” were egalitarian, too: we behaved as if there weren’t many differences among us. Today, there are “premiere” lines for popcorn at the movies and five tiers of Uber; we still struggle to address obvious inequalities of all kinds based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. Inequality is everywhere, and unignorable. We’ve diagnosed the disease. Why can’t we agree on a cure?
    In January of 2015, Jeremy Waldron, a political philosopher at New York University’s School of Law, delivered a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh on the fundamental nature of human equality. He began by provoking his audience. “Look around you,” he said, “and look at the differences between you.” The crowd included the old and the young, men and women, the beautiful and the ugly, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the infirm, the high-status and the low. In theory, Waldron said, the audience could contain “soldiers as well as civilians, fugitives and convicts as well as law-abiding citizens, homeless people as well as property owners”—even “bankrupts, infants, lunatics,” all with different legal rights.
    In a book based on those lectures, “One Another’s Equals: The Basis of Human Equality,” Waldron points out that people are also marked by differences of skill, experience, creativity, and virtue. Given such consequential differences, he asks, in what sense are people “equal”? Waldron believes in our fundamental equality; as a philosopher, however, he wants to know why he believes in it.
    According to the Declaration of Independence, it is “self-evident” that all men are created equal. But, from a certain perspective, it’s our inequality that’s self-evident. A decade ago, the writer Deborah Solomon asked Donald Trump what he thought of the idea that “all men are created equal.” “It’s not true,” Trump reportedly said. “Some people are born very smart. Some people are born not so smart. Some people are born very beautiful, and some people are not, so you can’t say they’re all created equal.” Trump acknowledged that everyone is entitled to equal treatment under the law but concluded that “All men are created equal” is “a very confusing phrase to a lot of people.” More than twenty per cent of Americans, according to a 2015 poll, agree: they believe that the statement “All men are created equal” is false.
    In Waldron’s view, though, it’s not a binary choice; it’s possible to see people as equal and unequal simultaneously. A society can sort its members into various categories—lawful and criminal, brilliant and not—while also allowing some principle of basic equality to circumscribe its judgments and, in some contexts, override them. Egalitarians like Dworkin and Waldron call this principle “deep equality.” It’s because of deep equality that even those people who acquire additional, justified worth through their actions—heroes, senators, pop stars—can still be considered fundamentally no better than anyone else. By the same token, Waldron says, deep equality insures that even the most heinous murderer can be seen as a member of the human race, “with all the worth and status that this implies.” Deep equality—among other principles—ought to tell us that it’s wrong to sequester the small children of migrants in squalid prisons, whatever their legal status. Waldron wants to find its source.

    In the course of his search, he explores centuries of intellectual history. Many thinkers, from Cicero to Locke, have argued that our ability to reason is what makes us equals. (But isn’t this ability itself unequally distributed?) Other thinkers, including Immanuel Kant, have cited our moral sense. (But doesn’t this restrict equality to the virtuous?) Some philosophers, such as Jeremy Bentham, have suggested that it’s our capacity to suffer that equalizes us. (But then, many animals suffer, too.) Others have nominated our capacity to love. (But what about selfish, hard-hearted people?) It would be helpful, on a practical level, if there were a well-defined basis for our deep equality. Such a basis might guide our thinking. If deep equality turned out to be based on our ability to suffer, for example, then Michael and Angela might feel better about giving their daughter Alexis, who risks blindness, more money than her siblings. But Waldron finds none of these arguments totally persuasive.
    In various religious traditions, he observes, equality flows not just from broad assurances that we are all made in God’s image but from some sense that everyone is the protagonist in a saga of error, realization, and redemption: we’re equal because God cares about how things turn out for each of us. He notes that atheists, too, might locate our equality in the idea that we each have our own story. Waldron himself is taken by Hannah Arendt’s related concept of “natality,” the notion that what each of us share is having been born as a “newcomer,” entering into history with “the capacity of beginning something anew, that is, of acting.” And yet Arendt herself was pessimistic about the quest for a proof of equality; in her view, the Holocaust had revealed that there was “nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human.” If that’s true, then equality may be not a self-evident fact about human beings but a human-made social construction that we must choose to put into practice.
    In the end, Waldron concludes that there is no “small polished unitary soul-like substance” that makes us equal; there’s only a patchwork of arguments for our deep equality, collectively compelling but individually limited. Equality is a composite idea—a nexus of complementary and competing intuitions.
    The blurry nature of equality makes it hard to solve egalitarian dilemmas from first principles. In each situation, we must feel our way forward, reconciling our conflicting intuitions about what “equal” means. Deep equality is still an important idea—it tells us, among other things, that discrimination and bigotry are wrong. But it isn’t, in itself, fine-grained enough to answer thorny questions about how a community should divide up what it has. To answer those questions, it must be augmented by other, narrower tenets.
    The communities that have the easiest time doing that tend to have some clearly defined, shared purpose. Sprinters competing in a hundred-metre dash have varied endowments and train in different conditions; from a certain perspective, those differences make every race unfair. (How can you compete with someone who has better genes?) But runners form an egalitarian community with a common goal—finding out who’s fastest—and so they have invented rules and procedures (qualifying heats, drug bans) that allow them to consider a race valid as long as no one jumps the gun. By embracing an agreed-upon theory of equality before the race, the sprinters can find collective meaning in the ranked inequalities that emerge when it ends. A hospital, similarly, might find an egalitarian way to do the necessary work of giving some patients priority over others, perhaps by adopting a theory of equality that ignores certain kinds of differences (some patients are rich, others poor) while acknowledging others (some patients are in urgent trouble, others less so). What matters, above all, is that the scheme makes sense to those involved.
    Because maintaining such agreements takes constant work, egalitarian communities are always in danger of disintegrating. Nevertheless, the egalitarian landscape is dotted with islands of agreement: communes, co-ops, and well-organized competitions in which a shared theory of equality is used for some practical purpose. An individual family might divide up its chores by agreeing on a theory of equality that balances quick, unpleasant tasks, such as bathroom-cleaning, with slower, more enjoyable ones, such as dog-walking. This sort of artisanal egalitarianism is comparatively easy to arrange. Mass-producing it is what’s hard. A whole society can’t get together in a room to hash things out. Instead, consensus must coalesce slowly around broad egalitarian principles.
    No principle is perfect; each contains hidden dangers that emerge with time. Many people, in contemplating the division of goods, invoke the principle of necessity: the idea that our first priority should be the equal fulfillment of fundamental needs. The hidden danger here becomes apparent once we go past a certain point of subsistence. When Fyodor Dostoyevsky went to military school, he wrote home to ask his land-owning but cash-strapped father, Mikhail Andreevich, for new boots and other furnishings, arguing that, without them, he would be ostracized. Mikhail Andreevich recognized his son’s changed needs and granted his request; he died soon afterward, under mysterious circumstances, and Dostoyevsky came to believe that he had been murdered by the serfs he had overworked. The episode, which helped inspire “The Brothers Karamazov,” also illustrates a core problem that bedevils egalitarianism—what philosophers call “the problem of expensive tastes.”

