is the title of a long essay by Murray Rothbard that I found particularly counter-culture and yet fascinating. In it, Rothbard exposes the fallacy inherent in the thought that everyone is equal or should be treated so by law, especially where there is no evidence of such but a disparate impact on the target group. Thomas Sowell puts forth a similar theory (his much more empirical than philosophical) in his book Ethnic America, centering on the strengths and weaknesses of certain races throughout this country’s existence…
To me, there is only one way one could advance the thesis that all human beings are equal, and that is in the eyes of God, with their inherent ability to get to heaven. It is from this that we can develop the principle of equal justice before the law (judges are, after all, a lesser version of the True Judge, and as such are seeking justice in this age instead of the Next), and the idea that all people should be treated in the court system as a blank slate except in the action being examined in the pursuit of justice. Without God and the sense of justice that follows – which even Rothbard missed – one cannot make any value judgment as to human beings’ inherent equality, principally because there is no such thing.
I will include a portion of the better discussion here, but I would truly recommend going to the full essay on Mises.org and reading it there if you have time today…
In no area has the Left been granted justice and morality as extensively and almost universally as in its espousal of massive equality. It is rare indeed in the United States to find anyone, especially any intellectual, challenging the beauty and goodness of the egalitarian ideal. So committed is everyone to this ideal that “impracticality” — that is, the weakening of economic incentives — has been virtually the only criticism against even the most bizarre egalitarian programs. The inexorable march of egalitarianism is indication enough of the impossibility of avoiding ethical commitments; the fiercely “practical” Americans, in attempting to avoid ethical doctrines, cannot help setting forth such doctrines, but they can now only do so in unconscious, ad hoc, and unsystematic fashion. Keynes’s famous insight that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist” — is true all the more of ethical judgments and ethical theory.
. . .
Let us proceed, then, to a critique of the egalitarian ideal itself — should equality be granted its current status as an unquestioned ethical ideal? In the first place, we must challenge the very idea of a radical separation between something that is “true in theory” but “not valid in practice.” If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory. The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith. To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.
Suppose, for example, that it has come to be adopted as a universal ethical goal that all men be able to fly by flapping their arms. Let us assume that “proflappers” have been generally conceded the beauty and goodness of their goal, but have been criticized as “impractical.” But the result is unending social misery as society tries continually to move in the direction of arm flying, and the preachers of arm flapping make everyone’s lives miserable for being either lax or sinful enough not to live up to the common ideal. The proper critique here is to challenge the “ideal” goal itself; to point out that the goal itself is impossible in view of the physical nature of man and the universe; and, therefore, to free mankind from its enslavement to an inherently impossible and, hence, evil goal.
But this liberation could never occur so long as the anti-arm-fliers continued to be solely in the realm of the “practical” and to concede ethics and “idealism” to the high priests of arm flying. The challenge must take place at the core — at the presumed ethical superiority of a nonsensical goal. The same, I hold, is true of the egalitarian ideal, except that its social consequences are far more pernicious than an endless quest for man’s flying unaided. For the condition of equality would wreak far more damage upon mankind.
What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men — the egalitarian ideal — can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes. The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction — a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.
. . .
The age-old record of inequality seems to indicate that this variability and diversity is rooted in the biological nature of man. But it is precisely such a conclusion about biology and human nature that is the most galling of all possible irritants to our egalitarians. Even egalitarians would be hard put to deny the historical record, but their answer is that “culture” has been to blame; and since they obviously hold that culture is a pure act of the will, then the goal of changing the culture and inculcating society with equality seems to be attainable. In this area, the egalitarians slough off any pretense to scientific caution; they are scarcely content with acknowledging biology and culture as mutually interacting influences. Biology must be read out of court quickly and totally.
Let us ponder an example that is deliberately semifrivolous. Suppose that we observe our culture and find a common dictum to be, “Redheads are excitable.” Here is a judgment of inequality, a conclusion that redheads as a group tend to differ from the nonredhead population. Suppose, then, that egalitarian sociologists investigate the problem, and they find that redheads do, indeed, tend to be more excitable than nonredheads by a statistically significant amount. Instead of admitting the possibility of some sort of biological difference, the egalitarian will quickly add that the “culture” is responsible for the phenomenon: the generally accepted “stereotype” that redheads are excitable had been instilled into every redheaded child from an early age, and he or she has simply been internalizing these judgments and acting in the way society was expecting him to act. Redheads, in brief, had been “brainwashed” by the predominant nonredhead culture.
