Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Radical egalitarianism, social justice and the Democrats
Posted by: McQ on Monday, March 13, 2006

During yesterday's podcast we were lamenting that few outlets exist for libertarian thought ... no libertarian tv shows or movies, only a few relatively libertarian magazines, and certainly no major newspapers which are, at least predominantly, libertarian.

But there are local exceptions apparently, one to be found, in of all places, Las Vegas. The Review-Journal published an editorial about the county Democratic Convention. It can't get more local than that, I suppose. But of note was what they featured and how they discussed it:
But if the convention agenda is any indication, the gathering will once again highlight the party's embrace of a big-government, high-tax, collectivist approach to politics — an approach that goes down at the polls virtually every time it's honestly presented to an electorate outside of Santa Monica, Calif., or Cambridge, Mass.

[...]

To grant everyone all of these "rights" championed by county Democrats — the "right" to a house, a nice salary, "affordable" health care, free education and a wonderful retirement — would require the destruction of the very private market economy that has proven the most effective approach history has ever known for creating wealth and battling poverty.

More importantly, none of these "rights" are real rights at all. A true "right" imposes no obligations on others. An individual has the right to purchase a home he can afford; he does not have a right to force someone to build it for him or subsidize his purchase. Likewise, an individual has the right to pursue the best job he can find; he does not have a "right" to force an employer to pay him a "living wage."

These are not simply fine distinctions. They are concepts that separate free societies from totalitarian dictatorships.

Once you begin defining homeownership, cheap health care and a comfortable salary as "rights" rather than desirable goals, you are advocating an expansion of government power that will ultimately destroy the concepts of private property and individual liberty.
Note the highlighted line. While we usually find it to serve our best interest to honor the rights of others (it's about reciprocal self-interest to be honest), we are under no real obligation to do so (although society, in its role of protecting our rights, may impose legal obligations to do so). What is being pointed out in the editorial, however, is that a true right doesn't require the real assets of another for its execution or existance. Your right to health care isn't a right if it obligates the assets of a health care worker against his or her will.

What the editorial is discussing is the result of a sea change I mentioned in the podcast yesterday. This sea change involves the basic purpose of government. The fundamental change, begun in the 1930s, has been from the concept of government as a guarantor of equal opportunity to government as a guarantor of equal outcome.

In the first, that which provides or ensures equal opportunity, you see a government which is focused on protecting individual rights. Individual rights are the foundation of freedom and liberty. In the latter, you see a government focused on group rights. Group "rights" are the foundation of totalitarianism.

Group rights, in this case, are an outgrowth of the concept of radical egalitarianism - an ideology which requires extreme social and political leveling. Think French Revolution.

What egalitarianism attempts to do is remove social tensions, the very source of societal dynamism, in order to create a society where all will be equal in every conceivable way.

From that ideology comes the theory and concept of “social justice”. It is a theory that believes desired outcomes can be implemented through government which will ultimately reshape human nature.

Thus the belief that since a “right” to home ownership, "living" wages, "free" education and health care and a certain level of retirement are desireable, society (and thus human nature) should be reshaped to achive those desires since all will be better off for that. These are things to which we're all entitled, whether we earn them or not, so the group, as a whole, is better off, even if certain segments and individuals in the group aren't.

To be implemented, social justice requires the acceptance that, in the name of equality, somebody should have the power to determine what to take away from you in order to give it to others who receive it without any obligation to earn it. The natural inequalities of nature require this unnatural solution to create the leveling required by the ideology. It cannot happen any other way. Without some measure of totalitarianism (or authoritarianism if you prefer), social justice is unachievable.

What these county Democrats are advocating is a perfect example of the ideology. In our fantasies, we’d all love to have those worries eliminated and outcomes guaranteed. On the surface, it sounds wonderful, especially to those struggling to make ends meet. That is its popular appeal. While eschewing human nature, this theory uses it ruthlessly to gain acceptance. It's an internal contradiction it can't hope to survive. But few look that deeply.

Radical egalitarianism has no basis in human nature, and thus no basis in reality. The social tension created by the inequality which nature produces within each person created is indeed the source of societal dynamism which drives our progress in all areas of our lives. It provides the impetus and competition necessary to “lift all boats”.

Human nature being what it is, the primary responsibility of any government should be to provide equality in opportunity not outcome. The former means removing all barriers and obstacles erected by culture and tradition which have denied people the same opportunities as others because of irrelevant differences such as race, gender, religion or creed.

