Monday, February 13, 2012

Justification of equality: equalitarian ends by unequalitarian means? Great inequality in the right to decide such issues and choose such means?

If one is concerned with equality, then one should also be very, very concerned with equality of power.

Would the power to create equality require inequality of power? Equality is achieved via inequality? Would it be that those with a zest for equality fail to see the inequality of means to achieve such equality? -Or- are those with a zest for equality, in essence, merely transposing inequalities?


“The two visions entail very different views of the relationship between members of the existing society. The unconstrained vision has tended historically toward creating more equalized economic and social conditions in society, even if the means chosen imply great inequality in the right to decide such issues and choose such means. Clearly, only very unequal intellectual and moral standing could justify having equality imposed, whether the people want it or not, as Dworkin suggests, and only very unequal power would make it possible. It is consistent for the unconstrained vision to promote equalitarian ends by unequalitarian means, given the great difference between those whom Mill called “wisest and best” and those that have not yet reached that intellectual and moral level.

Conversely, those with the constrained vision have tended to be less concerned with promoting economic and social equality, but more concerned with the dangers of an inequality of power, producing and articulate ruling elite of rationalists. In Hayek’s words:

The most dangerous state in the growth of civilization may well be that in which man has come to regard all these beliefs as superstitions and refuses to accept or to submit to anything which he does not rationally understand. The rationalist whose reason is not sufficient to teach him those limitations of the power of conscious reason, and who despises all the institutions and customs which have not been consciously designed, would thus become the destroyer of the civilization built upon them.” (1) (2)

Which then leads to this observation :

“This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.

But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims.” - F.A. Hayek, from the essay The Pretense of Knowledge

Which lends itself to this observation:


[Paraphrasing] In a consciously planned economy equality of income becomes an income redistribution scheme. Once the centrally planned economy fails, the justification for the continuation of the centrally planned economy becomes equality of income. -Thomas Sowell


(1) Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, 2007 edition, page 55.

(2) F.A. Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuses of Reason, 1979, pp, 162-163

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