Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life Is Not A Race (Or At Least It Shoudn't Be)

I normally wouldn't give much time to Adam Carolla's rant about the "Participation Trophy Generation," but I think there is something important to point out here. First, I will deal with the concept of generational warfare, which seems to be very popular right now. Baby Boomers and members of Generation X are blaming Millennials for being lazy, self-important brats. Millennials are blaming Baby Boomers and others for throwing away relative prosperity in an orgy of unsustainable tax cuts and  economic bubbles.

None of this is new or surprising, although it is all quite stupid. I am sure that any person could bring up anecdotes about lazy or irresponsible people no matter what generation they are a part of of. These kinds of arguments predictably go nowhere. We end up with an endless war of anecdotes and everyone leaving with their worst prejudices hardened. There is not much more to discuss here.

However, there is also the problem of focusing the debate around the concept of the "race of life," which is my second point. Carolla makes his argument within the context of children's sports and the practice of giving children awards for merely participating. Within the narrow world of children's sports, I would agree with Carolla that such policies are rather silly and embarrassing for everyone involved. However, when a child loses a race or fails to make the school basketball team, his family members are not deprived of their livelihood. Obviously, the consequences of "losing" in the world of economic competition are far more serious than in the world of children's sports.

Now, what is really interesting is that many of the champions of Occupy Wall Street seem to have essentially the same worldview that Carolla has, only they argue (correctly, in my opinion) that the game is rigged in favor of those who are already rich. True as that may be, why accept the concept of "the race of life" in the first place? To be honest, I don't always oppose privilege. When I do oppose privilege, it is when the privileged refuse to recognize an obligation to the rest of society or when the privileged refuse to allow others to also "feather their nests" through methods like unionization.

I wish we could simply be frank about the lack of meritocracy in America and then realize that a perfect meritocracy is likely impossible and probably undesirable. We can then get on with the real business of deciding what kind of society we want to live in, which is ultimately the real task of the conservative. The concept of the "race of life" is a disgusting idea that devalues the human person and should be anathema to anyone with the heart of a cavalier.


  1. Agreed 100%.

    This "race of life" nonsense reminds me of the Daily Show episode where Andrew Napolitano was the evening's guest. He boasted that the government should not pick the "winners and losers" of life.

    OK, sounds good. But then he gives me a headache by boasting that the "free" market is the force that should decide life's winners and losers. Call me unfair, but this is typical "right" libertarian hypocrisy; control is control, it does not matter if it's from the public or private sector. And the very belief that there has to be winners and losers in life is itself oppressive and dangerous; it justifies inequality, Social Darwinism, even motivates Class Warfare or other violent revolutionary action. That is the real threat to liberty, not government like Napolitano claims.

  2. Hi CA,

    Great points. Most libertarians don't like to admit that the market is itself a governmental construct. Outside of the simplest barter economies, can they give an example of a market that does not have the force of some kind of state behind it? They kid themselves when they act as if the market is some kind of natural phenomenon, like gravity.