While we are not denying the possibility of such a process occurring, this common complaint seems decidedly unlikely on rational analysis. For the egalitarian culture bugaboo implicitly assumes that the “culture” arrives and accumulates haphazardly, with no reference to social facts. The idea that “redheads are excitable” did not originate out of the thin air or as a divine commandment; how, then, did the idea come into being and gain general currency?
One favorite egalitarian device is to attribute all such group-identifying statements to obscure psychological drives. The public had a psychological need to accuse some social group of excitability, and redheads were fastened on as scapegoats. But why were redheads singled out? Why not blonds or brunettes? The horrible suspicion begins to loom that perhaps redheads were singled out because they were and are indeed more excitable and that, therefore, society’s “stereotype” is simply a general insight into the facts of reality. Certainly this explanation accounts for more of the data and the processes at work and is a much simpler explanation besides.
Regarded objectively, it seems to be a far more sensible explanation than the idea of the culture as an arbitrary and ad hoc bogeyman. If so, then we might conclude that redheads are biologically more excitable and that propaganda beamed at redheads by egalitarians urging them to be less excitable is an attempt to induce redheads to violate their nature; therefore, it is this latter propaganda that may more accurately be called “brainwashing.”
This is not to say, of course, that society can never make a mistake and that its judgments of group identity are always rooted in fact. But it seems to me that the burden of proof is far more on the egalitarians than on their supposedly “unenlightened” opponents.
Since egalitarians begin with the a priori axiom that all people, and hence all groups of peoples, are uniform and equal, it then follows for them that any and all group differences in status, prestige, or authority in society must be the result of unjust “oppression” and irrational “discrimination.” Statistical proof of the “oppression” of redheads would proceed in a manner all too familiar in American political life; it might be shown, for example, that the median redhead income is lower than nonredheaded income, and further that the proportion of redheaded business executives, university professors, or congressmen is below their quotal representation in the population.
. . .
Another widening rebellion against biological sex norms, as well as against natural diversity, has been the recently growing call for bisexuality by Left intellectuals. The avoidance of “rigid, stereotyped” heterosexuality and the adoption of indiscriminate bisexuality is supposed to expand consciousness, to eliminate “artificial” distinctions between the sexes and to make all persons simply and unisexually “human.”
Once again, brainwashing by a dominant culture (in this case, heterosexual) has supposedly oppressed a homosexual minority and blocked off the uniformity and equality inherent in bisexuality. For then every individual could reach his or her fullest “humanity” in the “polymorphous perversity” so dear to the hearts of such leading New Left social philosophers as Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse.
That biology stands like a rock in the face of egalitarian fantasies has been made increasingly clear in recent years. The researches of biochemist Roger J. Williams have repeatedly emphasized the great range of individual diversity throughout the entire human organism. Thus
Individuals differ from each other even in the minutest details of anatomy and body chemistry and physics; finger and toe prints; microscopic texture of hair; hair pattern on the body, ridges and “moons” on the finger and toenails; thickness of skin, its color, its tendency to blister; distribution of nerve endings on the surface of the body; size and shape of ears, of ear canals, or semi-circular canals; length of fingers; character of brain waves (tiny electrical impulses given off by the brain); exact number of muscles in the body; heart action; strength of blood vessels; blood groups; rate of clotting of blood — and so on almost ad infinitum.
We now know a great deal about how inheritance works and how it is not only possible but certain that every human being possesses by inheritance an exceedingly complex mosaic, composed of thousands of items, which is distinctive for him alone.
The genetic basis for inequality of intelligence has also become increasingly evident, despite the emotional abuse heaped upon such studies by fellow scientists as well as the lay public. Studies of identical twins raised in contrasting environments have been among the ways that this conclusion has been reached; and Professor Richard Herrnstein has recently estimated that 80 percent of the variability in human intelligence is genetic in origin. Herrnstein concludes that any political attempts to provide environmental equality for all citizens will only intensify the degree of socioeconomic differences caused by genetic variability.
The egalitarian revolt against biological reality, as significant as it is, is only a subset of a deeper revolt: against the ontological structure of reality itself, against the “very organization of nature”; against the universe as such. At the heart of the egalitarian Left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will — in short, that reality can be instantly transformed by the mere wish or whim of human beings. Surely this sort of infantile thinking is at the heart of Herbert Marcuse’s passionate call for the comprehensive negation of the existing structure of reality and for its transformation into what he divines to be its true potential.