    The problem—what feels like a necessity to one person seems like a luxury to another—is familiar to anyone who’s argued with a foodie spouse or roommate about the grocery bill. It applies not just to material goods but to societal ones. To an environmentalist, protecting the spotted owl is a necessity; to a logger who stands to lose his job, it’s a luxury. The problem is so insistent that a whole body of political philosophy—“prioritarianism”—is devoted to the challenge of sorting people with needs from people with wants. It’s difficult in part because the line shifts as the years pass. Medical procedures that seem optional today become necessities tomorrow; educational attainments that were once unusual, such as college degrees, become increasingly indispensable with time. In a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research, four economists evaluated the success of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. They found that, judging by a modernized version of the definition of “poverty” which Johnson used, the poverty rate in America fell from 19.5 per cent in 1963 to 2.3 per cent in 2017. Still, they note in their paper, “expectations for minimum living standards evolve.” Today, taking advantage of the social safety net that the War on Poverty put in place—food stamps, Medicaid, and so on—is itself a sign of poverty. A new, more robust safety net—free college, Medicare for All—becomes, for some, an egalitarian necessity.
    Some thinkers try to tame the problem of expensive tastes by asking what a “normal” or “typical” person might find necessary. But it’s easy to define “typical” too narrowly, letting unfair assumptions influence our judgments. In an influential 1999 article called “What Is the Point of Equality?,” the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson pointed out an odd feature of our social contract: if you’re fired from your job, unemployment benefits help keep you afloat, while if you stop working to have a child you must deal with the loss of income yourself. This contradiction, she writes, reveals an assumption that “the desire to procreate is just another expensive taste”; it reflects, she argues, the sexist presumption that “atomistic egoism and self-sufficiency” are the human norm. The word “necessity” suggests the idea of a bare minimum. In fact, it sets a high bar. Clearing it may require rethinking how society functions.
    Perhaps because necessity is so demanding, our egalitarian commitments tend to rest on a different principle: luck. The philosopher Richard Arneson explained the idea a couple of decades ago: “Some people are blessed with good luck, some are cursed with bad luck, and it is the responsibility of society—all of us regarded collectively—to alter the distribution of goods and evils that arises from the jumble of lotteries that constitutes human life as we know it.” Anderson, in an influential coinage, calls this outlook “luck egalitarianism.”
    Instead of dividing things up by asking what people need, a luck-egalitarian system tries to equalize the distribution of misfortune. If you’re born on the wrong side of the tracks, or if your house is destroyed in an unpredictable natural disaster, luck egalitarianism suggests that you deserve help. If you screw up—by squandering your savings, launching a failed business, and so on—you’re on your own. It’s to luck egalitarianism that we owe the metaphors of the “level playing field” and the “social safety net.” The first equalizes the bad luck we’re born with; the second, the bad luck that finds us as adults.
    As Americans, we are charged with recognizing two conflicting values: individualism and egalitarianism. By smoothing out the unlucky differences while accepting those for which people are responsible, luck egalitarianism promises to help us be individualists and egalitarians simultaneously, But, as Anderson and others have argued, doing this is harder than it sounds. One problem, Anderson writes, is that luck egalitarianism condescends to those it helps: by seeing them as hapless victims of circumstance, it denies them the “equal respect” they’re due as citizens of a democracy. (It’s perhaps for this reason that the people who might benefit from the extension of government programs so often vote against them.)
    Another problem, which the political theorist Yascha Mounk explores in “The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State,” is that the distinction between choice and luck is hard to sustain. If you sleep in instead of coming to work every day and then get fired, you’re clearly making bad choices. But what if you’re born into a family with an income just north of the poverty line, then drop out of high school to get a dead-end job? In all likelihood, you’ve suffered from bad luck and made bad choices. Suppose you turn down a place at your state university to take a job at the auto plant where your parents work, and the plant then closes. The closing of the plant was out of your control, but the decision to work there rather than go to college was yours to make. If you’d acquired more skills, would you be more employable? Or would the forces of globalization that led to the closure of the plant have narrowed your job prospects no matter your training? You might lie awake night after night mulling such questions without settling on answers; it’s absurd, Mounk writes, to expect “a real-world state bureaucracy to answer such intricate hypothetical questions about millions of citizens.”
