The title for Chapter 5 of Free To Choose is “created equal”, and is taken from the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” What does “created equal” mean? The Friedmans would answer, “The clue to what Thomas Jefferson and his contemporaries meant by equal is in the next phrase of the Declaration — ‘endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ Men were equal before God. Each person is precious in and of himself.”
The Declaration focused on equality as “equal before God”. There was no guarantee that anyone would become rich and famous. There was no guarantee that you and I were to be paid the same wage. However, we proclaimed to the world that no man was worth more than another in the eyes of God. This couldn’t be reconciled with slavery. In my humble opinion, these words, and the wiliness to fight for these words, set us on a path for the Civil War.
The Civil War changed our definition of “created equal”. Again, looking to our reading this week, the Friedmans write,”Once the Civil War abolished slavery and the concept of personal equality – equality before God and the law – came closer to realization, emphasis shifted, in intellectual discussion and in government and private policy, to a different concept — equality of opportunity.” This is very important because I believe it is key to the modern conservative / tea party movement. There are only a few things the government can do to guarantee equality of opportunity. The only way you and I can have a decent “equality of opportunity” is by ensuring the government removes any barriers that could get in our way. Protecting against racial discrimination is one way. Affirmative action isn’t one of those ways. Removing the barriers to individuals opens up their full potential. To me, this is the heart of conservatism: letting people become the best they can be at whatever they choose to be.
I think it is important to note one thing here before we discuss today’s definition of “equality”. There is no government or individual that can guarantee perfect equality of opportunity. The government, made of imperfect men, must attempt to cover most situations. Some situations will arise that government simply can’t address reasonably. We need to recognize that the government isn’t the be all, end all. Sometimes we have to overcome adversities on our own. At the end of the day, we are responsible for oursevles.
The current definition of “equality” embodied in today’s liberal movement, Obamacare, and any number of laws that protect “the poor” is the “equality of outcome”. This is the theory that no matter where you start in life, everyone should arrive at the same end point. With the exception of death, that just isn’t possible. Today’s liberal / progressive movement wants to pass as many laws as they can to try to acheive this goal. Everyone is born with different skills. While I wish I could be a famous movie star, God did not see fit to give me the face or body for such an endeavor. God did give me the skills to provide an income for my family in a less sexy industry. I am able to provide some advantages to my family, and my kids, but not many. These advantages are only because of the hard work my wife and I perform to help our family. Other families have more or less advantages depending on how hard they are willing to work. However, “equality of outcome” says that all children and all families must have the same advantages, regardless of their ability or willingness to work. Think of the old Marx adage, “From all acording to their abilities, to all according to their need.” There is not enough money to give all families the same thing. The only way to try is to lower everyone to the same level, to take everyone’s advantages from them. While the first two definitions of equality (equal before God and equal opportunities) are compatible with freedom, this most recent definition is not. The only way to achieve equal outcomes is to remove liberty and freedom from some people.
Alexis de Tocquelville warned us about this, and the Freidmans remind us of his quote:
“There is…a manly and lawful passion for equality which incites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to perfer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”
We are going in the wrong direction when we attempt to punish people for their performance and thier success. The government should be working towards equal oppurtunities and let every man and woman decide their own outcome.
For Next Week: For next weeks reading I want to get into Chapter 7. I plan on stopping at “Food and Drug Administration”. Have a great week!