Just World Hypothesis

When I first heard about the Just World Hypothesis a decade or so ago it had a significant impact on my world view and caused me to move from a central position politically, to the left. The JWH is a cognitive bias which assumes that a “persons actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, to the end of all noble actions being eventually rewarded and all evil actions eventually punished”.

Unfortunately, Lady Justice isn’t a vaccine for cancer.

This cognitive bias has been immortalised in the English language and rears its head in common expressions such as “what goes around comes around” and “everything happens for a reason”. The hypothesis involves there being some ethereal force of order and justice that judges’ people and their actions, and appropriately allocates rewards or punishments, justly. It is easy to see how this cognitive bias has evolved in humans with the advent of religion across the globe, in the West we might call this Divine Providence through God, and in Eastern religions this would be called Karma. It is often used to rationalise adversity, hardship and plain old bad luck on the grounds that the person must have somehow deserved it.

The JWH can be seen day today through various scenarios…were you the victim of sexual assault? Then you should haven’t had that much to drink or worn that short skirt. Are you living on the poverty line? Then you must be doing something wrong because I’m not. Do you have a chronic condition or have suffered from an acute serious illness only to find yourself being told by healthy people what more you could do or could have done to alleviate or prevent said health issue? That’s because healthy people like to assume that if they keep on doing the right things, they will never have health problems.

As you can probably tell, this bias has a high ratio of fallacy and more often than not leads to victim blaming.

The earliest known arguments against the JWH comes from ancient philosopher Sextus Empiricus in 180CE, but it wasn’t till the 20th century that it was formally studied. Social Psychologist and Professor at the University of Waterloo, Melvin Lerner summarised in his 1980 book ‘The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion’ that the belief in a just world is fundamental for people to believe in for their own well-being because a just world is a functional world. It creates a contract between the individual and the world that implies predictable and appropriate outcomes based upon a person’s actions, attributes and behaviour. It is functional and important for human well-being, this belief in a just world, because the contract we create with the world allows us to plan for the future and leads to a goal driven lifestyle, and that if we do X we will receive Y.

Whenever I see, and I generalise, a typically right-wing voter who doesn’t believe in a strong welfare state, or someone who believes that individual freedom (read: small weak government) is the zenith of human political goals, or someone who shows no compassion to asylum seekers/refugees, more often than not they are suffering from this just-world bias. If you can blame the victim and preserve the false belief that the world is just then it reduces your own discomfort and guilt.

If as a species we can get passed this illusion of justice naturally occurring in the world, maybe we can actually get on with making the world a just place.

“Truth Resists Simplicity”

I first heard this little nugget of wisdom from the author John Green in his Crash Course: History series on YouTube (it’s fun and simple, give it a watch). It really stuck with me and it dawned on me how it seems to be pretty much a universal constant when dealing with human affairs. I wanted to introduce this early in my blog as it is one of the maxims that is always at the back of my mind when I discuss things. It keeps me open to other people’s perspective on things, perspectives which I may not have considered before. It allows me to absorb new information or evidence which I may have not previously known about, which can alter my opinions or my stance on things. It allows me to do this because the idea that “truth resists simplicity”, is pretty much true by definition. Most truths are inherently complex (we’re talking about in human affairs rather than in things such as maths where 2+2 = 4…but you could even argue once you get to theoretical maths and dealing with things such a infinity truth is complex there too), you can take any situation and break it down into its premises and constituent parts and you will find a convoluted array contradictions, axioms, beliefs, presumptions, assertions, and so on and so forth.

The only truth going forward is that to create a united global people is going to be a very complicated matter as we decide what paradigms to follow, and what truths those paradigms are built upon. We have powerful tools such as reason, objectiveness, and observation in our kit though. With these we can plan and proceed pragmatically, clearing any veils of deception and obscurity to build a prosperous earth for all.

Dialectics and The Socratic Methods

The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David, 1787

These are types of dialogue which I think are important to a healthy functioning society. Not so much in day-to-day chat, but in politics, decision-making, and debate. It is the kind of discourse I want to foster on TWP between people, so conversation is productive and not regressive.

I speak, of course, of Dialectics and the Socratic methods.

Dialectics

This is a mode of conversation where two or more people that hold opposing views on a particular subject and both want to discover truth through reasoned argument. This sounds much like a debate and it is similar in many ways. However, dialectics lack subjective elements such as appeals to emotion, anecdotes and personal opinion.

Socratic Method

The Socratic method can be broadly defined as:

“A form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions. It is a dialectical method involving a discussion in which the defence of one point of view is questioned; one participant may lead another to contradict themselves in some way, thus weakening the defender’s point.”

Named after Greek philosopher, Socrates, it’s the systematic breakdown down of an argument into basic assumptions and eliminating them. A method for discovering the truth through a series of questions and answers. For example:

  1. Person A asserts that “money is evil”. Which Person B believes to be false.
  2. Person B get person A to agree to the underlying premises that “money can buy hospitals, schools and feed the poor” and that “these acts are good, not evil”.
  3. Person B then argues that these underlying premises of are contrary to the original argument that “money is evil”.
  4. Person B has now shown that Person A’s original argument was false.

In government and politics more of this kind of conversation would increase transparency in policy-makers potential bias, but wouldn’t it be great to see politicians discussing issues like this, less of a conflict about being right or wrong, more about mutually discovering what would be the best course of action given the issue at hand. It doesn’t have to be as formal as presented here, just needs to apply the underlying principles.

Moreover, if people could talk to each other like this on public forums such as Facebook, maybe we could get through to each other, we would listen more, and we’d all be better off for it. Certainly better than what we have now which is just apes throwing shit at each other; seeing who can make the loudest noise.

