Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Defining Equality Equally (A Balanced Post)

As I was in yet another argument with liberals, a thought occurred to me. Many of the people that the liberals are defending, they defend (in their minds, anyway) because they believe America is often filled with discrimination and the attack of the -isms. This led me to a question: How do you define equality?

Let's start with the liberal point of view. (Feel free to correct me should you choose to do so) We'll begin at the extreme of Marxism:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The guiding principle here is that it is the government's role is to remove these inequalities though the exercise of its power to redistribute wealth. This can be done through taxes, through regulation, through setting prices and wages, mandating specific benefits. In essence, it's the job of government to guarantee an equality of outcome.

Now on the other extreme is wholly free market capitalism. In this model, government stays out of things and is limited to the role of maintaining the most basic social order through criminal codes. It is Economic Darwinism, where those who work and succeed are rewarded, and those who fail, or choose not to produce, die. In this model, there is
only equality of opportunity.

I state the pure extremes only because neither is the absolute correct way to do things. However, one is better than the other and that's what I'm going to explain here.

Obviously, I'm one who leans toward keeping the government out of our everyday lives as much as possible. This country was founded by very wise men on a principle of equality of opportunity. In these United States, every man (and woman now) is judged by his ability to produce in society. While their are inequalities in the system (the -isms) they are neither pervasive nor systemic. And the rightful part for the government to play in this is to correct things when an inequality that strays from the ideal of equality of opportunity becomes a problem. But we are continuing to fall prey to the idea that market forces can be manipulated to the point that opportunities are no more and must be legislated by the government.

I do believe in a form of safety net. I do believe that we must still honor obligations we have mistakenly taken on. But the more we seek to have the government legislate equality of outcome, the further we slide away from the self-determination that grew this country into the world power that it is in under 200 years. There have been many nations over the millennia that have become the most powerful in the world. And it is from within, from the failure to recognize why they became powerful, that has led to their destruction. And unless we learn this crucial part of history, we will be the next to fall.


Shaw Kenawe said...

This country was founded by very wise men on a principle of equality of opportunity.*

*For property owning white men.

Women, native Americans, and slaves need not apply for equality of opportunity in the founding of this country.

Sorry. But that is the truth.

We certainly righted the wrongs but it took a hell of a long time for the "Shining City Upon the Hill" to do so.

For some reason that I can never understand, we insist on our exceptionalism.

If we had been truly exceptional people--meaning no other group of people, organized as a country, ever surmounted their prejudices, hatreds, and greed as we did before any other country, then we would have had no history of slavery and native genocide, nor have had been among the nations dragging their feet to give women sufferage. (We weren't even among the top 5!)

But we did overcome those human failings, as did other nations.

But we weren't the among the first to do so.

We still have the oldest Constitution and it is a very remarkable document.

If only our citizens could live up to what it promises.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Sorry for the crappy typing and grammatical errors.

Patrick M said...

You know I'm going to have to make a grammar crack now.

Me: This country was founded by very wise men on a principle of equality of opportunity.

Shaw: For property owning white men.

This is one area we both can agree and disagree on.

I readily acknowledge that there were some serious scars and failings when the Constitution was first ratified. But those inequalities were already present, and a part of those times. And you will notice none of those inequalities were codified in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers were flawed individually, but put together this remarkable document, and gave it the ability to be fixed. And we have done so through many struggles and fights.

Come to think of it, a mere half century later, property-owning white men went to fight and die to free those slaves. But now we have a few black people, who never knew a living person who knew slavery, screaming for reparations for slavery, when their freedom had already been paid for in blood.

That you focus on the negatives of our county when we have proved ourselves worthy to be the world's sole superpower, with opportunities for all, is telling. It makes me ask where all this anger comes from.

You and I and all our fellow citizens have opportunities and possibilities that weren't even thought of when our parents were our ages. But instead of seeing the possibilities, you seem to dwell on all the obstacles. And last I checked, you stand on the shoulders of women who have had to struggle for the opportunities you have.

At least there's hope as you agree we are now that "Shining city on a hill" that the great Ronald Reagan spoke of.

When Liberals start quoting the Gipper, then it may be "Morning in America" again.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Um, Patrick, the "Shining City Upon a Hill" was not an original Ronald Reagan quote. It was Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop, who originally said it.

American mythology teaches that the early United States was founded by men of conscience who came to the "new world" in order to practice their religious convictions in peace and freedom.

John Winthrop (1588–1649), the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in particular has been quoted as a source of inspiration by U.S. presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.

Yet Winthrop did not represent a tradition of either democracy or religious tolerance. He hated democracy with a passion. The state he created did not hesitate to execute people like the Quakers and even brought to the "new" world the very popular tradition of medieval Europe, the trial and execution of witches.

John Winthrop's "shining" city had more in common with the various totalitarian utopias in history than with the spirit of the Bill of Rights passed more than 100 years after his death. This a useful fact to keep in mind when considering the various current proposals get "get America back the traditional values of the Puritans".

Patrick M said...

Okay, not only do you manage to come up with the obscure origins of quotes, but you manage to use one by someone who is the antithesis of what America is. That explains why you'd use it.

Because when Reagan used it, it meant something good.

Perhaps clarifying things doesn't help your case as much as you think.

Toad734 said...

