Column in Egalitarian Straitjackets

Egalitarian Straitjackets

Tibor R. Machan

In numerous areas of human life treating people in nearly exactly the same way may make sense. Thus, for example, when you go to your dentist, you are probably implored to floss–and so is everyone else who visits dentists. Other doctors, too, will prescribe practices one should adopt, such as eating nutritiously, exercising, getting regular sleep and so forth, which virtually all other patients are also told they will benefit from. Although at this point diversity starts kicking in quite evidently. We don’t all need the same number of hours of sleep; our age difference will invite different diets, forms of exercise, and so forth. Men and women require different diets, too. The dosage of medication we need to take in cases of illness also varies widely. And all this is in an area one might think needs to be approached uniformly. But no, variations begin to emerge in our lives at nearly every point. Even at the level of our similar DNA, individuals differ sufficiently that each of us has a totally unique measure which today serves to differentiate us as finger printing used to in the past.

But once we got to such areas of human life as what kind of career suits us, what kind of significant other will promise greater happiness, where we will enjoy our vacations most, what sort of apparel is most attractive for us to wear, what it the kind of weather that suits us best–in these and innumerable other areas variety is the rule. No wonder they say it is the spice of life!

So when one runs across those who have enormous faith in centralized planning and economic regulation, one is facing people who are, to borrow a term from the late Austrian economist and libertarian Murray N. Rothbard, in revolt against nature. And this holds for nearly all aspect of one’s economic life, including the sort of financial instruments we should utilize as we prepare for our future. Yet, when the great variety of such instruments is confronted by enthusiast of government regulation, based in large measure on their explicit or more likely implicit embrace of egalitarianism, what they want to do is cut out the variety and implement, by force of law and regulation, a wholly unnatural uniformity.

In financial aspects of one’s life, as in many others, there are innumerable ways to go. Some people are adventurous for a while, then more conservative, based on not only such facts about them as the size of their family, the circumstances of their career, their hopes and plans for the future, etc., but also on personality and style. Some folks I know are fabulous speculators who also realize the hazards of going about their financial affairs that way; others do some speculation and some conservative investing; others give very little thought to all this, may even find it too bourgeois to fret about such things and proceed to live on the edge and would not have it any other way. Not unlike it is with other aspects of their lives!

Are some of the variations in all these approaches people take to different aspects of their lives unwise? You bet they are. But very few can tell–one would have to be an intimate for that kind of knowledge about a person. And even if one knew how a friend or pal or neighbor ought to carry on about his or her finances, all that is available among civilized people is to offer advice, suggestions, maybe a bit of nudging. But for adults it is up to them how they ought proceed about such matters, with a little help from their friends.

Sadly when the likes of Goldman Sachs executives are drilled by a bunch of self-important petty tyrants in our government, these folks are not really prepared to answer the bullies unleashed at them. Most of us know about all of the above implicitly, without writing it down, without articulating it, even when we are smack middle of the businesses which address it. That behind all the government regulation hysteria lies an old fashioned political and social philosophy the implication of which is, well, the kind of society they are trying to impose in North Korea–where even the public symbols wreak of equality for all (what with all those blue pajamas on display during mass parades)–does not seem to make such difference to the enthusiasts. They just follow their sentimental desire for all of us to be placed under the same rules, for all of us to submit to a one-size-fits-all policy in every sphere of our lives, with them at the helm implementing it all.

Maybe this is what the Tea Party folks sense better than all the intellectuals at our universities and prominent newspapers and magazines and just don’t want to accept as the norm. I am with them on this, all the way.

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