Equality. We all talk about it, at some level we all ask for it. What exactly does it mean though? Many people today want more and more equality. Are there consequences to striving to achieve a form of complete equality, as many seem to push for? These questions seem to get glossed over as it is simply assumed that “equality” means the same thing regardless of who is speaking and that all forms of “equality” are inherently good. However, based on what I can see, the push to achieve the modern form of equality has many serious consequences, and I wish to highlight some of those here.
To begin though, what is equality? There will be many different answers to this question, depending on who is asked. Generally though, most answers can be divided into two camps, as shown below.
As stated above, “modern equality” is the type of equality that says all people are the same. There is, of course, some good that comes from this concept as it is important to recognize that we all are humans, brothers and sisters, and that one is not more important than the other. We need to keep our pride in check and promote brotherly love and remember that we are all children of God. At a very foundational level, it is true that we are all the same.
However, there is a danger that arises in taking this concept too far. Taken to its extreme, an idea creeps into our minds saying something similar to “well, we are all the same, and because of that we should all have the same things. Therefore, since Bill down the street has more than I do, he needs to give some of that to me.” In other words, this modern version of equality quickly leads to a line of thinking in support of redistributing the wealth throughout society, as wealth redistribution is one of the main methods espoused to make sure that all people are the same.
In addition to redistributing wealth, this type of equality seeks to deny legitimate differences in people and pretend that we are all the same. People often assert that women are just the same as men, even though men and women have actual differences. Gay marriage advocates assert that gay marriage is just as deserving of a marriage title as traditional marriage. People who have never worked a day in their life assert that they deserve the same as someone who has worked daily. And the list goes on and on. Somehow, modern equality convinces us that differences are somehow bad and to deny legitimate differences between people.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking only takes things from society and from people. In other words, modern equality does not produce anything for society, it only takes things away from those who have something different. In addition, it prevents us from exercising our talents and acting on our opinions as modern equality demands that we all be the same. However, the only way for us to be the same, in the form demanded by modern equality, is to not allow people with different abilities to use their abilities. We cannot simply give someone the abilities of another, and so to achieve modern equality we have to take away (or deny, redefine, minimize, etc.) the abilities of those who are more able.
As an example, from what studies can find so far, the greatest indicator of a child’s success in school and life depends on whether or not the child’s parents read to him/her. Therefore, the conclusion goes, that when parents read to their children, their children are given an advantage in school and in the world that children do not get who are not read to by their parents. For people who view the need to give children “equality”, they have to address how to “make” things equal between children who are read to and children who are not read to. Since many parents will still not read to their children even if a law is passed requiring reading, there is no way to produce a situation where all parents read to their children. Therefore, some academics of the world have theories that push, in the name of “equality”, for reading to children to be banned, although they acknowledge that most people will not like that idea, at least right now. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058
This example of creating “equality” for children requires the holding back of children who can advance faster and further than other children and direct interference in the ability of a parent to exercise their freedoms. Sure, I never liked that my classmates in art class far excelled and beat my artistic talents, while those same artists never liked that I could perform well in math class. However, I never wanted to stop someone from reaching their potential for the sake of making me feel “equal” with them.
My life is full of amazing things, all brought to me by the knowledge and capacity of people who far excel me in talent and ability. I can’t create a computer, I can’t paint a Van Gogh, I can’t even write a song that anyone would willingly listen to. But, if I demanded and pushed the notion that I was the same as everyone else, I would ultimately have to demand that the Van Goghs stop painting, the Thomas Edisons stop inventing, and the Steve Jobs stop revolutionizing. Otherwise, I would feel unequal to these talented people as their talents and abilities far exceed mine.
Of course, if I carried equality this far, I would be destroying and taking things from society. People that have talents and abilities are able to produce things that make my life enjoyable and comfortable. Instead of being upset about people’s talents, I am glad that people have talents I do not have. I certainly want those people to excel, even at the potential that I feel inferior or “unequal” to them.
I recognize that many people will say that they celebrate “diversity” or celebrate “differences” as this is often spoken by many. However, despite what we say with our lips, the underlying trend with modern equality is to require that we all treat everyone the same. Tellingly, the recent Supreme Court decision in the gay marriage cases full embraced the heart of the principles driving modern equality. Regardless of one’s views on gay marriage, the Supreme Court rooted its decision in the “dignity” of humans, and said that by “excluding” the gay and lesbian community from “marriage”, the gays and lesbians felt they were of lower value. The Supreme Court then went on to say that “equality” means that we cannot offend the dignity of a human being as all must be treated equally.