. . .
Nowhere is the left-wing attack on ontological reality more apparent than in the utopian dreams of what the future socialist society will look like. In the socialist future of Charles Fourier, according to Ludwig von Mises,
all harmful beasts will have disappeared, and in their places will be animals which will assist man in his labors — or even do his work for him. An antibeaver will see to the fishing; an antiwhale will move sailing ships in a calm; an antihippopotamus will tow the river boats. Instead of the lion there will be an antilion, a steed of wonderful swiftness, upon whose back the rider will sit as comfortably as in a well-sprung carriage. “It will be a pleasure to live in a world with such servants.”
Furthermore, according to Fourier, the very oceans would contain lemonade rather than salt water.
Similarly absurd fantasies are at the root of the Marxian utopia of communism. Freed from the supposed confines of specialization and the division of labor (the heart of any production above the most primitive level and hence of any civilized society), each person in the communist utopia would fully develop all of his powers in every direction. As Engels wrote in his Anti-Dühring, communism would give “each individual the opportunity to develop and exercise all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions.” And Lenin looked forward in 1920 to the “abolition of the division of labor among people … the education, schooling, and training of people with an all-around development and an all-around training, people able to do everything. Communism is marching and must march toward this goal, and will reach it.”
. . .
We began by considering the common view that the egalitarians, despite a modicum of impracticality, have ethics and moral idealism on their side. We end with the conclusion that egalitarians, however intelligent as individuals, deny the very basis of human intelligence and of human reason: the identification of the ontological structure of reality, of the laws of human nature, and the universe. In so doing, the egalitarians are acting as terribly spoiled children, denying the structure of reality on behalf of the rapid materialization of their own absurd fantasies. Not only spoiled but also highly dangerous; for the power of ideas is such that the egalitarians have a fair chance of destroying the very universe that they wish to deny and transcend, and to bring that universe crashing around all of our ears. Since their methodology and their goals deny the very structure of humanity and of the universe, the egalitarians are profoundly antihuman; and, therefore, their ideology and their activities may be set down as profoundly evil as well. Egalitarians do not have ethics on their side unless one can maintain that the destruction of civilization, and even of the human race itself, may be crowned with the laurel wreath of a high and laudable morality.
I was a bit taken aback by Rothbard’s discussion of women and men, and the possibility of a “greater sex” (which I did not include here). Instead of that argument, or the argument that men are all conspiratorial bastards hellbent on keeping women in the kitchen and bedroom, I think there is a third alternative: women didn’t fight the power back in the day because there was a non-explicit agreement between couples that the man do X and woman do Y. It wasn’t as if the woman was chained there, it was instead that she understood what being in a family meant, and it meant self-sacrifice first. It didn’t mean one sex was better because it went into the marketplace. Hell, if my wife wanted to work and could do it more productively than I, I would love to be at home with the kids. (Perhaps men are the slaves. Or perhaps we all should be slaves to responsibility or avoid marriage and family altogether, as a correct morality would entail). That just isn’t how it has worked out historically. But I don’t think it was part of some master plan to keep women down, nor does it show that one sex is better than the others…
He is right however, in noting that if equality means sameness, feminism has degraded what it means to be a woman more than men ever could. This is because the feminist movement has focused on destroying that which makes one a woman, more specifically, freeing women from their “biological prisons” in the pursuit of sexual freedom and hormonal control. I even heard this phrase used in class the other day, and could not help but think how degrading the thought was to the females of the human species, that the essence of that which biologically made them different than men should be rejected such that “equality” may reign over valuing the differences and wonders that make women distinct from men…
Then, I look at the idea of “gender studies” as a college major, which I see several of my women peers pursuing (often as a means to self-esteem and worth for themselves, but that is another story). What is ironic about the concept of these ivory tower folks sitting around talking about gender roles and society is that they are not doing a single thing to advance the causes which they complain about. They will never contribute to society’s productivity, and will forever be wards of the state in academia or doing low-level jobs thanks to the education bubble. We have sacramentalized complaining in this country, to the point that we pay people to do it from the pocket of the taxpayer. Instead of helping fix the problem by being contributing members of society and advancing women’s rights and abilities in reality, “gender studies” (read: women’s studies) majors do nothing but leech the possibility of female advancement while “adding” to society in theory only. It is ironic but obvious, and baffling how few of the people see it…
I think that encompasses the thoughts I have on this essay at the time being, and will let the text speak for itself. For now, I have a test later that I need to study for…