Egalitarianism. Is It Equal To The Task?

The 2014 Olympics is fast approaching… starting-line

 Should Olympians ‘race’ when everyone gets the same prize at the finish line?

 Egalitarianism = equal outcomes.  And equal outcomes are what Progressives want to have happen within our legal system, within our education system ~ within society as a whole.

 Egalitarianism is posited as a means to create the unspoken Utopian bureaucratic island where near-perfect socio-politico-legal systems exist and where no one has advantage over another except for the so-called elite who have been ‘blessed’ with “superior intellect.” Only they know enough to define life for you. (e.g., Cass Sunstein’s recent Nudge book).

 In my younger days I was a sprinter.  I would run many heats and then the final events.  To do so I had to prepare for the weekly track meet. I will use my own ‘summer event’ experience to help you to consider whether egalitarianism is equal to the hard work and discipline required for life’s trials and to decide whether the rise of “egalitarianism” will benefit or hurt our society.

 I wrote the following as a ‘real-life’ depiction of my understanding of the “Constrained Vision” and the “Unconstrained Vision” as delineated by Thomas Sowell in his own favorite book A Conflict of Visions:

A Tale of Two Foot Races

Race Number One:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height and weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men enter the race knowing that there will only be one winner.  It was for this outcome that they had prepared themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years.

Months prior to the track meet the eight men are told of the rules:  A runner must run in qualifying heats. If the runner is successful in those heats the runner will then be allowed to compete in the final race with the other qualifying runners;  a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will be disqualified as having a “false start”;  the commands “Ready”, “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly;  each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified;  runners will be timed and the first runner to cross the finish line will be the winner of the race.

The runners all agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race and after qualifying in the heats eight runners come to the starting line.  They know that they must run straight ahead in their own lane to reach the one-hundred meter line. They know that if they jump the gun twice they will be disqualified from running. They know that they must sprint as hard as they can to cross the finish line first. They are knowingly competing for first place. The race before them has now become the culmination of years of exhausting training and dedication to finishing the race and receiving first prize.

When the race is announced the runners shed their sweats and come to the starting line. The track official then announces, “Ready”. The runners will then carefully position their legs into the starting blocks and place their open hands stretched behind the starting line.  

Once the runners have settled the track official then snaps “Set”.  The runners immediately come up to a “set position”, coiled in their starting block. With the burst of the starting pistol eight men bolt from their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their disciplined bodies will carry them.

The winner of the race is the one who breaks the tape. There is also a second, a third and fourth place finisher. The runners-up each congratulate the winner for his speed and, implicitly, for his fidelity to the rules and his commitment to the sport of racing.

The first three finishers receive medals, adulation and wreaths of honor from the thousands who have come to watch a fair race between those who have so vigorously prepared themselves. The experience of the race has bolstered each runner’s self-esteem. The cheering crowd is also moved by each runner’s self-sacrifice, dedication and self-discipline. This spectacle has confirmed the crowd’s understanding of athlete’s playing by the rules and aspiring to excel within those rules. Those who witnessed the race that day are stirred, encouraged to excel at what they do.

All eight racers later return home.  The runners-up are now more dedicated than ever to prepare for another day of racing and to receiving their own crown of victory. Ciltius, altius, fortius.

Race Number Two:

Eight men enter a race.  They are roughly about the same height, weight but come from very different backgrounds. The eight men entered the race knowing that everyone will be a winner.  It was for this outcome that they saw no need to prepare themselves with rigorous discipline during the past four years. They just had to show up.

Months prior to the race the eight men are told the rules.  They are told the rules are subject to change at the time of the race based on the current ad hoc articulated reasoning of one superior intellectual with unquestionable virtue.  A runner must run in qualifying heats but this will not be a constraint. Whether or not a runner is successful in those heats he will be allowed to compete in the final race with other ‘qualifying’ runners. The heats are basically events created to satisfy the need for more equality.

More rules: a runner who jumps the gun twice at the starting line will not be disqualified from running. Instead he will be given another chance; the commands “Ready” and “Set” and a gun shot will be used by a track official to start the race fairly, though any sincere attempt to cooperate with the official will be accepted; each runner must stay in his lane or he will be disqualified unless, of course, their background is such that they have never stayed within the lines; runners will not be timed because such keeping of minutes would be discrimination against slower runners.  The first runner to cross the finish line will wait at the finish line so that everyone will be considered a winner of the race. This must be done at any personal cost to the first one crossing the finish line.

The runners agree and sign off on the rules before the race.

On the day of the race all of the runners come to the starting line.  They know that they are supposed to run down to the finish line before the outcome-determining patrons. They know that there will be equal prizes and the egalitarian appreciation of well-wishers to look forward to. They are going to run for this reason. This race is now the culmination of years of knowing that the battle is just showing up and doing what you are told.

When all the runners are in their starting blocks and their hands are behind the starting line the track official then says, “Ready”.  After a long moment of reasoned judgment the official says “Set”.  The runners come up to set position.  Then the race official shoots the starting gun. The eight men come out of their starting blocks and run down the track as fast as their unfocused discipline has trained them.

At the finish line everyone is a Finisher, even those who left the race due to being out of breath. There are hand-shakes and kudos all around for having shown up for such an event.

At the awards ceremony all the runners receive medals and congratulations. Thousands have come to watch a race between runners who have shown up for a race where the outcome was predetermined to be fair ~ fair as defined by the few judges of superior intellect and of unquestioned virtue.

Later, all the runners return home and rest for another day of showing up.

*****

A Tale of Two Foot Races:  Equal Opportunities vs. Equal Outcomes by Sally Paradise © Sally Paradise, 2013, All Rights Reserved

Added 2/7/2014:

Communism Leads to Slavery Not To Equality

What’s Left? To Be Decided.

