The total triumph of the doctrine of equality of condition would be a triumph of injustice. Unthinking demands for an equality allegedly just notwithstanding, a society in which everybody should be precisely in the condition of everybody else would be a thoroughly unjust society.
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Zealots throughout the centuries have endeavored to establish communities totally egalitarian; all those endeavors have failed after much suffering. Utopians in the Greek and Roman eras, the Levellers and Diggers of England in the seventeenth century, Babeuf and his fellow conspirators of , and the communist ideologues who held power in the Russian system for seven decades-these are only some of the enthusiasts for equality who for a time established a domination of equality in misery, collapsing soon or late because contrary to human nature. Yet, as Hegel wrote, we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
What failed disastrously in the late Soviet Union, a good many Americans now seek to enact in these United States. The instrument of the doctrinaire egalitarian in America is not violent revolution, but employment of taxation-which, as John Marshall declared in the Dartmouth College case, is the power to destroy. A leveller pulls down the more prosperous classes in society through crushing taxation, levied to pay for "entitlements" for an abstraction called The Poor-in effect, to maintain a growing proletariat that contribute nothing much to society except their offspring.
Rostovtzeff and other writers on Roman times have drawn the analogy between bread and circuses and the modern dole or "welfare" measures: in the Empire, the emperor with his soldiery united with the Roman mob to extort revenue from the propertied classes-until at last the ancient economy collapsed, and the frontiers could not be defended. Clinton Caesar, eager to placate the Welfare Lobby, proposes to establish new overwhelming "entitlements," particularly medical ones, to be paid for by employers-for of course the wealth of employers is assumed to be inexhaustible.
Envy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Fall Edition)
As in the age of Diocletian men fled from public offices, lest they be taxed and regulated to extinction, so by the approaching end of this century employers may be inclined to flee to some other condition of life-but to what? The mentality of the American leveller nowadays may be sufficiently suggested by a proposal advanced by some of Clinton's inner circle but not presented to the Congress.
This was a new tax: a levy upon persons dwelling in large houses. If the residence should contain rooms which might have been rented, had the owner desired, to paying lodgers or perhaps non-paying homeless persons -why, the owner of the dwelling would be taxed for the rooms that might have been occupied by other people. This tax would have been a federal levy, not a local real-property assessment. It is just the sort of tax to have been devised by some former hippie, now a bureaucrat, spiritually akin to President Clinton, former hippie himself.
The real purpose of this strange proposal clearly was punitive, meant to punish those wicked rich who possessed spare bedrooms. Make them pay through the nose for such undemocratic private possession of domestic amenities! An Englishman's home once upon a time may have been his castle; but now an American' s home should be his own only upon the sufferance of the Washington bureaucracy.
If such a one should lodge homeless persons in his dining room, say, he might be indulged in a partial remission of taxes.
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One is reminded of housing in Moscow about the year , when the communist regime requisitioned even the lavatories of private residences as night lodging for the underprivileged. Envious egalitarianism as implemented by Clintonian zealots might not be satisfied until the whole population of this land should be lodged in immobilized "mobile homes"-a universal rookery of trailer camps. Why should anybody be indulged in domestic comforts not readily available to all citizens? Have I carried to absurdity my argument against equality of condition?
Nay, not so; for the enthusiasts for total equality are not to be satisfied with small concessions. I commend to you a dystopia, -a longish short story, by Jacquetta Hawkes, that brilliant Englishwoman of diverse talents, published in her collection Fables -which volume appeared in , during Britain's disagreeable experience with a socialist regime. This fable is entitled "The Unites.
This emissary, who had visited Earth once long, long before, discovers on this later expedition that humankind has suffered a startling change for the worse. No longer, indeed, do men and women call themselves humans: they style themselves "Unites," for all are united in a kind of sub-human state, everybody precisely like everybody else. These degenerate beings live in some , Life Units dispersed about the globe, and subsist by primitive agriculture. Private property has been abolished altogether.
Every Life Unit consists of four standard tenements: the Pink Block for the young, the Green Block for the cultivators, the Red Block for the industrial workers, the Black Block for the administrators and the governments. Kinship and family life have been swept away, as disruptive of social unity. If equality is the whole aim of existence, why should one person outlive another?
There must be equality in death as in life. So on attaining the age of sixty-six, the older Unites are herded into the Finis Chamber of the Black Block, suffocated there, and their bodies incinerated. The only amusement in these Life Unit communes is a colossal sort of motor-drome in which some of the performers bloodily perish, to the crowd's satisfaction.
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In short, through the doctrine of equality of condition what once was the human race has transformed itself into a moral condition scarcely distinguishable from that of the beasts which perish. And yet a few true human beings, eager to subvert this life-in-death, have survived somehow in Life Unit The visiting angel learns that this handful of young people are contriving to bring down the dreary system of equality.
