The Egalitarian Pipe Dream, Social Justice part 5

Two conflicting economic goals involving “equality” are often confused.  One is of equal outcome (which I will discuss today) and the other is equal opportunity.

The vague ideas upon which “Social Justice” are constructed all involve, in one form or another, the goal of equal outcome.  The dreams of such “justice” envision a world that functions much like a global commune in which the outcome for every inhabitant’s effort is the same in terms of resources.  In this global commune, rich and poor would be blights of the past.

But entertaining such visions is just one of the luxuries enjoyed by affluent societies.  Prosperity allows the affluent to dream of their Utopia without having to actually engage the harsh realities of man’s existence such as the true condition of man himself.  But the harshest reality is the means by which a diverse group of people, with diverse ideas of happiness, goals, strengths and weaknesses must be oppressed to effect equal outcome. It necessarily requires the loss of freedom, and of the concept of private property; two things which the advocates for social justice unfortunately take for granted.  It also requires a heavy handed and totalitarian government in order to ensure and enforce the “fair” allocation of resources; a government, by the way, which historically has always exempted itself.

In reality the equitable distribution of resources is not much more than a feel-good idea that is a source of meaning and purpose for those who advocate for it.    Bright people sit in their comfy homes and faculty lounges discussing it as an abstract thing that will not touch them.  But the reality of it is by no means abstract, for history is replete with ruinous and nightmarish examples of real attempts of “social justice”.

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5 Comments

Filed under Harsh Reality, Human Nature, Social Justice

5 responses to “The Egalitarian Pipe Dream, Social Justice part 5

  1. I was fascinated by Edward Gibbon’s use of the phrase, “unjust equality”, when talking about Rome’s taxation. We all like to think about “equality” in taxation, but if you think down that line very far, it becomes nearly impossible to define. “I make $10 and you make $100. Taxes are equal — $5. Wait! It costs us the same but hurts you less! Oh, I know, let’s make it 10%. No, wait, then I pay $1 and you pay $10 and it still hurts you less. Okay, now hold on. How about if you pay 50% and I pay nothing? Yeah, that hurts me less and you only some. Much more ‘equal’.” Yeah, we cry for “equality”, but mean “as long as it benefits me the most.”

    • This is one of the problems with democracy isn’t it. I personally can remember the transition in my thinking that took me FROM judging taxation by how much the person paying could afford it, and the level of pain it would cause him, TO the fact that taxation in America is supposed to be the overhead of having an orderly society. From where does the idea of how-much-it-“hurts” come? Answer, out of thin air.

      The beginning of our independence, if you will remember, was “no taxation without representation”. The battle cry of today would be more like “no representation without taxation”. My real question however, in light of history, and in light of my experience of living through through the twilight phase of historically unprecedented liberty and prosperity shared among a previously unheard of amount of people, is can man be free? My thoughts? Yes, but only for a very short while. He will inevitably exchange his freedom and prosperity for a chain.

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  3. I agree with your distinction between an equal outcomes and equal opportunity and the fact that freedom must be lost to effect an equal outcome. However your argument would be a lot stronger without the bullet points.

    Some people would choose to produce even if they did not have to and some would not, just like today some people have a vocation and others don’t. Man is motivated by self-interest only in the very weak sense that whatever we do, we choose to do. However, if we all chose to live in a kibbutz that would still not undermine your argument concerning social justice as long as the kibbutz was voluntary. The classical liberal postion on human nature is not that man is not basically good but that men are fallible creatures, something very different. If most men are crooks, as your statement suggests, then no type of society is going to work. A free market requires most men to be good but not all. Finally, laziness and folly may produce economic poverty but there may be other more important qualites. Would you rather live in a dangerous American inner city where life is nasty, brutish and short or on a ‘primitive’ desert island where standards of living are much, much lower than in America but there is no violence and everyone is respected?

    • I honestly wrestled with those points, some of them more than others. I resorted to them because of my self-imposed limitation of 300 words per post, knowing that they could all use some expounding, but still satisfying myself that they were meant in a general sense.

      Years ago I read that editing a post beyond small corrections was against blogging etiquette, but notwithstanding that rule, I removed the points.

      Thank you sir for your critique, and stopping by.

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