The Evil of Egalitarianism

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.

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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.

Does the Constitution allow mandated veganism?

I was reading some tweets on Twitter and saw one person who is of the opinion that if we just followed the Constitution as written then we would be free as a bird. A bird in a cage perhaps, but the Constitution allows most anything. I remembered that a few years ago The National Review pointed out:

During oral arguments before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the constitutionality of Obamacare’s health-insurance mandate, the Obama administration’s lawyer, Beth Brinkmann, was asked whether a federal law requiring all Americans to eat broccoli would be constitutional.

“It depends,” she replied. But she could certainly envision cases where it would be.

That makes her only slightly less certain than Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan, who was asked the same question during her confirmation hearings. Kagan, who will help decide the fate of Obamacare’s mandate, had no doubts that a broccoli mandate would be constitutional.

As you can see we have Federal judges that can see no limits to governmental authority at all and are very willing to state that opinion publicly.  Now if the Court believes that a law could make you eat broccoli, then what would be unconstitutional about a law that mandated total veganism? To take this just a little bit further, if the central government has the power to mandate that you not eat meat, what is the limit to federal power? Could the federal government mandate cannibalism? (see Soylent Green)

Logic dictates that there really are no limits imposed by the constitution. We have moved from a tiny representative republic to an Empire that is governed by a false type of democracy. I say false democracy because we can’t really trust the voting results. As Stalin said long ago, “it does not matter who votes, what matters is who counts the votes”.

We can move past the idea of trying to get an honest count in the voting results anyway. Democracy is just mob rule and the madness of mobs is a well known topic. Do we really want to live in a nation where 51% of the people could tyrannize the rest? Can we have a vote where we decide to euthanize everyone over 70? The constitution would not prevent it.

Now just because the constitution does not prevent anything the federal government wants to do does not mean you will never see the Supreme Court hand down rulings that seem to say that the federal government does not have the power to do this or that. All you are seeing is that the Court plays politics also and is swayed by the public opinion of the day — or the opinion of the elites of the day. These opinions also make the deception of the constitution look more real and fools the low information citizen.

A central question in political philosophy is the question “be who owns you?” Does the state own you? Can the ruling elite do with you as they please? Are you a slave to the state or to popular opinions?

The primary social evil of our time is lack of respect for self-ownership rights. It is what underlies both private crime and institutionalized crime perpetrated by the state. State laws, regulations, and actions are objectionable just because the state is claiming the right to control how someone’s body is to be used. ~ Stephan Kinsella

Modern Americans seem to think that slavery to the State is somehow any better than the old time slavery to another man. Slavery? Slavery you say? Yes.

Modern Americans are subject to the whims of the political fads of the times. The ruling elite and public opinion can change and things that used to be legal and common become illegal and horrible. Just think, when I was a kid my mother really used to let me go outside all day and play. I was all over a very large subdivision and in the woods behind the subdivision. Today mother would be arrested and lose her kids for what was a natural thing in the 60s.

The constitution is no protection at all. How could it be? The state itself decides what the constitution says; so there is not way that that piece of paper limits the state.

Anarchists: are we pacifists or not?

Leo Tolstoy wrote many novels, but he also wrote the non-fiction “City of God is Within You“. (1894) I would like to consider the idea of pacifism verses defense against aggression based on Tolstoy’s ideas in this very short post today.

Tolstoy’s book in large part deals with nonresistance to evil. Here is the money quote from chapter 10:

The champions of government assert that without it the wicked will oppress and outrage the good, and that the power of the government enables the good to resist the wicked.

But in this assertion the champions of the existing order of things take for granted the proposition they want to prove. When they say that except for the government the bad would oppress the good, they take it for granted that the good are those who are the present time are in possession of power, and the bad are those who are in subjection to it. But this is just what wants proving.

The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities:  pride, cunning, cruelty.

Without the aggrandizement of self and the abasement of others, without hypocrisies and deceptions, without prisons, fortresses, executions, and murders, no power can come into existence or be maintained.  . . .