Im basically repeating something from another post but it applies so :

Stop pretending that anyone who works has the same opportunity to get rich as one of the Waltons. If your great great grandparents were slaves and my great-grandparents were rich plantation owners who owned slaves, do you really think we have the same opportunities in life? Sure I could become a drunk and spend all my money on whores and you could learn to dunk and become an NBA star but those are extraordinary circumstances. Do you really think it’s a coincidence that Bush, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill are all descendents of King Edward Longshanks the 1st who was king of England back in the 1200s??? Wealth and power are passed down, the ones who have it and were born with it will almost always succeed, the ones who were descendents of slaves and peasants will likely never break out of the working class. Say what you want about tough breaks and having the freedom to pass on your estate to your children but don't act like those children deserved it, worked hard for it or that a descendent of an ex slave or migrant worker has the same opportunity in life. That’s probably one of the most naive things I have ever heard you say.

And Shaw is right about white, male, protestant, property owners.

And I would actually venture to say that most of the white people fighting for the North in the Civil War were not property owners. Half of them had just stepped off the Irish Rover. You could buy your way out of the draft and the people who were wealthy did just that. And you still say they have the same opportunity in life as the poor, starving, Irish Catholic Immigrant who was forced into the army?

It doesn't even have to go back to slavery and I can use the Irish as an example yet again, until a few years ago, people wouldn't hire Irish, Indians, blacks or whomever else they hated at the time. In my parents life time blacks couldn't even drink out of the same water fountain as whites and you think they and their children had the same opportunities in America as George Bush? I'm not saying that means take away jobs from white people and give it to a black person who isn't qualified but the majority of people don't believe that anyway.

You can say that everyone is free to make a choice as to how to live their life but don't take into account the fact that we have failed a large number of people in teaching them how to think or teaching them what the right choice is. You can't look at a School on the West Side of Chicago and ay that those kids had everything the kids in Northbrook, IL had.

Give me a break. You really need to find a new topic here.

Patrick M said...

Well, so as not to be excessively redundant, let me just ignore your cut-and-paste, except for a few relevant points.

I have many a problem with the state of our education system, which is held in the grip of union interests (the NEA) and elitist educators (liberals, usually) who educate our children just enough to be productive, but not enough to think and function. I'm going to have a post on that at some point.

Everybody has equal opportunity. That's not naiveté, that's America. But of course some people start out with advantages. What is important is that anything is possible.

I will reiterate that this is the biggest difference between us. I see possibilities, you see obstacles.

Toad734 said...

Sure anything is possible, a poor fatherless, inner city kid with a crack head for a mother, or a poor farm boy with a meth head for a mother could win the lottery and his luck could change. Or again, they could both learn how to put a ball through a hoop and that could also pull them out of poverty but when we cut funding in education and prohibit people with drug convictions from qualifying for student loans (rich people don't get convicted) or cut grants and other educational funding to start wars and buy stealth planes to fight cave dwellers, that isn't equal opportunity because the rich people are sending their kids to prep schools and colleges are more likely to take someone from those schools than from MLK H.S.

Again, that is not equal opportunity. I am not even saying that everyone should be equal we certainly shouldn't worry about Paris Hilton paying an extra 6% in her inheritance tax if that money is going to come out of a head start program or computers for inner city schools or after school programs for at risk teens or substance abuse prevention etc.

Patrick M said...

Again, you miss the point. All the things you list are either the barriers that have to be overcome (and they are substantial) or something to equalize outcome. If we depend on the government to make things right, then we are hopeless. The only way to rise up is to do it yourself, with your family, and with your friends.

The fact is that there are far too many people that don't accept that responsibility, and that's why we are where we are.

...could win the lottery and his luck could change...

And the lottery can't help a person who doesn't use their heads. The only stories I hear about lottery winners are the stories of people who squander gazillions. Did you ever consider that the rich are rich because they figured out what to do with their money. And then what right does the government have to take that in the name of "fairness"?

Toad734 said...

Well the certainly have better credit and that helps. And most lottery winners win a couple million; they aren't billionaires like the Walton’s. But no, Paris Hilton, George Bush, The Walton’s etc don't stay rich because they know how to manage their money better; they stay rich because they have more money than anyone could possibly spend. Yes, some poor people have bad money management skills, my brother being one of them. When he gets a buck it’s gone in an instant, he buys things based on money he might get in his pay check in two weeks, he only works 4 days per week because he can make more now than he could at 5 days per week when he was at Borders but he's still below the poverty level. He will never become rich and we are both fine with that. That being said, you can't say Paris Hilton is a financial genius who would have been rich if it weren't for her grandfather. And you could always do like McCain did and marry someone, 18 years younger a month after divorcing your old wife who was disfigured in a car accident, who was worth several millions of dollars.

I really doubt that Nelly, Jay-z or the guys from Metallica were investment geniuses before they got rich but they have managed to stay rich. I can guarantee you that if I won the lottery or became rich that I could stay rich but that doesn't mean I could get rich.

Patrick M said...

You're fine with not getting rich?

I'm personally not making shit right now, and I may never amass enough to be wholly independent of government control (which you can do if you have enough money and a plan), but I am always seeking to better myself in some way.

But I notice you seem to home in on Paris a lot. That skank is an anomaly, a rich child (even at her age) who has no concept of not having money. The rest of the people you list have worked (more or less) and do know how to manage money, or at least find the trustworthy people to do so for them.

But the poor? It's a mentality as much as a financial status. HEY! I just got an idea for another post. So unless you want to beat a dead horse (including ones from the Kentucky Derby (mmmm, quality horse meat)), wait till I churn out that gem. First, I have to piss off all the American Idol Fans.