The Third Way of the Thymos part 2
One of the most common criticisms of isothymia and the spread of liberal democracy is that it is homogenizing culture and stifling creativity. When the notion of all men being created equal proceeds to its natural conclusion not only are we all treated as equal but we will also all start to look the same, sound the same and act the same. When the lines between cultures get blurred there is no motivation to be unique and creativity ceases.
Liberal Democracy owes much of its existence to isothymotic passions but as Francis Fukuyama noted in, The End of History and the Last Man “If tomorrow’s isothymotic passions try to outlaw differences between the ugly and the beautiful, or pretend the person with no legs is not just the spiritual but the physical equal of someone whole in body, then the argument will in the fullness of time become self refuting, just as communism was.”
It is my assertion that Liberal Democracy has already gone too far. Our society is fraught with resentment toward those who work hard and achieve something great. We say to doctors who have spent a decade in school and borrowed heavily to finance their education that they or the entrepreneur who risked everything on an idea do not deserve to earn more than anyone else. It takes a healthy dose of megalothymia to be willing to stay in school for years after your classmates have gone to work or to forgo a comfortable life while you plough every dollar you earn back into an idea with no immediate payback.
On the other hand globalization has given corporations the ability to look at the whole world as one giant market and fostered a Winner-Take-All attitude that is further increasing the gaps between rich and poor.
The human tendency to make sure our own needs are covered before looking at our neighbour’s needs is far from isothymia. At best it is self preservation which stems from the idea that I am more important that you. The Third Way of the Thymos recognizes the human desire to be greater and encourages it because it also recognizes that a rising tide floats all boats. But what about the other great criticism of globalization and liberal democracy; as the economy expands what then happens to those people who have no boat?
A democratic system is by definition equal but individuals are by nature self promoters. To put it another way, we need a system that encourages individual megalothymia while maintaining a corporate isothymia. After all, it is the ambitious individual who contributes the most to rising economic standards and in turn makes possible, through employment and taxation, the creation of a social safety net. Benjamin Freidman made this clear in his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth” by examining how expanding economies encourage the liberalizing of politics and stagnant or recessionary economies result in the closure of social programs and ultimately the oppression of weaker individuals. In the United States, the civil rights movement of the 1960s would not have been possible had it not coincided with a long period of sustained economic growth.
So where does that leave us? How then do we balance our individual drive to be greater with our group desires for equality? Not just on a local or national scale but also how does this influence foreign policy? How do we respond to corporations that exploit foreign workers? How indeed do we define exploitation when what we in North America would consider slave labour is seen as a good wage in other locations? These are all questions that continue to haunt me and will no doubt result in further postings.