Indeed their slogan "Equality must be destroyed" prevails; the stupidity of the egalitarian administrators cannot resist the innovators; and in one Life Unit, at least, inequality is happily triumphant. But even so, the angel detects some ideologue of equality plotting already to bring back equal misery; thus the struggle between the forces of individual achievement and the forces of equality runs on in human societies. There are no lost causes because there are no gained causes.
Jacquetta Hawkes's fable or parable is set in a distant future; but in the closing decade of this century we move in that egalitarian direction. Equality is demanded in politics and in monetary incomes; more, it is demanded in formal education. My wife, Annette, ten years ago was a member of the Commission on Excellence in Education appointed by President Reagan. She promptly found that many folks in the federal Department of Education, and many educationists in teachers' colleges and teachers' unions, were concerned chiefly for what they called "equity"-that is, equality, sameness, at every level of schooling.
Some insisted that American education must have both excellence and equity, a manifest absurdity: for the word "excellence" means to exceed, of course, to do better than others; while "equity," or uniformity, necessarily implies mediocrity. The more equality in schooling, the lower the achievement; and the greater the injustice toward students possessed of some talents. Forty years ago, I resigned a university post in disgust at a deliberate policy of lowering standards in the interest of "equity"-that is accommodating more students who, from stupidity or indolence, ought not to have been admitted to a university at all.
In general, American standards for an education allegedly "higher" have declined still more since I departed from the Ivory Tower. Egalitarian pressures are exerted in virtually every country to push into the universities most of the rising generation, however dull, bored, or feckless a young person may be. The consequence of this movement is to make the higher learning lower. Avoiding the dullness of most graduate studies in the United States, in I went abroad for my higher learning-to St.
Andrews University, still -somewhat medieval in appearance, the oldest of Scottish universities, situated in a charming medieval town. Nowadays St. Andrews is under political pressure to change its character by admitting many more students, which would destroy the tradition of learning there by the North Sea.
For what reason? Why, to "give everybody his chance. The present disorders of the intellect on most campuses result from the combination of ideologue egalitarians among the professors with ignorant -and bored students.
Permit me to suggest some probable long-run consequences of national infatuation with equality of condition. First, great injury to the leading class that every society requires for its success. This leading class is not identical with sociological "elites"; to ascertain the distinction, read T.
Eliot's slim book Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. This leading class, even in the American democracy, is made up of public-spirited men and women of property; well-educated professional folk, lawyers among them; honest politicians who take long views; publishers and writers who help to shape public opinion on a diversity of matters; the clergy; persons experienced in military affairs, foreign affairs, and the arts of political administration; local leaders in charitable and civic concerns; those people of industry and commerce who know that there is more to life than getting and spending.
I am even willing to acknowledge among this leading class some of the better professors of arts and sciences-although Nietzsche reminds us that in politics the professor always plays the comic role. The authority of this class of persons in America has been declining in recent decades, from a variety of causes; and the decay in public and private morality, the decadence of education, the shallow populist tone of our politics, and a number of other afflictions result in considerable part from that decline of authority.
Now a renewed demand for levelling assails this leading class. For one thing, it was possible for members of this leading class to take part in public and charitable concerns, and to set the whole tone of life in their communities, because most of them possessed some private means; they were not daily money-grubbing. Increasingly this class is being pushed to the wall by heavy-nay, savage-taxation.
Now the Clinton Administration imposes new burdens, falling principally upon the class I have just been describing. Many will pay more than half their incomes in taxes- federal and state income taxes, real-property taxes, sales taxes, and the rest. What margin will remain for such people to exercise the functions of voluntary leadership? The late Michael Harrington, a few years past, was addressing a crowd of poor people. He said that too many affluent people were paying less than half their incomes in income tax.
He was surprised by the reaction of his audience.
Egalitarian Envy: the Political Foundations of Social Justice
They were indignant at Harrington's proposal that the state should take more than half a man's income, however large that income. His audience was right and Harrington wrong.
And perhaps some in his audience perceived, better than did Harrington, what would happen to a society-including persons of very modest incomes-in which the Leviathan state should kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Already many of you here today, and for that matter your servant, are paying more than half their incomes in taxation. Our time occupied in trying to make ends meet, how much leadership shall we be able to offer? More and more, in such circumstances, the remnant of authority and the power of decision-making are usurped by a centralized bureaucracy-and in the name of "democracy.
Second, an obsession with equality commonly results in general impoverishment, by diminishing saving and capital accumulation, and by "humanitarian" welfare measures that diminish the incentive to work for one's own subsistence. Book Description iUniverse, New Book. Delivered from our UK warehouse in 4 to 14 business days. Established seller since Seller Inventory IQ Book Description iUniverse , This item is printed on demand. Brand new book, sourced directly from publisher. Dispatch time is working days from our warehouse.
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Joseph Sobran National Review "synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title. About the Author : de la Mora was born in Barcelona and studied law and philosophy at the Universities of Madrid and Bonn. Buy New Learn more about this copy. About AbeBooks. Customers who bought this item also bought.