    The distinction between choice and luck, he argues, is a matter not of fact but of perspective. Explanations of human behavior have traditionally been divided into two groups: those which focus on the forces that push us around and those which emphasize how, as individuals, we can choose to resist them. The same phenomenon can be viewed from either side of the so-called structure-agency distinction. For most of the twentieth century, Mounk writes, criminologists looked at crime from a structural perspective: they urged politicians to fight it by reducing poverty—its root cause. Later, however, they changed tack: they began examining the motivations of individual criminals and asking how potential wrongdoers, as “agents,” might be dissuaded from committing crimes. The criminologists weren’t repudiating their prior insights about poverty, Mounk says; they were just looking at crime from a different perspective. The agent-based perspective was more useful to police officers, who couldn’t lift a neighborhood out of poverty but could change the way they patrolled it.
    Mounk thinks that most people understand, intuitively, that the distinction between structure and agency is—like the distinction between “nature” and “nurture”—an artifact of explanation, not a part of reality. All explanations are limited, we know, and tell only part of the story. This, he writes, is why we are so ambivalent about luck egalitarianism and the politicians who see the world through its lens. Conservatives, hoping to constrain the size of the welfare state, overstate how much control people have over their lives; liberals, hoping to expand it, overstate our powerlessness. But both positions are unconvincing. “While voters are receptive to the idea that it is deeply unjust for some public schools to have better funding than others, they balk when they are told that students who do well in school are merely lucky,” Mounk writes. “And while they recognize that the explanation for the stagnating living standards of average people lies in larger structural transformations of the world economy, they are skeptical when they are told that the choices of specific individuals don’t play any role in determining their particular economic fate.”
    There’s a problem with finding problems with egalitarianism. The head fights the gut; complexities can’t drown out the moral law within. Reading Waldron, Anderson, Mounk, and other thinkers on egalitarianism, I found myself remembering a time that started when I was eleven or twelve years old. My parents were divorced and rarely spoke; I went to three middle schools in three years, one bad, one middling, one good. The bad school was near my mother’s house, where we lived in the basement, having rented out the main floor. The good school was in a wealthy suburb. I attended it by claiming to live at the address of a family friend who had a small apartment, above a commercial space, on its edge. (So-called enrollment fraud is common across the country, especially in places where rich and poor school districts border each other.)
    For a while, I took the bus home to the apartment, hanging out there until late in the evening. When this arrangement grew untenable, my mother devised a plan. She’d struck up a conversation with a cabdriver and taken his card; she called him and asked if, for a flat monthly fee, he’d pick me up at school each day and drop me at my father’s house, a short drive away. There weren’t many fares at two-thirty in the afternoon in the Maryland suburbs, and he said yes.
    Peter, the cabdriver, began picking me up from a hidden spot past the soccer fields, under some trees. He was from West Africa, with an accent I sometimes struggled with. We talked about his home town, his girlfriend, the books I was reading—Stephen King, for the most part—in which he sweetly expressed an interest. Eventually, two of my friends, who were also picked up after school, discovered my secret spot and joined me there. As Peter and I drove away, everyone waved.
    One day, Peter was agitated when he arrived. “I have to make a detour, O.K.?” he said. “Don’t tell your mom.” He didn’t wave to my friends, and we took a left instead of a right, eventually entering a neighborhood of small, unkempt row houses. As we drove, Peter told me how the taxi business worked. He didn’t own his cab; he rented it from the cab company, in a rent-to-own arrangement. If he missed his monthly payment, the company took the cab back. The payment was extremely high. “I drive and I drive and I drive,” he said. “But I can’t make it. I can’t make it!” As we pulled up in front of his cousin’s house, he sobbed. I watched from the back seat as he returned to the cab, weeping, with borrowed cash in his hand.

