A Socialist Experiment: Redistribution and Social Justice

The Reading and Study Skills Center at Tacoma ...
The Reading and Study Skills Center at Tacoma Community College Library in Tacoma, WA (Photo credit: WA State Library)

In schools, there are different kinds of students. There are those who never study but always do well on exams – they’re just gifted. There are those who never study and fail. There are those who study hard to make good grades and there are those who study hard and still don’t do as well. In short, success at school depends not solely on hard work, but on ability, parental influence, the home environment etc. As a result, some of the people who do badly at school don’t deserve it.

Doing badly at school affects you in lots of ways – you’re less likely to get prestigious scholarships, attend prestigious schools or get a high paying job. You might not even get to pick the career you take because your GPA is too low. This will, of course, leave you far below your peers in terms of achievement. They might look down on you. You might not earn enough money to care for yourself and your family. You might end up depressed and it’s usually downhill from there. What’s more, your children end up being born int the same situation and might end up like you. It’s like a generational curse.

So, how do we solve this problem?

I have a solution for this gross inequality. We could take a little from the GPAs of the high achievers and add to the underachieving so that they are better off. That way, we could help the less fortunate among us.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking:

English: KIS International School IB Diploma s...
English: KIS International School IB Diploma students conducting a Science experiment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Isn’t it unfair to take GPAs from those who earned them and give it to those who didn’t? How would you feel if you had to study your ass off to make straight A’s but you weren’t given a 4.0 because some people didn’t do as well as you?

A. Remember that I said that good grades are not based on merit alone. Those who make good grades are blessed in that they have the required strength, IQ, etc. to do as well as they are doing. Some of those who do badly still work very hard -I’ve had friends like that. They’re just not as biologically advantaged as others. Should we be selfish and let them suffer? Isn’t it a biblical mandate that we help the weak among us?

2 Our educational system is based on merit. Awarding grades based on merit lets employers know who is capable of what job so they can hire the best people for a job. If we stop awarding GPAs based on merit, it’ll hurt to recruitment process for businesses.

A. The fact that businesses recruit on merit is one of the reasons the unfortunately less gifted of us are left behind, leading to all the problems I previously listed. If companies could stop discriminating against people based on factors they have no control over, the world will be a better place. Of course, companies would have less skilled workers on average, but they’re not going to collapse completely because of that. So, the millionaires who run them will be a little less rich. That’s not really a tragedy. It’ll be a blessing for those who finally get a job.

3. Wouldn’t this destroy our educational system? If students know that they’re not going to fail anyway because the system is fixed to help everybody, they’ll put in less effort. Students will learn less on average.

A. Not necessarily. There are other ways to encourage student participation even with this system. You can make the classes more interesting. Students usually don’t skip interesting classes on purpose. You can encourage hard work using some other kind of reward. You can also educate students about the effect of lack of participation. We’re not just manufacturing their GPA. We’re taking it from the more fortunate students so if the whole class slacks off, the average GPA will fall and everybody will not do as well as they would if they hadn’t slacked off.

Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x.
Icon from Nuvola icon theme for KDE 3.x. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. I attend every class, do every homework, take every extra credit opportunity. I’m not naturally ‘gifted’. I work very, very hard and I have a 3.9 GPA. Are you saying that all my hard work should go to someone else?

A. You are gifted in that you have that capacity and ability to work so hard. You are also gifted in that your hard work pays off. There are people who study as hard as you do and still don’t do well. And even if we grant that you merit your good grades, it doesn’t change anything. Every worker earns his pay but should he refuse to give of it to a starving man? Is that not cruel?


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I’m Tracy

8 thoughts on “A Socialist Experiment: Redistribution and Social Justice”

  1. I loved this post. You are absolutely right! This is how a society should work. It is the ethical responsibility of the strong to help the weak. That is because it results in a more harmonic and stronger society, more happines and more equal opportunity for the coming generations.

    Why should a rich mans child have a better education, than the poor mans child? Is there any justice in that?

    Same applies for the rest of society. Many systems of society favour those who do not do hard work, but are clever at cheating others to do the work for them. These clever people are not the ones depending on the help of others, but often climb to the highest echelons of society to rig the system for them and their offspring.

