Sunday, September 24, 2006

Egalitarianism and Equality

From my book in progress.....
Chapter ? - Egalitarianism and Equality

No concept seems to be ingrained into modern political and economic thought more then that of equality. The egalitarian notion of the goodness and necessity of equality is practically universally accepted within mainstream politics, particularly on the left. Meaningful criticisms of the equalitarian ideal are seldom heard, and when they are expressed they are usually met with hostility and political correctness. It is generally conceded in the realm of politics that the egalitarian, the proponent of equality, has the power of “good” on their side. Why do so many people knee-jerkedly assume that these notions give their proponents the virtue of morality and justice? We must hold up these ideals to the standards of reason and liberty to accurately determine their validity and consequences. If an ethical ideal is in violation of human nature and/or the universe, and thus it does cannot work in practice, then it is a bad and erroneous ideal to begin with, and should therefore be disposed of as an ideal.

What exactly is equality to begin with? What do egalitarians really mean when they talk of equality and inequality? Equality inherently implies sameness or uniformity. If X and Y are equal, then they are completely identical in a given attribute. If a stick is 6 inches long, and it is held next to another stick that is 6 inches long, then they are equal in terms of length. If Joe and Jack are exactly the same as each other in all of their physical attributes, mental abilities, actions, opinions, etc., then they are truly equal. But surely no self-respecting rational human being would suppose that this is possible at all, nor desirable. The notion of the pure equality of man must be dismissed as an absurdity. There is only one way in which men could be truly equal, and that would be if all men were absolutely identical with respect to all of their attributes. If this ideal of equality were reality, then the world would be like a fiction novel, in which there are identical beings, completely devoid of individuality or variety.

The horror most people feel at such a notion is a natural intuition and recognition of the fact that men are not identical, that humans are inherently unique and diverse individuals; in other words, unequal with respect to each other due to their individuality as human beings. When the implications of such an equalitarian ideal are fully realized, it becomes quite apparent that the ideology is anti-human in the sense that it wishes to go against the very nature of mankind. And this implies coercion and force being used to essentially stop humans from being human. In short, it is a revolt against human nature. As Murray Rothbard noted:
“Egalitarian measures do not work because they violate the basic nature of man, of what it means for the individual man to truly be human. The call of ‘equality’ is a siren song that can only mean the destruction of all that we cherish as being human”.
The simple common sense question in regard to equality that never gets answered by egalitarians is, “at what expense to the individual, and would it be worth it at such an expense?”. In other words, who wants to be a sheep from “Animal Farm”? No reasonable person wants to violate their own humanity, their own individuality. The very individual nature of man, the fact that each individual varies in his or her needs, wants, attributes and opinions makes equality both unattainable and undesirable. It is both logically and physically absurd to deny the individualistic variance in humanity, and it is further alarming that one would find the absence of this individual variety, I.E. a state of "equality", to be desirable as an end. It is not enough to point out that the means chosen by egalitarians do not function to attain their desired ends, it is necessary to go further and demonstrate how the ends are not attainable or desirable to begin with.

It is an observable fact that humans are inherently unequal, that there are individual differences and variety among people. To a certain extent, there is a “natural aristocracy among men”, as Thomas Jefferson put it. A rice farmer is not equal to doctor. A buggy driver is not equal to a limousine driver. A skinny man is not equal to a muscle man. A piano virtuoso is not equal to an 8-year-old beginner pianist that takes lessons. This is not to say that our judgments of status or virtue are always accurate, but that by human nature some people are simply better then others at particular things, and thus they achieve success in comparison to others. Individuals vary in their biological, mental, and physical attributes. Individuals are naturally free to make use of those attributes to achieve things that they desire, to do things that they consider to improve themselves. Some people make more money then others, some people save money better then others, and some people work harder and better then others. It is precisely this inherent inequality of man that is necessary for the division of labor that allows civilization to flourish. No political or pseudo-scientific jargon will change man’s nature and its limits. It is inevitable that egalitarianism seeks to accomplish the impossible, the violation of man’s individual nature and what amounts to the fabric of reality itself. Life is not entirely fair, and while it may be noble to want to help your fellow man, enforcement of “equality” in violation of man’s nature is not the proper means to do so.

