Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rothbard on Egalitarianism

There are a lot of things you can say about the left, but one of its most salient characteristics is its total rejection of logic, mathematics, science, and anything that can be considered 'thinking.' With the left, it's all feelings. This is why the left seized on the principle of equality before the law and twisted it into a notion of the intrinsic equality of all people everywhere, an idea, as Orwell put it, so absurd that only an intellectual could entertain it. Of course, he mean self-styled intellectual, people who reject facts and dress up their whims and enthusiasms with logical-sounding rhetoric. And whims are the opposite of logic, and enthusiasm for an idea is no proof of its validity.

This may come as a surprise to many of my "thick" libertarian friends, but the idea of human equality is bogus, wrong, self-destructive, and completely inimical to any actual libertarian principles. Such egalitarianism is of course basic to all the modes of thought that are hostile to human freedom in general, and libertarianism in particular. Such modes include communism, socialism, liberalism, and neoconservatism. (Neoconservatives are of course not conservatives, but liberals who pretend to be conservative. Not wolves in sheep's clothing as much as shepherds in sheep's clothing.)

Murray Rothbard is a bit neglected these days, because he kept saying things that make "thick" libertarian slap their hands over their little pink ears and chant "LA LA LA LA LA LA...." And here we have some of that sort of thing, from:

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.[1]
The unquestioned ethical status of “equality” may be seen in the common practice of economists. Economists are often caught in a value-judgment bind — eager to make political pronouncements. How can they do so while remaining “scientific” and value free? In the area of egalitarianism, they have been able to make a flat value judgment on behalf of equality with remarkable impunity. Sometimes this judgment has been frankly personal; at other times, the economist has pretended to be the surrogate of “society” in the course of making its value judgment. The result, however, is the same. Consider, for example, the late Henry C. Simons. After properly criticizing various “scientific” arguments for progressive taxation, he came out flatly for progression as follows:
The case for drastic progression in taxation must be rested on the case against inequality — on the ethical or aesthetic judgment that the prevailing distribution of wealth and income reveals a degree (and/or kind) of inequality which is distinctly evil or unlovely.[2]
Another typical tactic may be culled from a standard text on public finance. According to Professor John F. Due,
The strongest argument for progression is the fact that the consensus of opinion in society today regards progression as necessary for equity. This is, in turn, based on the principle that the pattern of income distribution, before taxes, involves excessive inequality.
The latter “can be condemned on the basis of inherent unfairness in terms of the standards accepted by society.”[3]
Whether the economist boldly advances his own value judgments or whether he presumes to reflect the values of “society,” his immunity from criticism has been remarkable nonetheless. While candor in proclaiming one’s values may be admirable, it is surely not enough; in the quest for truth it is scarcely sufficient to proclaim one’s value judgments as if they must be accepted as tablets from above that are not themselves subject to intellectual criticism and evaluation. Is there no requirement that these value judgments be in some sense valid, meaningful, cogent, true?
“It is rare indeed in the United States to find anyone, especially any intellectual, challenging the beauty and goodness of the egalitarian ideal.”
To raise such considerations, of course, is to flout the modern canons of pure wertfreiheit in social science from Max Weber onward, as well as the still older philosophic tradition of the stern separation of “fact and value,” but perhaps it is high time to raise such fundamental questions. Suppose, for example, that Professor Simons’s ethical or aesthetic judgment was not on behalf of equality but of a very different social ideal.
Suppose, for example, he had been in favor of the murder of all short people, of all adults under five feet, six inches in height. And suppose he had then written, “The case for the liquidation of all short people must be rested on the case against the existence of short people — on the ethical or aesthetic judgment that the prevailing number of short adults is distinctly evil or unlovely.” One wonders if the reception accorded to Professor Simons’s remarks by his fellow economists or social scientists would have been quite the same.
Or, we can ponder Professor Due writing similarly on behalf of the “opinion of society today” in the Germany of the 1930s with regard to the social treatment of Jews. The point is that in all these cases the logical status of Simons’s or Due’s remarks would have been precisely the same, even though their reception by the American intellectual community would have been strikingly different.
My point so far has been twofold:
  1. that it is not enough for an intellectual or social scientist to proclaim his value judgments — that these judgments must be rationally defensible and must be demonstrable to be valid, cogent, and correct: in short, that they must no longer be treated as above intellectual criticism; and
  2. that the goal of equality has for too long been treated uncritically and axiomatically as the ethical ideal.
Thus, economists in favor of egalitarian programs have typically counterbalanced their uncriticized “ideal” against possible disincentive effects on economic productivity; but rarely has the ideal itself been questioned.[4]
Let us proceed, then, to a critique of the egalitarian ideal itself — should equality be granted its current status as an unquestioned ethical ideal? In the first place, we must challenge the very idea of a radical separation between something that is “true in theory” but “not valid in practice.” If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory. The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith. To put it more precisely, if an ethical goal violates the nature of man and/or the universe and, therefore, cannot work in practice, then it is a bad ideal and should be dismissed as a goal. If the goal itself violates the nature of man, then it is also a poor idea to work in the direction of that goal.
