“Equality.” We’re all for it, right? Old Tom Jefferson put it in the Declaration: “All men are created equal.” That must mean we should all be equal, in every way and at every instant from birth to death, right? Besides, our pastors teach us that we’re all equal in the eyes of God, right? Right?
That’s the Gospel of Egalitarianism. Perhaps it’s better stated as an Eleventh Commandment:
It lacks a certain something, though: an enforcement mechanism. As matters stand, people vary all over the map. What to do, what to do...hmmm...wait, I have it! We’ll have the State make us all equal, like in that Kurt Vonnegut story! With the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful State to watch over us, no one would dare to be better than anyone else at anything!
At last: there would no longer be any reason for anyone to envy anyone else! A magnificent Utopian vision! The dream of the Left in glorious Technicolor! There are just a few wee problems:
It would be totalitarian;
It would occasion an unprecedented bloodletting;
And no matter how much force you use, it can’t be done.
You already had an inkling or two about that, didn’t you?
Certain totally insane notions simply refuse to die. Egalitarianism is conspicuous among them. Contrary to what many think, it’s not that such notions are genuinely beautiful, dreams we would truly love to achieve if only it were possible. It’s that they’re useful to those who seek power over others.
No two individuals are equal in any way.
No two races are equal in any way.
The two sexes are not equal in any way.
No two ethnicities are equal in any way.
No two cultures are equal in any way.
No two religious creeds are equal in any way.
And they cannot be made equal by any application of wishful thinking or force.
However, the notion that X and Y should be equal – in political terms, that such equality is a God-given right -- justifies the use of State power over them. If your goal is the expansion of the State and its powers, egalitarian claims and those making them are weapons in your arsenal.
Are you happy with the way American government has used its powers to this point, Gentle Reader?
Retirement USA is a national initiative that is working for a new retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for future retirees. The initiative has developed 12 Principles for a New Retirement System, which provides a framework for a future system in which employers, workers, and the government would share responsibility for the retirement security for all American workers.
Make sure you have a look at those “principles.” Then make sure you have a quiet place to lie down until the shakes subside.
What, precisely, is the rationale behind this new socialist initiative? Why, that a “secure retirement” is a right. Never mind that only recently, in historical terms, has anyone but the very wealthy been able even to contemplate retirement. Never mind that other socialist gestures toward “secure retirement,” such as the one currently destroying Greece, have all eventuated in failure at best, disaster at worst. Never mind that the American step in that direction, Social Security, is on the verge of collapse and cannot be saved without either means-testing it – i.e., changing it from a form of insurance to a form of welfare – or tax increases so massive that working Americans would essentially be made serfs laboring for the leisure of retirees.
It’s not the first stroke in this direction, of course. Congress has already entertained the suggestion that private pension funds and savings should be confiscated:
RALEIGH — Democrats in the U.S. House have been conducting hearings on proposals to confiscate workers’ personal retirement accounts — including 401(k)s and IRAs — and convert them to accounts managed by the Social Security Administration.
Triggered by the financial crisis the past two months, the hearings reportedly were meant to stem losses incurred by many workers and retirees whose 401(k) and IRA balances have been shrinking rapidly.
The testimony of Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York, in hearings Oct. 7 drew the most attention and criticism. Testifying for the House Committee on Education and Labor, Ghilarducci proposed that the government eliminate tax breaks for 401(k) and similar retirement accounts, such as IRAs, and confiscate workers’ retirement plan accounts and convert them to universal Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRAs) managed by the Social Security Administration. Ghilarducci’s plan first appeared in a paper for the Economic Policy Institute: Agenda for Shared Prosperity on Nov. 20, 2007, in which she said GRAs will rescue the flawed American retirement income system (www.sharedprosperity.org/bp204/bp204.pdf).
The current retirement system, Ghilarducci said, “exacerbates income and wealth inequalities” because tax breaks for voluntary retirement accounts are “skewed to the wealthy because it is easier for them to save, and because they receive bigger tax breaks when they do.” Lauding GRAs as a way to effectively increase retirement savings, Ghilarducci wrote that savings incentives are unequal for rich and poor families because tax deferrals “provide a much larger ‘carrot’ to wealthy families than to middle-class families — and none whatsoever for families too poor to owe taxes.”
In a radio interview with Kirby Wilbur in Seattle on Oct. 27, 2008, Ghilarducci explained that her proposal doesn’t eliminate the tax breaks, rather, “I’m just rearranging the tax breaks that are available now for 401(k)s and spreading — spreading the wealth.”
Private pension funds, IRAs, and 401(k) accounts hold approximately $18 trillion in assets. That’s almost exactly the size of the federal debt. More than coincidence? Your Curmudgeon reports; you decide.
Then decide whether “retirement equality” strikes you as a noble goal or just one more scheme of State theft under a wholly deceitful veneer of good intentions.
Whenever some noisy interest group starts prattling about “equality” or “rights,” a smart man puts one hand on his wallet and the other on his sidearm. The Rights of Man are laid out plainly in old Tom Jefferson’s magnum opus:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Though many argue otherwise, the “equality” Jefferson had in mind was equality before the law: i.e., that the law cannot justly distinguish among men according to their identities, their assets, or their origins. That stands in sharp contrast to the egalitarianism of the Left, which seeks to use State power to coerce us all in the name of various unattainable “equalities.”
But there’s a simpler way to cut away the nonsense, buried in that innocent-looking phrase “the pursuit of Happiness.”
Does a right to pursue something imply a right to catch it?
Isn’t a secure retirement merely a material goal some of us pursue, on the grounds that it would make us happy to be able to retire after spending forty or fifty years laboring?
What about the trades in which there has never been any possibility of retirement, such as farming? Did the innumerable legions throughout history that labored over the land, coaxing from it the food we require to sustain our lives, have a “right” they never knew about? Or was it that the way they chose to “pursue Happiness” simply foreclosed that possibility, that they were aware of that from the outset, and chose to work the land even so?
And should we grant the smallest groat of respect to a claim of “rights” that infringes upon others’ right to “pursue Happiness” peaceably and as they see fit?
In closing: I have no equals. Neither do you. Keeping that constantly in mind would armor us against nearly all the various claims of “rights” being bandied about today. For in truth, there is only one right that can be defended without contradicting oneself: the right to be left alone, so long as one honors others’ right to be left alone. All other claims amount to nothing but a power grab.
There’s no limit to the power-mongers’ ability to claim new “rights.” They haven’t gotten around to claiming that “an equal right to life” prohibits some persons from living longer than others...but it might not have occurred to them just yet.
Give them time.