    I wasn’t a sheltered kid; I knew about economic hardship. A few times that year, my mother had fallen behind on our bills, and our power had been cut off; we’d showered and eaten dinner in the dark. She’d hidden her despair, but Peter had shared his. For him, the bottom could fall out faster and more completely. More than a decade later, in a Dickensian coincidence, Peter, who was still driving cabs, picked my father up from the airport and gave him a business card. Peter started driving him, too; that year, on a trip with my dad and his family, Peter and I were reunited, to our great delight. But not long afterward he died. He suffered from diabetes and hypertension, and had no health insurance; he went too long before seeking treatment for an infection in his toe. It got into his bloodstream, and he died of septic shock.
    Injustice isn’t cerebral. Peter and I were two equal people on the same earth. What’s so complicated about that?
    The gap between intuition and argument—between outrage and the best response to that outrage—is the subject of Robert Tsai’s “Practical Equality: Forging Justice in a Divided Nation.” Tsai, a law professor at American University, places great weight on the intuition that we are “one another’s equals”—and yet, he writes, it’s inevitable that, “in a diverse democracy, people will disagree about what equality means.” Hashing out questions of equality, he concludes, can be so fraught, so confusing, that the wisest course is sometimes to circumvent them. Inequality can be resisted, and equality pursued, by other, less tangled means.
    Tsai, a constitutional litigator, is intimately familiar with how arguments about equality have unfolded in the courts. Often, he writes, the moral magnetism of equality backfires. To crusade for it is to be on the side of justice, and so there is no choice but to accuse those obstructing it of being racists, misogynists, élitists, or oppressors. Tsai tells the story of City of Cleburne, Texas v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., a Supreme Court case from 1985. A private company proposed opening a group home for thirteen intellectually disabled residents in the small city of Cleburne; it was thwarted by a local ordinance that required a permit for the opening of facilities for the “feeble-minded.” City officials opposed to the home cited a variety of concerns: the preservation of the neighborhood’s “serenity,” the danger to nearby elderly people, the possibility that bullies from a nearby junior high school would torment their new neighbors. Advocates for it pointed out that the ordinance’s origins lay in the country’s eugenicist past. (In 1927, a Supreme Court decision permitted the sterilization of the intellectually disabled “for the protection and health of the state.”)
    When the case reached the Supreme Court, the arguments against the ordinance were mostly framed in terms of equality. Some people likened it to an apartheid law: it was no different, they argued, from a rule barring the construction of hospitals for people of a particular religion or ethnicity. The Reagan Administration, defending the law, argued that, since the disabled did have “distinctive needs and abilities,” treating them differently need not reflect “invidious and derogatory aims.” The table was set for an intractable egalitarian debate. A morally charged yet abstract question had been raised about the place of intellectual disabilities within a society committed to equality; the answer would concretely affect millions of disabled people. And that discussion, in turn, had been connected to the accusation that those who objected to the home were closed-minded bigots—a charge sure to rally many of their fellow-citizens to their defense. The likelihood of the Court coming to a universally convincing conclusion seemed remote.
    In the end, Tsai writes, the Justices decided to avoid thinking in terms of equality. Instead, they applied the “rule of reason,” asking whether the citizens’ concerns had any rational basis, and concluding that they did not. By taking this approach, the Court avoided entirely the question of whether the citizens who objected to the home were motivated by bigotry; it also skirted the Waldronesque question of what it might mean to treat intellectually disabled people equally. And yet, Tsai writes, the Court still created a basically egalitarian outcome, and “placed discriminatory action based on damaging cultural stereotypes off-limits.”
    The Court used the same approach in other equality-enhancing decisions. In United States v. Virginia, from 1996, a female high-school student filed a complaint against the Virginia Military Institute (the so-called West Point of the South), which excluded women. The arguments on her behalf, which leaned heavily on equality, soon got bogged down in the question of what it might mean for the Institute to treat male and female cadets equally. Instead of weighing in on that issue, the Court ruled that there was no rational basis for denying women admission.
    These cases and many others, Tsai believes, show that it’s often more practical to pursue “equality by other means” than to sail into the crosscurrents of egalitarian debate. Reasonableness, or rationality, is one test to which we can subject inegalitarian systems or rules. One can also ask whether they are fair, whether their specific consequences are cruel, whether all relevant voices have been heard. Answering these questions isn’t always easy, but it’s easier than generating consensus about what “equal” means. We make more progress, Tsai argues, when we “shift the focus of moral outrage.”
    Language itself may be misleading us. Appalled by inequality, our minds turn immediately to its opposite. Sidestepping that impulse, as Tsai advocates, requires giving up a satisfying rhetorical clarity, but it may bring us closer to our moral common sense. The philosopher David Schmidtz explains why in a 2006 book titled “Elements of Justice.” Schmidtz begins by asking us to contemplate what makes a neighborhood a good place to live: a thriving community might have a grocery store, a fire station, a library, a playground. Similarly, a system of justice must have a few different structures to be livable. It’s easy to imagine justice as a unitary thing—a single, imposing building, a Supreme Court. But it’s more like a collection of buildings, each with its own function.
    In the neighborhood of justice, Schmidtz identifies four structures: equality, desert, reciprocity, and need. We consult these in different contexts, to solve different kinds of problems. Citizens are owed equality before the law. Workers, by contrast, should be compensated differently, depending on what they have accomplished. In relationships with our partners, we favor reciprocity. In trying to do right by our children, we ask what they need. (Michael and Angela, in considering their will, might focus on necessity more than the other concepts: instead of asking “What do they deserve?” or “What have they done for us lately?,” they might ask, “What do our kids need?”) None of these principles are capacious enough to serve in every situation; in fact, they are often in tension with one another. And they can be used inappropriately. No one wants a merit-based marriage. A workplace that operates by reciprocity is a dysfunctional one.
    In real life, therefore, we amble around the neighborhood of justice. A coach doesn’t run her team on egalitarian principles alone; to win, she must field the best players more often. But she doesn’t run a ruthless meritocracy, either. On a good team, players get the help they need, they assist one another reciprocally, they’re rewarded for their individual accomplishments, and they are treated similarly enough that they feel connected in a common enterprise.
    The frustrations and complexities of egalitarianism reflect the hidden complexity of equality. It looks simple and self-evident, as though one could proclaim it into existence. But achieving it requires a willingness to recognize, and to shift among, many different conceptions of what’s right—a kind of moral egalitarianism. Even equality itself, as an ideal, is insufficient. No one version of the good can rule the rest. ♦
    Published in the print edition of the January 13, 2020, issue, with the headline “Same Difference.”
    Joshua Rothman, the ideas editor of newyorker.com, has been a writer and an editor at the magazine since 2012.