That's it. That's all. When government gets it in its head that it is there to guarantee outcome, liberty and freedom lose. When government is allowed to get into the equal outcome business, it means that it must have the power to determine what you can have or what you cannot have and to take away what it determines you cannot have in order to ensure the desired “equal” outcome.

That is precisely the power necessary to enable the fantasy the Democrats cited above are touting. This is the end-state desired not only by local Democrats but national Democrats as well. Unfortunately we’re seeing it leech into the Republican side of the spectrum as well through the travesty known as “Compassionate Conservatism”. Compassionate Conservatism is big-government Republicanism and it panders to the ideology of egalitarianism. There is nothing "conservative" about it. "Compassion", in this case, is simply a codeword for the acceptance of governmental redistribution as a legitimate function.

To repeat the key phrase in The Review-Journal editorial:
These are not simply fine distinctions. They are concepts that separate free societies from totalitarian dictatorships.
Indeed.

What this group outlines above is the ultimate desired Democratic utopia. Complete "social justice" in which we all enjoy the same level of existence made possible by (and enforced by) government. An existence where group rights trump individual rights, where entitlement replaces earning, and where redistribution is a fundamental right of government.

Seem familiar to any history buffs out there?

UPDATE: Synchronicity. As if to support my rant, the Washington Post obligingly runs an editoral entitled "A Rising Tide?" and which beings:
This nation prefers not to discuss inequality. Lacking a unifying religion, ethnicity or even language, it is held together by an appealing faith: that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can attain the American dream, sharing the fruits of economic progress. But the trends of the past quarter-century compel a reexamination of this creed. When President Kennedy promised that "a rising tide lifts all boats," he was correct. Today that claim could be disputed.

[...]

The idea that everyone should start life with decent opportunities helped to inspire the American Revolution and the civil rights movement; it is an idea that this nation forsakes at its peril. But there are other reasons to worry about inequality. Surveys find that if you ask people whether they'd prefer to earn $100,000 in a society in which the average pay is $80,000, or $110,000 in a society in which average pay is $130,000, respondents pick the lower salary in order to feel rich in relative terms.

This isn't just irrational. Riches and poverty are partly relative concepts. The more unequal a society, the more citizens in the bottom half will experience hardship. When people at the top gain more disposable income, they bid up the prices of goods in limited supply — homes in top school districts, or places at top colleges. Tuitions at four-year colleges have more than doubled since 1980, with the result that gaps in enrollment by class and race, which declined in the 1960s and 1970s, are as wide now as 30 years ago. The wealth of people in the top half also bids up the common understanding of what a middle-class lifestyle entails. People feel obliged to spend more on birthday gifts, children's sneakers or a suit for the next job interview. Since 1980, the median size of a newly built house has increased by a third — even while the household savings rate has fallen to about zero.
And as you can tell by the highlighted passages, the Washington Post believes the role of government is to prevent those hardships, no matter how relative they are.

If you're so inclined to give egalitarianism a chance, your local Democrat is ready and willing (or your local compassionate "conservative" if a Democrat won't do).
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
When homes in top neighborhoods get bid up due to limited supply (as we are seeing in today’s housing boom) middle class families will buy houses in lower income areas, fix them up, and increase the property values of that neighborhood. Crime and poverty go down there because of an in-pouring of middle class values, more home security, and an increase of disposable income there so that the local economy gets more robust, jobs are created, more tax revenues come in...ect.

You are seeing this happen in places like D.C. and Baltimore today.

The free market always seems to work itself out.
 
Written By: Jimmy the Dhimmi
URL: http://mooreisfatduhimstoopidilikeanncoulterandchickenfries.ytmnd.com/
Good piece. I wonder to what extent egalitarianism explains the follow government behaviors?

* economic incentives to businesses (relocation incentives, bailouts)
* money directed for targeted projects (pork in Congress)
* private property regulations (smoking bans, building codes(and fees))

My impression is that at the root of all freedom-inhibiting actions is the overwhelming but usually misguided desire of many people to improve the world. They feel justified using force because they feel certain of the superiority of their vision, certain that others will see the light once they are finished, and certain that the targets of their improvement are helpless without them.




 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
I wonder to what extent egalitarianism explains the follow government behaviors?

* economic incentives to businesses (relocation incentives, bailouts)
* money directed for targeted projects (pork in Congress)
* private property regulations (smoking bans, building codes(and fees))
I’m not sure it does.