This kind of dialogue between people I think plays a fundamental important part of building a united people. It allows people to express their opinion and for it to be listened too without fear of just being lambasted and dehumanised. In return, you agree to listen to people’s critiques and open to the idea that you could be wrong and you’re willing to grow from the discussion you have with people.

Left vs Right, Socialism vs Capitalism: Dualistic Thinking is Flawed and Regressive

Add a healthy dash of Socialism for best results

The great con of our time, and what is holding us back as a civilization the most is the notion that socialism and capitalism are mutually exclusive when they’re not. It has led to this situation where people or political parties extol themselves as socialist or capitalist and denounce anyone who doesn’t abide by their ideology as not worth listening to/wrong/dangerous/etc. It fosters an atmosphere of us vs them, people start treating their political parties like sports team; “I’m Labour till I die”, “I would never vote Tory” and this is a very regressive and unproductive mode of dealing with politics. In many cases when a socialist hears someone is a capitalist or someone proposing capitalist ideas (and vice versa) they either just don’t listen to the merit of their proposition or they just straight up “well you would say that, you’re a…”

Now I would say this is more of a problem with the general public than with actual politicians, but public voice can massively influence policymakers and if we are to makes policies in the best interest of the nation or human civilization then we need to do away with the dirtiness underlying words such as capitalism and socialism and recognise that policies from both the Left and Right of the economic political spectrum have value and that there is a sweet spot in the middle that we lead to the best of all possible outcomes.

I look to Aristotle’s moral philosophy and the idea of what it is to be a ‘virtuous person’ (blog post about this at a later date) and apply it to a nation/government/civilization, I feel it is especially useful when discussing the Socialism vs Capitalism as they are two ends of the same economic spectrum. Aristotle suggests that to be morally virtuous you must hit a sweet spot on a spectrum between two things, for example to be confident without being arrogant, brave but not reckless, socialist but not communist, capitalism but not unadulterated pillaging of the Earth. You get my drift, it’s about achieving the sweet spot.

You can see how this would apply to economic ideology of Socialism vs Capitalism. On the Far left we have pure Communism, no privately owned businesses or enterprise everything is owned by the state and people. On the far right, we have Free Market Capitalism, which comes with no regulations and it becomes essentially every man for himself, power is in the corporations. Both these extremes are undesirable, in my opinion, for a strong and prosperous human civilization. Communism restricts individual rights and the competition which drives innovation and creativity is drastically reduced. On the other hand Free Market Capitalism lends itself to predatory business practices and the exploitation of the ‘have nots’ and with no regulation corporations are free to do what they want i.e. the unrestricted raping of Earth’s resources.

In traditional sense and for the sake of transparency I would consider myself a lefty socialist. The reason I consider myself that way is that I think, at least in the West, we are leaning too far in favour of the right side of the economic spectrum. Business have too much power and they can hoard too much wealth and money, whilst people working on the ground for these business are living on the breadline and in some cases, abject poverty. A great modern example of this is Amazon and Jeff Bezos. At the time of writing Bezos is worth $136,000,000,000. ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SIX BILLION DOLLARS (does anyone else find that absolutely disgusting?), Amazon itself is worth over a trillion USD and is the most profitable company of all time. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers earn a pittance and are reliant on handouts to survive…and at the end of the fucking day, Mr Bezos would be no-where without those people doing the hard labour on the ground. Additionally, Amazon has been found to be avoiding paying its fair share of taxes in the UK and Japan. Now for a company and man who have more money and wealth than some countries, not only is this state of affairs absolutely grotesque, but shows a total lack of morals and empathy at the top of this company. We allow this to happen because we have been taught that Capitalism = good and Socialism = bad (Communism and socialism tend to be used interchangeably to muddy the issue despite being different things).

What I propose is something in-between, something that already exists; State Capitalism. Now I’m going to say something that will freak some people but put your pitch forks down and here me out.

China.

China essentially works with a State Capitalist model. I know some of you out there are going to be “rabble rabble rabble China human rights communism arrrrgh LOUD NOISES that’s undemocratic rabble rabble rabble”, but just wait 2 seconds.

State Capitalism, essentially is a capitalist market economy dominated by state-owned corporations, where the state-owned corporations are organised as commercial, profit seeking business. Now this doesn’t mean we can’t have privately owned enterprises, we can, people are free to do that, but in a more limited controlled way.

Let me paint a picture for you one second. The state-owned enterprise would have ownership over the utility companies (power, water), internet service, construction, mining, housing, agriculture, forestry’s, etc. The kind of things which are essential and fundamental to a civilization. They would be owned by the state on the behalf of the people, with profits being returned to investment to further improve services, lower prices and expand infrastructure. Not going into bank accounts to be horded and unused. Private enterprise can still exist to sell commodities such as Apple who make iPhones, Sony who create entertainment systems and Nikon selling cameras. This would still be allowed. Basically, the state owns the fundamental things most important to stability and civilization, private enterprise own the things that aren’t so important and fundamental but make life more pleasant and unique.

It’s proven to work, just look at China. It is currently the second largest economy in the world and set to become the largest over the next couple of decades. They are throwing money and construction at rebuilding the silk road of ancient times and heavily investing in improving infrastructure around the world, building ports, roads, and airports. Laying thousands of miles of optic fibres to support the growth of the internet. No national government except China is able to expand and grow their influence like this.

Just imagine what the West could do under state capitalism without all the human rights violations that China has. State Capitalism is the perfect balance between Socialism and Capitalism and it is what we should be moving towards.

Personally, I think this is the way forward, I see this system of state capitalism being the most pragmatic socially and economically, if we’re ever going to get ourselves unified on global scale. Like the image suggests, lets all enjoy capitalism.