We in the West, at least in some countries, are living in an era fraught with concern for social justice – different outcomes for different people that seem unfair.
I have long been interested in better understanding why people are different one from another – children of the same mother and father have different personalities and life outcomes. Why? And norms and behaviors that give rise to life outcomes might be common to this religious community, but not to that other one or to this class, but not to that or this ethnic descent group, but not to that one.
Famously, the German sociologist, Max Weber, connected the creation of wealth through capitalism with a religious mindset and its favored behaviors – the Calvinist Protestant ethic – encouraging dedication to one’s work, acceptance of personal responsibility, trust in those who are like-minded and savings.
“Otherness” seems a necessary part of the human condition. So, if “otherness” is not going to go away in our lifetimes, what are we to do about its tendency to keep us apart from one another?
People in different societies live life differently. Why? People in one socially recognized class act, feel and speak differently from those in other classes. Why?
We are told by those who insist that they know that our separatenesses necessarily give rise to cognitive biases favoring “our kind” and inducing us to give the cold shoulder or worse to “different” kinds. Pope Francis, in his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, disagreed and there urged us to overcome the political and psycho-social distancing associated with our differences.
I saw in a recent issue of The Economist a map of India showing that some regions of the country have more wealth and others more children. It seems that the areas with more children have less wealth per capita. Why should this be?
If different economic outcomes come from different behaviors and mindsets, what is to be done to equalize the outcomes? What is fair? Should changes in mindsets or behaviors be a condition for imposing social and political interventions designed to favor one group over the other so that outcomes change? Cui bono – all or only some?