Reece Warren argues that the superficially attractive ideal of total equality does not stand up to detailed scrutiny
People really don’t understand the concept of ‘equality’. When I walk down the street or scroll over my news-feed, I see supposed socialists and/or communists screaming for equality between differing genders, sexualities, ethnicities, whatever. These first three claims may well be justified (and in my opinion, they certainly are) but what isn’t justified is the fight for total equality. That concept is, without a shadow of a doubt, based on naiveté and, unfortunately, ignorance.
Equality is defined within the Oxford Dictionary as: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. But human beings can never be equal. Natural talents and meritocracy inevitably divide the human race into a spectrum running from those at the top of society to those at the bottom of society.
I’m personally from a particularly ‘poor’ background: but I see middle-class politicians and students protesting and attempting to fight for my rights as if I’m so desperate and helpless that I can’t do anything for myself. Rather than these revolutionaries fighting for me, why don’t they concern themselves with the actual issue at hand? Understanding their own ideology.
I’ve spoken to socialists and communists alike who’ve all asserted the unjustifiability of the divide between the rich and the poor, and to an extent, I agree with them. However, what I will say is that total equality of wealth simply isn’t the answer. In fact, equality exacerbates the issue at hand – individuals not deserving their wealth.
Socialists and communists have an issue with the rich inheriting their wealth: so therefore meaning the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor, right? The socialist ideology would therefore promote the lazy being richer than they should be and the hard-working being poorer than they should be. How can that be justified? How can it be justified for someone not working to own the identical amount of wealth to someone who works 60 hours+ per week for every penny they earn? Where’s the incentive? In addition, the issue of individuals not deserving their wealth still exists, but has just been swapped from the rich not deserving to the poor not deserving!
‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ – I sympathise with Marx’s writings, but this totally undermines the concept of ‘earning’ money, and also pre-supposes human nature inherently including the desire to help one’s fellow man by contributing to society. May I just point out the blatantly obvious, and suggest that all it takes is for a minority not to feel this way in order to ‘sponge’ off of other peoples’ hard work? Will that not create an inequality between those who work and those who do not – and arguably a hatred from those who do towards those who do not? Once again another problem that wouldn’t be solved!
In addition, what about the rulers of the ideal equality society? The very concept of a ‘ruler’ naturally entails ‘higher status’: but this of course entails ‘inequality’, does it not? Is even the leader of the communist party particularly hesitant to call himself leader? Even if you’re a socialist, the problem still applies: one of the most influential socialists ever (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) dubbed Plato’s “The Republic” as the greatest text ever to have been written – despite the book (according to many socialists) being a text of fascism. That doesn’t sound very ‘equal’
But what about you socialist folks who only really believe in equality in the context of gender, race, sexuality etc? I can say I totally agree with you on your fight for this form of equality… to an extent. I take the particular Rawlsean stance that when human beings are born, we should be born equal. Forget race, gender etc. as they’re irrelevant: we’re human first. I also agree with Rawls (as well as Protagoras) when arguing that equality between humans erodes throughout life due to what they describe as ‘natural talent’. So why punish someone for being naturally better at something than others? Must two writers be forced to earn the exact same, despite one writer having a much higher level of natural talent and thus ability to write and command higher reward? However, there remains a better solution.
Rather than fight for equality of all human beings throughout life, why don’t we fight for the justified inequality between those who work hard and those who do not? Why is that such a bad idea, exactly? You simply cannot criticise this position if you’re a socialist or communist, because your ideal society contains this exact issue that you attempt to brush under the carpet. If you fail to contribute to society out of choice, you are beneath someone who works their backside off. If you earn less in your life because of your own voluntary inclination to laziness and deliberately not working particularly hard, whether generally or academically, why should you be rendered equal to someone who has spent their life fighting with their whole being to earn every penny they earn?
The thing that truly frustrates me is people who stereotype the rich as manipulative, uncaring scumbags, much like any rich who stereotype the poor as lazy, scrounging scumbags. Both stereotypes on the whole are generally false. I’m personally opposed to Reality TV shows which hire people based on how many sexual encounters they boast of whilst their out spending their dole money, and rewarding such people by paying them ridiculous amounts. I’m personally opposed to the Lottery, on the grounds that its monetary winnings aren’t earned or fought for. My position may well be difficult to implement and, some may argue, partially fascist, but I see no more harm in a truly meritocratic society than one based on dumb luck, unjustified inequality or total equality.
A society with reward based on meritocracy is one that reinstates ambition and the work-ethic. If socialists and/or communists argue that you deserve equal treatment/wealth no matter what your actions. then they are ludicrously naïve. If you’re not willing to work hard in life, you genuinely deserve to be at the bottom of society. Capitalism is currently failing this position in my opinion, but clearly, socialism/communism would fail it by significantly more.
If you don’t want to punish people for earning the money that they (on the majority) earn for themselves, then simply do not fight for ‘equality’ as a blanket and all-encompassing concept. There is a significant difference between equality among differing genders, races, sexualities etc. and total equality. Do not be so fooled by propaganda.