Egalitarianism is the favorite religion of the left. The idea of equality has always been cherished, from the French revolutionary cry of egalite, liberte, fraternite, to the modern obsession with income inequality being the source of all the world’s evils. It has gotten to the point that no one even bothers to question whether equality is in fact a desirable goal for society. It is taken as given.
The problem is that “equality” is a very, very broad term, with myriad meanings and interpretations. When conservatives and libertarians talk about equality, they usually mean equality of rights, of treatment under the law, and to a certain extent, of opportunity. By contrast, when progressives talk about equality, they mean it in a much more sweeping sense. Everyone should be given equal medical care, men and women should be paid the same amounts, and the fact that CEOs make more than factory workers is somehow to be decried.
Both of these approaches have their problems, the most important being that it only makes sense to treat things as equals if they actually are equal, a condition that is rarely met in the real world. A perfect example is the continual harping on “equal pay for equal work” when it comes to women’s wages. Defenders of the idea claim that women make 70 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men. This is a flat out lie. The statistic being cited comes from the Bureau of Labot Statistics, and is calculated by averaging all wages of women across the entire economy, and then comparing them to all wages of men. Nowhere in this number is anything said about “equal work” and the assumption that the average woman is performing exactly the same job as the average man is pure fantasy,
Imagine if we were to perform the same calculation, comparing 18-year-olds to 45-year olds. Of course, we would find that the average 45-year-old makes far more money than the average 18-year-old. But it would make no sense to complain about this discrepancy and demand equality, because these two groups perform drastically different kinds of work and have drastically different levels of experience.
Similarly, women make different choices than men in the labor market. They opt for different kinds of jobs, they tend to spend less time in the workforce and take more time off for family. These choices are reflected in the pay gap. Circumstances are not equal, so it makes no sense to apply equal outcomes.
Another example can be seen in a new push to achieve equal treatment in American public schools. The U.S. Department of Education is trying to eliminate racial disparities between suspension and other disciplinary rates in public schools, arguing that it is unfair to punish black students more heavily than white students. There would be some merit to this argument if black and white students engaged in disruptive behavior and other rule violations at the same rates, but they most emphatically do not. Punishments are meted out in proportion to the offenses committed, regardless of who commits them. Trying to equalize them is a fundamentally unfair approach, require either undue leniency on one group or undue severity to another based purely on the color of their skin. What could be a more inherently racist policy than that?
Imagine if we were to apply the same standard on the basis of gender? Everyone knows that boys misbehave in schools more often than girls do. Should we punish the girls more or let the boys get away with their antics all for the sake of equality? This is obvious nonsense.
The cult of egalitarianism demands equal treatment of unequal circumstances, a model that can lead only to tyranny and oppression. We have to stop thinking of equality as a necessary feature of a healthy society. The only sense in which people are truly equal is in their right to life and the control of their own actions. Any interference with these must be closely guarded against, but the politically correct imposition of equal outcomes on diverse personalities destroys individualism and abolishes freedom.
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Livio S. Nespoli has been a broker, registered investment advisor, and financial publisher since 1985.