. . . ruling means using force, and using force means doing to him to whom force is used, what he does not like and what he who uses the force would certainly not like done to himself. Consequently ruling means doing to others what we would not they should do unto us, that is, doing wrong.

… But ruling means using force, and using force means doing to him to whom force is used, what he does not like and what he who uses the force would certainly not like done to himself. Consequently ruling means doing to others what we would we would not they should do unto us, that is, doing wrong.

This non-resistance to violence and aggression principle is the main one that Tolstoy advocated in his book and one that later Gandhi used to liberate India from the British.

The argument is that since the good cannot or will not wield power then only the evil men will do so whether or not you have a State. Since having a State just magnifies the power of the evil men, then not having a state is preferable to having one. The many who claim we need the State for protection from the evil men ignore the utter magnitude of the actual existing violence and oppression practiced by governments all over the world right now. The wicked will use the awesome power of the state to amplify their oppression of the innocent. The hazards of the bullies in government far outweigh any hypothetical benefit that one might conjure up. In fact, I have rarely read a better reason to have no state at all than that offered up by Tolstoy in the above quote.

Those of us who follow the non-aggression principle argue that it is immoral as well as unwise to ever commit aggression against the innocent; but we believe we are morally justified in retaliation against anyone who launches an unjust aggression against us. I don’t think Tolstoy would disagree with that moral right; but he would argue that Christ forbade it. I suspect he would also argue that it is unwise to use violence to resist.

What are we modern anarchists to do? First, I believe that there are definitely times when retaliation is warranted and advisable, but there are times when non-aggression is the better policy. Gandhi’s use of non-violent resistance in India may be the prototype movement where violence would have been a disaster while non-violence was a definite winner. I would argue that the modern anarchist should not embrace pacifism but rather view total non-violence as a tactic that might well be the best route in a given situation. I recoil at the idea of announcing to the evil among us that they may oppress us in any manner they so choose without them fearing any repercussions.

If I find that in the next life I am told that I was wrong to ever resist evil by force, I’ll certainly ask for forgiveness — but until then, I expect to defend myself and my family if attacked. (where it is prudent to do so of course)

 

 

The Classic Liberals and their mistake

In his book “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto” Murray N. Rothbard gives us a little history of the Classical Liberals of the 17th and 18th century. He wrote the following:

The libertarian creed emerged from the “classical liberal” movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Western world, specifically, from the English Revolution of the seventeenth century. This radical libertarian movement, even though only partially successful in its birthplace, Great Britain, was still able to usher in the Industrial Revolution there by freeing industry and production from the strangling restrictions of State control and urban government-supported guilds. For the classical liberal movement was, throughout the Western world, a mighty libertarian “revolution” against what we might call the Old Order — the ancien régime — which had dominated its subjects for centuries. This regime had, in the early modern period beginning in the sixteenth century, imposed an absolute central State and a king ruling by divine right on top of an older, restrictive web of feudal land monopolies and urban guild controls and restrictions. The result was a Europe stagnating under a crippling web of controls, taxes, and monopoly privileges to produce and sell conferred by central (and local) governments upon their favorite producers. This alliance of the new bureaucratic, war-making central State with privileged merchants — an alliance to be called “mercantilism” by later historians — and with a class of ruling feudal landlords constituted the Old Order against which the new movement of classical liberals and radicals arose and rebelled in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The Classical Liberals sought to overturn the Old Order and level the playing field for all people to the extent that they could, which meant that the State was to be kept extremely small and its tax revenues were to be kept as small as possible. The classical liberals saw that taxes enabled the State and gave it power over the people and they knew that power corrupts.

I once saw a list of beliefs of those of us who urge voluntary cooperation. This list is also a fairly good description of what the Classical Liberals were urging in the 17th and 18th century.

