Several respondents added perspective to the quotation from Deepak Lal that I offered last time. Lal is representative of a new wave of extremely pro-capitalist Indian economists who have been unleashed by recent reforms over there, after fifty years of stifling Democratic Socialism. Of course, it is natural that this sudden release would result in both backlash and exaggeration. Hence one explanation for Lal's strawman tactics and emotionally charged venom toward anyone and anything that seems even glancingly leftist.
This is a classic human pattern of self-justification. Under Calvinism, varied luck was explained as a matter of Predestination of a pre-chosen elect (with everyone else fated to be damned). Under Social Darwinism, especially during America's Gilded Age, new-fangled notions of evolution were warped to justify the individual misery of millions of impoverished workers, whose suffering only manifested Nature's endless self-improvement program. During the Roaring Twenties, Freudianism was interpreted to justify evasion of social bonds and reciprocal obligations. More recently, the new apocalypt-fundamentalism has erected a simple litmus test in order to dismiss as damned all opponents - the test of whether you call it murder to thwart the development of any fertilized human egg.
And now, in Enterprise India? One needs only a little imagination to picture how right-wing Brahmin intellectuals might apply old notions of karma to the steepening differences between rich and poor. Ah, the recurring pattern.
Only, now I will surprise you and say that habitual patterns of the left are little better!
If the right is often associated with one bad habit -- justifying prejudice, in the general sense of pre-judging individuals because they are inherently members of a class -- then the left often correlates with an absurd kind of excess in the opposite direction.
What is the opposite of ideologically justifying group prejudice? It is insisting that human beings are utter tabula rasas, infinitely reprogrammable, without any natural instincts or inherited proclivities that set a course for life. Infinite reprogrammability was a notion that Aldous Huxley savagely satirized in Brave New World. And this utterly foolish exaggeration reached its culmination under Stalin, when the communist theoretician Lysenko was given control over all Soviet biological science. Lysenko fiercely repressed the entire field of genetic inheritance, in favor of a state mandated dogma that all organisms, especially people, can acquire nearly all traits, simply as a function of training and conditioning.
Indeed, were you to try to come up with a "political spectrum" that actually makes sense (and I think I have), one of the three axes would have to be this one. To what extent do you attribute differences among human beings to inherited traits, or qualities of their group, and to what extent do you attribute such differences to individual experience? Yes, it's the old nature vs. nurture debate...
...in which we modernists and moderates have always taken the obvious and sensible approach. Of course both factors play strong roles in determining what we are. Though the Enlightenment seems always to be best served when we err in one direction, rather than the other. Leaning away from prejudice. Leaning toward increasing emphasis on the individual, rather than lazily assigning them to groups. Toward letting individuals prove their worth outside of any simplistic classification.
(A risky aside: Nobody speaks of the profoundly hypocritical exception to the left's own dogma of absolute reprogrammability. This exception is an equally absolute faith in the predetermined nature of homosexuality, labeling it as genetically pre-welded and hopelessly unalterable by any post-natal influence. No other human trait is given utterly obligate status by the left. And given it by dogmatic decree! In every other case, the ideologically correct incantation is to demand that we attribute traits to individual experience and control.
(Shouldn't we find this strange and dramatically quantum reversal interesting or worthy of discussion? Yes, one can understand and even sympathize with the political-emotional roots of this dogma. But one crucial difference between modernists and romantic dogmatists is that the latter feel it is dangerous to openly discuss matters of dogma. While we feel that our morality is not put at risk by scrutinizing anything at all.
(Here, the underlying aim is clearly understandable -- to free gay people from parental or religious pressure to "change their minds." And please. I am not taking sides on this issue. I am just pointing out that this absolutely quantum reversal, in regard to one, particular, and narrowly specialized human trait, seems, well, just a bit jarring and artificial. As in countless hypocrisies of the right, the truth of this matter is obscured by ferocious ideological passion that is - in fact - completely unnecessary in order to achieve practical social aims. In this case, the admirable aim of increased tolerance of harmless human eccentricity.
(Or, at least, it is unnecessary for people like you and me, since modernist-enlightenment types are already inclined toward tolerance. Needing no dogmatic reinforcement, we are so inclined whether your harmless eccentricity originated in your genes or was a matter of choice.)
Why the parentheses, in what seemed (to you and me) an interesting topic and example? So that I can protect myself by disclaiming the preceding paragraphs as constituting a parenthetical aside. What am I afraid of? Um, duh. A firestorm of hatred, because romantic anti-modernists are incapable - whatever their official ideology - of viewing modernist skepticism as anything but evil, especially when that skepticism is applied to their favored dogma. Even when it might prove helpful in the long run, by replacing simpleminded and addle-pated justifications for tolerance with much better ones, grounded in real science and supported by genuine pragmatism.
Anyway, it was high time that I bent some attention to exposing some hypocrisies of the left. Hypocrisies that, while currently far less harmful than the latest monstrous #$*@#%@! on the right, are nevertheless deeply inimical to the modernist agenda of incremental human improvement and progress.
In fact, I will continue in this vein a little longer, in order to build needed credibility points and show that I really am evenhanded here.
I need those points. We all do. Because it's not easy standing up for sane, balanced, evenhanded, modernity in a world gone ideologically mad. A world in which the loonies of all kinds have set up a divide-and-conquer campaign, aiming to set us at each other's throats along a left-right divide that makes absolutely no sense in a practical, objective universe.