Monday, February 28, 2005

Column on Further Paradoxes of Full Equality

Further Paradoxes of Full Equality

Tibor R. Machan

The folks who would rob us of our liberty in a pinch never give up. All
you need to witness this is to read a bit?look at the magazines I check
out regularly, The New Republic and The New York Review of Books, or the
Op Ed pages of The New York Times. They keep coming up with different
versions of roughly the same warmed over arguments against the free
society, even though no such society is anywhere in view. But they know
its argumentative force, so they keep recycling every piece of
intellectual ammunition they can think of.

Most recently The Times ran a piece by a professor from London?yes, they
are importing them these days, as do many of our premier academic
institutions (just think of Peter Singer at Princeton, who hails from
Australia, or Alasdair MacIntyre at Notre Dame, who came to these shores
from the UK)?arguing that when a society doesn?t equalize people?s
circumstances, this is a very bad thing indeed. Overall health suffers,
among other things, as does nearly everything else.

Professor Michael Marmot?s example?or journalistic hook?is the Academy
Awards; he claims the winners live longer than the losers and he then
segues into his main point: It would be so fine a thing if everyone could
be made equal everywhere. This would help, of course, those who now end up
at the low end of the totem pole. Never mind that there would be no totem
pole, in this dream.

After a lot of razzmatazz?some of which is rather convoluted but aims to
show that income and related inequality is responsible for all the bad
things in America and indeed the world?Professor Marmot announces that he
will not be looking at the Awards. As he puts it his ?thoughts will be
elsewhere.? We may assume they will be devoted to worrying about why there
aren?t more public policy efforts afoot trying to equalize everything in

I have a suggestion, though, for Professor Marmot?he might consider
reading two classic literary works that address his dream world head one,
George Orwell?s Animal Farm and Kurt Vonnegut's short story, "Harrison
Bergeron." What these wonderful tales teach is something our visiting
professor?visiting, that is, the pages of The New York Times?fails to
consider. This is that the attempt to equalize everything in the world
ushers in the worst of all inequalities, namely, inequality of political

What would be needed to make everyone equally well/badly off? A police
state, that?s what. The late Harvard political philosopher Robert Nozick
made this point a crucial element of his classic Anarchy, State, and
Utopia (Basic Books, 1974). He postulated the aggressive public policy of
equalization, combined with the measure of liberty no one can reasonably
consider giving up, namely, people spending their left over income?after
the Draconian taxation such equalization would require?as they choose. So,
millions of them would spend a bit on seeing Kobe Bryan play basketball?or
Clint Eastwood direct a movie or Britney Spears perform on stage?which
would immediately create enormous inequalities. To remedy this, what is
needed? Nothing less than a massive police operation that removes the
unequal wealth from these favorites and redistributes it all on a daily

But this is no mere bad dream. Already progressive taxation is rampant in
America and elsewhere but, of course, the editors at The Times want more.
Yet?and here is the hypocrisy involved in all this?The Times wouldn?t
think for a moment allowing someone to weigh in against Professor Marmot
despite his clearly unequal advantage of appearing in its prominent pages,
no. Their unequal advantage in the market place of ideas isn?t going to be
given up for the sake of their very own proclaimed egalitarian treatment
of, for example, those who proselytize for ideas The Times folks do not
like. No dice on that score.

Which is simply to point out that this notion of full equality is
nonsense from the word go. It isn?t only the Academy Awards that puts the
lie to it but the editorial policies of The New York Time, a most vigilant
champion of equality except where it?s editors could actually do something
about it, namely, give a fair representation of competing political ideas.
Just think what they would do if they ever got the power to foist equality
upon us everywhere!

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