"There is in fact a manly and legitimate passion for equality that spurs all men to
wish to be strong and esteemed. This passion tends to elevate the lesser to the
rank of the greater. But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for
equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level,
and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom"
~ Alexis de Tocqueville.
So you’re interested in equality?
Let’s test that.
Are you more interested in economic inequality or political inequality?
What if you had to choose between them? Which one of the two would you prefer?
Answered that one yet? Okay.
So what if I told you that you do have to choose between them; that it’s simply not possible to have both.
Political equality is a moral ideal because it is the foundation of economic progress, it is the foundation of economic mobility—and it is the foundation of fairness in political and economic affairs.
Political equality and the opportunity it unleashes have always gone hand-in-hand with enormous economic inequality. There is no contradiction in that fact.
Political equality has to do with how individuals are treated by the government. It says that the government should treat all individuals the same—black or white, man or woman, rich or poor. But political equality says nothing about the differences that arise through the voluntary decisions of private individuals. Protecting people’s equal rights inevitably leads to enormous differences in economic condition, as some people use their freedom to create modest amounts of wealth while others reach the highest levels of success. It also leads to differences in opportunity.
To be sure, political equality does provide a level playing field, in the sense that everyone plays by the same rules. Each of us is free to use our talents and resources to pursue happiness and success, without interference by others. But it is obviously true that some people will find the struggle to succeed harder than others. If you’re born to loving, educated, and affluent parents, you will likely find it easier to achieve your aspirations than someone born in less desirable circumstances…
The key thing to keep in mind is that the opportunities enjoyed by some people don’t hold others back. On the contrary, part of the reason why people flock to the [west] is precisely because …people are wealthier, better educated, and more productive than in their home countries.
So how would you make everyone economically equal? As Ayn Rand used to say, you can either raise everyone to the mountaintops, or undertake to raze the mountains. Doing the former requires removing barriers to opportunity …
There are genuine barriers to opportunity, and the deck is becoming stacked against us—but not because “the rich” are too rich and the government is doing too little to fight economic inequality. The real threat to opportunity … is increasing political inequality…
The real source of this problem is that we have granted the government an incredible amount of arbitrary power: to intervene in our affairs, to pick winners and losers, to put roadblocks in the way of success, to hand out wealth and other special favours to whatever pressure group can present itself as the face of “the public good.” Some of these injustices do increase economic inequality, but it isn’t the inequality that should bother us—it’s the injustices.
Cronyism, occupational licensing laws, mandated youth wages and the minimum wage, the welfare state, central banking—all increase political inequality and economic inequality both: those with political pull get the favours; those without are locked out. The answer is not more of the same; the answer is to remove the injustices.
The inequality alarmists tell us [however] that the problem is not how much arbitrary power the government has, but whom the government uses that power for. They say that by handing the government even more power, and demanding that it use that power for the sake of “the 99 percent” rather than “the 1 percent,” everyone will be better off
We believe that only when the government is limited to the function of protecting our equal rights can people rise through merit rather than government-granted privilege, and that the cure for people seeking special favours from the government is to create a government that has no special favours to grant.
What’s required to save the [everyone’s dream of success] is not to wage war on economic inequality, but to recommit ourselves to the ideal of political equality.
We need to liberate the individual so that each of us is equally free to pursue success and happiness. The alarmists’ program to fight economic inequality will only make that harder.
Whether it is dramatically raising taxes, doubling down on the bloated regulatory state, capping CEO pay, raising the minimum wage, or giving more political power to unions, their agenda consists of propping up those at the bottom and chopping down those at the top—always at the expense of the person who desires the opportunity to build a successful life for himself through his own thought and effort.
The alarmists don’t oppose people gaining the unearned or losing what they have rightfully earned—they merely want to change who gets sacrificed and who gets unearned rewards so as to make us more economically equal. This is what they refer to as “social justice.”
The result of which is the opposite of the stated goal.
The [dream today] is under attack, but the threat is not economic inequality. It is the war on political equality. To win this debate, that is the ideal we need to champion.
READ: ‘Turning the Tables on the Inequality Alarmists’ by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook.
SEE: For a full case against the inequality alarmists, see the forthcoming book by Don Watkins & Yaron Brook in which these excerpts appear: Equal Is Unfair: America’s Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, available for pre-order at Amazon.