Why did England lose the Ashes? There's a parallel between this question and the question: why are some people richer than others? This is because both are subject to three levels of explanation.
1. Micro, or proximate. In the case of the Ashes, this level focuses on the precise, individual factors that caused England to lose: the Aussies were good, England were only lucky in 2005; Simon Jones and Michael Vaughan were injured; the selectors wrongly omitted Read and Panesar; the team were under-prepared for the first test, and so on.
In the case of inequality, this level focuses on differences in human capital, or in the compensating advantages or market failures that cause some jobs to be better paid than others.
2. Meso, or middling-level explanations. With the Ashes, this set asks questions about the structure of English cricket. Should the side be selected by the coach, or by a committee of experts in the county game? Are central contracts the best way of creating a team, or should England players play more county cricket?
With inequality, this level asks why there should be differences in human capital. Much of New Labour's (stated) policy has been addressed to this question - Blair's emphasis upon Sure Start, for example, or the aim of raising educational standards and increasing university graduates.
3. Macro explanations. In the case of cricket, these ask: what features of English society cause us to produce so few good cricketers? Is it the sale of playing fields, the under-payment and demotivation of teachers, the decline of social capital that means youngsters don't join cricket clubs, a bias against competitive sport, or what?
In the case of inequality, this level looks at the underlying power relations that generate inequality - the ability of firms to exploit workers; the inbuilt opportunities for rent-seeking at the top of hierarchies; the ideologies that underpin hierarchical employment structures and create a big demand for "talented" managers, and so on.
People who are relaxed about inequality seem to prefer to stick to micro level explanations, whilst radicals prefer level 3-type explanations.
Which raises my question. Does this "left" vs "right" preference between levels of explanations for economic inequality map into a similar preference for explanations of England's cricketing failure? If not, why not? And if so, what causes the difference in preferences?
And what counts as a proper explanation anyway?