Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Politically-Inconvenient Lessons of History, and Realities of Nature

I think we get so caught up in the inequality conversation that we lose sight of nature -- and of history. 

My personal history, my education, my scripting, my ego, etc., send me into the philosophical arms of Milton Friedman and others:
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both. M. Friedman
Many folks resist such notions; we know this when we listen to the politician, for no one knows the biases of the populace better than the politician. He/she exists to exploit our bents, our conceptions and our misconceptions to achieve his/her personal objectives.  

While you and I may disagree on whether the government can, or ever should, orchestrate the economy in a manner that creates "equality", the good news is that I believe you and I advocate for the very same thing; that EVERY citizen would have the opportunity to improve his/her lot by taking full advantage of his/her innate talents, his/her experience and his/her fortitude.

Will and Ariel Durant, in their classic The Lessons of History, point to the politically-inconvenient realities of nature, the destruction to be had at the hands of policymakers, and how the hopes of the amiable philosopher is the best we can strive for:
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. A society in which all potential abilities are allowed to develop and function will have a survival advantage in the competition of groups.


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