  1. Private ownership of property; not only of personal possessions but also of land, homes, natural resources, tools, and capital goods;
  2. Contracts and voluntary exchange of goods and services, by individuals or groups, on the expectation of mutual benefit;
  3. Totally free competition among all buyers and sellers — in price, quality, and all other aspects of exchange — without ex ante restraints or burdensome barriers to entry;
  4. Entrepreneurial discovery, undertaken not only to compete in existing markets but also in order to discover and develop new opportunities for economic or social benefit; and
  5. Spontaneous order, recognized as a significant and positive coordinating force — in which decentralized negotiations, exchanges, and entrepreneurship converge to produce large-scale coordination without, or beyond the capacity of, any deliberate plans or explicit common blueprints for social or economic development.

The above list is essentially the Classical Liberal vision of laissez-faire capitalism and it is essentially the librarian view as well. The problem is that the list allows for the State in the view of a Classical Liberal. This is the idea of a “night watchman” state where the government is constrained to a few well defined and necessary duties. The government of the US started out just that way under the Articles of Confederation but look at how short a time it took to see power accumulate at the center. After just nine years of the Articles of Confederation we saw the enactment of the present Constitution and then centralized power really took off. From a “night watchman” start, we now have a central government with seemingly unlimited power to do as it pleases. Many recognize that we live in a police state now.

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I have seen many people try to put a date on where America really went wrong. A favorite is the war between the states which meant that no state could secede from the union and “vote with its feet” any longer. Others say that it was WWI and the emergence of Empire by the US. Still others blame the reaction to the great depression by Franklin D. Roosevelt. I reject all the various guesses as to where we went wrong. I think that the new nation went wrong by forming a government in the first place. There was no way to write down some rules on a piece of paper that would constrain power-seeking men over time. Sooner or later the new government would grow teeth and bite the people. History is a testament to my view.

After centuries of experience most people continue to believe that “all good things flow from the compassionate nature of government.” Has the record of the actions of governments in the 20th century not shown us the true nature of the beast?

I am convinced that the Classic Liberals have been on the right path, but they need to recognize that the state is far too dangerous to ever make use of. We need to let people interact via mutual free-will consent. People will need protection since men are not Angels, and so private companies will arise to offer that protection to their customers. The free market can provide anything that the state claims to provide — and without pointing a gun at your head to make you buy it.

Lies of the Regime

Often when I contemplate the lies of various regimes around the world, both now and in the past, I become confused by how badly all those lies play out. The stories and myths seem concocted by middle school kids barely paying attention. Often the lies are concocted to lead a country to war against some innocent people, but often the lies are just banal and trivial.

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As I was pondering the lies of the state, I stumbled over the following quote in my travels over the internet. I can’t remember where I saw the quote so apologies to whomever I should give credit to.

“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.” ― Theodore Dalrymple

Please remember that there is precious little real difference between the communist system and the crony capitalist system (or “corporatist” as Mussolini liked to use) that has become the standard in the world today. All states sooner or later assume dictatorial control over their subjects. (yes, subjects and not citizens) So this theory is that the state’s lies are even better if we are forced to believe them even when they are so very infantile and unbelievable. This fits in with many other descriptions of the state and its common methods.

I like the comparison between Mr. Dalrymple’s ideas and those of George Orwell in the quote by a high party official in 1984 that I wrote about some time ago. A member of the Inner Party tells Winston Smith:

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement – a world of fear and treachery and torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” ~1984

In both quotes we see that the ultimate goal of the state is the infliction of pain, suffering, and humiliation upon the unfortunate subjugated people. The state is our enemy as Albert Jay Nock pointed out to us long ago. But it is not just that the power mad control freaks want your obedience, they want you utterly humiliated and enslaved. They want you to be dehumanized.

Murray Rothbard pointed out in his famous essay Anatomy of the State that the state is the “organization of the political means”; it is the systematization of the predatory process over a given territory. The state seeks to dominate, subjugate, and loot the human sheep they see as existing for that very purpose.

Considering the above, how can anyone believe that there is any form of the state that is not evil? Even the nation-state with the smallest power will grow stronger every day, just as the U.S. government did, and in the end dominate the populous in the manner foretold by Orwell or demonstrated in the communist dictatorships of the past.

The state is your enemy. The state is the eternal enemy of mankind. Remember that even when you can see through the simple-minded lies of the state it is still winning if you must remain silent about those lies. You must speak out when and where you can.