It is an established economic law that the planet has finite resources, and that man must grapple with these finite resources to survive. Man must transform the resources of the earth through labor into that which makes staying alive possible to begin with, to acquire property. And these resources are finite. Some people will inherently acquire more resources then others. The egalitarian socialist does not understand this or is not willing to acknowledge the existence or importance of scarcity. They believe in post-scarcity, a utopian future in which everyone can “have their needs met” equally. Such a world would require infinite resources, and for everyone in the world to be completely self-sufficient, which is simply absurd. According to Karl Marx and various anarcho-socialists, the egalitarian utopia of the future would be a state in which no government would be necessary, because everyone’s needs would be provided by the “great collective”. Such notions are nothing more or less than the starry-eyed utopias of madmen. The egalitarian wishes to transcend man’s nature. Many socialists have expressed the view that egalitarianism will create a “superman”. Leon Trotsky claimed that under communism, “Man will become incomparably stronger, wiser, finer. His body more harmonious, his movements more rhythmical, his voice more musical. The human average will rise to the level of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. Above these, new heights will arise”. In essence, the egalitarian sincerely believes that they can “cure” human nature to the extent of creating an entirely new breed of mankind, expressly molded to fit their delusional ideals of perfection.
The delusions of socialists are not the only indicators as to the ridiculousness of egalitarianism. We can demonstrate the absurdity of equalitarianism by simply taking two individuals that vary in attributes, or possess different numbers of something, and seeing what the implications of attempting to equalize them are. Because due to the inherent inequality between people, the consistent application of imposed equality inevitably leads us to absurd and unethical situations, such as “since Jane has two children and Joan has one, we must make Jane get rid of one of her children, or make Joan have another child”. Or, why not simply get rid of all three of both Jane and Joan’s children? In either case, you would have created “equality” in terms of the amount of children each of them possess, but surely no sane human being would consider this to be “good” or ethical in any way. Besides equality in quantity, as in the case of Jane and Joan, there is equality in quality. If we apply the same methodology to a buggy driver and expensive limousine driver, two ways to achieve equality would be to make the limousine driver be a buggy driver, or to make the buggy driver into a limousine driver. Or, if we use a skinny man and muscle man, two ways to achieve equality would be to make the skinny man engage in physical training and eat a particular diet or to make the muscle man stop their physical training and get surgery to reduce their muscle structure. It should be clear that each attempt at equality between varying individuals leads us to absurdities and ideas that are simply unethical.
It also is important to note that while imposed equality may artificially create such conditions, it does not eliminate the individual’s ability by their nature to succeed at whatever it is that they are good at. In other words, while attempts to create equality may alter the results, it can never abolish one’s abilities outside of a literal change to one’s mental and physical composition. You can deny the fruits of one’s individuality, you can violate one’s right to express their individuality, but you never can eliminate the actual individuality, the actual variant nature of the person. For example, if farmer Jack is yielding high levels of production because of the success and efficiency of his decisions and labor, and the mechanism to create artificial equality in agricultural production required the artificial reduction of farmer Jack’s production, while farmer Jack would be denied the fruits of his abilities, he still would possess those abilities. In short, he would still be perfectly capable of yielding a high level of production, it is just that force is being used to deny him his right to express his capabilities and receive their results. This demonstrates that, despite the attempt to create equality, human nature and the variety in capability that it creates exists regardless of the effort to eliminate it.

A common complaint made by egalitarians is that there is inequality in income. This leads them to support the notion of equalization of income, which inevitably requires some form of confiscation and redistribution. But what is wrong with inequality in income, so long as it occurs naturally? Naturally, some people will make more money then others. It is inherent that there will be differences in how much money people make. Employers value the labor of their employees in varying ways; not every worker’s labor and capability is equal. Person A, under the same wages as person B, works for more hours than person B, person A will inherently acquire a higher income than person B. If person A performs a job that is valued higher than person B’s job, then person A will inherently acquire a higher income then person B. Under any reasonable analysis, there is nothing wrong with this at all. A common notion is that people somehow owe other people a piece of their wealth, especially if they are well off while others are not. But in what way can someone owe someone else his or her voluntarily acquired property? What rational reason is there for this deep-seeded contempt for the successful? The egalitarian provides us with no logical or valid ethical argument to answer this. The only ethical justification for someone owing property to others would have to be if they actually stole that property from others. But voluntarily acquired wealth and goods is the private property of those who posses it, both in theory and practice. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this, the cooperative attainment of wealth, in any way at all.

What would the equalization income actually mean and do? It would be the destruction of the individual’s economic incentive to better oneself and improve one’s income, in the name of equality. As the great Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises noted:
“Only because inequality of wealth is possible in our social order, only because it stimulates everyone to produce as much as he can at the lowest cost, does mankind today have at its disposal the total annual wealth now available for consumption. Were this incentive to be destroyed, productivity would be so greatly reduced that the portion that an equal distribution would allot to each individual would be far less then what even the poorest receives today”.
In short, it is precisely the inequality of income and success in life that results from the natural division of labor that allows cooperative civilization to exist and living standards to increase. Any move towards equalizing income will reduce the overall standard of living, and this has been clearly demonstrated by the economic collapse of socialist countries, in which the populace is deprived of the cooperative means necessary to improve their own income and general well being. The only acceptable equality in terms of income is equality in the opportunity under the natural law to improve one’s own income. This is not to say that governmentally imposed inequalities through privilege and oppression are legitimate, for they are completely illegitimate. But governmentally imposed equality through privilege and oppression is not legitimate either.

