Column on Egalitarianism Redux

Egalitarianism Redux
Tibor R. Machan
Just to demonstrate that there is but little difference between Democrats
and Republicans, President George W. Bush plans to sign a piece of
legislation that aims to deny certain unavoidable facts of reality so as
to satisfy the sentiment of fairness. As reported by Amy Harmon in the May
2nd issue of The New York Times, “Democrats and Republicans alike cited
anecdotes and polls illustrating that people feel they should not be
penalized because they happened to be born at higher risk for a given
disease.” So, we are told by Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat
of New York, who first proposed the legislation, that “People know we all
have bad genes, and we are all potential victims of genetic
discrimination.” The measure passed the House on Thursday 414-to-1 and in
the Senate 95-to-0 the week before.
Just to be clear what this means, insurance companies will be prohibited
from taking into considerations their clients’ potential for illness when
they sell them a policy. They must pluck out their eyes and ears and numb
their brains and pretend that everyone is risk free, thus proceed to waste
the resources of their owners, the investors and shareholders who have
decided to earn some income from underwriting policies for clients who
want to insure themselves.
Genetics is, of course, a crucial fact of life and health is by no means
the only feature of it that it influences. For example, genetics pretty
much determines one’s height, eye color, and many other physical
attributes, not the least of which is one’s aesthetic–and, yes,
sex–appeal. Yes, to a very large extent genetic differences influence who
is going to appeal to whom, sexually, even romantically. That famous
“chemistry” that so many folks care about and which figures so heavily in
the match making industry is mostly determined by people’s genes.
If the bipartisan legislation that the president intends to sign into law
makes sense, then surely it should immediately be followed by legislation
that prohibits us all from considering the looks of our dates and
potential mates. The law might begin by banning the use of photographs on
all those Internet dating sites.
Indeed, the law ought to follow the egalitarian spirit of that famous Kurt
Vonnegut’s play, “Harrison Bergeron,” in which differences of physical
appearance are all abolished. And it should make us all get used to
abandoning considerations of looks and other favorable differences between
people from the earliest age. Parents must be penalized for being
delighted when their babies look cute! Certainly all beauty contest must
be forbidden. Modeling must certainly be banned. Casting directors in
Hollywood must not consider the appearance of the actors and actresses
they select to play parts in movies.
But we can all go beyond this. For example, all books must have the same
cover as they are sold in bookstores or on line. Reviewers must avoid
mentioning the qualities of the books or movies they review since this can
definitely lead to selectivity from potential readers or viewers,
something that promotes that insidious practice of differentiation.
None of this is to say that those with inherited medical disadvantages
should not attempt to find good deals in the insurance market or that
insurance companies should not find some way to ease their burdens. In a
genuine free market of health care that would be a natural development.
What it does make evident is that trying to use the law and government to
deny facts of reality is absurd. Throughout nature there are differences;
the same is true of human societies.
The late and brilliant Murray N. Rothbard, with whom I do not always
agree, penned a very good book on all this. Perhaps members of Congress
ought to be required to read his Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature
and Other Essays (1977).

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