This case creates a precedent fully built on all that the concept of modern equality envisions. Modern equality has us believe that we have equal worth as humans, and because of that we are the same in all respects. If anyone treats you differently or gives you a “preference” due to their valuing something associated with you that others don’t have, then someone else’s dignity will be offended. “Dignity,” as defined by the Supreme Court, doesn’t find fulfillment in having differences that society values differently, it only finds fulfillment in being the exact same. The only way to remedy this is to take things from those that have and give it to those that don’t have it. For items that cannot be taken (such as reading to children), the only solution will be to not allow anyone to read to their children, or else children will have an “unfair” advantage over others. Like it or not, this is what the concept of modern equality leads to, and it is what the Supreme Court has adopted as the ruling law of the land.
Since modern equality always takes things from others, some in the marriage context may ask what gay marriage “takes” from traditional marriage. The answer is that marriage has been reduced from everything that it once was to a simple contract made between two consenting adults. Marriage was not just changed to include men and men and women and women, it was reduced to nothing more, in the eyes of the law, than a simple contract.
Marriage, at one time, was a serious covenant and obligation undertaken to care for and value the “fruits”, or children, of the marriage. Marriage modeled most closely the form in which all of us came into being in this world. Every one of us, gay or straight, are the product of a male and a female. Every one of us has a father and a mother. Traditional marriage upheld the notion that the mother/father relationship mattered and that we are a product of our roots. I am the product of generations and generations of males and females who combined together to eventually create me. My DNA has been shaped, molded, and passed down for thousands of years until it resulted in the creation of me. My roots run back thousands of years through these individuals that gave me life, and these roots give meaning and depth to who I am. The best way for me to understand my roots is to interact with my father, my mother, my grandparents, and my siblings, all of whom share these roots. These interactions provide value, understanding, identity, and a sense of belonging that cannot be replicated by any other institution or relationship. Simply put, our heritage is not replaceable and forms the foundation of our existence.
Traditional marriage recognizes and upholds the relationship that gives life to all of humanity. It celebrates the relationship of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, or the relationship of those who share similar roots. Gay marriage, on the other hand, cuts out the importance of these relationships and reduces marriage to having nothing to do with children, heritage, and actual family. Gay marriage sends the message that all of these items can be replaced with a simple contract between two adults.
In a world with gay marriage, any child that is a part of these marriages will not have full access to their roots. No child is the product of two men or two women. “It’s okay though” we say, “as the child will still be loved.” Maybe so, but the child will never experience the depth of life that can come through knowing his/her heritage. Instead, the child will be cared for by a person not related and who shares a very different heritage. Certainly, this happens with adoption, but even adoption used to model, to the extent possible, the relationship that the child would have experienced and the relationship that created the child. In addition, we will quickly lose sight of the value of these relationships as the law rejects their importance, and as these relationships fade they will be replaced by more and more social programs as individuals will lack the basic foundation of receiving help from those tied to us by biology.
Yes, men and women can still marry each other and have children, but the law now says that society has no interest in promoting a relationship that brings life, because others who have no desire for that type of relationship feel hurt by the promotion. The law now says that children are just as well off in any situation in which they might be loved. This is a loss for all in society, including the children who yearn to know their roots. Many of us simply cannot calculate or understand the depth of the impact our roots have on us, and we cannot foresee the effects of a societal wide displacement of the value of the actual family.
Of course, gay marriage just highlights part of the growing trend with modern equality. Modern equality is running rampant throughout more and more aspects of society. Simply watching the news for a few minutes shows that there tends to be a serious dislike of the rich. We often hear that the rich need to pay more taxes, they have enough, it isn’t fair that I don’t have as much, etc. Socialism is premised on the notion that equality demands that everyone have the same wealth. Somehow, we believe that wealth should be given to us, even if we do not have the same talents, capacities, work ethic, or abilities of another.
Modern equality causes people to demand that the government increase subsidies. We want health care, but we don’t want to pay for it so increase subsidies. We want food, but we don’t want to pay for it so give us food stamps. We want tax breaks, but we want nice roads, big militaries, free meals in school, and free education for our children. “We deserve that” we say, “because others have it and we are all ‘equal’”. Why should a rich kid get to eat everyday? Doesn’t “dignity” require that we take the excess and share it around?
“Yes,” many will say, “dignity” does require that we redistribute wealth. Many have no qualms pushing for socialistic measures. They do not think of the consequences though. Food has to be produced. Wealth has to be produced. Technology has to be produced. Life, even, has to be produced. You did not come into existence because the government ordered you here, and the government has no lasting power to produce.