I’m not saying the drive for egalitarianism explans every action of government (some of them may be residual programs left over from the previous concept of government which are still useful pragmatically, some just the way the business of government has developed internally over the years).

Instead I’m pointing to an overall trend which has the backing of one major party and is seemingly gathering adherents in the other.

I’m pointing out, in a general sense, that egalitarianism is indeed a sea change in the way government is perceived, considered and implemented. And I think it is a change which is destructive to the engine of prosperity we built under our old perception of government’s role. The new perception, because of its nature, is destructive to liberty and freedom and, in my opinion, prone to totalitarianism/authortarianism.
My impression is that at the root of all freedom-inhibiting actions is the overwhelming but usually misguided desire of many people to improve the world. They feel justified using force because they feel certain of the superiority of their vision, certain that others will see the light once they are finished, and certain that the targets of their improvement are helpless without them.
I agree with your basic premise. Egalitarianism is simply a manefestation of that sort of belief. To me it sharply defines the difference between those who call themselves ’progressives’ and those who are true ’conservatives’. Progressives clearly desire equal outcomes while conservatives want equal opportunity. One believes in the primacy of group rights, the other in the primacy of individual rights.

In my experience, when one moves away from giving individual rights primacy to giving group rights primacy, it isn’t a big step at all to finding ways to justify and rationalize restricting or abrogating individual rights for the "common good", however that is arbitrarily defined that day.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
During yesterday’s podcast we were lamenting that few outlets exist for libertarian thought ... no libertarian tv shows or movies, only a few relatively libertarian magazines, and certainly no major newspapers which are, at least predominantly, libertarian.
I would submit The Economist as a reasonably libertarian publication. They might not be as purely libertarian as one would like, however I think their approach probably highlights what can be seen as a ’mainstream’ libertarianism that would be capable of actually winning elections and appealing to voters.
 
Written By: Rosensteel
URL: http://
McQ wrote:
"In my experience, when one moves away from giving individual rights primacy to giving group rights primacy, it isn’t a big step at all to finding ways to justify and rationalize restricting or abrogating individual rights for the "common good", however that is arbitrarily defined that day."
Whither then Jon Henke, who claims to feel that individual rights are a myth?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
I’ve been reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Heinlein, and this reminds me of a question Prof. de la Paz asked. To paraphrase, What action would be immoral for the individual to take, that would be moral for the group to take?
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
Chris, I’ve always had a corollary in the form of a question: If you take care of the rights of individuals, the rest pretty much takes care of itself, doesn’t it?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
"What action would be immoral for the individual to take, that would be moral for the group to take?"

Unfortunately, according to social justice types, theft, a.k.a. majority-sanctioned taxation and redistribution.

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
What action would be immoral for the individual to take, that would be moral for the group to take?
Well, it would depend on how we end up defining morality, but if we substitute "illegal" and "legal" then theft vs taxation comes to mind. Also, wouldn’t it be immoral for me to hold someone against his will in my basement if I determine he committed some crime, but it could be moral for society to determine the person should be imprisoned?

These are just off the top of my head, so I’m sure there is likely to be a more complex analysis
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
Unknown was a little quicker than I.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I think, JWG, it would be perfectly moral for you to hold a known criminal in your basement under a variety of circumstances.
 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
A bit off topic, but the editorial got me thinking.

Who is really influenced by editorials? I’m inclined to think that most (90+ percent) readers of editorials have pretty much made up their minds and read them for either viewpoint-reinforcement or as grist for their anger-mill. Do editorials ever reach or persuade the large(I assume) group of people who are undecided and/or unconcerned about a particular issue? Bottom line, do they really add much value?

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
In reference to your lamenting about a lack of of outlets for libertarian thought, I agree.

It seems to me that as long as libertarianism is not exposed to the masses (let’s face it, the masses do not read many blogs or websites and don’t come across many - if any - libertarian books or publications, let alone, as you say, television and movies), it has little chance to gain traction.

Probably the best exposure most people ever get to libertarian ideas is when they study the forming of this country. How many people remember and take that to heart?

On the other hand, hasn’t everyone watched The Fountainhead like 50 times?
 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
That’s it. That’s all. When government gets it in its head that it is there to guarantee outcome, liberty and freedom lose. When government is allowed to get into the equal outcome business, it means that it must have the power to determine what you can have or what you cannot have and to take away what it determines you cannot have in order to ensure the desired "equal" outcome.
This is Soviet-style communism. What never ceases to amaze me is the number of educated, intelligent people around the world who still think that the USSR was a grand experiment that just had a few flaws (or was forced into extinction by the capitalists). They can therefore overlook little things like the murder of millions of people. Can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, you know.

