I posted a question to Facebook the other day hoping to get some feedback.
Boy, did I!
The question was, “ Should we, as a country, strive for equality?”
The question was further clarified to mean in terms of socioeconomic equality.
Equality under the law should be a given. I was speaking strictly in terms of socioeconomic status.
At last count, there were 55 comments. A good bit of those were made by the same people, but it was a pretty healthy debate/discussion for the most part. Surprisingly, a number of people appeared to share some of the same concerns, even though they may reside on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Most agreed the playing field needs to be level. Some brought up issues with special interest groups, lobbyists, etc…
The disconnect between the two ideologies comes when trying to further define equality.
For this discussion we’ll focus on two types of equality: equality of opportunity and equality of results.
I doubt you’ll find many intelligent people who aren’t in favor of equality of opportunity. Sure, some have more opportunities than others. As one of my friends pointed out in the discussion, for many (think the top 1 percent) opportunity is nothing more than the consequence of birth. But, for the remaining 99 percent the playing field is relatively level.
However, there seems to be a growing, progressive movement in favor of equality of results – those who speak in favor of the government’s role in ascribing a certain status to individuals through legislation. We’ve seen that recently in the Occupy movement. It’s been reinforced by the Obama administration’s vocal support of that movement. One protester even held a sign that read, “Everything for everyone.”
According to Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, “A society that aims first at equality will end up with neither equality nor liberty.”
Striving for equality of results is, on some levels, noble. However, there are several glaring flaws in that philosophy.
First, you can only aim at equality of results by giving some people the right to take from others. And, according to Friedman, what ultimately happens is A and B decide what C shall do for D – except they take a little bit of a commission off along the way.
Secondly, it’s unrealistic. Never, in the history of the world, has any society even come close to achieving equality of results.
The society who came closest is the United States. In our short 235-year history we’ve achieved more income and class mobility than the rest of the world has in thousands of years.
This country has experienced an enormous amount of income mobility from generation to generation. We’ve done so by adopting a free market, capitalist philosophy that encouraged and rewarded hard work.
That philosophy has done far more for that mobility than any other system in history. It’s certainly done far more than any government program ever did.
If anything, government programs, and their aim for equality of results, do more to widen the gulf that separates the 99 percent and the 1 percent.
This administration, along with the Occupy Wall Streeters, liberals, progressives, etc… would be wise to recognize that fact.