    • Julian Perez 12 January 2020 at 9:07 pm Permalink

      La declaración de independencia se refiere a que todos tenemos los mismos DERECHOS básicos (vida, libertad y propiedad), no que tengamos las mismas habilidades ni que debamos obtener los mismos resultados.

      • Manuel 13 January 2020 at 8:04 am Permalink

        También me di cuenta de ese enorme error.
        Y del reguero al exponer las ideas.

        • Manuel 13 January 2020 at 8:08 am Permalink

          J,

          Si los q ”saben” andan tan perdidos qué dejar para los
          que ”no saben”?

          • Julian Perez 13 January 2020 at 9:27 am Permalink

            Manuel

            El NewYorker… De la misma pandilla que el New York Times, la CNN, la NPR, etc. No es que sepan o dejen de saber. Pueden ser hasta profesores universitarios y saber muchísimo de un montón de cosas. Es que la ideología los lleva en una dirección. Hace más de 100 años que andan cuestionando la Declaración de Independencia y la Constitución. Y en esa campaña ¨todo vale¨.

            En su libro ¨The logic of God¨, Ravi Zacharias, para ilustrar el problema, cuenta la historia de un pescador que metía en su bolsa los peces pequeños y los grandes los volvía a echar al mar. Alguien le preguntó por qué hacía semejante cosa y respondió que su sartén era pequeña y los grandes no cabían para freirlos.

            La gente ignora las ideas y los hechos que no caben en su sartén.

          • Manuel 13 January 2020 at 9:34 am Permalink

            muy buen comentario amigo J.

            note que una vez mas volvemos a publicar en el mismo minuto 9:27

            podria ser casualidad, o podria ser que uno se va sincronizando con las personas con las que interactua con frecuencia. Hay estudios que hablan de esto. Aunque para ser mas rigurosos habria que echarle manos a la estadistica 🙂

          • Manuel 13 January 2020 at 9:36 am Permalink

            que posibilidades hay para que el primer comentario que ud hace en el dia sea en el mismo minuto en el que yo hay mi primer comentario?

            no fue el caso hoy, ya yo habia posteado dos o tres, estoy especulando, no estoy seguro que esto nos haya sucedido. Y no tengo tiempo hoy para buscar si ha pasado

          • Julian Perez 13 January 2020 at 12:52 pm Permalink

            Manuel

            Me parece que este video, que fue muy de mi agrado, está relacionado con el tema que tratas.

            https://www.prageru.com/video/what-is-fair/ 

  2. Víctor López 12 January 2020 at 10:50 pm Permalink

    El toro logró herirte, numantino.

    …tu faena está completa, millones nos comparamos en tus escritos y corregimos nuestro ideario. Se que hoy no sería el mismo sin las columnas del “vocero de la CIA” que esperaba cada domingo. El destino, con ese extraño misterio que posee me citó a este blog, me ciento abrumado, es una ventana para saludarte maestro.

    …gracias

  3. Manuel 13 January 2020 at 8:06 am Permalink

    espero a este le vaya mejor:

    “ In 2016, the highest-paid employee of the State of California was Jim Mora, the head coach of U.C.L.A.’s football team. (He has since been fired.) That year, Mora pulled in $3.58 million. Coming in second, with a salary of $2.93 million, was Cuonzo Martin, at the time the head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of California, Berkeley. Victor Khalil, the chief dentist at the Department of State Hospitals, made six hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars; Anne Neville, the director of the California Research Bureau, earned a hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars; and John Smith, a seasonal clerk at the Franchise Tax Board, earned twelve thousand nine hundred dollars.

    I learned all this from a database maintained by the Sacramento Bee. The database, which is open to the public, is searchable by name and by department, and contains precise salary information for the more than three hundred thousand people who work for California. Today, most state employees probably know about the database. But that wasn’t the case when it was first created, in 2008. This made possible an experiment.

    The experiment, conducted by four economists, was designed to test rival theories of inequity. According to one theory, the so-called rational-updating model, people assess their salaries in terms of opportunities. If they discover that they are being paid less than their co-workers, they will “update” their projections about future earnings and conclude that their prospects of a raise are good. Conversely, people who learn that they earn more than their co-workers will be discouraged by that news. They’ll update their expectations in the opposite direction.

    According to a rival theory, people respond to inequity not rationally but emotionally. If they discover that they’re being paid less than their colleagues, they won’t see this as a signal to expect a raise but as evidence that they are underappreciated. (The researchers refer to this as the “relative income” model.) By this theory, people who learn that their salaries are at the low end will be pissed. Those who discover that they’re at the high end will be gratified.

    The economists conducting the study sent an e-mail to thousands of employees at three University of California schools—Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Los Angeles—alerting them to the existence of the Bee’s database. This nudge produced a spike in visits to the Web site as workers, in effect, peeked at one…

    A few days later, the researchers sent a follow-up e-mail, this one with questions. “How satisfied are you with your job?” it asked. “How satisfied are you with your wage/salary on this job?” They also sent the survey to workers who hadn’t been nudged toward the database. Then they compared the results. What they found didn’t conform to either theory, exactly.

