Source: Steven Kessler
As President Trump threatens to transport illegal aliens to sanctuary cities, suddenly, many on the Left are feeling significantly less generous and magnanimous regarding illegal immigration.
Colloquially, this is known as “skin in the game.” When people have no skin in the game, then the issue is “no skin off their back.” Cher, for example, was gung ho when it came to immigration, as she had no skin in the game. However, when she had some skin in the game, her position suddenly became more conservative.
This conversation is surprisingly typical. It arises so frequently that it has become one of the three questions I have learned to ask when dealing with liberals and liberal ideology.
I learned to ask this question while in graduate school for higher education administration, a discipline whose pedagogy is informed by social justice ideology. A professor of mine always advocated for “redistribution of wealth from big business.” I remember telling her how unstable business can be from month to month and year to year. Due to this instability, would it not make more sense to redistribute wealth from a more stable profession? The most stable profession I can think of is tenured professor. Tenured professors have guaranteed contracts for life. Not only that, but it was her idea in the first place, so one would think she would be in favor of implementing her own idea.
Believe it or not, she did not want to redistribute wealth from tenured professors. When the money was coming out of her pocket, she was much less enthusiastic.
The second question is whether we are bringing people up or yanking them down. When we raise a person, people, or things up, it is positive. When it is not about someone rising to the level of another person, but about the lower person yanking the higher person down; when it is not about someone having what another person has, but about the other person not having it altogether; and when it is not about someone winning, but about another losing, we have the epitome of envy.
An example of raising people up is Black History Month. Black history month is a celebration of a group of people in America who have traditionally been treated poorly. By celebrating Black History Month, we are elevating the status of black Americans without taking anything away from anyone. This is a good thing.
Compare and contrast Black History Month with this Washington Times newspaper headline from October of 2016: “Berkeley protesters form human chain to stop white students from getting to class.” The student-protesters are preventing white students from getting to class without themselves gaining anything, nor rising up in any way, shape, or form. The exclusive goal of the protesters was preventing white people from getting to class, taking from white people without benefiting themselves. This is the epitome of envy and should obviously resonate as a poor basis for social policy.
The final question concerns assessment and evaluation. You felt good, but did you do good? This question concerns the results of a policy that sounds good or feels good to implement.
Take the social justice warriors who fought to raise the minimum wage at fast food restaurants. I am sure it felt great to punish the greedy fast food restaurant owners and get the employees at these restaurants a higher hourly wage, but what were the results?
What typically happens in these instances is that government-mandated rise in wages forces the owners of these restaurants to fire people and reduce the hours of the employees they keep. The reduction in hours lowers employee wages. Further, many restaurants begin automating these positions, replacing human beings with robots and machines. This not only hurts people in the present, but also hurts potential employees in the future. Raising the minimum wage felt good, but it did not actually do good.
Envy, liability, and results are the thrust of this checklist. If someone is advocating for an envy-based policy, it is a bad idea and will likely fail. If people are insulated from the consequences of a policy they are advocating for, should it fail, they will experience no consequences for their failure. This is a poor method for policy implementation. Finally, if people are implementing a policy with no concern for the results, caring about only the gesture itself, then these people are unfit for policy decisions in the future. Many things sound and feel good but do not actually end up doing good in the end.
By asking these three questions, any conservative can identify unsound policy and immoral intentions and assess whether to repeat a policy implemented elsewhere. Envy, liability, and results are a great litmus test for both the neophyte and the seasoned scholar for policy appraisal.