People only are willing to produce when they get a reward for it. Just imagine if you applied for a demanding job with high pay. As you interviewed, you were told you were a great fit and the employer valued your humanitarianism. “At our company,” the employer said, “we take human dignity seriously. So, your paychecks will go straight to those in need. You will work and work and get to feel the satisfaction of having your entire paycheck assist those who are not as fortunate as you to have a job.” I imagine, if you are honest with yourself, you would revolt at the idea of having the fruits of your efforts simply taken and given directly to others, and you would likely decline the job offer and look elsewhere.
Humans are motivated to work through the receipt of “fruits” or rewards of their efforts. When those rewards are taken from us, we grow upset, and then insist that the rewards be taken from others who have more than us. Eventually though, we entirely run out of people and places to take money from, and we are all left with nothing. In a world where we force the redistribution of resources, the “leveling” of the playing field in academics, and the notion that we are all the same, people lose the motivation to work and improve. I can simply jump on the bandwagon of modern equality, do nothing, and yet be equal to you as I have no incentive to work as anything I earn in excess of what you earn has to be given to you. It’s a great world for a time for those that do not strive to improve or work, but once the burden becomes too great for the remaining producers to carry the weight of all those who claim to be “equal” with them, the entire system falls apart and the result is quite catastrophic since by that time individuals have lost all necessary skills and abilities to provide for themselves. It only takes one generation of children raised in a state of having things handed to them to produce an entire society of people lacking the necessary skills to provide for themselves. And, when those skills are lost, there is no one for us to turn to from which to take our resources to maintain our “equality”.
Modern equality drives society and nations downward as it does not produce and simply takes from those that have. Imagine for a moment that notions of modern equality as adopted by the Supreme Court crept into sports. “We need to give everyone an equal opportunity to play sports” one might say. “It isn’t right that one player earn so much more than the rest of us” another might say. “The dignity of the poor players who did not make the team has been hurt” still another might say. “Sports is about more than just winning, it should take into account the dignity of all who want to participate.” So, based on these observations, assume sports is made to be “equal” to all with no one having the right to exclude anyone from the team. I can then get on my favorite pro team, even though I can’t really play too well. I can then make lots of money, even though I can’t play too well. Fans hate watching me mess things up for the team, but they do not say anything or criticize me for fear of offending me or causing me to feel less than the players who really can play the sport well. Life is great for me and all is well in my world. However, the other players who have to put up with me hate to do so, and even my enjoyment of the situation dies when the rest of society joins me since every game is now filled with all types of players lacking talent and ability. With all being equal, the sport is now meaningless, meaningless because it is most unrecognizable in its current form filled with people lacking talent and because it is no longer enjoyable to watch.
I recognize that most would consider the above example to be fairly absurd. Yes, we would say, it is ok to exclude people from sports, even if it hurts their dignity. But modern equality would disagree with it being ok to exclude because it views us all as being the same. I deserve praise, money, and access to whatever you get praise, money, and access to. I deserve your money, I deserve your talents, I deserve your opportunities, simply because I am human.
Modern equality destroys families, laws, societies and nations because it removes anything from us that might set us apart. It prevents us from reaching our potential if others don’t have the same potential. Marriage can no longer be about children, heritage, and the life of the world because it sets it apart from gay unions, which, by their very nature, cannot produce children, generations of heritage, or life for the world. In the realm of education we can no longer strive to help all achieve our full potential because my potential in math might set me apart from others who have lower potential than I do. Work can no longer be about attracting those with the best talents and abilities because that sets them apart from those who do not have the same talents and abilities. People cannot be fired for poor performance at work. Colleges cannot base entrance on grades alone but have to consider race, gender, and other factors in an attempt to “equalize” us all.
The list will certainly go on and on. People will despise me if I can do something they cannot, and they will despise you if you can do something they cannot. The wealthy will be hated for their ability to accumulate wealth, or for their ability to do invent something or provide a service that the rest of us are willing to pay money to have, like the iphone. Religious people will be despised for asserting that certain conduct is wrong, or immoral. Modern equality will demand that we continue to take and take until we are all reduced to one homogenous body, the level of which is set by the lowest common denominator in society, as any other level would “exclude” or offend the “dignity” of those with the least amount of talents and abilities.
Society gets nowhere through this type of reduction. America became great because individuals chose to exercise their talents that set them apart from everyone else. Individuals performed tasks that no others had been able to do. My parents brought me to this world, Edison brought light, the Wright brothers brought flight, Bell brought the telephone, Steve Jobs brought handheld devices, and many others have likewise contributed. All of us can and do contribute when we choose to. Society, when we all contribute and work, grows and progresses. However, when we demand that no person ever get ahead, that no person ever be valued differently due to different characteristics, and that all be viewed as being the same, since that would be “equal”, we lose, and we lose so much.
