26 June 2016

Hierarchy and inequality

In Left and Right: The Significance of a Political Distinction, Norberto Bobbio mentions an interesting variation in defining what is called generically in politics "the right". For Bobbio, this side of the spectrum is defined by a defense of inequality, and he dismisses the use of the term "hierarchy" by Elisabetta Galeotti as unrelated to the left/right polarity. This may well be so (at least in Bobbio's system of definitions) but I think that the hierarchy/inequality distinction is quite useful in separating different right-wing positions.


To wit, traditional conservative movements tried to preserve a hierarchy, while liberalism excludes such a hierarchy but accepts economical inequality resulting from the exercise of different abilities in an otherwise even playing field.

Since nowadays mainstream parties no longer defend (explicit and political) hierarchy, subscribing at least formally to the principle of equal political influence of all citizens —what I'll call "one man, one vote" (OMOV)— a most important question is whether and how inequality can undermine this principle and introduce a hidden hierarchy.
Inequality (of the financial variety, at least) can easily mutate into economical and social hierarchy merely by inheritance. Can this hierarchy become political? Census suffrage would be an obvious example of such a transition, but once again, it is no longer acceptable discourse. "Softer" means (such as lobbying) are however still accepted.

A related question is whether there is an inequality threshold above which OMOV becomes unstable, i.e. the formally defined democratic institutions no longer operate effectively.

to be continued...

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