September 25, 2014

The Political Goal of Egality

By In Blogs, Mitchell Thompson

Should egalitarianism, or equality of outcome, be a political end in itself?  A survey of popular opinion might lead one to the conclusion that this question is far too often answered in the affirmative.  Glancing at leftist sources like Mother Jones, Think Progress, and Salon, one never fails to discover the constant theme of what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called the “craze for uniformity” in his book Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (h/t C.Jay Engel for the source).  By uniformity, von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is referring to the desire to ensure, by political means, that there is a systematic equality of outcome. Variations in success and individual accomplishment is seen as something to be thwarted by the State because the role of government is to ensure that society is “fair” for all its members.  It is ultimately the politics of resentment.

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Walter Williams

Combating this totalitarian mindset, there are two articles published recently that are worth recommending.  The first was written by free market economist Walter Williams.  Tom Woods once noted that the “diversity police” don’t know what to do with Williams because not only is he a proud black man, but he also completely rejects, in total, the entire leftist and egalitarian paradigm of “systematic oppression” against his race. Williams is a key influence in my own life.  Also being black, I too desire to challenge the prevailing narrative on these issues and push back against the media-driven race-baiting that is loudly echoed through society.  I think that it is absurd for the liberal elite to use the fake and drummed up issues of “racism,” “sexism,” and “homophobia” to advance their march toward political power.  Anyway, Williams challenges whether or not “statistical disparities mean injustice.”  He starts with the commonly heard themes:

How many times have we heard laments such as “women are 50 percent of the population but only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs” and, as the Justice Department recently found, “blacks are 54 percent of the population in Newark, New Jersey, but 85 percent of pedestrian stops and 79 percent of arrests”?

Williams then strikes at the heart of the debate:

If one believes that people should be represented socio-economically according to their numbers in the population, then statistical disparities represent injustices that demand government remedies.

That is to say, beyond the issue of whether the statistical conclusions are accurate and honest, there rests something more fundamental: should individuals be represented by their socio-economic class or by their own efforts and individual actions? How are we to be defined in society? As individuals, responsible for ourselves and our actions, or as members of a collective, in which case we rely on the State to inflate our status in society?  To choose the latter is by necessity to invite the same class warfare that has marked the decline of various societies in recent history.

Williams gives a variety of examples to show how ridiculous it is for the Leftist ideologues to pursue (via the State of course) an elimination of variety within society based on their (government funded) “studies” and “research.”  Here are a few of them:

According to a recent study conducted by Bond University in Australia, sharks are nine times as likely to attack and kill men than they are women. If sinister motivation is attributed for this disparity, as is done in the cases of sex and racial disparities, we can only conclude that sharks are sexist. Another sex disparity is despite the fact that men are 50 percent of the population and so are women, men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. I wonder what whoever is in charge of lightning has against men.

If someone presented that shark case to me as a serious case for their view that sexism is occurring, my first response would be “don’t swim with the sharks.”  To which the Progressivists would no doubt respond with: “STOP VICTIM BLAMING.” This is a very real response that we cultural rightists get all time. For instance, whenever a case of rape comes up at some wild college party, we are not allowed to advise that women (or men for that matter) should not be attending these things. They are tragedies waiting to happen. But rather than taking personal responsibility and making mature life decisions to stay away from bad people, we are lambasted for “blaming the victim,” as if by recommending that women stay away from bad situations, we are condoning something so sinister as rape.  I digress and Williams continues:

Another gross statistical disparity is despite the fact that Jews are less than 3 percent of the U.S. population and a mere 0.2 percent of the world’s population, between 1901 and 2010, Jews were 35 percent of American and 22 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners.

Blacks are 13 percent of our population but 80 percent of professional basketball players and 65 percent of professional football players and among the highest-paid players in both sports. By stark contrast, blacks are only 2 percent of the NHL’s professional ice hockey players. Basketball, football and ice hockey represent gross racial disparities and come nowhere close to “looking like America.”

People are different. They live their lives in different ways and have different interests and skill sets and life goals. Why? God made us all differently. This is a good thing. If we were all the same, there would be no economy. There would be no trade. There would be no division of labor within society.  Far from threatening civilization, variety among humans is what builds civilization.  Williams concludes with: “Courts, bureaucrats and the intellectual elite have consistently concluded that “gross” disparities are probative of a pattern and practice of discrimination. Given all of the differences among people, such a position is pure nonsense.”

The second article was written by Logan Albright and was published over at the Mises Canada site.  He asks about “Gender Quotas: To What End?”  He writes:

With the continuing refrain of the “War on Women” still ringing loudly out across the land, we are hearing more and more calls for government to intervene and help out these poor gals who just can’t seem to catch a break.

[…]

One of the more absurd ideas floating around is for corporate gender quotas, to ensure that companies are not acting like sexist pigs and hiring only men.

But why is this declaration that the hiring levels of women be the same as men an inherent “good” in the first place?  Is it necessarily a “social evil” that men are employed in larger quantities than women?  Why is it bad when the woman chooses to stay home to be a mother as the husband seeks to provide financially?  Albright wants an answer to the “why?”

You could mandate that grocery stores stock the same number of apples and pears, and crow that your policy had been a success without ever explaining why equality between apples and pears was desirable in the first place.

If your goal is equality of outcome, you can, to a certain extent, achieve this through mandates, but it is incumbent on policymakers to explain why equality of outcome is the goal to begin with.

Albright believes that there are actually more noble goals in society. Rather than focusing on the outcome of classes in society, Albright argues that the more important goals to be sought after:

1) individual liberty, 2) equality of opportunity, and 3) general economic prosperity.

Under the first goal, Albright makes the point that increasing legislation on behalf of gender quotas will necessarily encroach on the individual liberties that human beings have: “It is obvious that a legal compulsion on an individual or firm to hire people of a specific gender restricts liberty. We are supposed to have the freedom of association, which means that we can choose the company we keep.”

Under the second, Albright describes the difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity: “To egalitarians, [equality] means everyone should end up with the same result: the same amount of money, the same level of happiness, etc. In a more traditional sense of the word, however, equality means equal treatment under the law and, to a certain extent, equality of opportunity. In short, no one should be given legal preference over anyone else.”

And under the third, Albright points out that “Gender quotas, or indeed quotas of any kind, force rational profit-maximizers to make sub-optimal business decisions, which will have a negative impact on economic growth and prosperity in the long run.” Business owners make decisions to hire based on what will maximize their profits. This is what grows the economy. To initiate mandated quotas on a business is to make the business owner make hiring decisions that would not have been preferred under free market conditions; thus, he will begin operating at a lesser productivity level than he would have otherwise.

The question that needs to be asked and put forth to the egalitarians is: why that goal?  What is the justification for preferring egalitarian conditions over libertarian ones?  Why is equality of outcome more important than individual justice and economic prosperity?

The totalitarian state rides the tidal wave of a mass desire for a uniform society.

Written by Mitchell Thompson

I was born and raised in Northern California where I was homeschooled. I became a Protestant (Calvinistic) seven years ago. I was also, starting in 2006, a Buchananite conservative until I met Ron Paul during the 2008 elections. From then on I read everything I could from the Mises Institute and am now satisfied as a Rothbardian libertarian. I am slowly becoming a more confessional Reformed Baptist. Hoping to get more and more involved on this site. My Twitter handle is @MitchRThompson. Cheers.