The most promising way for a society to avoid widespread differences in self-esteem would be to have no common weighting of dimensions; instead it would have a diversity of different lists of dimensions and weightings. This would enhance each person’s chance of finding dimensions that some others also think important, along which he does reasonably well, and so to make a non-idiosyncratic favourable estimate of himself.
Robert Nozick, Anarchy State and Utopia, p. 245
This point – framed in the rather abstract language of Anglo-American moral philosophy – and made by someone with a reputation for extreme Right-wing views – is nevertheless true and important.
Put simply Nozick observes that if we seek to simplify the point of life, or the point of a society, to one value – like income, intelligence or whatever – we are bound to end up with a damaging framework for valuing both ourselves and each other. We will all be spread out across some normal curve – or other pattern of distribution – with some at the top, some at the bottom and some in between.
How much better to think of life as having plural values. We can be great at some stuff, while others are great at other stuff.
This is the recipe not just for reasonable levels of “self-esteem” for all – but a much more interesting and inclusive society.