Ultimately, we have to be willing to make certain judgments and value decisions. An NBA coach makes judgments about the right person for his team. Oftentimes, the right person for one team will also be the right person for another team, and so the sought after individual can increase his price until he finds the team that values him the most. I certainly should be free to work to find those who value me the most as well as increase my value. When I increase my value society becomes a little better. When I demand that I be given part of someone else’s value though, I may have a temporary gain but society loses big in the long run. All of us are best off searching for the places and people that value us the most and allowing others to do the same, even if they end up earning or achieving more than I do.
We are different, we each have different talents and abilities. Whether you believe in God or not, we were all created with varying levels of ability, and it is critical to recognize and accept the basics of our nature and existence. All of the laws in the world cannot make it so that I can write music like Beethoven. If I demand and push that we are all the same, we lose the Beethovens of the world. Imagine if radio stations had to play everybody’s songs, to make it so that all people who produced music did not feel that their dignity had been hurt. Radio could still, sometimes, play the great songs of our time, but if we had to listen through hours of lower quality music to hear one great song, then we would certainly have lost in that exchange as we would not be able to maximize the value of our time.
We can stop the destructive nature of modern equality by limiting our demand for equality to situations where we treat similarly situated people similarly, which equality is referred to in this article as “traditional equality”. This type of equality makes us strive to improve and strive to earn, through producing, what we want to have. This effort occurs under traditional equality because when I see something that I want, I have to perform the same as someone that already has that thing. For example, if I decide that my neighbor’s car is really cool, I would have to go and do the same value of work my neighbor did in order to purchase the car. My work would produce things and provide value for society, and I would know that if I paid the price for the car like my neighbor paid the price for the car, I would receive the car, just as my neighbor did.
As another example, think of the Amish people. They live a very different type of lifestyle than many others in America do. Is it necessary to regulate their community the same as New York City? No, certainly not. They are in a different situation, and thus different rules can justly apply. America’s concept of Federalism (maintaining local governments and a limited Federal government), sought to help keep traditional equality as it allowed the local governments to govern according to the situation applicable to the specific locality. The constant increase in the number of Federal laws quickly destroys this protection though as Federal laws require the same treatment for all, regardless of situation. For example, there is a Federal minimum wage that applies across the country, despite the fact that the cost of living is so different from state to state and city to city.
Another illustration of the differences between the two types of equality can be found in medicine. Consider autism. Autism includes a broad range of disorders. Science is currently trying to understand what causes autism, and some people suggest causes ranging from vaccinations to pollution to processed foods to genetics. No studies have conclusively shown what causes it though. Now, compare that to a rash. A rash could include things such as chicken pox, measles, hives, allergic reactions, etc. If science were to treat rashes like autism, it would search for one cause for all rashes. We would laugh at that as we know that there are many causes for rashes, and that each specific type of rash is caused by something different, be it a virus, allergic reaction, bee sting, etc. The only way we know that though is because we have specifically identified the differences in the measles rash versus an allergic type rash.
Basically, the way autism is defined can be analogized to what modern equality does to our society. With autism, all sorts of disorders are lumped together into one definition, and science is still at a loss to explain why autism occurs. Perhaps if science more precisely categorized the types of autism, like it does with types of rashes, it would then be able to better identify specific causes for specific types of autism, some of which are likely very different from the others.
The autism/rash example shows the value of focusing on differences and treating similarly situated things the same. Science cannot progress much at all if it just makes all disorders equal (like with autism). It has to find specific strengths and weaknesses of specific types of issues, and has to be willing to identify and treat different things differently. Similarly, society has to be willing to admit that there are differences. Yes, we are all humans at the core and there is a foundational set of rights given to all, as reflected in the Constitution, for our status as a human, but we cannot, and must not, demand that we be treated the exact same as everyone else in the world. Otherwise, we cannot progress, cannot discover, and cannot improve.
Traditional equality builds and motivates us to progress since we have to work to make ourselves better so that we can be treated the same as others with higher abilities. Traditional equality is honest about differences and looks to all relevant factors to determine similarities and when people should be treated the same. Modern equality destroys because it takes from those who have built and motivates us to demand that others give anything they have in excess of what we have. Modern equality denies there are differences, or that the differences matter, and insists that human “dignity” requires that we all be treated the same, regardless of what we have done to earn the treatment.
Therefore, it is important for us to recognize the difference in how “equality” is used. It is appropriate to treat similarly situated people similarly, but it is not appropriate to pretend that all people are the same. Essentially, it isn’t bad to be different as it brings so much life and vitality to our existence. However, it is bad to begin to deny differences and pretend everything is the same between us as society loses every time we do so. We must be willing to recognize the value in different traits, abilities, and actions, and work to promote items that produce value for our society.