    As the relative-income model predicted, those who’d learned that they were earning less than their peers were ticked off. Compared with the control group, they reported being less satisfied with their jobs and more interested in finding new ones. But the relative-income model broke down when it came to those at the top. Workers who discovered that they were doing better than their colleagues evinced no pleasure. They were merely indifferent. As the economists put it in a paper that they eventually wrote about the study, access to the database had a “negative effect on workers paid below the median for their unit and occupation” but “no effect on workers paid above median.”

    The message the economists took from their research was that employers “have a strong incentive” to keep salaries secret. Assuming that California workers are representative of the broader population, the experiment also suggests a larger, more disturbing conclusion. In a society where economic gains are concentrated at the top—a society, in other words, like our own—there are no real winners and a multitude of losers.

    Keith Payne, a psychologist, remembers the exact moment when he learned he was poor. He was in fourth grade, standing in line in the cafeteria of his elementary school, in western Kentucky. Payne didn’t pay for meals—his family’s income was low enough that he qualified for free school lunch—and normally the cashier just waved him through. But on this particular day there was someone new at the register, and she asked Payne for a dollar twenty-five, which he didn’t have. He was mortified. Suddenly, he realized that he was different from the other kids, who were walking around with cash in their pockets.

    “That moment changed everything for me,” Payne writes, in “The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.” Although in strictly economic terms nothing had happened—Payne’s family had just as much (or as little) money as it had the day before—that afternoon in the cafeteria he became aware of which rung on the ladder he occupied. He grew embarrassed about his clothes, his way of talking, even his hair, which was cut at home with a bowl. “Always a shy kid, I became almost completely silent at school,” he recalls.

    Payne is now a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has come to believe that what’s really damaging about being poor, at least in a country like the United States—where, as he notes, even most people living below the poverty line possess TVs, microwaves, and cell phones—is the subjective experience of feeling poor. This feeling is not limited to those in the bottom quintile; in a world where people measure themselves against their neighbors, it’s possible to earn good money and still feel deprived. “Unlike the rigid columns of numbers that make up a bank ledger, status is always a moving target, because it is defined by ongoing comparisons to others,” Payne writes.

    Feeling poor, meanwhile, has consequences that go well beyond feeling. People who see themselves as poor make different decisions, and, generally, worse ones. Consider gambling. Spending two bucks on a Powerball ticket, which has roughly a one-in-three-hundred-million chance of paying out, is never a good bet. It’s especially ill-advised for those struggling to make ends meet. Yet low-income Americans buy a disproportionate share of lottery tickets, so much so that the whole enterprise is sometimes referred to as a “tax on the poor.”

    One explanation for this is that poor people engage in riskier behavior, which is why they are poor in the first place. By Payne’s account, this way of thinking gets things backward. He cites a study on gambling performed by Canadian psychologists. After asking participants a series of probing questions about their finances, the researchers asked them to rank themselves along something called the Normative Discretionary Income Index. In fact, the scale was fictitious and the scores were manipulated. It didn’t matter what their finances actually looked like: some of the participants were led to believe that they had more discretionary income than their peers and some were led to believe the opposite. Finally, participants were given twenty dollars and the choice to either pocket it or gamble it on a computer card game. Those who believed they ranked low on the scale were much more likely to risk the money on the card game. Or, as Payne puts it, “feeling poor made people more willing to roll the dice.”

    In another study, this one conducted by Payne and some colleagues, participants were divided into two groups and asked to make a series of bets. For each bet, they were offered a low-risk / low-reward option (say, a hundred-per-cent chance of winning fifteen cents) and a high-risk / high-reward option (a ten-per-cent chance of winning a dollar-fifty). Before the exercise began, the two groups were told different stories (once again, fictitious) about how previous participants had fared. The first group was informed that the spread in winnings between the most and the least successful players was only a few cents, the second that the gap was a lot wider. Those in the second group went on to place much chancier bets than those in the first. The experiment, Payne contends, “provided the first evidence that inequality itself can cause risky behavior.”

    People’s attitude toward race, too, he argues, is linked to the experience of deprivation. Here Payne cites work done by psychologists at N.Y.U., who offered subjects ten dollars with which to play an online game. Some of the subjects were told that, had they been more fortunate, they would have received a hundred dollars. The subjects, all white, were then shown pairs of faces and asked which looked “most black.” All the images were composites that had been manipulated in various ways. Subjects in the “unfortunate” group, on average, chose images that were darker than those the control group picked. “Feeling disadvantaged magnified their perception of racial differences,” Payne writes.

    “Every year he regifts himself to me.”
    “The Broken Ladder” is full of studies like this. Some are more convincing than others, and, not infrequently, Payne’s inferences seem to run ahead of the data. But the wealth of evidence that he amasses is compelling. People who are made to feel deprived see themselves as less competent. They are more susceptible to conspiracy theories. And they are more likely to have medical problems. A study of British civil servants showed that where people ranked themselves in terms of status was a better predictor of their health than their education level or their actual income was.

    All of which leads Payne to worry about where we’re headed. In terms of per-capita income, the U.S. ranks near the top among nations. But, thanks to the growing gap between the one per cent and everyone else, the subjective effect is of widespread impoverishment. “Inequality so mimics poverty in our minds that the United States of America . . . has a lot of features that better resemble a developing nation than a superpower,” he writes.