“The goal of equality has for too long been treated uncritically and axiomatically as the ethical ideal.”
Suppose, for example, that it has come to be adopted as a universal ethical goal that all men be able to fly by flapping their arms. Let us assume that “proflappers” have been generally conceded the beauty and goodness of their goal, but have been criticized as “impractical.” But the result is unending social misery as society tries continually to move in the direction of arm flying, and the preachers of arm flapping make everyone’s lives miserable for being either lax or sinful enough not to live up to the common ideal. The proper critique here is to challenge the “ideal” goal itself; to point out that the goal itself is impossible in view of the physical nature of man and the universe; and, therefore, to free mankind from its enslavement to an inherently impossible and, hence, evil goal.
But this liberation could never occur so long as the anti-arm-fliers continued to be solely in the realm of the “practical” and to concede ethics and “idealism” to the high priests of arm flying. The challenge must take place at the core — at the presumed ethical superiority of a nonsensical goal. The same, I hold, is true of the egalitarian ideal, except that its social consequences are far more pernicious than an endless quest for man’s flying unaided. For the condition of equality would wreak far more damage upon mankind.
What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men — the egalitarian ideal — can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes. The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction — a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.
Indeed, it is precisely in horror fiction where the logical implications of an egalitarian world have been fully drawn. Professor Schoeck has resurrected for us the depiction of such a world in the British anti-utopian novelFacial Justice, by L.P. Hartley, in which envy is institutionalized by the State’s making sure that all girls’ faces are equally pretty, with medical operations being performed on both beautiful and ugly girls to bring all of their faces up or down to the general common denominator.[5]
A short story by Kurt Vonnegut provides an even more comprehensive description of a fully egalitarian society. Thus, Vonnegut begins his story, “Harrison Bergeron”:
The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.
The “handicapping” worked partly as follows:
Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.[6]
The horror we all instinctively feel at these stories is the intuitive recognition that men are notuniform, that the species, mankind, is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation — in short, inequality. An egalitarian society can only hope to achieve its goals by totalitarian methods of coercion; and, even here, we all believe and hope the human spirit of individual man will rise up and thwart any such attempts to achieve an ant-heap world. In short, the portrayal of an egalitarian society is horror fiction because, when the implications of such a world are fully spelled out, we recognize that such a world and such attempts are profoundly antihuman; being antihuman in the deepest sense, the egalitarian goal is, therefore, evil and any attempts in the direction of such a goal must be considered evil as well.
“If a theory is correct, then it does work in practice; if it does not work in practice, then it is a bad theory.”
The great fact of individual difference and variability (that is, inequality) is evident from the long record of human experience; hence, the general recognition of the antihuman nature of a world of coerced uniformity. Socially and economically, this variability manifests itself in the universal division of labor, and in the “Iron Law of Oligarchy” — the insight that, in every organization or activity, a few (generally the most able and/or the most interested) will end up as leaders, with the mass of the membership filling the ranks of the followers. In both cases, the same phenomenon is at work — outstanding success or leadership in any given activity is attained by what Jefferson called a “natural aristocracy” — those who are best attuned to that activity.
The age-old record of inequality seems to indicate that this variability and diversity is rooted in the biological nature of man. But it is precisely such a conclusion about biology and human nature that is the most galling of all possible irritants to our egalitarians. Even egalitarians would be hard put to deny the historical record, but their answer is that “culture” has been to blame; and since they obviously hold that culture is a pure act of the will, then the goal of changing the culture and inculcating society with equality seems to be attainable. In this area, the egalitarians slough off any pretense to scientific caution; they are scarcely content with acknowledging biology and culture as mutually interacting influences. Biology must be read out of court quickly and totally.
There's a lot more. Read it all, and read about the provenance of the essay, here:
Quibcag: There have been scurrilous remarks out there, or, more specifically, HERE, about my alleged "obsession" with Rika Shiguma, or Shiguma Rika for purists, or 志熊 理科 for even more extreme purists. It is to laugh. The fact that she's illustrating this quibcag is completely random and coincidental. And, I hasten to assure you, there is absolutely no question of 眼鏡 fetishism involved here — See, she just took her glasses off. Why, I haven't even watched Rika's anime, Haganai (はがない) — I just like the pictures. Make of that what you will.


  1. unfortunately, I did not turn against egalitarianism until I saw them mouthing the same anti-male shaming language and feminist propaganda that the dworkins of the world believe in.

    they know equality is a myth. their goal seems to be to ruin civilization, and they are winning.

  2. A peasant's money is as good as a Laird's. Whichever bids more for the lorry gets it. That's equal enough for me.