Equality sounds like such a fantastic concept. It can readily be phrased in altruistic terms, and decrying generosity never seems like a malevolent tactic. However, fundamentally, you can’t want everyone to be equal without tacitly accepting the presence of evil. In this essay, and by essay I am using the word etymologically derived from “to try”- I’ll try to shed a little light on the most widespread perversion of absolute morality. I am talking about the first and foremost false argument from morality in modern society.
First of all, what exactly do I mean by equality? I think the easiest way to outline equality is to represent its opposite- a situation where the few possess the vast majority of the resources, and the many are thereby deprived. Sounds difficult to support, doesn’t it? But what if I said that that particular phrasing is merely a trick to more or less force you into accepting the proposition. Something like how you can ask someone if they’re “for world hunger” and if they say yes you cook them alive, and if they say no then you force them to donate massive amounts to charity. It is possible, however, to dislike the fact that in the world’s poorest countries many people are starving to death while at the same time putting your money to better use. And this is certainly not being hypocritical- as a matter of fact foreign aid is nothing more than a tool used by the greater nations to obliterate the economies of the less fortunate. To support sending money and goods to poorer nations is to cause world hunger and poverty, in the most direct sense. Sure, it seems illogical that by sending them food you are causing them to starve. But consider for a moment if a bunch of aliens were to arrive in the United States and start dropping super high-tech cars, no charge, for anyone who wants one. The American car companies would be livid, at least until they went broke. In fact these hypothetical aliens wouldn’t even need to drop very many alien tech supercars to put impossible strain on the American car companies. The same process would hold true with food, if the aliens were to provide some form of very desirable food commodity, free of charge- American farmers would be roasted alive. The issue with that example is that such alien food would have to be in extremely high demand relative to current food products, which isn’t really possible in the food industry.
Now the issue with such discussion is that the last paragraph was an argument from effect. They have their place, but arguments from morality are much more significant. Fundamentally, an argument for equality needs to prove that everyone wants some x, and also that the redistribution of x is morally acceptable. The most common equality argument is about economic inequality. In such a case, the proponent makes the case that everyone wants money- which is for the most part valid- and that the redistribution of money is morally justified. Their problem is that clearly this structure of argumentation doesn’t hold up to generalization. For example, I propose that everyone should have an equal number of pet snakes. Everyone wants snakes, and the redistribution of snakes is morally justified. Clearly false. OK, how about a more controversial example? Everyone wants… women! No, not going there, just joking. A more realistic example: food. Everyone wants food, and the redistribution of food is morally justified, therefore a third party should decide what food you get. None of these arguments hold, but for some reason many people are willing to make an exception for money- even putting aside for the moment that “redistribution” as a concept is essentially never justified. If it was voluntary then it would be called a “gift” and if it’s not voluntary then you’re using coercion backed by violence.
Equality contains within it the vampiric seeds of parasitism and violence. In order to ensure equality, guess what you would have to do? Worse, who says we all want the same thing? In the above example, not everyone wants to own a pet snake. If you want a pet snake then you can see to it yourself. Creating a committee for the allocation of pet snakes is the absurdist end of the spectrum, and would clearly fail. But why should other committees function any differently? Basically the idea of a committee is that a central organizing party can distribute better than each individual’s own time and effort- which is of course nonsense. If it were the case then such committees would appear everywhere, take over the stock market, and rule the world economy. Which doesn’t happen precisely because the committee can’t outthink the market. So those with a little power will do their damnedest to put more resources under the sway of a committee because then, to some extent, they control a few more resources. So, basically, if you’re arguing for equality, you’re saying that a centralized agency is the best method of achieving equality because otherwise those who want more of any specific commodity, or for other reasons are better able to acquire certain commodities will end up with more of those commodities. Naturally gifted artists will take up art, those who own profitable farming land inherited from their parents will use it for farming, and those who want pet snakes will be prepared to pay more for them than people who don’t. But, because we must avoid the accumulation of too much artistic ability in any one person, or of too much production capacity in one property, or in too many pet snakes per household, we need committees X, Y, and Z.
So this brings us to power. Power is not just desirable for equality by redistribution, it is fundamentally necessary. If nobody has the power to actually redistribute resources, then it can’t happen. And if everybody has the power to freely redistribute resources then a couple greedy people will simply take everything else for themselves to squabble over for all eternity. So, says the pro-government debator, we must have some people with the power to redistribute resources, and some people who don’t. This is a very key point. So you’re saying that in order to produce equality of resources we have to produce a large disparity of power. To me, that sounds just silly. However there are many people who would just nod and go “yeah, that makes sense.” Well, what exactly is power? Power is the ability to get what you want despite resistance. The more resistance you can overcome, the more power you have, by definition. Now, note the critical second piece. Power is the ability to get what you want despite resistance. This is clearly a necessary component because otherwise the forces in question would simply be inexorable in one direction or the other. And please don’t give me any of this crap about power gives you the power to get something you don’t want, because if you’re intentionally aiming for what you don’t want you are A) stupid, and B) getting what you were trying to get- which is what you wanted in the important sense. Power therefore necessarily provides indirect control over anything which you might want- we can consider it like an even more universal form of currency because it necessarily includes whatever powers currency can bring, as well as others. The power to make decisions affecting others provides a very special kind of resource- politicians enjoy this kind of power all the time- others will pay you to make decisions in their favor. They will give you resources so that you will say a few words and endow them with even more resources taken from third parties. By giving power to anyone, you break your original goal of equality in absolutely irrevocable terms.
So we could start a priori from the libertarian perspective, or we can follow through on the logic of equality until we reach the problem of the application of power. This contradiction then leads us to conclude that the only true form of equality is where everyone has the same level of power- which necessarily precludes the existence of a government. Or, you can say that it is justified to have a rich, powerful elite in the government, but then you’re contradicting your original argument for equality. You can factor in whatever tricks you like about elections, but then you run into the problem that an election consumes resources- so campaign donations from the rich and from interested companies or special interest groups only gives them a fully sanctioned avenue to use political power. You cannot escape the integral relationship between power and resources. Power, that primal feeling of dominance, is corrupting because in evolutionary terms it’s incredibly advantageous to be corrupt as hell! Using nothing but a word to get free resources? We’re programmed to seek such a position, it’s so ingrained in us. Not only that, but we’re programmed to enjoy it, and then we’re programmed to be corrupt. Power is liquid resources in a way that money can only numerically imitate. So it is absolutely impossible to mandate equality, and any attempt to convince you otherwise must quite obviously present itself to you as an attempt to convince you with empty, generous-sounding contradictions that appeal to your humanity so that they may take your money, and your freedom.