Tag Archive | "self determination"

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Let’s Not Confuse Equality and Fairness

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-13 19:56:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“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.”

With this opening statement in our nation’s Declaration of Independence, its 56 signers, represented by such great minds as Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and John Adams, established a core founding principle for what was to become a new nation; a nation different in its beliefs, values and government structure than any other at the time.

As is the case with many words in the English language, the word “equality” lacks certain precision and has historically been interpreted through different lenses. For example, mathematical equality assures sameness in quantity, but does not ascribe value to the equal results. An equal amount of rain having fallen over a rain forest and over a desert, although mathematically equivalent in volume, does not produce an equal effect. Nor is the magnificence of Niagara Falls’ cascade of water the same as that of a lazy river flowing through the plains, though again the volumes of water may be equal.

Equality as a doctrine in the 18th century was indeed a revolutionary concept. Not since the ancient Greek and Minoan cultures has equality been written into a societal code of beliefs. So therefore, the opportunity to build a new nation on such beliefs was in and of itself a revolutionary step forward.

In order to understand the intentions of our founding fathers, we have to understand the psychology of the times in which this concept of equality was being presented. Indeed, we need to use the prism of an 18th century intellectual to affix the proper meaning to the word. In particular we know that such prism would filter out any notions of equality in the context of modern day social systems such as welfare or affirmative action.

A reasonable and arguably most credible interpretation of the founding fathers intended meaning of equality is one where the goal of equality is defined as one of opportunity and not necessarily of results (or outcome). This is fundamental, in that it underscores the principle of giving each individual an equal opportunity to improve his own state but does not mandate that the results of such efforts be held to the same standard of equality as for others. In fact, an argument can be made that enforcing equality of results is fundamentally unfair in that it unjustly rewards low performance and is eerily akin to Marx’s “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” formulation, which would not be written until 100 years later (1875, Critique of the Gotha Program). The distinction between opportunity and results equality was recently taken up and extensively discussed by British Business Secretary Peter Mandelson at the 2009 Fabian Conference at the Imperial College in London.

In our modern society we can observe countless examples of divergence from the principle of equality of results.

  1. Affirmative action, previously mentioned, is perhaps the most glaring example of the up-side-down interpretation of equality, where results trump all other objectives – a starkly Marxist construct indeed
  2. Progressive taxation, though widely accepted as fair and equitable, in fact is not ubiquitously fair as it creates disincentives to higher productivity and redistributes the output of the individual’s labor to those who have not contributed to its creation
  3. Compensation pay grade systems such as within the government and many older companies, where rewards are defined within pay scale boundaries, regardless of the value of an individual’s contribution

A society which does not respect equality of its citizens is frail and cannot sustain itself indefinitely without the degeneration of its social fabric, inevitably leading to massive resentment of government and eventually social unrest. By misinterpreting our founders’ meaning of equality, we are at risk of steering our social policies toward the statist objectives of government welfare and control over our means and our lives. Our Constitution is a finely tuned and time proven instrument of democratic government with ideals interwoven such that in concert they support and amplify each other’s meaning and value. A misinterpretation or misapplication of one of these fundamental ideals not only diminishes its individual value, but also jeopardizes the document’s role as a compilation of our guiding values.

Next time you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who is justifying their position with arguments of equality, make sure to ask them: “What do you mean?”

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We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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The Two Personalities of the Modern Man

Posted on 15 December 2010 by Editor

Originally posted 2009-06-05 23:12:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Two Personalities

* There is bliss in knowing that we are provided for, that our needs are met. When we are provided for, we are left to a state of intense fulfillment and a rich sense of enjoyment of our life. Engulfing oneself in such a state leaves all matters of duty, responsibility and obligation outside of our cocoon. Outside of this bubble, others clamor to fill the void in control which we’ve left behind.

* We strive to impose our will onto situations and manipulate conditions to our will. By so doing, we carve our own path through life, meticulously building our lives in the image we had set out at the onset. Leaving things to chance is avoided at all cost. Careful planning is the mantra, behind which controlled execution leads to advancement toward our stated goals.

These descriptions, while sounding harshly opposite and incompatible, in fact describe the two conditions of the modern man. Indeed, they might even describe the same man at different stages of his maturation within the society.

We are all born into different circumstances and our upbringing materially influences our perception of the importance of maintaining control over our lives – something we call empowerment and self determination.