    Rachel Sherman is a professor of sociology at the New School, and, like Payne, she studies inequality. But Sherman’s focus is much narrower. “Although images of the wealthy proliferate in the media, we know very little about what it is like to be wealthy in the current historical moment,” she writes in the introduction to “Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.”

    Sherman’s first discovery about the wealthy is that they don’t want to talk to her. Subjects who agree to be interviewed suddenly stop responding to her e-mails. One woman begs off, saying she’s “swamped” with her children; Sherman subsequently learns that the kids are at camp. After a lot of legwork, she manages to sit down with fifty members of the haut monde in and around Manhattan. Most have family incomes of more than five hundred thousand dollars a year, and about half have incomes of more than a million dollars a year or assets of more than eight million dollars, or both. (At least, this is what they tell Sherman; after a while, she comes to believe that they are underreporting their earnings.) Her subjects are so concerned about confidentiality that Sherman omits any details that might make them identifiable to those who have visited their brownstones or their summer places.

    “I poked into bathrooms with soaking tubs or steam showers” is as far as she goes. “I conducted interviews in open kitchens, often outfitted with white Carrara marble or handmade tiles.”

    A second finding Sherman makes, which perhaps follows from the first, is that the privileged prefer not to think of themselves that way. One woman, who has an apartment overlooking the Hudson, a second home in the Hamptons, and a household income of at least two million dollars a year, tells Sherman that she considers herself middle class. “I feel like, no matter what you have, somebody has about a hundred times that,” she explains. Another woman with a similar household income, mostly earned by her corporate-lawyer husband, describes her family’s situation as “fine.”

    “I mean, there are all the bankers that are heads and heels, you know, way above us,” she says. A third woman, with an even higher household income—two and a half million dollars a year—objects to Sherman’s use of the word “affluent.”

    “ ‘Affluent’ is relative,” the woman observes. Some friends of hers have recently flown off on vacation on a private plane. “That’s affluence,” she says.

    This sort of talk dovetails neatly with Payne’s work. If affluence is in the eye of the beholder, then even the super-rich, when they compare their situation with that of the ultra-rich, can feel sorry for themselves. The woman who takes exception to the word “affluent” makes a point of placing herself at the “very, very bottom” of the one per cent. “The disparity between the bottom of the 1 percent and the top of the 1 percent is huge,” she observes.

    Sherman construes things differently. Her subjects, she believes, are reluctant to categorize themselves as affluent because of what the label implies. “These New Yorkers are trying to see themselves as ‘good people,’ ” she writes. “Good people work hard. They live prudently, within their means. . . . They don’t brag or show off.” At another point, she observes that she was “surprised” at how often her subjects expressed conflicted emotions about spending. “Over time, I came to see that these were often moral conflicts about having privilege in general.”

    Whatever its source—envy or ethics—the discomfort that Sherman documents matches the results of the University of California study. Inequity is, apparently, asymmetrical. For all the distress it causes those on the bottom, it brings relatively little joy to those at the top.

    As any parent knows, children watch carefully when goodies are divvied up. A few years ago, a team of psychologists set out to study how kids too young to wield the word “unfair” would respond to unfairness. They recruited a bunch of preschoolers and grouped them in pairs. The children were offered some blocks to play with and then, after a while, were asked to put them away. As a reward for tidying up, the kids were given stickers. No matter how much each child had contributed to the cleanup effort, one received four stickers and the other two. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children shouldn’t be expected to grasp the idea of counting before the age of four. But even three-year-olds seemed to understand when they’d been screwed. Most of the two-sticker recipients looked enviously at the holdings of their partners. Some said they wanted more. A number of the four-sticker recipients also seemed dismayed by the distribution, or perhaps by their partners’ protests, and handed over some of their winnings. “We can . . . be confident that these actions were guided by an understanding of equality, because in all cases they offered one and only one sticker, which made the outcomes equal,” the researchers reported. The results, they concluded, show that “the emotional response to unfairness emerges very early.”

    If this emotional response is experienced by toddlers, it suggests that it may be hardwired—a product of evolution rather than of culture. Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, outside Atlanta, work with brown capuchin monkeys, which are native to South America. The scientists trained the monkeys to exchange a token for a slice of cucumber. Then they paired the monkeys up, and offered one a better reward—a grape. The monkeys that continued to get cucumbers, which earlier they’d munched on cheerfully, were incensed. Some stopped handing over their tokens. Others refused to take the cucumbers or, in a few cases, threw the slices back at the researchers. Like humans, capuchin monkeys, the researchers wrote, “seem to measure reward in relative terms.”

    Preschoolers, brown capuchin monkeys, California state workers, college students recruited for psychological experiments—everyone, it seems, resents inequity. This is true even though what counts as being disadvantaged varies from place to place and from year to year. As Payne points out, Thomas Jefferson, living at Monticello without hot water or overhead lighting, would, by the standards of contemporary America, be considered “poorer than the poor.” No doubt inequity, which, by many accounts, is a precondition for civilization, has been a driving force behind the kinds of innovations that have made indoor plumbing and electricity, not to mention refrigeration, central heating, and Wi-Fi, come, in the intervening centuries, to seem necessities in the U.S.

