Sunday, December 21, 2003


"Crooked Timber" seems to be some sort of Leftist philosopher. I would never have read him except that Keith Burgess-Jackson seems to take him seriously. His defence of the Leftist "equality of results" doctrine versus the more conservative "equality of opportunity" doctrine is summarized by him in the two questions below:

1. What's the point of doing anything if you're not going to check whether it worked or not?
2. How do you find out whether a course of action worked or not, other than by the results?

He seems to think that these questions trump further discussion. So perhaps I should point out that they do not. The snide thing about the two questions is that "it worked" is not defined -- presumably in order to suggest that the favoured alternative (equal outcomes) is the only reasonable definition of it. Building your desired conclusions into your premises is an old Leftist trick of course, as I have shown many times before (e.g. here). A layman might call it "loading the dice".

So let me suggest some alternative definitions of "it worked". One suggestion would surely be that treating a person according to his own qualities rather than according to the qualities or wealth of his parents was a pretty desirable thing to do in and of itself. Why does it need to "work" in any way external to itself? If that is accepted, the Crooked One's point 2 becomes redundant.

Even if the deed is not taken to be intrinsically good, however, there are surely many, many alternative definitions of "it worked" available. If, for instance, it made people feel happier because it convinced them that they lived in a fair society, would that not be something that might cause us to say "it worked"? And checking that result could be as simple as doing a social survey.


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