The material conditions in which a child is raised – weather in poverty, in middle class comfort or within a high level of affluence – affect the later adult differently insofar as the way in which the individual perceives their need to self determine his destiny. Of these three classes, the poor and the wealthy, particularly when in their extreme, tend to gravitate toward placing little importance, or outright dismissing of such need. On the other hand, the middle class individual tends to cherish this right and value its importance in defining his life’s course.

Both Poverty and Wealth Influence Liberal Thinking

An individual born into poverty, by the time he becomes an adult member of society, has likely developed a sense of hopelessness. In all likelihood, he and his immediate surrounding have drawn on the society’s support resources for much of their life and known little opportunity to witness the results of their own contributions. Self-determination is not a practical objective when survival and subsistence absorb the focus of daily activities. Dependence on support systems becomes complete with diminishing opportunity to divorce oneself from their perpetual grasp. There are few if any support systems which aid in the building of the individual’s self esteem, or to teach him to creatively engage in activities that yield the betterment of his condition.

An affluent individual that has achieved a high measure of wealth and comfort progressively becomes more and more withdrawn from the productive part of society. Once a predictably affluent lifestyle is achieved, the individual no longer feels the need to control many aspects of his life, and is willing to relinquish such control to the support system that his wealth has produced. Self determination is no longer a principle goal as wealth has dampened the individuals desire to further contribute to his surrounding and society at large.

In either case – poverty or affluence – a desire to absolve oneself from the societal expectations arising from empowerment, succumbs the individual into accepting a system which will provide for him and relieve him of the high expectations which self determination would otherwise impose on him. In one case, the support system is structured around government social programs; in the other, it is built by the individual to support his own needs. In either case, the individual is inexorably drawn toward promoting a liberal attitude which, because it defines his life and is necessary for his existence, he both accepts and actively cultivates.

The liberal thus created considers his condition to be permanent and has little desire to change it.

Conservatism – The Middle Class Ideology Alternative

This is contrasted with the mindset of a person cultivated in the traditions and upbringing of the middle class. To the middle class, affluence is an attainable goal. It is within reach, provided that one exercises control in a prudent and well thought out way. Any support systems created by the government, even though they may cushion an unintended fall, act as a repelling force which, when approached, remind the individual of the consequences of the loss of control over their own destiny. Becoming caught in their web is typically a source of embarrassment, but not resignation.

The middle class individual considers his position in society as transient; not as a destiny but rather as a path toward his fulfillment of attainable goals. He gazes up toward examples of success and models his behavior so as to maximize his chances of fleeing his current state. He is not angry with those who have excelled beyond his own levels of success. Instead, he learns from observing them and adjusts his actions to improve his own measures. He detests acquiescence and is infuriated by his own failures and others acceptance of failure. His attitude is strongly shaped by the Constitution’s founding principles, which act as both a guiding light and also provide the boundaries within which his actions are contained.

Most importantly, the middle class conservative is not willing to relinquish (or delegate) the controls necessary for him to craft his own path toward fulfillment.


Call To Action

While conservative principals of self determination are natural to the spirit of every human being, people need to be cultivated into accepting of dependence as a way of life. Liberalism is not an equilibrium to which all forces draw, but rather an unnatural state which needs to be constantly built up and reinforced, lest it collapses of its own artificial weight. Certainly history gives many examples of such implosions.

Yet in our society, the marketing of socialism and extreme liberalism has been masterfully crafted and is being executed before our eyes. Conservatives should make particular note of the dominance of liberal ideology among the poor and the affluent.

The affluent, as compared to the poor, are considerably more resistant to change and, while they represent a relatively small part of the population, their influence is multiplied by virtue of their wealth and notoriety. Fortunately, they represent a culture of followers more so then leaders, and will be heavily influenced by the outcome of the attitude change in the masses. As a result, to affect a change in their behavior and philosophy requires no specific actions other than those applied to the other, more important social group – the poor.

The poor represent a considerably larger pool of the population, into which intelligently designed and strategically injected conservative programs can create a magnified effect of positive influence and potential derivative results. Such programs should promote small business development opportunities and should target individuals who have demonstrated socially responsible behavior and a desire to disentangle themselves from the bounds of their social support systems.

At the same time conservatives must be on constant lookout for opposing programs introduced by proponents of socialization and government control, programs which aim to remove the social lifelines that still exist which aspiring poor could otherwise use to improve their condition.

* * * * *

We welcome your comments and suggestions, either directly inline, or via email to editor@nakedliberty.com. If you would like to have your article published in Naked Liberty, please contact the editor at the above email address.

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Next week: “Equality and Fairness – they are not the same” addresses what impact attempts to achieve both equality and fairness have on society.

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