    Still, there are choices to be made. The tax bill recently approved by Congress directs, in ways both big and small, even more gains to the country’s plutocrats. Supporters insist that the measure will generate so much prosperity that the poor and the middle class will also end up benefitting. But even if this proves true—and all evidence suggests that it will not—the measure doesn’t address the real problem. It’s not greater wealth but greater equity that will make us all feel richer. ♦

    Published in the print edition of the January 15, 2018, issue, with the headline “Feeling Low.”

    Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. She is the author of “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction in 2015.

    • Julian Perez 13 January 2020 at 9:29 am Permalink

      También del New Yorker, pero le echaré un vistazo. A diferencia del NYT o de Newsweek, el New Yorker ¨a veces¨ le da la patada a la lata.

  4. manuel 13 January 2020 at 1:26 pm Permalink

    Julian Perez
    13 January 2020 at 12:52 pm
    PERMALINK
    Manuel

    Me parece que este video, que fue muy de mi agrado, está relacionado con el tema que tratas.

    https://www.prageru.com/video/what-is-fair/

    EN CUANTO TENGA UN break J

    • manuel 13 January 2020 at 2:49 pm Permalink

      le creo que tienen 2 billones de vistas, estan muy buenos los videos que he visto en ese site;

      en este que traes, por ejemplo, nos aclara que nadie en lo Economico esta para administrar que toca a cada cual; ni persona ni institucion alguna, sino que esta se da en la existencia del Libre Mercado. Simple. Brillante. Y hasta ahora no se inventado nada que pueda superar ese metodo.

      Para que todo esto tenga real sentido, hay que aclarar bien que cosa es Libre Mercado, y porque sus altenativas han sido TODAS un fracaso a lo largo de los ultimos 300 anos. Y mas que un fracaso, han llevado en muchos casos a la necesidad del uso monstruoso de la fuerza, como en los 100 millones de victimas registradas bajo el Comunismo; si, ese que los vicente ven como la gran panacea, la gran solucion a los problemas que trae el “neoliberalismo” en los paises pobres

      • manuel 13 January 2020 at 2:50 pm Permalink

        y por que sus altenativas han sido TODAS un fracaso a lo largo de los ultimos 300 anos. Y mas que un fracaso, han llevado en muchos casos a la necesidad del uso monstruoso de la fuerza, como en los 100 millones de victimas registradas bajo el Comunismo; si, ese que los vicente ven como la gran panacea, la gran solucion a los problemas que trae el “neoliberalismo” en los paises pobres

      • manuel 13 January 2020 at 4:22 pm Permalink

        no en vano los de ‘izquierda’ se la pasan criticando el papel del mercado, y la ‘decadente sociedad consumista y egoista’ del capitalismo ‘salvaje’;

        es la manipulacion que usan para desacreditar el tremendo papel que ha jugado el Libre Mercado en el progreso de la humanidad; que de una pobreza del 80% hace 200 anos, ha pasado a ser de solo el 10%, y de 1 billon de habitantes con una esperanza de vida menor de 40, a ser casi 8 billones con mas de 70 en esperanza de vida

        que hay lugares muy resagados y retrocediento? cierto; hay muchas cosas que mejorar y repensar, y buscar soluciones a nivel local por aquellos que tienen todos los medios a su alcance; es algo que se tiene que hacer, y lamentablemente no ha sucedido a estas alturas en esos lugares empantanados. Algo me dice que ya esta aqui la generacion capaz de encontrar los mecanismos adecuados para ellos. Ningun fascismo sera la solucion

  5. vicente 16 January 2020 at 10:37 am Permalink

    En el capitalismo el lugar que ocupas no te lo das tu,te lo dan los demas.El individuo es el resultado de una compleja interaccion que parte de la familia y la escuela,en el mundo actual las estructuras excluyen millones de personas .Mientras una pequeñisima elite se enriquece exageradamente,en su mayoria proceden de privilegios politicos y todos estos ricos no permiten que haya una clase media,como estamos viendo en Chile,donde los precios son similares a los de Portugal y los salarios son de 400 dolares.

  6. Víctor López 16 January 2020 at 1:36 pm Permalink

    Esta loco. No es correcto ponerse como ejemplo, pero para el caso me abrí espacio por mi mismo, en donde y como mejor me pareció, con resultados que exceden por mucho al esfuerzo realizado. La única ventaja si es que puede llamarse así, fue poseer buena voluntad y asertividad. Cuando formaba mi patrimonio, suponía que estaría exento de las criticas y odios del variopinto de zurdos y fracasados. Pero descubrí que es al revés, pertenezco al de los más aborrecido y justamente por eso, por ser ejemplo de que el éxito o el fracaso, por sobretodo es una construcción personal.

    Un saludo.

    • vicente 17 January 2020 at 9:06 am Permalink

      Usted no le debe nada a nadie,usted es el prototipo del self made man,usted esta en el top del narcisismo.

  7. Víctor López 17 January 2020 at 9:45 am Permalink

    Hubo “ángeles” en mi vida, claro. Como a todos sucede en momentos de congojas. Pero nadie me ha dado de comer, como le dije el éxito es una construcción personal. Honro a mis padres cuidando (con el incondicional apoyo de mi esposa e hijos) a un hermano que sufrio “la escuela de mecánica de la armada”. Disfruta de las mejores condiciones de vida, en su tragedia siente realizados todos su sueños. Un cordial saludo, señor Vicente.


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