Inequality is Forever

Inequality is intractable. I’ve written about this often. Innate inequalities — the unequal distribution of superior qualities — naturally create social and economic inequalities, and the only way to level these natural differences is by the creation and imposition of new inequalities of power. It follows, then, that a social movement (or, properly understood, a secular religion) that uses “inequality” (and its inevitable correlate, “discrimination”) as an alias for “evil”, that interprets all naturally occurring instances of inequality as the result of oppressive and voluntary agency, and that makes “victims” of such inequalities sacred objects and holy martyrs, is actually, and necessarily, engaging itself in the acquisition of power, and the creation of new inequalities. It simply cannot be otherwise, platitudes about the “right side of history” and arguments based on egalitarian moral axioms notwithstanding.

I was looking for something in Lawrence Auster’s archives the other day, and ran across this:

Since liberals are against unequal power relationships, they must deny that they exercise power themselves. They always present themselves as the “progressives” come to end inequality, rather than as the power wielders. The result is that liberal power is invisible and unaccountable, and is thus more unequal, undemocratic, and corrupting than the traditional power relations it is replacing, which, unlike liberalism, do not deny their own hierarchical component.

Exactly correct. How I do wish he were still with us.

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19 Comments

  1. I wish Washington, Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan were still with us, too. I also miss Dubya, whose love of country was never in doubt.

    I wish our current resident, along with his would-be successor were on a long hot journey in a handbasket built for two.

    Can we have a pony?
    Pony_Ride.jpg

    Posted May 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  2. Musey says

    Malcolm, I vowed not to react but this is a particularly thorny issue for me. Inequality is a problem, it always has been and will continue to be so, obviously.

    Some people are more intelligent than others and as I have been told more than once around here, I leave a lot to be desired on that score. I bloody well know that.

    But there’s inequality and then there’s inequality. There is excess, there is naked greed and there are many smug rich people who believe they’ve earned it, they deserve their good fortune and by implication the less fortunate have only themselves to blame.

    I have no problem with rich people. They just are, whether by inheritance, or toil and a lot of luck (if the latter) because some of the most intelligent people that I know are relatively poor. By the same token, I know a couple of super wealthy people who got lucky and, sorry, but they’re fairly ruthless and unprincipled, smart but not really clever.

    We have a situation here where people can “negatively gear” houses which means that they avoid tax because they off-set imaginary losses against income and don’t pay in at all. They’re all in favour of zero taxation (begrudging what little they do hand over) and then they scream about the “voice of envy”. I can only hear the voice of greed.

    You can go on all you like about new inequalities but I don’t see them. Just the old enduring ones with extra bells and whistles. Where the rich get to own ten houses and lock the young out of the market. But like Malcolm says (not you, our PM) “shell out and buy your kid a house”. It’s not right.

    The gap between the richest and the poorest is dangerously large, and growing, here. Probably where you are as well. I truly believe that we lead people to resentment or we admit that we have a society that needs to value everybody. It’s not about absolute equality, it never has been. It’s about decency and fairness because those people at the bottom of the heap recognize their plight, they live it every day but don’t let’s rub their noses in it because the inevitable backlash will be on all of us. And we will deserve it, oh yes.

    Posted May 16, 2016 at 1:30 am | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    Well Musey it’s good to see you are back from your inspection of Europe and the place that counts most-England.

    The inequality you are talking about will always be with us, the fairness aspect as well. We have a great deal of financial inequality here as well and the tech field is a large part of it. Where Malcolm’s piece is concentrating is in the social arena as it relates to biology and anatomy and mental health. This eruption of such things may not have found their way to your local news but all of a sudden they are front and center here, and not by accident. It is an opportunity for disruptive opportunists and an opportunity for government in all its heavy handed wisdom and benevolence to intervene in the most private aspects of a person’s life. It’s all about the notion of “gender identity”. What a social minefield and what an opportunity for the expression of the nobility of government. There are lots of moving parts to this mess.

    Posted May 16, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Musey,

    I don’t disagree, generally, with anything you say here. I’ve certainly never said that the perfect world is a wholly ungoverned one in which the strong prey upon the weak. The point is that there is no perfect world, and that inequality is permanent and intractable; it simply manifests itself in different ways in different eras, and it will always express itself in struggles for power.

    I’ve quoted the Durants often on this:

    The experience of the past leaves little doubt that every economic system must sooner or later rely upon some form of the profit motive to stir individuals and groups to productivity. Normally and generally men are judged by their ability to produce — except in war, when they are ranked according to their ability to destroy.

    Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is concentrated in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history … the concentration may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.

    … We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.

    This problem of unequal distribution of innate capabilities is bad enough in homogeneous societies — but when such qualities are unevenly distributed between different identity groups in multiethnic societies the tension is far more destructive. History, and current events, are replete with examples. We see this unfolding right now in the U.S., where “progressives” in charge of government, media, and academia are making audacious exertions of leveling power, using an infinitely flexible concept of “disparate impact”. You might say that this is an expression of the “backlash” you seem to be hoping for, but backlashes can cause backlashes of their own, and even the most casual survey of history should remind us that things can get very ugly very fast.

    Posted May 16, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  5. Musey says

    Whitewall, I think it’s convenient to speak of gender identity, biology and anatomy to intellectualize what is clearly happening here, and all around the western world. White men have always been in charge and they continue to be in large part. I don’t see that changing much at all. But the alarm that you’re sounding has all the hallmarks of panic because you might have to cede a little of that power to women or to men who aren’t white.

    If I come over as simplistic when carrying on about those who own multiple houses and structure their affairs in order to pay no tax it is because, by and large, it is rich white men who are doing this stuff. Furthermore they think they’re entitled because after all who built our society? Well, men did but with the support of women without whom they couldn’t have functioned. They will fight tooth and nail to preserve the status quo but having locked out the vast majority of the less fortunate from basic aspirations like home ownership they are starting to feel the backlash that I believe they have brought on themselves.

    So it is in that spirit that I interpret this kind of post and reduce it down to the mundane. I don’t buy in to the biological argument because much as it used to matter, women that were compliant no longer are. Women made it possible. Now, they have careers, and they make wealth, and they don’t have children if they don’t wish to have them. That freedom is key to societal change.

    It’s not been great in some respects. with the most intelligent women shunning sectors where they have traditionally “held the fort” standards are in rapid decline. All those brilliant women who were content to teach are now entering the prestigious professions leaving their old roles to less capable people. It was foreseeable. We desperately need to find a way to make our schools work as well as they can for everybody. That means men making some changes because there will be no turning back the clock.

    There is no reason why we can’t make changes which don’t put all the onus of home-making and child rearing on to the mother. It may feel natural, it probably always will lean that way but it doesn’t need to be.

    The stupidity of “gender identity” and all those faddish issues is that it’s really not that important. How many people are confused about their gender? I don’t know a single person but then I don’t get out much. But in part, it is men like yourselves who are using fringe issues and putting them centre stage in order to discredit the whole argument for some change.

    I was talking to an old friend a few weeks ago. She’s an Anglican vicar, a supremely intelligent woman and probably the gentlest person I’ve ever met. She is constantly vilified by traditionalists who don’t think she should be anywhere near the church, and indeed suggest that she is actively destroying it. (I give it five years until she’s a bishop).

    Europe was wonderful. Sunshine all the way and little sign of impending doom although all the main tourist/heritage sites were protected by the army. We had a fabulous time.

    England is unchanged..the parts I visited. Cambridge is still idyllic and the people there are as they always were. It was a great joy to see old friends again and very interesting to see my daughter’s pals and see where life had taken them.

    I never stopped reading the blog! I shared a hotel bedroom with my daughter and so I couldn’t turn the light on without disturbing her. Malcolm, I read your words of wisdom on my phone whilst I was in the wrong time zone in the middle of the European night.

    I’m back now. A friend asked me the other day if I felt like I had come home. Yes, for the first time. My family is here, I have many friends and anyway, I’m expecting lots of visitors from the old world.

    Posted May 16, 2016 at 11:50 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Musey, just imagine the career I could have had in the NBA if those bastards hadn’t held me back!

    Women choosing in large numbers not to have children is, just as you say, the key to societal change. (More specifically, it is the key to the change from a society that continues to exist to one that becomes extinct.)

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:23 am | Permalink
  7. Musey says

    Yes Malcolm, I know. Do you have any idea how much I agree with you? But if intelligent women are to be persuaded to have children they need some support which they are not currently getting. So you men have a part to play in making sure that intelligent women are willing to reproduce.

    I’ve said before, I’ll say again, I don’t speak for myself. I was a born mother, it’s what I wanted and I didn’t have any spectacular career aspirations. We’re all different, some women find motherhood hard.
    My very lovely god-fearing Anglican priest who deeply loves her children found the early years to be “suffocating”. I loved going to playgroups and meeting loads of mothers and singing nursery rhymes. You know why.

    We have to deal with the new reality. As I said to my daughter: “I’ll look after a baby for you so you can continue to work”. It’s sensible, if not feasible for everybody.

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:50 am | Permalink
  8. Whitewall says

    Musey, I’m glad your trip went so well. I believe I see where you are coming from in your take on matters social. A good flattening of distinctions and more enforced equality of every kind will make a better world by giving all people their turn at bat. I agree this would bring about inevitable change as hierarchy of every kind would vanish. I wonder if this is workable in the long run?

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    “But if intelligent women are to be persuaded to have children they need some support which they are not currently getting.”

    Got it.

    It’s their society which will go extinct too, you know. Their options will be even more limited under whatever replaces it.

    It’s an interesting tactic, to hold oneself hostage. But of course I’ve forgotten: we’ve sawed off both the past and the future, as well as the transcendent, and so our brief lives here in the present are all that exists. Heritage? Duty? Posterity? Stewardship? Pah.

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  10. Loki says

    Time was a woman would need persuading NOT to want children. Guess we’ve done a pretty good job.

    On the other hand, I’m sure being sixty-something, single, and childless is going to be amply fulfilling in its own way, too. After all, there are always cats. And I hear that toxoplasmosis is kind of a comforting buzz.

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    On a more serious note: this is how civilizations die. As noted here (see, also, here):

    Observers of the life-cycles of civilizations long ago noticed that there is a natural demographic process that tends to enfeeble high civilizations as they reach their apogee. The idea is that as civilizations advance, they create more and more knowledge, literature, art, etc., and that for the civilization to continue to advance requires that there be enough people in each succeeding generation with the cognitive and behavioral capacity to absorb it all and carry it forward. The fact that these traits are highly heritable means that those in each generation who possess these necessary qualities must maintain a certain rate of fertility in order to ensure that there will be a large enough pool of such resources in the next generation.

    The problem, however, is that high civilizations offer a great many agreeable distractions and diversions for these cognitive elites (not least of which is the work of building upon the knowledge and culture passed to them by their antecedent generation) — and so the messy, expensive, and time-consuming work of raising children becomes less and less attractive. Once the fertility rate drops below a certain critical point, there simply aren’t enough children of sufficient quality to shoulder the load, and the whole structure becomes more and more top-heavy. Eventually it collapses. This has happened again and again throughout history.

    Posted May 17, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  12. Musey says

    Whitewall, I don’t know what is workable in the long run but we have to try something to get things back into balance. Hierarchy is part of the human condition I believe, otherwise we would have chaos but we need to have some faith in the goodwill of the people from whom we take our orders. It seems like every man for himself is the current mantra, no politician can be trusted.

    Yes Malcolm, we do very much live in and for the present. The principles of selflessness and sacrifice, of service to others, have largely been abandoned in favour of hedonism and self-gratification. Only the very few, often god-fearing souls or occasionally very fine minds, look past their own desires and consider the greater good. Unfortunately these people rarely have any real authority.

    Loki, I’m not sure that you weren’t being entirely serious. I don’t think you’re right though. Lots of women have been luke-warm on the idea of motherhood even in the days when it was expected that a wish to procreate was a natural impulse. Women were not allowed to work after they married until fairly recently. Generally, when in work they were in low paid jobs, when married the children arrived unchecked. Upwards of six children was not unusual at all. Dependency and an absence of effective contraception pretty well guaranteed that women would have large families.

    I have many friends approaching their sixtieth birthday. Some of them are childless by choice and don’t admit to any regrets. (Not that I’m rude enough to ask). But they’re without exception, financially independent, well-traveled and enjoying their lives. They have a friendship network which seems to stop any feeling of loneliness. That wouldn’t have been possible a generation ago.

    The truly lonely, I would guess, are older women. More like eighty than sixty. Sadly, I think that it’s men who really don’t cope well with the single life. I left my husband to fend for himself for 24 days and he hated it! The local shop keeper got to know him quite well and was helping him count down the days until we returned. All our lovely neighbours took it in turns to invite him around for supper and the old lady next door, who is in her eighties wanted to take in his washing. It’s daft. When he goes away for a few weeks at time I’m quite alright. I don’t get asked around for supper. Maybe they just don’t like me!

    Posted May 18, 2016 at 4:39 am | Permalink
  13. antiquarian says

    Musey, despite the counterintuitiveness evoked by how headlineable it is, a lot of the inequality you mention just isn’t significant, much less dangerous. In Micklethwait’s and Wooldridge’s The Right Nation appears this passage about an inequality study measuring the income gap between the top and bottom 10%:

    “Interestingly, the reason America was so unequal by this measure was not because its poorest 10 percent were particularly badly off (indeed, in purchasing power parity terms, they were narrowly ahead of similar groups in Britain and Australia); it was because America’s richest tenth had far higher median incomes.”

    In other words, the American poor aren’t particularly poor. (This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the Mexican poor are risking their lives simply to become American poor.) It’s just that the rich are that much richer, and that they don’t compete with the poor for most things, so the extra wealth has no particular effect on the lives of the poor. It’s rather like a nuclear arsenal in the Cold War– what difference does it make how many times they can nuke you, or buy you?

    The other point I’d make about inequality, apart from agreeing with Malcolm’s post about its inevitability, is that soaking the rich isn’t going to work. There just aren’t enough of them. You could take every penny of theirs– once– and hand it out to “the 99%” (as though that didn’t include 19 of the top 20%)– and it wouldn’t make much difference, except to the smartest and richest, who would spend it on income-producing assets and become the new definition of “rich”.

    Posted May 18, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  14. Musey says

    Thanks Antiquarian. I agree with you that it’s better to be very poor in America than in other parts of the world. Also, I was aware that income in particular fields is very much higher than it is here or in the UK. The other side of the coin is that minimum wages are very much higher to the extent that those who have a job here probably don’t fit into the category that we label “poor”.

    I still think that massive inequality is very significant but I’m not advocating that we soak the rich or engage in some arbitrary redistribution of wealth. Obviously, neither are you but your insistence about the inevitability of inequality seems to seek justify the view that we need do nothing at all. There is nothing we can do so why bother to try?

    Maybe we should give some thought to how we can stop the decline that we see all around us. Maybe we should consider that we’re alright but maybe our children and grandchildren will suffer because of our inaction. Maybe we should admit that even though living poor in the USA is preferable to most other places it still isn’t great. We could try to create opportunity rather than just shrugging our shoulders and pointing out that this collapse of civilization has happened over and over again through history.

    Of course you agree with Malcolm. He writes well and expresses himself with great clarity. But he appears to have given up. (Sorry, to talk like you’re not here Malcolm). Not only that, there is a tone hereabouts of resignation tinged with a bit of excitement because possibly there are people wanting to watch the fall of this civilization so that they can step in and create their own version of Utopia. And if that seems a long way from where Malcolm’s post started out it’s because I’ve read the tweaked version dozens of times.

    Whitewall tells me that the real issues are biology, anatomy and mental health in relation to this particular post. Malcolm constantly references NBL players which I interpret (maybe mistakenly) as meaning that women can never be as good as men in any field whatsoever, not in significant numbers. That some people, those incomers are inherently inferior to others and insist on reproducing like rabbits so they’ll be overwhelming us soon.

    So what do we do? Do we intervene in people’s private lives and try to force some to reproduce whilst forcibly stopping others? Do we ship people out of our countries and send them back home? Do we build walls to keep people in? Should we put the mental health issues out of sight because there have always been troubled people and there was a time when the most seriously afflicted were locked away for life. It doesn’t really matter if a few “confused” people want to use the bathrooms assigned to the opposite sex. I imagine that any man who ventured into a womans changing room because he felt like a “she” would be swiftly dealt with.

    We’ll soon see whether you choose Donald or Hillary. I’m saying nothing more but if your country is being run by a man/woman who is not completely stable all you intelligentsia, making plans, in your Manhattan penthouses better have a plan ready to go.

    Whitewall, sorry for the tone. You don’t deserve it.

    Posted May 19, 2016 at 3:35 am | Permalink
  15. antiquarian says

    Musey, I didn’t say nothing could be done, nor did I intend to imply it. I simply think that direct governmental financial transfers to poor people do nothing but change the numerical definition of poverty. It affects their spending patterns. None of that money sticks in their lives.

    The foundation of real wealth or poverty is in the mind. It comes from the thoughts and emotions and habits that come with mental qualities, and from the cumulative result of many iterations of those habits. If you’re in the habit of having cable TV and I’m in the habit of avoiding it and using the same money to buy shares in Comcast, and we do this over many years, it’s not too hard to figure out who’ll be richer. You could get the government to give you a bit more money, but when Comcast raises its rates by the same amount and you stay with them, which of us do you think has benefitted from the government’s action?

    So, in essence, what I think is that we’re not telling the truth about money, or wealth, and the ways they work. Starting to do so is what we can do.

    Posted May 19, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    Musey,

    I still think that massive inequality is very significant but I’m not advocating that we soak the rich or engage in some arbitrary redistribution of wealth.

    Well, then what are you suggesting?

    [Malcolm] appears to have given up.

    What, exactly, do you think it is that I’ve given up on? I think you’d say I’m a reasonable man. What, then, do you think my reasons might be?

    Malcolm constantly references NBL [sic] players which I interpret (maybe mistakenly) as meaning that women can never be as good as men in any field whatsoever, not in significant numbers.

    Forgive me, but I do think you stubbornly and persistently misread me, Musey.

    I refer to the NBA because it is a simple and illustrative example of the way the unequal distribution of various talents among various groups results in disproportionate representation of those groups in professions where there are obvious quantitative metrics for success. To interpret that as “women can never be as good as men in any field whatsoever” is a gross misunderstanding of a very simple concept, and I’ve never said anything remotely like it. I mean nothing more than what I’ve said again and again: that all human qualities are at least partially innate, and therefore heritable, and therefore subject to selection pressure, and that therefore the statistical distribution of these qualities should be expected to vary where selection pressures do, i.e., between long-separated populations, and yes, between the sexes.

    That there should be numerical differences, then, in the representation of these groups in fields that necessarily filter aspirants based on these quantifiable qualities, is entirely natural and should surprise nobody — as, indeed, it never did, until the radicalizing post-modern mind-virus grabbed hold of an entire civilization.

    Do I advocate a ruthless society in which the strong simply prey on the weak? Of course not. Nor, however, do I advocate a society that denies the reality of natural inequalities to the point of destroying all hierarchy, and all of a healthy society’s necessary institutions, for the sake of a radical “leveling” that can only be achieved, as noted above, by the creation and imposition of tyrannical power.

    The tension between these two poles makes for, as noted by the Durants, a natural cycle of civilizations, and finding the “sweet spot” between them — in other words, between liberty and equality — is difficult. But you seem to think that inequality can only be a symptom of illiberty; that in some perfect world liberty and equality are not natural antagonists, but natural partners.

    You are very deeply mistaken about this.

    Posted May 19, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  17. Musey says

    I’m suggesting a change which will open up doors to those who are currently locked out. It’s very much an Australian perspective because we have systems in place (fiercely defended by those who have something to lose) which will, if maintained, keep the rich getting richer. I’m not suggesting a grab-back or anything retrospective. So this is probably an inappropriate forum for me to suggest that these changes need to happen because it’s a peculiarly Australian thing whereby the rich don’t pay, and ordinary people are sold the myth that it’s a great thing. Don’t rock the boat or you’ll collapse the economy.

    Sorry Malcolm, I don’t know anything about NBA or NBL. I’ve always assumed it was a basketball thing where the tall players get to dominate. That is, you have to be tall in order to make it. You stand there and just put the ball in the net. I took from your use of this analogy that it’s far more acceptable to point out that short people can’t compete in basketball anymore than the intellectually inferior can compete in society at large. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you have suggested many times that white men have earned their place in the world, that some people have children who have less value than others,that women are generally less able than men at the top end, that mixing of races is not desirable, that some religions are toxic.

    I’m problematic because I agree with some of what you say. It’s easy because I don’t have any status so it’s allowed and anyway no-one will take any notice. I’m very wary of Muslims, their attitudes, boldly expressed where it is clear that they despise our values and the way that we live. Such a horrendously backward attitude to women is totally on display when traveling through some of these emirates..

    I have a huge problem with “group-think” in right wing circles. The fact that none of you believe in man-made global warming because it’s in the catechism is disturbing. You talk about environmentalists and their religion. You have one too. Some of the similarities between Islam and traditionalist thought are striking. They will both take us back.

    I try not to comment on US politics but I do think that I can suspend that restraint (for which I am famous) because if Donald gets in it affects me. I watched him on TV, one on one with Megan Kelly. “Did I really say that? Excuse me. You must have had far worse”. It’s my recall, not verbatim but I think the essence is pretty right. He makes my flesh crawl. Soon he might be in charge. Oh my. Now we should panic.

    Can you tell me why I should have to know the 5x tables to comment here? You have set the bar too low!

    Posted May 20, 2016 at 3:04 am | Permalink
  18. Malcolm says

    Musey,

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you have suggested many times that white men have earned their place in the world…

    Look at the modern world. Who invented it?

    …that some people have children who have less value than others…

    I have said that for great civilizations to advance, or even persist, there have to be enough people in each rising generation with the cognitive abilities to carry forward the ever-increasing store of knowledge and wisdom that the previous generation bequeaths them. Do you disagree?

    …that women are generally less able than men at the top end…

    I’ve said that the distribution of IQ is flatter in males than females, so that there are more males at both tails of the curve. If you dispute this, then let’s see some data.

    …that mixing of races is not desirable…

    I’ve argued that cultures are phenotypic expressions of largely heritable qualities, and that those qualities are differently distributed among long-separated human populations. I’ve argued also that multiculturalism is bad for social cohesion, and therefore weakens human societies, making them more fissile and fractious, and lowering public trust. If you disagree, we can discuss these things.

    That some religions are toxic.

    Toxic to whom? I think Islam, which is by its immutable essence relentlessly expansionist and totalitarian, is proving to be highly toxic to the West. Don’t you?

    The fact that none of you believe in man-made global warming because it’s in the catechism is disturbing.

    I’ve never said I didn’t believe that human activity might contribute to warming. For a summary of my position, see here. For the reasons why a rational person should take climate alarmism cum grano salis, please give this a careful reading.

    You talk about environmentalists and their religion.

    Not just me.

    Some of the similarities between Islam and traditionalist thought are striking. They will both take us back.

    The difference, of course, is what they will take us back TO.

    If you’ve made a wrong turn, what ought you to do? If your civilization is heading for a cliff, should you keep racing “Forward”?

    Posted May 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  19. “Equality is related to the direct interests of individuals who are bent on escaping certain inequalities not in their favor, and setting up new inequalities that will be in their favor, this latter being their chief concern.” -Vilfredo Pareto

    Posted May 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink