Column on Futility of Egalitarianism

The Futility of Egalitarianism
Tibor R. Machan
The ancient Greek myth of Procrustes’ bed has it that the bed had the
attribute of being exactly as long as anyone who lay down on it.
Procrustes didn’t disclose to his guests his scheme that those who lay
down on this extraordinary bed got manipulated so that if they were too
short for the bed they had their legs chopped off and if too long, the
legs got forcibly stretched. This, it appears, is where the expression
“one size fits all” originated.
Egalitarianism is the political view whereby everyone must be subject to
equal benefits and burdens, as a matter of public policy. Arguably the
mess with the current loan defaults originated with this idea, namely,
that all citizens, never mind their particular circumstances, must be
treated as if they were the same, as if they could handle mortgages of the
same size, purchase equally fancy homes, etc.
For egalitarianism to have a ghost of a chance it would have to be true
that fundamentally, in their essence, all human beings are the same and
only various accidents render them different. Public policy, in turn, is
supposed to be aimed at erasing the differences, forcing us all into the
same Procrustean bed.
One area where the idiocy of this doctrine shows up good and hard is in
athletics. Mr. Michael Phelps, for example, won 8 gold swimming medals at
the 2008 Olympics because he was very, very different from the rest of us,
indeed even from other champion swimmers. Phelps is a giant, with huge
hands and feet, and so his chances for winning the races for which he
prepares are far better than anyone else’s. And he is of course just one
example of such extraordinary talent. Roger Federer in tennis may be
another, as used to be Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg, among a few others in
tennis, and thousands of other athletes throughout history.
It turns out that a recent study (published in the September 2nd issue of
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) has shown that
matters are even more anti-egalitarian in human affairs. The study
identified a gene variant that actually significantly extends people’s
lives. Those lacking the gene live shorter lives, those with it live
longer ones (on average and apart from accidental deaths). And this is
just the way it is–as the article reporting on this in Science News says,
“Life’s just not fair.” But there are diehards who will refuse to accept
this and insist on remaking us all to fit their dream-world of universal
human equality. And from that stem a hole lot of difficulties in public
affairs. The most important result is a government that takes it as its
task to force people to conform to various models deemed to serve the
futile egalitarian goal. Perhaps the most drastic examples of this result
were Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Red China. In
each the government assumed the role of coercing everyone–well, not
actually everyone since the leaders were exempted–to fit certain models
of proper humanity. We still see remnants of this while looking at those
insane parades in North Korea which symbolize the total absence of human
individuality!
Certainly in both systems individuality was banned. That means, of
course, that individual liberty was also banned since when men and women
have their right to liberty respected and protected, they embark on vastly
different pursuits! Dissent in such systems is regarded a form of mental
illness and dissidents are locked up for fear that they will infest the
rest with crazy notions like personal distinctiveness, with the
possibility of excellence as well as failure.
But it turns out that that’s just what the study of genetics helps us
further to appreciate, namely, that we are by nature very different human
beings. Yes, there is our humanity which is universal (excepting some
truly crucial incapacities), but one central aspect of our humanity is
that we are also very different from one another. This is so clearly
evident from just observing our friends, family, neighbors, and the
various historical periods that exhibit human variations that the
egalitarian effort to deny its centrality and eradicate it should both be
given up as hopeless, futile efforts.
There is much more to be explored about this issue, of course, but one
thing seems indisputable: the unfortunately prominent egalitarian
doctrine–especially in the academy and among public officials–has
produced and continues to produce some devastating public policies,
Draconian and less so. That should be enough to turn us away from it for
good.

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