There is one conception of equality that differs greatly from the egalitarian ideal of equality, and that is the notion of equality under the law; equal natural rights. The classical liberals of the enlightenment and American Revolution indeed talked about equality, but they were talking about something very different then the modern egalitarian’s conception of equality. The classical liberals believed in equality in rights, as an abolition of special privilege and oppression. They did not believe in the pure equality of all men, nor did they believe specific positive rights/privileges belonged to select groups. They believed that rights belong equally to individuals, and that all rights were natural, being inherently derived from their nature as human beings. It is by one’s reason by which an individual acts, and it is by one’s free action that an individual expresses rights. The only place for equality in classical liberalism lies in the individual’s rights in their person and property.
The classical liberal does not believe in equality of condition, or equality of results. Imposed equality is not legitimate, for it can only be achieved through the very interventionist system, the very same means of special privilege and group-based oppression that the classical liberal vehemently opposes. In short, equality in results is not achievable or desirable. Only equality in liberty is ethical, achievable and desirable. All conditions that were brought about naturally through freedom of cooperative human action are legitimate and cannot justly be changed and violated through the use of force and compulsion, regardless of rich or poor, black or white, or any such group distinctions. Indeed, the repugnant advent of slavery was a matter of special privilege to the slave owners in violation of the natural rights of the slaves, and therefore it was ethical to abolish the institution of slavery. But note that the inequality of slavery did not derive naturally from voluntary human action, but from force and compulsion in direct violation of such human action. This force and compulsion of slavery was in violation of man’s nature. Slavery was imposed inequality rather then natural inequality. The classical liberal equally opposes both artificial equality and artificial inequality, while accepting naturally occurring inequality and advocating the adherence to equality in the rights of man.

Unlike the classical liberal, the egalitarian wants to achieve equality in results. Equality in rights is not enough to please the egalitarian impulse. They wish to impose their ideas, their subjective standards, onto the masses in the name of achieving equal results for everyone. This leads egalitarianism to become another form of interventionism; an intellectual theory of ends that function to provide false justification for unethical means, such as special privileges to assorted special interest groups and overt unjustified punishments and confiscations for various individuals and groups within society. But the valued ends of the interventionist with “good intentions” are simply unable to be achieved by the very nature of humans and the environment surrounding them. Egalitarianism thus becomes the tyranny of “good intentions”. Inevitably, the proponent of equality chooses from two basic means in the name of achieving their goals: To cripple the successful or “superior” in the name of equalizing to the level of the unsuccessful or “inferior”, or to artificially prop up the unsuccessful or “inferior” in the name of equalizing to the level of the successful or “inferior”. And the mechanism used in attempt to achieve this is through the use of force. In either case, it is an intervention that redistributes between different groups. The egalitarian does not seem to realize that the means they choose violate people’s liberty. Despite the fact that equality is not realistically possible, a lot of damage can be done in the attempt to achieve it. For the choice to use the means of force and compulsion will inherently yield despotism.

For example, let us suppose that Joe is a lower-class farmer, and Jack is a rich businessman. The egalitarian would advocate ideas such as putting a special tax on Jack to pay for welfare redistribution to Joe and others, subsidizing Joe’s farm with the money of all taxpayers, heavily regulating Jack, artificially propping up Joe’s wages, and even giving Joe feudal “ownership” over Jack’s property or “public domain” property. On the extreme communistic scale, they may advocate centrally planning jobs so that Jack must be a farmer, or a plumber. The radical egalitarian will do anything in their power to cripple Jack in the name of equality. In doing so, they inevitably and blatantly violate Jack’s freedom. They contend that it is “unfair” that Jack is successful while Joe is not. Essentially, they believe that the very fact that Jack has more money and success than Joe makes it some kind of crime against humanity. In terms of equality under the law, equality in rights, the proponent of equality is disturbingly unequal. The economic incentive and property of those who work hard, invest and save their money are expressly crippled (and this group does include some people of modest means) by the egalitarian interventions while those that do not work hard, do not use their opportunities and do not save their money are given a free lunch at the expense of others.