    Is our purpose as human beings to compete each other to death, or to help each other to achieve happiness?

    My disclaimer: I was one of those to whom high grades came all too easily at school.

    Schoolsystems may be adjusted to give better opportunities for people with different learning skills and abilities. Some people learn by following a lecture, others learn by participating in something practical and there are lots of other ways of learning. Sometimes school just makes it easy for certain kind of study and those students with different learning abilities are being discriminated.

    1. I don’t think we’re on the same page. This article is not arguing that we should give the same opportunities to everyone or help the less fortunate – it assumes those things. It is arguing that after all that can be done has been done, – giving special care to those with special needs, allowing for different learning styles, etc. – we still need to help those who do not do as well as other students and probably never will because of factors beyond their control (experiences growing up, genes, IQ, etc.) so that they can achieve the same outcomes as their more fortunate peers.

      1. It seems then, your article is assuming quite a lot. I thought you were writing about wether the school system, that teaches us when we are young to cope in the society, should teach us to act as communities and support each other, or as individuals constantly competing with each other and exploiting others. Further more, I thought you chose the socialist ideal of communism over the capitalist ideal of individualism. Was your text meant to be sarcastic?

        Of course there will allways be differences between the individuals. Without any life would propably be very dull indeed. When socialism demands equal opportunity and more harmonious society, it does not assume, or wish to dispel individual differences any more than Christianity assumes a god, that is both omnipotent, but unable to make a stone, that the entity could not lift. What is logically impossible is impossible. Correct?

      2. I doubt anyone thinks the school system should teach individuals to exploit each other rather than help each other. Or that anyone thinks we should not provide equal opportunities for everyone as much as we reasonably can.

        The conflict is on how we ought to do this. If I own a company, and I run it successfully, I can provide jobs for those who don’t own companies, and pay them fairly for their effort. If they save well enough, they might be able to open the their own company someday and help other people like I’m helping them. The hard work of my company will produce goods that we all need and those capable of working will be happy. Those incapable of working, however, can be supported by others their families if they have them or others if they don’t. A lot of the funds my church gets goes to doing just that. That’s how capitalism says we should help others.

        On the other hand, there’s socialism, where I will be taxed according to my ability in order to give to those who have less than me, consequently reducing my ability to produce and encouraging the financial troubles that Europe is so ill-equipped to solve right now. In time, we will all be worse off.

        Both systems will help people. But I doubt they have the same side-effects

        My article wasn’t satire. I really was trying to understand the parallels between the issues. No matter how hard we try, some students will not do as well as others and some people will make more money than others. But should we take from those who earn more GPAs and give to those who make less? Or should we just try our best to see that the poor achieving students do as well as they can?

  2. There are a lot of different estimations as to why Europe is in economical trouble right now. One obvious reason is, that the European countries are roughly put divided into two different camps. Those countries that do well like Finland and Germany and countries wich have high social standard, and those like Greece and Spain wich are more like the developing countries in both economics and social issues. It is a bit like what the US would be like, if Mexico was part of it.

    The general reason for the global economic decline, however, seems to be the fact that the free markets have too much power. Their speculation on the economy is a manifestation of their very humane fears being directly translated to the economy. It is the greed of stock brokers to gain more, more and more money, that has created the economical bubble, wich was bound to collapse sooner or later. Correct? This is not the first time we are facing the same problem and the reasons are the same.

    In many European countries the local capitalists see the benefits of the taxation and social programs funded by it, like. A stable society, with little civil unrest, low crime rates, and an educated population from wich to draw skilled labour.

    In countries where social welfare is left on the devices of charity, powerty is horrendous. Perhaps people who are willing to help are not allways the ones most capable of? Is it because money piles up to people who want it more and not to people who would want to distribute it to the needy? For some reason in countries where taxation is high, it is generally regarded by the people as beneficial, while in countries of low taxation, the taxes are seen as some form of oppression by the government. I guess, that depends much on what the taxes are used for. If they are spend on an immense defence budget, people agree with that notion, if they also feel somehow threatened by some outside enemies. While in countries where good part of taxes are spent on social wellfare, there are very few people who, at least openly, declare they are annoyed, that the poor are helped this way. In any case taxation is necessary for any society to pay for infrastructure. It is a question of values, wether we think, that infra includes not only roads and military, like in ancient times, but also services for the general populous like the police, the fire department, the medical care, social wellfare and legal services.

