To the American founding fathers the ‘truth that all men are created equal’ was ‘self-evident’. It’d better be, for it certainly can’t be proved.
True equality can only exist in heaven; in earth, the belief that all men are created equal is wishful thinking. For men are created unequal in strength, intelligence, character – well, in everything. Earthly inequality is thus a natural order of things, and it can only be distorted by unnatural means. Even then it won’t disappear; it’ll be replaced by a worse type of inequality or else camouflaged by demagoguery.
For example, most egalitarians acknowledge that equality of result is a pie in the sky. However, they insist that equality of opportunity is a laudable and achievable goal. In fact, it’s the other way around. Equality of result can indeed be achieved by levelling downwards (the only direction in which it’s ever possible to level). It’s possible to confiscate all property and pay citizens barely enough to keep them alive. It’s possible to create dumbed-down schools that’ll make everyone equally ignorant. It’s possible to provide equal healthcare for all that has little to do with either caring or health. What’s absolutely impossible is to guarantee equality of opportunity. A child with two parents will have better opportunities in life than a child raised by one parent. A child growing up surrounded by books will have a greater opportunity to develop intellectually than his coeval growing up surrounded by crushed beer cans. The son of two tennis pros will have a greater opportunity to learn the game than the son of two accountants.
An important thing to remember about egalitarianism is that levelling downwards isn’t just the only possible direction but, for its champions, the only desirable one. To Burke ‘compulsory equalisations,’ could only mean ‘equal want, equal wretchedness, equal beggary.’ To modern egalitarians they are the shining beacon. But any true equality is anathema to them, and it’s amusing to watch them pretend it’s not, against both empirical evidence and common sense.
Progressive income taxation highlights this by setting up a conflict between two pieties. On the one hand, redistributive taxes strike a blow for ‘equality’ as they push high earners down to a lower level. On the other hand, they are a flagrant violation of the principle of equality under the law.
Obviously, someone who makes twice as much as someone else must pay twice as much tax in absolute terms. But making him pay three or four times the proportion of his income makes all believers in justice cry havoc and let slip… well, they have no one to let slip. Their cause isn’t supported by anyone, save for a few eccentrics.
But for egalitarians the choice is clear: they are prepared to sacrifice justice, fairness and even utility (flat tax rates would make the economy healthier) at the altar of ‘equality’. The results of such urges are best shown by the example of the USA: 50% of all Americans pay no income tax; over 50% of all taxes are paid by the wealthiest 3% of households; 90% are paid by the wealthiest 10%. In Western Europe the situation is even worse. Thus in any reasonable sense, when applied to this levelling run riot, the word ‘equality’ is a misnomer.
Yet it’d be wrong to say that equality is a pipe dream. In fact, every country in the world has achieved it, if only in small enclaves. There people’s clothes, food, lodgings and indeed rights aren’t merely equal but identical. Their medical care and education are free, and things like TV sets and sports facilities are equally available to all. These perfectly egalitarian places are called gaols, and indeed prison is the epitome of egalitarian aspirations, the ideal towards which they strive.
This is an illustration of an immutable truth: the relationship between freedom and equality can only be inverse. The more of one, the less of the other. Total tyranny is a precondition for total equality (that is, below the level of the tyrant, who stands above the equal masses the same way the unequal prison warder stands above the equal inmates). What’s more, egalitarians know this, as they are aware of the dubious provenance of their animadversions. They know that any other than a half-hearted attempt to equalise people will only succeed in impoverishing them. In that event the modern megalomaniac state would renege on the only real (as opposed to virtual) promise on which its legitimacy rests: prosperity.
People’s minds, normally numbed to accept make-believe as real, will wake up with a jolt when the physical trappings of their lives are threatened. They may have been brainwashed to sing hosannas to equality, but the songs will turn to screams of rage the moment people are made to move out of their suburban houses into communal hellholes. That would be an inevitable result of attempting equality for real. For it’s extreme inequality that’s the end of a lifelong ‘pursuit of happiness’ canonised in America and everywhere else. It couldn’t be otherwise: The road to economic growth has to be infinitely long, but our earthly lives aren’t. Different people will stop at different points along the way.
Striving for equality – other than before God and the law – is thus a structural defect of our society. Let’s pray it won’t bring it down. Let’s fear it may.