A pure application of equality to Joe and Jack would require artificially reducing Jack’s income and property and/or artificially increasing Joe’s income and property. This could be done by simply slashing Jack’s income down to the level of Joe, which would yield us a net loss for Joe and a gain for nobody. This could also be done by simply increasing Joe’s income up to the level of Jack, which would yield us a special privilege net gain for Jack that is at the expense of others within society. So, even in the second option, in terms of the overall economy, there is no net gain. In short, it is a zero-sum game at best. The extra income allotted to Joe inherently came from money taken away by the taxpayer, and the short-term "gain" to all of the Joes in society become expressly negated by the long-term "loss" that the intervention imposes on the overall standard of living of everyone. The third and final method of equalitarianism would be a combination of the previous two methods, still yielding us either a loss or a zero-sum game. If you give Joe “free” property, then it is at the expense of others. If you confiscate Jack’s property, then you are simply creating a loss. The heavier the imposed equality is, the more it reduces the income and property of everyone. The government cannot create wealth and success, it can only cripple and redistribute it. The end result of the egalitarian ideal in practice will always be a reduction of freedom and the fruits that come from it.
The only ethical and legitimate means to help increase Joe’s income would be to leave Joe free in his rights and opportunity to increase his own well-being, in other words, to allow him his natural property rights. But if Joe does not put forth the effort to increase his own standard of living, if Joe does not set forth to squire and retain his property rights, if Joe does not adequately take advantage of his own abilities as an individual, then his condition unfortunately can only be blamed on himself. The result of his actions or lack thereof yields us natural inequality that must be accepted as unavoidable in life. While this basic, seemingly harsh reality may come off to some as cold hearted, as a lack of caring for others, this is a false assumption. One simply has to be realistic about the limits that the world imposes on man and we have to respect the individual’s rights, even the rights of those who are successful and rich. It is true that one could help Joe through the method of voluntarily gift, and there is no ethical objection to such action. What is objectionable is that one is required to give their wealth or property to Jack in the name of equality; that the existence of inequality makes it a moral and enforceable duty on the part of other people to help Joe by spreading their success to him. This notion is absurd.

Egalitarianism has been applied to matters of race. Now, it is not in dispute that every individual should have the same natural rights and that no individual, group or law may violate those rights. There should be no special privileges or aggressions that go to select groups. Furthermore, many racists can be considered racial polylogists, which is the notion that races as collectives have predictable and set modes of thought their own. But a pure application of equality would mean that everything would be required to adhere to strict percentages, such as hiring for employment. Pure racial equality in results for employment would mean that employers would have to be required to hire a particular percentage of black or Hispanic people. Such a system of quotal racial requirement is absurd. Then there is the matter of “hate crimes”. But hate itself does not qualify as a crime; it is simply a human emotion. As much as one may rightly disagree with racists and other such prejudicial modes of thought, their actual thoughts and speech is not a crime. There is no such thing as a hate crime, thoughts are not crimes, but there is such thing as a crime that is driven by hate. We must use a satisfactory definition of crime: the offensive use of force or compulsion against the person or property of others. If such force or compulsion is used, then that action itself is what is the crime. But to consider “hate speech” a crime and to qualify crimes driven by racial hatred in a class of their own does not stand up to reason or ethics. The problem with racial politics, with racial egalitarianism, is that it goes beyond equality of rights and demands equality of results for select racial groups, which becomes a system of privilege and force.

Gender issues are another common terrain of egalitarians, especially since the advent of the women’s liberation movement, which demanded and still demands “total equality” of results between males and females. Once again, the egalitarian is not pleased with equality in rights, and demands special privileges for a special interest group. Something like pure equality in the household would mean that both the husband and wife split hours working and taking care of their children, 50/50. That would mean that each of their work hours would be essentially cut in half. Surely, one should see how this would be inefficient in terms of the individual’s labor and income, as well as a nonsensical kind of arrangement. Some egalitarians think that since women statistically make less annual income for men, their income should be adjusted to equalize it. They advocate prohibiting certain non-violent behaviors that are acted out by males, which makes it to the level of censoring speech and the use of unjustified sexual harassment lawsuits. Feminist egalitarianism is inevitably based on crippling males in the name of “female equality” and special privilege to their particular group. And, once again, in demonstration of the absurdity of equalitarianism, true gender equality would inherently imply and require pure androgyny; in other words, a hermaphroditic state of human beings. Egalitarian feminism is inevitably based on the absurdity of denying or trying to “cure” any biological or sociological differences between the genders.