    The exes of winnings by commercial companies may either be used by the society to provide for the general wellfare (through taxation), or they can be hidden on the bank accounts of the richest people and only to support their luxury lifestyles. Either way, it is not going to stop the companies from investing and future product development, or even employing more workforce.

    There are of course, failed socialist experiments from history, like the Soviet Union, or the early Christian church. Check out what happened to Ananias and why? Perhaps it is because they succumbed to extremism. But I do believe, you would agree with me, that this is a choise of values and not just a utilitarian issue. Utility is often a question of perspective. After all, Jesus tells people to sell their property and give all of the money to the poor. Did Jesus think the poor are just going to slack, if they are given money, instead if they are forced to work on a pay that could not support them? Or in his time sell themselves into slavery.

    I think the “golden rule” as presented among others by Buddha, Laozi (who consequently was also born of a virgin) and later by Jesus, is the key element, or core ideal of socialism.

    The nature of capitalism is ultimately exploitation, and that is what happens when the markets are let to run free. That is why we need our democratically elected governments, to enforce values we have agreed upon. The markets and capitalism can be good for the society, if their power is harnessed by the society and not the other way around.

    Different schoolsystems encourage different behaviour models. Competition is a common method of encouraging students to become better at what they study, but social ethics should also be encouraged, because we are not islands. People form communities as we are social animals and that is our strength. That is what makes us act humanely. A psychopat is not percieved as a clinically mentally ill person, but just as a person who advances by using other people. In extreme cases that may develope into exploitation. That kind of behaviour model should not be encouraged by the society. Should it?

    How is the limit, on what can be done to achieve equal opportunity for all children, determined? Nobody is suggesting we could level the individual differences in intelligence, but should not the stupid kids also be encouraged to become productive members of the society? Should not the AD/HD kids be supported rather than abandoned to become criminals. A failure in school should not mean a failure in life. Should not the criminals be rather educated to become proper citizens, rather than just punished and so forth?

    1. I find it interesting that you support competition as a way of making people achieve more at school, but not in the economy. You don’t want to redistribute GPAs to help the less fortunate. Instead, you want to use other methods to encourage them to be productive.

      Why would competition not work as well in the market as it does at school?

      1. How did you come to that conclusion? I support competition, both in school and in economy, but only in a controlled manner. Competition between schoolkids is not going to determine who is going to run the school. Equally, competition between the commercial companies, banks and corporations should not determine who is going to run the society. Correct?

  3. The school thing bugged me. The entire purpose of school is to find your path. You play to your desires and to your strengths. Finding something you both enjoy and are reasonably good at is a pleasure. Not everyone was born to be an engineer or a physicist. Nor should the kids who were be punished because some of the people in their class refuse to pursue fields they are more comfortable with.

    You are looking at this weeding out process as a bad thing when really it can drive people to find what they really want to do. I had a friend who didn’t like high school so he dropped out and now he is a subcontractor that earns over 200k a year. Each person is an individual and they should find that which makes them stand out. If you artificial bolster them in areas they are not as proficient you may cause them to settle in waters that are far to deep for them.

    I was saved in chemistry by a curve but i recognized just how bad i was at it, ( i am so awful that greek tragedies would be written about it) but for those who are just sub par who would get A’s from the curve would have a false sense of accomplishment when the field really demands not just A’s but A+++ type people. A modified curve works to get students who are forced to take basic level courses in fields they are not good at through them and onto better things.

    But to take the grades from those who put in the effort isn’t supporting the less fortunate. They aren’t down on their luck or just going through tough times. They are discovering their skills. The economy is a different beast than schools. You can just have an entire sector drop off the market in a country and then have tons of out of work people who just need a helping hand to carry them until a new market opens up for them to fill. But when we demand that of the upper tier of society we embitter them against the less fortunate. We should encourage not force equality.

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