Duly Noted: Equality vs. Quality


George Handlery about the week that was. Throw the rascals out: Now it is our turn to steal. Equality for the inherently unequal. How to perpetuate relative poverty. The problem with the “other Europe”. How to be a nimble candidate: Free yourself of the gravitational force of the facts.
1. It is a prejudice of our public affairs culture that, indiscriminately, “equality” is regarded as a standard of quality. Whenever a measure is judged, the extent of equality relating to it is accepted as a yardstick to determine whether the rating becomes positive or negative. In doing so, we tend to overlook some or our collectively indulged inconsistencies as well as the popular misapplication of the term.
Let us begin with the original meaning of the concept. When equality in the franchise was introduced, the term meant that, for want of a less controversial solution, all members of the community are to be given one vote. (Several countries practiced a system that weighted votes by education and means expressed by the taxes paid.) At that stage, it was also understood that outside of politics, equality as a goal meant an attempt to give everybody comparable opportunities to succeed. Realistically, being committed to freedom, it had been assumed that equal opportunity would produce unequal results. This was more than an admission made reluctantly. Unequal achievement was regarded – and still is considered to be outside of leftist-welfares circles – a desirable consequence. Deservedly so.
Our differing reactions to comparable opportunities have implications. They do more than to result in divergent amounts of personal success expressed by wealth and peer recognition. The re-animation of the original and sensible concept reminds the reader of crucial postulates. These are that, the differences implied are more than a reflection of undeserved individual advantage. Actually, the assumption is that the phenomena benefits society. The better mousetrap – admittedly a negative if you are a trial lawyer specialized on mice – helps to improve the lives of all of us. Oddly, those that advocate equality like to call themselves not only “just” but also “progressive”. In doing so they ignore that progress itself is the product of different individuals pursuing their personal advantage in their own way. The great weakness of schemes of generalized equality is that they attempt to repress the consequences of what makes us “man”. Like it or not, we are inherently unequal. We are not commanded by instinct – that would make us suitable objects for orders that prescribe equality – but that portion of originality that is, in unequal amounts, embedded in us is our guide. This is the trait that got us out of the cave. Trying to counteract unequal results following equal inputs, by carrying the concept of equality further than it is meant to be, threatens to get us back into that hole that most of us are glad to have escaped.
2. Some soothing lies never die. One of the old and still convincing slogans designed to dupe is directed at the average person and those that score economically below that level. It is that wealth, success and whatever, is the result of theft. (“Property is theft” is the catching 19th century bumper sticker version of it.) The slogan casts guilt on the achiever. The corresponding need to atone is expressed by confiscatory taxes. Besides the money, the failing also receive high moral status as victims. (Note: if you became a “victim” without having consciously chosen to suffer you are to be pitied. Nevertheless, this does not make you hero.) It is understood that victim status entitles the so anointed to compensation from the redemption payments made by the guilty sinners. Poverty – having less than the community average – has been with us since we stopped fighting saber-tooth tigers. The theory, especially since it is an article of faith, is, therefore, in need of a clarification. According to it, for thousands of years, those who became “rich” have consistently been stealing from the poor. A disturbing question arises: how come that the poor have always had enough to be stolen from them in order to make the rich ever wealthier? Not being able nor needing to answer the question, the writer can conclude with an observation. In order to perpetuate poverty, all you need to do is to put the blame that follows from erroneous strategies on the (historically) expanding number of those that did the right thing. Why? If you are in a pit, you will naturally want to climb out. It someone convinces you that the pit has no top rim or that you are there because someone – namely the offender who shall be forced to repentantly pull you out – has made you tumble into it, then you will be confined to the pit for ever.
3. The crisis of the economy makes the clash of our theories the basic issue. These theoretical differences have much to do with the causes of wealth, the role of government causing or facilitating wealth creation, and the causes of the crisis. Arguing only about the merits of concrete program proposals only side steps the differences regarding the fundamentals at issue.
4. Europe’s east is sinking ever more deeply. Into what, you might ask. Into the cesspool of the economic downturn is the answer from the hip. The situation is, however, more complicated than that. As in the case of the US’ automobile industry, the crisis everybody talks about merely coincides with one whose unrelated factors have caused the current general downturn. The roots are much deeper than we care to admit. East Europe suffers from ailments that have to do with a “sinful” but un-repented past and unsolved territorial and population issues (they go back at least to 1919). To make matters worse, there is also an inherited tradition that has been amplified by decades of socialism that nurtured short-term thinking and corruption. In part, the following case is indicative of the broken crutch used to propel the otherwise healthy. In Romania a Ceausescu-offspring will get possession of the loot the thievish “Leader” had accumulated. This is possible because, as an essayist has noted “the people do not care”. Why do the “people” not care? Because they are convinced by their past experiences in collectivism that they, their concept of justice and their will, do not matter. The result is unchecked and bad government. From this, we learn that, while government cannot make you wealthy, good governance is a pre-condition of collective success in the pursuit of the good life.
5. Eastern Europe’s foreign financed economic recovery supplied needed capital but it also fueled regional immaturity. The causes of wealth – that of others and their own – have not been understood by the average person. Furthermore, a fatal weakness continued. In the era of dictatorship, national communities were able to resist their governors. They did so by being passive. Prior to the collapse of socialism, the enemy of society was clearly the “system” dominating it – most of the time with the help of foreign bayonets. This provided training in passive resistance. At the same time, the experience deprived those thusly shaped, of the ability to sustain an order of their choosing by actively rallying in its support.
6. You might be reminded here of some elections. Parties might have been pleading with you to vote out the inefficient and corrupt ruling gang. Such claims often mislead. Not infrequently, those pleading are not what they seem to be, namely champions of government as clean as a hound’s teeth. What they might combat is not corruption and the abuse of power but only those persons that are in power. The resulting fight for fairness is diminished by the conviction that the time is ripe for them to enjoy the spoils of office. “Throw the rascals out: Now it is our turn to steal”.
7. Saving jobs in non-viable industries that produce goods with a limited market, as long as lacking competition and artificial scarcity can be maintained, might be difficult. Managing such projects can be politically rewarded accomplishments. At the same time, at a very high price, judgment day is only postponed if the rescue merely re-finances the old way of doing things. If this is the case, the rescue is a disservice to those that will be punished by having to live the future.
8. If a candidate is allowed to ignore those facts that do not suit his case and ideological bag, he will be rid of a heavy burden. Freed of this ballast and the gravitational force of reality, he is enabled to move on the stage with the graceful ease of Fred Astaire. Doing so he will exhibit, for all those who can see no more than the surface, his cool and nimble style. This will make his serious opponent, as he calls attention to unpleasant realities, appear to be a bad sport. Thus bound by the weight of complicated facts, the realist will appear to be a stuffy complainer. So the dexterous will be elected for the hope he communicates by suggesting that every one of his supporters will win the lottery.

First, The Babbling, Then The Scrambling

Perhaps, just perhaps, the world has come to the edge of the abyss. The more secure one feels, the more demonstrative that same "one" becomes.

You've got to love the total lack of pretense on display here, and it may not be too long before the revolt begins in earnest, or in London, or Paris.

When the fleas torment, the healthy dog scratches, and bites. The dog may not get them all, but you can bet they know he is there on the attack. At long last, some good news coming out of London, specifically, and the UK, generally speaking.