The social justice movement of the modern era showcases the pursuit of “equality” as one of its defining objectives.
Equal opportunity for everyone to achieve their full, self-defined potential is a value that is absolutely worthy of pursuit.
But the waters are getting intentionally muddied, and important distinctions are lost in the current national discourse, especially from the left.
The pursuit of “equality” has been distorted in human history to become a vehicle for dangerous things, a mask that few question at first but later drops to reveal widely inflicted damage on humanity. The equality of socialism is being realized by the equally poor and hungry masses in Venezuela.
I’m not saying modern actors have such despicable intentions, but I am saying that it is easy to sow the seeds of habit in a way that can usher in an easier path for bad actors to take well-intended social movements and transform them into societal restructuring that cannot be questioned or checked by the public.
So, for all of these reasons, it is a worthwhile pursuit to carefully examine any term used as a vehicle for change by those with a political agenda, no matter what the affiliation, and especially when the proposed method of achieving equality is overwhelmingly more governmental authority.
The Green New Deal, the recently unveiled legislative overhaul of American work and travel life, quoted the following as one of the three main needs for its passage:
Whereas the United States is currently experiencing several related crises with… the greatest income inequality since the 1920s…
Here again we see the undelineated term “inequality” being used to push massive government overhauls on the American people.
Make no mistake, equality of the type being described in this deal will require gun-point to enforce.
Bernie Sanders, who launched his campaign Tuesday, spoke of achieving equality with the same vagaries.
But equality sounds so good. What heartless monster could possibly disagree?
My point is that these terms are easy to trigger emotional responses from the public while simultaneously quashing debate from those who may be concerned about what means are suggested to meet the ends.
Conservatives usually get the short end of this stick. Conservative speakers pushing back on unrefined narratives from the political left are often shut down from even presenting their side of the discussion. Consider how conservative speakers are treated on the college campus.
At some point it must be acknowledged that terminology carries weight, and even the most positive sounding objectives could be methods of setting the stage for darker agendas, either intentionally or unintentionally. What is good is not always what feels or sounds good, and this is a conservative ethic.
Let’s consider the example of income inequality to illuminate my larger point. The national discourse currently places the concept of “income inequality” in a basket of terrible societal crises without question. Rising income inequality is a bad thing if the economy is not also growing, but as the size of the economy (and total available national income to a country) grows in strength and size, then rising income inequality doesn’t mean anyone is worse off. The rich may be making more than ever before, but so too are everybody else. I don’t like Jeff Bezos’ politics, but I don’t fault him for being rich. His wealth was inseparably linked to creating jobs and opportunities for others, including growing the available size of the American economy. Same goes for Bill Gates and Donald Trump.
A conversation with specifics about the right tax rate for top earners or the labor practices inflicted by the largest corporations is a different, merited debate, but blindly decrying income inequality outside of context is dangerous.
A growing economy means more opportunity for those all the way at the bottom to feed their families, build their own futures, and to break out of their current socioeconomic status.
The alternative, economic redistributions in the name of equality, have consistently done the opposite of what they seek to achieve when implemented throughout human history: they have stagnated or shrunk the economy, stifled innovation, and reduced the earning potential of the lowest socioeconomic classes.
As Margaret Thatcher once posed, would you rather see the poor poorer, provided the rich were less rich?
Zoom out from the specific back to the larger point with me.
Are we being careful as a society to question the feel-good objectives of the political elites, and examine them enough to truly understand what they actually mean to achieve or the unadvertised means by which they are going to be implemented?
Why do conservatives fight for equality of opportunity and not equality of outcome?
Because historically equality of opportunity is a practice in protecting freedoms and liberties, while pursuing equality of outcome is a practice in political repression and authoritarianism.
Let’s fight for equality, but let’s ensure it is an equality that truly leaves the most people in the best position, especially when the fight requires you to comply.
Put another way, fight to level the playing field, not the score.
And question the words that are used.
What is truly good is not always what feels or sounds good.
Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in american policy in the middle east.
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