Thomas Sowell, in his excellent book A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, discusses the two main opposing ways of viewing the political, economic and social landscape.  These views have come down through time to the present dichotomy of visions, namely the Left or Liberal (modern sense) vision and the Right or Conservative vision.  Sowell denotes the two visions: one being the unconstrained vision, the former, and the constrained vision, the latter.

I will try to make this a short post. Here is my brief take on The Unconstrained Vision:

The unconstrained vision relies heavily on surrogate decision makers, men or women of “superior” intelligence and virtue, to make our decisions for us.  The implication of this vision is that the common man does not know what is good for himself and for those around him.  But those with super-rational intelligence and sincerity do.  And because of our lack of “fair and just” decision making, we the people need an over-arching Decider – someone to rein in society.

I recently read what I would call a perfect description of this viewpoint’s totalitarian heavy-handedness, an oppressiveness which is often disguised as omniscient benevolence which hides its use of debilitating control methods:

“…Nurse Ratched is the Decider; under her unblinking gaze, the privileges, rewards, punishments, dosages, and furloughs for the patients are parceled out or denied. Time itself seems to run at whatever speed Nurse Ratched decrees, the clock slowing down to bring everything to a snow-globe standstill to conjure a sense of suspended animation, a zombie twilight.  Sparks of resistance are ruthlessly snuffed.  Waiting in the wings is the Shock Shop, where you go in as a person and are wheeled out as a vegetable after sufficient voltage to the brain…” (source listed below)

If you haven’t noticed by now, we are living in the “zombie twilight” of the Obama Presidency. Obama is our country’s Nurse Ratched.  He is a prime example of the unconstrained vision’s all-powerful omniscient Decider.  He is someone who talks down to people.  And enabled by the main stream media He has become the Chosen One, the chosen articulator of reason and we are his hapless patients waiting for him to put us in our place. Obama certainly believes that we the American people should follow his lead down the road to social justice and fairness. He believes that he knows what is best for us because he also believes that we the people are inept, confused and inferior in intelligence, unenlightened, lazy and worst of all, free to think for ourselves.

It certainly appears from Obama’s messages to the American people that his vision, historically filtered by the teachings of the radical Bill Ayers and “God damn America” Jeremiah Wright, has given him the understanding that he has seen the light while we the people walk in pre-enlightenment medieval darkness. It is with unbridled hubris that he stands above society, a mullah standing in an ivory tower minaret, lecturing us and calling us to pray to the god of one-world socialism and to the jihad of class warfare.

Those with this unconstrained vision see institutions as being at fault for man’s condition and not man himself.  They believe that man is a victim of inept policies and inadequately funded schools, food programs, housing programs, bailouts, etc.  And the free market, where Capitalism operates, is the impersonal culprit who steals fairness away from the victimized society. The unconstrained vision seeks to reign in the free market in order to control the outcomes of supply and demand using price controls, wage controls, unions, rent controls, quotas, the Dodd-Frank Act, ad infinitum.

Controlling the market place and controlling outcomes are what those with the unconstrained vision use to promote social justice and fairness. They want the results of economic, political and social activity to be fair in terms of their rationalistic values.  Yet, they will often, in fact, bypass statistical fact to promote fairness and equality.  In so doing they will often create a domino effect of economic havoc and inequality. This type of Stage One thinking is common for those with the unconstrained vision.  They want “fairness” implemented now at any cost regardless of the many negative repercussions that will be sure to ensue (e.g., Obamacare).

For the Left life is a zero sum game.  If someone gains then someone else must be losing out – there is only so much pie to go around. The Left must “right” this perceived wrong.

The legal system is another thing to be controlled by those with the unconstrained vision.  Instead of black and white laws known to everyone they seek to implement ad hoc reasoning per every legal situation.  Take for example a man who steals and is arrested.  He knows that he will be punished for his crime.  The law clearly states the crime and lists the options for punishment that the judge may impose.  The criminal knows that everyone will be treated the same way in the same situation within the letter of the law. Even though the criminal does not like the situation he still knows that the law applies to everyone and therefore deemed fair by everyone. In fact, he stole knowing the law and the consequences of his actions.

An activist judge with an unconstrained view, on the other hand, will have the same law before him but he will use his own ad hoc articulated reasoning to determine whether the man should be punished.  This judge may decide that the criminal acted badly because of his poor living conditions or because he was having a bad hair day or…and then decide to let him go. The judge would consider this a just outcome. The victim would not, of course, consider this fair.

While the unconstrained vision is all about controlling the political, economic or social landscape for specific outcomes the constrained vision is hands off or laissez-faire in its dealings, seeing man as having sufficient accumulated knowledge and being capable of making prudent trade-offs that would benefit himself and society in the process. Nothing is done in isolation. Benefits abound because for the Right life is not a zero sum game. Everyone can win.  Everyone can have their own pie.

The constrained vision sees man as he really is:  self-motivated. This realistic vision sees man as selfish and greedy but also willing to respect tradition and rules and certainly able to make prudent trade-offs based on knowledge gained from centuries of accumulated knowledge and wisdom, knowledge and wisdom not confined to an omnipotent Decider. One with a constrained vision doesn’t have all the answers. He or she must operate with humilty, tolerance and cooperation in order to support the freedom and liberty within which they seek to live.

 While there is much more to be said here I promised to keep this short. I highly recommend Thomas Sowell’s book, A Conflict of Visions:  Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, as a means to understand the vast differences of the two visions behind the political, economic and social struggles affecting our world today. 

I can see clearly now.

Quote source:  Vanity Fair article, Still Cuckoo After All These Years, by James Wolcott, December 2011 issue.

*****

“The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions. A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.”  Thomas Aquinas

*****

**An aside into constrained thinking: