I Hold These Truths (but others don’t)

I hold this truth to be self evident: that all men are not created equal.

Some are born to privilege, some to a life of poverty and despair. Some are born intelligent, some lacking in intelligence. Some to caring parents and nurturing environments, some to uncaring and distracted parents and brutal environments. Some go to schools that nourish them, some to schools where no one seems to care.

To go beyond this country, some are born in societies that consider everyone entitled to healthcare, education, and freedom from insecurity. Others are born in societies where the rich prey on the poor, the strong on the weak.

No, all men are not equal.

We may think that everyone should be equal but this is impossible. People cannot be equal in terms of natural gifts such as intelligence, beauty, physical strength. However we can be more equal in terms of the things that society has control over: educational opportunities, financial security, job security, health, childcare, and so on. But this takes a change in the way money is treated: less inequality, higher taxes, changes to the tax code, different spending priorities, fairer funding of schools.

But the rich and powerful will not willingly give up their wealth and privilege. As Lucy Parsons says, “Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”

Curiously, neither will the poor and powerless necessarily give up their poverty and disadvantages. One of the things driving the changing electoral patterns in the world is resentment. In Europe it tends to be resentment of immigrants. In the US it tends to be resentment of blacks and immigrants. In both cases it’s resentment of people who are regarded as undeserving, people who are getting jobs and benefits that should have gone to the resenters.

The result is a turn to the right, to politicians who promise to keep out or keep down the undeserving. The fact that the resenters will also lose out seems to be irrelevant. What counts is that the undeserving are punished.

In the end it doesn’t seem to matter that people are unequal. Quite the contrary: inequality is important, comparison is important. What matters is making sure that the undeserving are worse off than the resenters.

Links and Other Clicks

A fascinating article about the failure of social democracy.

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