People who espouse communism and its more respectable siblings, socialism and liberalism, live in a fantasy world in which there is some magic cornucopia that provides plenty of nice cars, nice houses, good food, etc, but it’s under the control of the nasty ol’ capitalists who aren’t willing to share. If THEY were in charge, however, the floodgates would be open and everybody would have everything they need. (Not that everybody would have everything they WANT; there are some things that people just really shouldn’t have, and the benevolent government would see to it that only the right people had those things. As for the capitalists... well, the world is better off without them, so don’t ask too many questions about what will happen to them)

What the communists / socialists / liberals don’t understand is that people are the source of the cornucopia, and that the only reason it gets filled with cars, houses, food, etc is that people have a motivation to work to produce those things. Once the motivation to work is removed, the cornucopia dries up. The only alternative is compelling people to work in State Tractor Factory Number 21 or on State Farm Number 273A. And if they refuse to work... Well, don’t ask too many questions about what happens to them, either. Before you know it, you’ve got an entire nation in virtual slavery. A secret police becomes an absolute necessity to eliminate those people who realize what the system is doing to them and feel inclined to be troublesome. Everybody else gets force fed state propaganda to try to make them feel good about what’s happening... and to fear the return of the capitalists who want to enslave the workers (surely, comrades, you don’t want Jones to return?).

This is the logical outcome of enfettered egalitarianism: everybody is reduced to the same level of misery. But, hey, cheer up! Now everybody is equal!
 
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
Whither then Jon Henke, who claims to feel that individual rights are a myth?
I find the notion of individual rights as an artifact of nature completely irrational — mystical wishful thinking — but I also find them to be a useful, productive ideal for human society, and social organization.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
What action would be immoral for the individual to take, that would be moral for the group to take?
Judgement under law. No individual has a right to make judgement on another persons actions.

Property. No individual can claim property without consent of the group.
I find the notion of individual rights as an artifact of nature completely irrational — mystical wishful thinking — but I also find them to be a useful, productive ideal for human society, and social organization.


True - individual rights granted by the group are a good way to organise a society. Not inalienable rights (how can something be inalienable if it is granted in the first place), but important as a way of defining a good society.



As an aside
What the communists / socialists / liberals don’t understand is that people are the source of the cornucopia,
Liberalism and communism are two different things. Any arguement that juxtaposes them is very flawed.

The communist sees the market economy as the problem stopping the cornucopia and eliminates the market. There are no taxes under communism, there is no market and outcomes are guaranteed by the state.

The liberal sees the market economy as the cornucopia. Taxes are raised to extract more from the market to fund increased egalitarianism (and feminism, multiculturalism, environmentalism...). The outcome is not gauranteed because it is reliant upon the market to perform to support the taxation and the market needs "dynamism" to work.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
Actually, unaha-closp, under pure communism there is not even a state. Marx’s idea was that socialism was a necessary step that society passed through before casting off the state completely and reaching the communist nirvana. Somehow power and greed got in the way.

 
Written By: Unknown
URL: http://
As a libertarian-leaning individual, I question how even the government can guarantee "equal opporunity." First, what does "equal" mean? Second, a person raised in a crack house versus one raised in a home with a loving family are not equal and the government cannot make it so. Also, a guaranteed community college education is not "equal" to an education at a top Ivy league school or even state universities. There are a myriad of examples of people not being guaranteed equality of opportunity.

Perhaps, the government can only guarantee that no law will get in the way anyone’s dreams (insofar as that dream doesn’t infringe on another’s rights).

Some comments on how a government can guarantee equality of opporunity would be appreciated.
 
Written By: Nuclear
URL: http://
unaha-closp wrote:
Liberalism and communism are two different things. Any arguement that juxtaposes them is very flawed.
IMO, the difference between the three is one of degree, not of kind. All three share the common philosophy that the state is better suited than the individual to decide what’s best for him.
 
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
Okay, you seem surprised the Review Journal is taking a libertarian line on the editorial page.

This is, after all, a paper that keeps Vin Suprynowicz on staff as a columnist.
 
Written By: T
URL: http://your-philosophy-sucks.blogspot.com

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider