In a post from 2013, we quoted Will and Ariel Durant on the persistent delusion of Equality. The pursuit of an unattainable equality has been a reliable political implement throughout the modern history of the West, despite the natural impossibility of its achievement.
Since Nature (here meaning total reality and its processes) has not read very carefully the American Declaration of Independence or the the French Revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man, we are all born unfree and unequal; subject to our physical and psychological heredity, and to the customs and traditions of our group; diversely endowed in health and strength, in mental capacities and qualities of character. Nature loves difference as the necessary material of selection and evolution; identical twins differ in hundreds of ways, and no two peas are alike.
Inequality is not only natural and inborn, it grows with the complexity of civilization. Hereditary inequalities breed social and artificial inequalities; every invention or discovery is made or seized by the exceptional individual, and makes the strong stronger, the weak relatively weaker, than before. Economic development specializes functions, differentiates abilities, and makes men unequally valuable to their group. If we knew our fellow men thoroughly we could select thirty per cent of them whose combined ability would equal that of all the rest. Life and history do precisely that, with a sublime injustice reminiscent of Calvin’s God.
Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way. Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity.
In America, the Democratic Party’s brand is built on on its championing of this illusory “equality” — and its ideological handmaiden, “inclusivity”. In reality, of course, just as the Durants (and so many others) understood, there will always be hierarchy and exclusivity: given that inequality is real, natural, and universal, social “equality” must needs be an artificial imposition, and as such can only be maintained by power — a power that will always be exerted by the few upon the many.
Making the rounds today is an article from The Guardian that looks at how this eternal truth manifests itself in present-day America. Read it here.