20 November 2011

Equality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  —Thomas Jefferson, 1776, Declaration of Independence.

Equality, as a concept, must be defined by comparison, and arbitrarily so.  It is not absolute, but relative, and thus inherently axiomatic.  The metrics of equality must be agreed upon ex ante in order to determine if equality exists.

The comparative nature of equality means that it is inherently relative, and therefore the nature of equality is perfectly subjective.  A simple example will suffice to demonstrate what is meant here:  Imagine there are two men, Bill and Thomas, who have the same height but different weight.  Are they equal?  To answer that question first requires that one know the metric for equality:  is it height, weight, or some other dimension of being?  If it is the metric for determining equality is the former, then they are equal; if it is the latter, they are not.  Also note that equality is determined solely by how they relate to one another.  Thus, equality is subjective and relative.

Now, working with the Jefferson’s definition, as espoused in the Declaration of Independence, it is obvious that the form of equality presumably favored by the Founding Fathers is most certainly materialist in nature.  Note the citation for the existence of equality:  it is “self-evident.”  The Founding Fathers were astute me.  Even they had to know, simply by showing up to their conventions, that men were most assuredly unequal in a plethora of ways:  some were taller, some were smarter, some were handsomer, some were wealthier, some owned more land, etc.

More precisely, material equality simply does not, and never has existed.  Moreover, the category of material equality is quite broad.  It covers equality of opportunity—all people are born into different environments; equality of outcome—people desire different things and have different aptitudes; physical equality—people have differing heights, weights, hair color, skin color, eye color, muscle coordination, etc.; and all other dimensions of equality that exist in the material realm.

Therefore, if the case for equality were self-evident, then it is obvious, and the conclusion inescapable, that Jefferson was not referring to any material form of equality.  And if Jefferson is not speaking of any material form of equality, then he must be talking of some non-material form of equality.

But what sort of non-material quality exists?  Spiritual or, if you prefer a somewhat more secularized term, supernatural equality is the equality to which Jefferson refers.  Pat Buchanan explains:

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that memorable line – "All men are created equal" – he was not talking about an equality of rewards, but of rights with which men are endowed by their Creator. He was talking about an ideal.

More specifically, Jefferson was talking about a spiritual ideal.  It was the Creator who endowed men with their certain inalienable rights, and those rights are considered inviolate, an extension of man’s spiritual nature.

Jefferson reasoned thusly because, like many of the Founding Fathers, he was quite familiar with William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.  Blackstone began his commentary by explaining how rights came to be, arguing that they were naturally ingrained in man by God, and therefore deserving of protection from the heavy hand of the government.  All men, Blackstone argued, were imbued with these rights, and in equal measure.

The main implications of this argument are that no man could claim to be spiritually superior to another and therefore no man could ever have reason to knowingly violate the rights of another.  It should be noted that rights were a thing to be kept in balance.  One’s right to speak freely, and even offensively, did not mean that one could force someone else to listen.  One’s right to be secure in one’s property did not mean that one could hunt and kill anyone he perceived to be a potential threat to his property.  Rights were to be kept in balance, for all men possessed them equally.

This, then, is a rather peculiar form of equality, and quite limited in its application.  If all men are equally endowed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or, if you prefer the Lockean phrasing, property), then the law that arises from this fundamental assumption will be inherently negative.  The law will not focus on what should be, for spiritual equality can never be measured in material terms, but rather what should not be.  Quite simply, if men are created equal, then all men have the equal right to enjoy their own property; no one should ever deprive them of this.

The constitution bears out this negative view of rights.  The oft-quoted first amendment begins by saying “congress shall make no law…”  Essentially, congress is forbidden from infringing upon the rights of citizens.  Men are created equal, and therefore no one has a claim to any other person’s property.

Like material equality, spiritual equality is an unrealized ideal.  The government founded by Jefferson and his peers has never lived up to the ideals of the rights its constitution espouses.  The government, by eminent domain, has trampled upon the property rights of citizens.  The same is true of taxes:  if all men are equal, then no man can coercively demand the property of another, yet every April 15th, the government takes income from its citizens, and threatens them with jail for noncompliance.  The list goes on and on.

And yet, in spite of the failure, the ideal of spiritual equality has been generally positive.  The ideal of spiritual equality demands that government power be limited, else citizens will use the government to steal from their neighbors.  And the ideal of spiritual equality demands that violations of property rights be addressed.  Indeed, the concept of spiritual equality has led to many good results.

This should not be surprising, for the concept of spiritual equality is, fundamentally, predicated on a belief in a Creator-God.  More specifically, this particular form of equality is rooted in a belief in the Judeo-Christian God, as described in the Bible.  Really, spiritual equality is a religious belief.

For whatever flaws religion may have, particularly those religions based on the Bible, it has led to the concept of spiritual equality, and the attempted practice of this ideal has yielded quite positive results.  Sadly, though, this inherently religious view of equality, and the negative rights that derive therefrom, have been cast aside for the considerably more secular ideal of material equality and the positive rights that derive therefrom.

Positive rights demand slavery.  If people are unequal, then something must be done to equalize them.  If two people are of different heights, the only way to make them equal is to somehow adjust their heights or compensate the one considered less-fortunate in some other related metric.  The attempt at equalizing implies that those doing the equalizing have the authority to force someone to do something, in the name of equality of course.  And if one must submit to someone else, then one is no different from a slave.

The conclusion, then, is clear:  those who reject the spiritual for the material are those who reject liberty for slavery.  If all men are supposed to be spiritually equal, then slavery is forbidden.  If all men are supposed to be materially equal, then slavery is inevitable.  The current course, wherein equality is considered primarily in material terms, is one that will inevitably end in slavery and misery.

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