Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom and equality together?

Senator Sherrod Brown sent me a 4th of July email today and the opening sentence was:

"Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, farmers, merchants, laborers, and soldiers celebrated a new nation – fixed in freedom and equality."

Notice the bold section. Now if Mr. Brown is referring to equality of opportunity, maybe that it is true (assuming you were a white male, but we will ignore that for right now). But I do not think that is what Mr. Brown meant. Judging by his other emails and his political views, I think he means equality of results, or at least equality of results up to some arbitrary level that he finds acceptable. The problem is that you cannot have equality of results and freedom

Contrary to what you may hear on TV or read in books, we are not all created equal. Some of us are tall, some are short, some are smart, some less so. Some of us are natural athletes, while others have a hard time jumping over a pencil. In order to create some level of equal results among such different people, the best of us must be brought down. It is impossible to make me as talented as Lebron James, Gary Becker, Larry Ellison, or Paul McCartney. They have each earned a lot of money and prestige, while I likely will not. In order to make our lives even remotely similar wealth must be taken from them and given to me. Society cannot take the least talented and transform them into the most talented. It can only work the other way.

While the above is an extreme example, it is no different in principle than taking assets from those who use their talents to earn over 250K/yr and redistributing them to those earning less. In each case, coercion (jail, fines, etc.) must used to bring about some equality of results. And where there is coercion there is certainly an absence of freedom.

So the next time you hear someone say we need equality and freedom, as them what kind of equality they mean. Because if it is equality of results that they are looking for, then they might as well be saying that they would like to have their cake and eat it too.

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