In all of its forms, we can clearly see that egalitarian intervention is social engineering. It seeks to perfect mankind by the means of violating humanity, through the tools of force and coercion. Underlying the fa├žade of goodness is an innate desire to control others, and an inevitable result is that it reduces people’s liberty. The typical egalitarian, in short, is what could be called an "armchair dictator". Some obvious questions that arise in challenge to the advocate of intervention in the name of equality is a question of what exactly the official standard is, how is it decided and who decides it. For most egalitarians, the answer is inevitably the government, the central planners. The result is that the subjective opinions of the central planners set the uniform standards that everyone is expected and forced to live up to. Equality becomes no more or less then an authoritarian dictation of the individual’s personal and economic choices. The mere whims of mere flawed and mortal men, no greater then any other individual or group within society, becomes the determination of the uniform standards to be enforced on everyone. This in itself is, ironically, artificial inequality in the sense that you are giving what amounts to the ownership class (those within and allied with the government) the privilege and power as a group to dictate standards of equality for everyone.

Hiding behind utopian promises of equality, the politicians and bureaucrats gain the support of various people and use that support to increase their own power. The government then merely becomes a parasitic middleman in the process of attempted equalization, taking a chunk for itself and the special interests that ally with it for the “service” of confiscating and redistributing. Since the central planners and legislators determine what exact standards everyone should be equal to, different interest groups battle over which personal opinion or religion that everyone should be enforced to adhere to. The atmosphere set up by this is one in which people are battling for control over each other, for their particular group’s value judgments to be the uniform and equal standards that are forced onto society. Whichever group(s) wins the power struggle over government will decide the uniform standards in which everyone is to be equalized in accordance to.
There are three basic methods by which the uniform standards of equality are chosen: through majority rule, oligarchy of a minority, or a combination of the two. In either case, one particular group or collection of groups is going to determine the standards that everyone is supposed to live up to, and those standards will be completely molded by that group’s personal opinions. Most importantly, however, those standards can only be imposed through unjust force. In effect, the emotionally manipulative and deceptive rhetoric of egalitarianism functions as a false justification for acts of aggression on the part of the state, and even for the anarchist egalitarian it functions as a false justification for acts of aggression on the part of individuals or groups within society. The anarchist egalitarian would suggest that the unsuccessful directly steal from the successful.
And thus, despite the practically universal acceptance of the egalitarian ideals of equality, it must be recognized and denounced as contrary to human nature and destructive to civilization. For the egalitarian wishes to transcend the limits of civilization and human capability, and the means they choose to attempt such unachievable feats with are inevitably destructive to civilization and human capability. Increases in living standards and civilization in general can only be achieved by adherence to private property. Not only are the means of egalitarianism destructive to this, but also it must be recognized that the utopian ends are not achievable, and most importantly, not desirable. Outside of equality in rights, no matter what human attribute the goal of equality is applied to, whether that be in wealth, property, race, gender, or age – the result leads us to a blatant absurdity, a contradiction of how human beings work.
The path of egalitarianism is just another road to tyranny, buried in meaningless pie in the sky emotional rhetoric. In the end, it is an ideology of envy and hatred for individual human achievement. It reflects a childish desire to unleash vengeance and violence onto those that are simply better or luckier. Egalitarianism may provide hope for those that fall for its illusions, but it will always continue to be just that, an illusion. No matter what they do, man’s nature and the individual will inevitably exist and assert itself, regardless of authoritarian decrees and people’s unrealistic expectations. Egalitarianism, despite popular opinion, does not have ethics on its side. In truth, it is a violation of ethics in a misguided attempt to achieve a utopia of perfection and uniformity. Even if we were to accept the notion that egalitarian measures lead to “good” ends, which has been refuted, what is vitally important is that such measures are in ethical violation of the individual’s natural rights in their person and property. The fundamental thing that makes egalitarianism invalid is that it uses force to violate man’s nature, and as a result it is against individual liberty. The most important question is, “is it ethically correct to do these things?” and the overwhelming answer must be no.

3 comments:

kblair7 said...

Very nice. I read it...when I was supposed to be doing something else =D. I think some editing is in order, but you can get a professional to do that. I see publishable material. Your writing style is very accessible but still elegent. I enjoyed the examples and narrative, I think it stands to make your points all the more conclusive. As scientist we need viable models to construct our ideas and you have done this very well. I hope to see more in the future.
-kate
p.s- I know a few publishing houses if you need some suggestions.

Brainpolice said...

Thanks. I will need some suggestions and help on that front, although my eye first falls on the Mises Institute itself :)

Brainpolice said...

As for the editing, yea it needs some, and my windows word version has another paragraph or two on primitivism and romanticism, and some edits in itself; so this was a "revised" version I suppose.