State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

What Is Equality?

Sometimes the most difficult part of political understanding is that the same word means different things to people of different political backgrounds.  Effectively understanding the real decision is thus difficult.  In the upcoming election, it appears that equality is going to be a hotly debated point.  This being the case, we’ll attempt to stand back from politics and try to understand what is meant by different views of equality, so as to better understand the current discussion.  I’ve developed the following mathematical formula to generically illustrate the point (Please don’t have bad memories of math class and give up, I promise this is easy):

PE x MF x L = R

PE is Personal Effort.  MF is Market Forces.  L is Law.  R is Results.  By this formula, if I put an effort into a project, let’s say collecting apples, I am working toward a desired result.  My efforts will be effected by market forces.  These are forces which I may or may not be able to control.  If there are apples to collect and people desire apples, then the market forces may help amplify my efforts toward my desired result.  If there are no apples, then luck is against me in this pursuit.  The law also has an effect.  If it is illegal to take the apples, then my result may unlike what I wanted.  If it is legal, but I must give some to a governing power, then it will diminish my results to some extent.  The results are what I end up with after all else is done.

Now, for the $10 question.  Which part of this formula represents equality?  PE cannot be equal or diversity is ruined.  We all have different likes and dislikes.  One person may want to go to a university and become a doctor, where another may prefer trade school to be a plumber.  To try and make PE equal would be the ultimate tyranny and would miserably fail when we try to force people to do what they aren’t inclined to do.  President Barack Obama makes the case for controlling the market forces (MF) and the Law (L) portion of the equation to try for a more equal result (R).  This desire for more equal results is common of the collectivist ideal.  We’ll analyze a few of his comments from his economic speech in Osawatomie, Kansas (6 Dec 2011).

“Look at the statistics.  In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year…. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.

“Now this kind of inequality–a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression–hurts us all.”

“This kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America:  that this is a place where you can make it if you try.”

The purpose here is not to argue or analyze statistics, but to show that in his view, inequality is represented by the (R) or results portion of the formula.

“I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than we are on our own. “

Again, not to argue, but to show the collectivist train of thought.  Pres. Obama brings up Teddy Roosevelt:

“Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical.  He was called a socialist–even a communist.  But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign:  an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for women, insurance for the unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.”

Pres. Obama praises Roosevelt for his control of Market Forces and Law to create more equal Results.  And what does Pres. Obama call for now?

“…we also need a world-class commitment to science and research, the next generation of high-tech manufacturing.”

“If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values.”

“Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country?”

“Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed.  A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share.  And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules.  That’s what will transform our economy.”

The government should intervene in the markets of education, science and research, and high tech manufacturing.  The tax code needs to be more progressive (fair share, again is a relative term, and he aims it at equality of results).  In short, we need a different set of rules or law for everyone in order to gain more equal results.

Now, for balance, from Mitt Romney:

“I’m not changing the progressive tax code.”

“We have a safety net there, if it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

It seems the Republicans and Democrats are on basically the same page here.  We have a tax code that is thousands of pages long, set up by both parties to manipulate markets and apply different rules to different people to theoretically create more equal results.  History seems to show that it has accomplished somewhat the opposite.

The other idea of equality is that of individual liberty, equal law and free market.  This means that the government doesn’t interfere with any market and the law is applied equally to all people.  Carroll Quigley explains in Tragedy & Hope (Page 25):

“In its narrowest aspect, liberalism (19th century liberalism, which was the major idealism of our Founding Fathers) believed that the economic activities of man should be freed completely from “state interference.”  This latter belief, summed up in the battle-cry “No government in business,” was commonly called “laissez-faire.”  Liberalism, which included laissez-faire, was a wider term because it would have freed men from the coercive power of any church, army, or other institution, and would ahve left to society little power beyond that required to prevent the strong from physically opressing the weak.”

Most of our Founding Fathers agreed on this, regarless of which side of their isle they were on.

“The utopian schemes of leveling [redistribution of wealth], and a community of goods [central ownership of means of production and distribution], are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown.  [These ideas] are abitrary, despotic, and in our government, unconstitutional.” (Samuel Adams)

“If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.” (Thomas Jefferson)

I believe there are more instances of abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations…This danger ought to be wisely guarded against.” (James Madison)

We see them speak out against the government controlling goods, redistributing wealth, or in any other way manipulating markets or laws to make equal results.  Equality in their eyes meant that the market with all its variables and luck was left alone.  People were left to decide their own efforts.  The law was meant to be the same for everyone.  This inevitably creates different results.

So what is equality?  I guess this is something we will be deciding over time, through debate and politics.  Should government manipulate markets or rules to try and get equal outcomes, or should government apply equal rules and accept the wide variety of outcomes?  I would suggest that we should simply remember that the eternal laws which decide whether a society thrives or falls are unable to be manipulated.  For more on this subject see: http://www.stateofmankind.com/other-essays/the-pursuit-of-happiness/

Finally, Quigley points out what the results of our decisions so far have created and what they are leading toward:

“Thus liberalism and laissez-faire are to be replaced, apparently, by social discipline and planning.  The community of interests which would appear if men were merely left to pursue their own desires has been replaced by the idea of the welfare community, which must be created by conscious organizing action.  The belief in progress has been replaced by the fear of social retrogression or even human annihilation.  The old march of democracy now yields to the insidious advance of authoritarianism, and the individual capitalism of the profit motive seems about to be replaced by the state capitalism of the welfare economy.” (Tragedy & Hope, Page 28)

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