Blog #98 – The Political Implications of ‘Winning’ and ‘Losing’
There are winners and losers in life, says Donald Trump. That’s just the way it is. Everyone can’t be a winner; some people are just destined to be losers. That’s certainly true of chess, or the javelin throw, in the Olympics, or budding young entrepreneurs in information technology. But is it true of the game of life? Indeed, is life a game? Is speaking of “winners” and “losers” in the game of life simply an unthinking application of a metaphor, or does it have a practical political meaning when those like Trump use it, a meaning that is heavily conservative and morally and ethically questionable?
I believe using the terms “winner” and “loser ” as Trump uses them is indeed direct and insidious propaganda to justify a particular economic, political and social system in which in the winners, defined as the successful wealthy and powerful, appropriately are entitled to that wealth and power, and the losers may be commiserated with, perhaps even helped out if they have lost too much or been left with too little in the inevitable struggle for survival, but the arrangements that produce winners and losers are simply accepted as inevitable by anyone who is willing to be a realist and not a starry-eyed-idealist. The language is even more insidious when it uses “born losers,” those who are born to lose, who do not lose because of any action of the winners, winners who have no responsibility for the losses of he losers. Winning and losing is a matter for having the right dna. Ithas nothing to do with justice or fairness.
Challenging a concept such a Trump’s of winning and losing in fact raises critical questions of public policy, of the just distribution of wealth and power, of how values are manipulated, of how the society functions and could function.
“Winners,” in Donald Trump’s sense (from here on that sense is in quotes) describes individuals who have gained at the expense of others, others who have correspondingly really lost –in reality as well as in Trump’s sense of losers “losers,” gamers who are the worse off for having been forced to play the game and surrender something of what they had to the winners .
Winners, in a social justice sense (no quotes) should be those who end up justly better off. If there were social justice which governed who won and who lost, everyone one would be a winner (no quotes) and none would be a loser (no quotes). there would be Losers. As even most honest conservatives today acknowledge, our society is rich enough to provide adequately for allof its members with no one having to suffer because of absolute shortages of goods or services.
“Winners” are socially unjust because their actions are taken at the expense of and with no regard for the consequences for the losers. Losers really lose, although in limited cases losers may gain some disproportionately small benefits accompanying their loss. Clément Théry, for instance, describes the relationship between winners and losers in the housing market as “adversarial bargaining bordering on predation.”
A classic example is the winning/losing relationship between landlords and tenants. To qoe a graphic description:
[Relationships between landlords and lower-income tenants reflect] asymmetries accompanied by adversarial bargaining bordering on predation. Similar practices exist in other segments of the rental housing market. In low-income minority neighborhoods, they are not marginal, but one of the central forms of economic behavior.  Recognition of cliques’ predatory strategies reshapes our understanding of landlord–tenant conflicts, predator and prey, gentrification, and even subsidized housing.” “the incivility of tenant–landlord relationships. Landlords display their unbending forcefulness in pursuing their interests through verbal violence with tenants ).” “Predators look for rich, fat objects of prey, not deprived and skinny ones. There are more resources to be seized by preying on a landlord or a bank than by targeting low-income minority tenants.”
A socially just society, as here understood, would be a society in which that in reality – that is, under the existing dominant social economic, political and social arrangements of the prevalent society, no one was deprived of their fair share of the resources of society, in which some winning would not have to be to the detriment of others.
This blog is one of the set:
Blog 98 – The Political Implications of ‘Winning’ and ‘Losing’,
Blog 99 – Social Competition without ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers
Blog 100 – Competition and Socially desirable Winners and Losers