The Epistemological Problem in Ideology
It is no shock that liberals generally really dislike Wal-Mart. I am one of these liberals. Wal-Mart acts as a stand in for everything liberals see as problematic with the U.S. economy currently and potentially for the foreseeable future. To us, it represents labor demobilization and the switch from well-paying manufacturing jobs with benefits to low-wage service jobs without benefits. One of the big liberal talking points is that many Wal-Mart employees are on public assistance as well since their paychecks can’t make ends meet. This is how the debate seems to go on Wal-Mart wages and public assistance.
1. Liberals believe (and I believe this) that Wal-Mart sweeps into an area and destroys local business and many people potentially employed in local-businesses end up as low-wage Wal-Mart staffers. We also seem to think that their policies destroy American manufacturing.
2. The conservative-libertarian counter is that people employed at Wal-Mart would probably be unemployed and unemployable but for Wal-Mart and therefore Wal-Mart is good because the employees would probably be on even more public assistance if not for Wal-Mart.
My issue is that both viewpoints rest more on faith than anything else and this is a problem which seems to come up largely across many ideologies on many issues. Whether you believe in an ideology or not requires believing in certain things as being axiomatic and/or tautologies. I would venture to say that almost every person alive believes in a lot of things on a faith based and axiomatic level whether they are true or not or provable or not. Anyone who says otherwise is probably lying but this is also something I can’t prove and need to take on blind faith.
One of my issues with libertarianism is that it seemingly (to me) takes a lot of faith in the ideas of classical economics and that free-market Capitalism will always lead to a natural and/or desirous outcome because it reflects true rational self-interest. This debate comes up a lot when talking about price surging, price gouging, or in liberal terms profiteering. The argument for price surging during a hurricane for an example is that it will lead to increased supplies and/or people naturally rationalizing their purchases and buying only as much product as needed like wood planks to board up their windows. I simply don’t buy this as a given. My bet is that the rich would merely purchase just as much as they would in the circumstance because they can afford the hit. I would also bit that a good number of lower-income people would be priced out of necessary supplies and need to whether a hurricane or other disaster without food or protective supplies. This will only lead to anarchy and thievery. Moral, Social, and Cultural prohibitions against price surging prevent thievery even if they do lead to people purchasing more than they need. My policy goal and preference is prevent as much looting as possible over alleged self-rationing that would happen if price gouging was allowed and acceptable.
My view on economics is more mixed market. Capitalism is neither good or bad, it is a system and like all systems it works for some things (mainly consumer goods) and not for other things (healthcare in my liberal mind). I feel the same way about socialism. I trust socialism for healthcare (NHS) and education (if 90 percent of students are educated in public schools, we largely have a socialist system of education and in my opinion the only way to effectively educate a mass number of people.) I don’t trust socialism to give me options for shaving cream or cars or clothing.
I admit that I cannot prove whether my theory is or not but I take it on faith that I am correct and supporters of price surging are not. This is my axiom.
It seems to me that any ideological issue is going to revolve around a series of assumptions, tautologies, outcomes, and theories about what would and would not exist in an idealized society and perceptions of realpolitik. My argument for the state of Israel and Zionism from a previous essay was largely that it made sense to found a Jewish State in 1949 because of the situation of European Jewry in the post-Holocaust. Others disagree with this realpolitik assumption. Maybe it was a “mistake” to create a Jewish state in the Middle East but in my opinion it was the only option and morally necessary in 1949 and you can’t use hindsight to criticize past actions or events.
My question is whether these are always going to be walls that divide people or whether there is a way to bridge divides and gaps and understand that we all operate on different axioms, tautologies, and assumptions.