Let’s Talk about: Problem with Equality

Grant Wood: American Gothic (1930) // Public domain

Who wouldn’t want to be rich and who wouldn’t want us all to be rich equally? These are the old, well-known demands of left-wing political parties. It’s like a marvelous music for many ears. However, the forced realization of wellbeing and equality never turn out well. Why?

The word equality refers to the relationship between two or more individuals. There are only few concepts which are understood so contradictorily as the concept of equality. Classical liberals claim that only the principle of equality before the law or equality of rights and obligations makes sense.

However, they believe that it is a matter of each individual how exactly one uses these rights and what particularly one achieves in life. Classical liberals ask only for ensuring the proper and equal rules of the game for everybody.

In contrast, the socialists also profess equality in results. According to them, people should not differ too much in income, assets and social status. However, such an understanding of equality conflicts with natural differences between people. We differ in appearance, intelligence, diligence, talent, interests, entrepreneurship, happiness, etc.

These differences are important because they lead to a division of labor and trade. We should see the opportunities in them, and not necessarily an evil that needs to be removed. Inequality is only evil when it is the product of privilege by law.

If we were all the same, exchange or interpersonal cooperation would make no sense. Differences in acquired property are determined by natural differences between people. Settling property necessarily means taking from someone and giving it to others.

In other words, equality in results can only be achieved by coercion, violation of individual freedoms and violation of equality before the law.

Therefore, liberals rather favor the concept of equal opportunities, ideally from some sort of beginning – at birth, at school, or when entering the working life. They recognize that equality in results is a chimera.

At the same time, however, they recognize that full equality of starting position is hard to achieve.  At birth, an inequality of opportunity arises between us. We are born into families that differ in their financial capabilities, cohesion, the ways they care for children, upbringing, education, the worldview of parents, etc.

On the other hand, whatever the starting line, there are examples of people who have worked themselves up despite an unfavorable starting position and, conversely, examples of individuals who have squandered even the best “start-up capital”.

In conclusion, I would just like to point out that most dictatorships started with the ideal of equality. However, this marvelous song usually brings society to the brink of chaos. In such times, people are equal only in the sense that they have nothing and they fight for their lives. Let’s remember that.

Continue exploring:

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Matus Posvanc