The Ghastly Idea of ‘Equality for All’
by Kirkpatrick Sale: ¡Viva
a pernicious and dangerous political policy, but that’s exactly
what Obama declared in full voice in his second inaugural speech
as the cause and preoccupation of his government for the next four
promised equality for women, gays, illegal immigrants, the middle
class, "the growing many [who] barely make it," the poor,
and, by suggestion, blacks – or what the Associated Press’s lead
story called "the wider struggle for equality for all."
He began by declaring, in a decidedly Lincolnistic fashion, that
"what makes us American is our allegiance to an idea, articulated
in a declaration made more than two centuries ago: ‘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,’
and so on. That’s hardly one idea, to begin with, but in any case
it is stretching the truth to argue that this "makes us American,"
since the document in question was not part of the Constitution
and was not by any means a central idea in the Founding Fathers’
concept of government. You’ll recognize this as the same weasily
argument that Lincoln made when he said our government was founded
"four score and seven years" before 1863, or in other
words, 1776, when it was not only not founded but wasn’t
even conceived while colonies were in the beginning of a long war
just to make their governments independent.
But both presidents
found it a useful myth for an activist Federal government to declare
to live by, and Obama clearly wants to use it as a justification
for all-out government intrusion and alteration. Of course, it is
not entirely clear of what this equality should consist, other than
the implication that the "shrinking few who do very well"
are people who have too much and hence must be brought lower to
be equal with everyone else in wealth. But what to make of this
Obamian idea of equality: "If we are truly created equal, then
surely the love we commit to one another should be equal as well"?
I cannot parse that for you, but if we are committed to a government
creating a world where everyone loves everybody equally I’m constrained
to say that I feel this will have about as much success as Christianity
has had in this task for over two millennia, and I hope we’re not
planning to spend much money on it.
one means by "equality," this surely is a most dangerous
and improper goal for a government to seek – for not only can it
not be achieved in human society, it would not be desirous for it
to be achieved and certainly not for a government to try to work
for. It is one thing to be born equal, as the Declaration
said, but quite another to be made equal. A government with
that as its purpose would be an Orwellian nightmare and of course
still leave some "more equal" than others.
of making a society equal is one of those terrible ideas inherited
from the French Revolution, and has no more chance of coming about
than liberty and fraternity. It hardly matters that no French government,
then or now, has come anywhere near providing these, nor has any
spent much time in trying to achieve such impossible goals. It was,
however, and continues to be for some, a useful banner under which
to build and solidify a centralized "modern" state aligning
powerful centralizing government with large capitalist institutions,
as France went on to do in the 19th century, as Lincoln
would do as well, as most 20th century American Presidents
have done down to this one. (We seem to have scrapped liberty and
fraternity along the way, and Obama is doing a good deal to see
that they do not try to surface on his watch, but equality still
works sufficiently as a supposed cause for government.)
It is possible,
true, to think of "equality before the law," at least
as an ideal in our kind of "democratic " society, though
no one doubts that no such thing actually exists, as the testimony
of the overwhelming disparity of blacks in our prisons amply attests.
And in recent years we have tried to believe in "equality of
opportunity," with a set of laws to attempt to create it, though
inadequate education for the great majority of people in this country,
most especially the very blacks whom the concept it supposed to
benefit, and an economy based on mental rather than manual skills,
assures that no such thing could ever be.
for all"? What could that be? And would you want to live in
such a place?
And would you
want to live with a government that says it is dedicated, and clearly
thinks it has a good deal of weaponry to hand, to trying to achieve
Sale [send him mail] is
the author of a dozen books, including Human
Scale and Rebels
Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial
Revolution, and is the Director of the Middlebury Institute
for the study of separation, secession, and self-determination.
His most recent book is Emancipation
Hell: The Tragedy Wrought by the Emancipation Proclamation 150 Years
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