Murray N. Rothbard delivered what is now a very famous essay at a conference on human differentiation held by the Institute for Humane Studies at Gstaad, Switzerland, in the summer of 1972. It began thus:
Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature
For well over a century, the Left has generally been conceded to have morality, justice, and “idealism” on its side; the conservative opposition to the Left has largely been confined to the “impracticality” of its ideals. A common view, for example, is that socialism is splendid “in theory,” but that it cannot “work” in practical life. What the conservatives failed to see is that while short-run gains can indeed be made by appealing to the impracticality of radical departures from the status quo, that by conceding the ethical and the “ideal” to the Left they were doomed to long-run defeat. For if one side is granted ethics and the “ideal” from the start, then that side will be able to effect gradual but sure changes in its own direction; and as these changes accumulate, the stigma of “impracticality” becomes less and less directly relevant. The conservative opposition, having staked its all on the seemingly firm ground of the “practical” (that is, the status quo) is doomed to lose as thestatus quo moves further in the left direction. The fact that the unreconstructed Stalinists are universally considered to be the “conservatives” in the Soviet Union is a happy logical joke upon conservatism; for in Russia the unrepentant statists are indeed the repositories of at least a superficial “practicality” and of a clinging to the existing status quo.
Never has the virus of “practicality” been more widespread than in the United States, for Americans consider themselves a “practical” people, and hence, the opposition to the Left, while originally stronger than elsewhere, has been perhaps the least firm at its foundation. It is now the advocates of the free market and the free society who have to meet the common charge of “impracticality.”
In no area has the Left been granted justice and morality as extensively and almost universally as in its espousal of massive equality. It is rare indeed in the United States to find anyone, especially any intellectual, challenging the beauty and goodness of the egalitarian ideal. So committed is everyone to this ideal that “impracticality” — that is, the weakening of economic incentives — has been virtually the only criticism against even the most bizarre egalitarian programs. The inexorable march of egalitarianism is indication enough of the impossibility of avoiding ethical commitments; the fiercely “practical” Americans, in attempting to avoid ethical doctrines, cannot help setting forth such doctrines, but they can now only do so in unconscious, ad hoc, and unsystematic fashion. Keynes’s famous insight that “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist” — is true all the more of ethical judgments and ethical theory. ~ M. N. Rothbard (1972)
The central concept of egalitarianism is that all people should be the same. Not only should they be treated the same and have the same opportunities as everyone else, there should be equal outcomes. The socialist-leftists among us believe that the very fact that there are more male plumbers than female plumbers proves that there is discrimination against females in the plumbing business. Now normally the egalitarians do not mention plumbing as the job has its off-putting aspects. No, they would rather say that the prevalence of males running international corporations proves that the business world discriminates against females since we all can imagine ourselves enjoying running a large corporation and traveling about in private jets to wonderful areas of the world.
Egalitarianism leads to collectivism or socialism of course, and that leads to impoverishing the masses. The Pope of the Roman Catholic Church is coming to visit the President of the United States. Both of these men are committed socialists even if neither care to admit it. Some argue that the egalitarian or the socialist has his “heart in the right place” or that he is working for the “good of all people”. It always turns out that there is some “elite” that has to “live large” and live well so they can enforce their supposedly beatific vision of life upon the rest of us. If egalitarianism was so wonderful it would not take armies of police and mountains of rules to accomplish.
I have been a close observer of education in America for decades. I have seen thousands of children who all exhibit great diversity in interest, ability, preparation, home life, and all sorts of other factors. I have watched as the educrats have decreed that “every child can go to college” and that teachers only need a great lesson plan to make sure that all children are working their way up to being proficient at calculus. Well, I am here to tell you that teaching even Algebra to a child who has very low cognitive ability is not possible. Trying is very painful to both child and teacher. It is also true that the teacher will not have much luck with the child that refuses to learn. We used to say that you could lead a horse to water but you could not make him drink it. The modern educrat says that better lesson plans will cure the problem — even if the kid’s home-life is horrible, his IQ substandard and he is drug addicted; such is the intelligence level of the people who are said to be “experts” in modern education.
But even worse, we no longer honor the many trades that an industrial society needs. Try telling an educrat that some kids will be great carpenters and they will seek to have you fired, and that includes the Catholic Schools where the object of their religion, Jesus, was himself a carpenter. Besides the fact that we no longer teach or honor the trades, we have laws preventing young people from getting a job and learning many life skills that having a job will teach. We have minimum wage laws that make it impossible for the young to get a job as they often are not worth the hourly minimum wage. We also have laws preventing children under a certain age from working period. The result is widespread unemployment of most of our youth. Some would say that is egalitarianism at its best.
The egalitarians have also pushed us toward an ever more generous welfare state. The idea is that since we are all equal but some of us are in poverty then it must be the fault of the society that these poor people have not succeeded in life and need help. At some point there may be arguments that we need a national wage where every single American gets the same pay. With the generous welfare state in place for decades we see horrific and dysfunctional lifestyles among the poor. We see generation after generation trapped in low income and living in crime ridden areas. One wonders if leftists really hate the poor or if they are merely blinded by their collectivist ideology.
Many people wonder why so many come here illegally. The welfare state is an obvious draw to people in other countries. You can deal with the illegal immigration in whatever way you want; but the central reason and draw is the welfare state. Let us not refrain from discussing the issue just because it hurts the egalitarian’s feelings.
The biggest problem with the idiotic idea of egalitarianism is that the government has tried to force equality of outcomes in all areas even though the people have natural differences in interest and ability. This has led to politics that deals mainly in groups. This has led to and increase in one group hating another. It is almost as if the government was running a “divide and conquer” operation.
The egalitarians may claim high moral ground, but the fact is that they are among humanities worst enemies. They seek to have everyone, but not themselves of course, live in equal misery. I consider that evil and not moral.