Inequality: It's a Good Thing
Equality is the highest value of the American political left. So the left is always on the lookout for any trace of inequality. And of course they find it -- everywhere. That's because equality doesn't exist in this world, except when we get down on the micro level. On the micro level of quarks, electrons, photons, and such, equality reigns supreme. Indeed, if any subatomic particle were suddenly to become unequal, the world would end. But on the macro level, the world we live in, inequality is inescapable.
We do find exquisite equality, however, in the realm of abstractions. In mathematics we have equations: two plus two equals four. (That's how I'm betting, anyway.) And in political philosophy we have "All men are created equal." Immortal words, but we know they aren't true. Even identical twins aren't really equal, despite having the same DNA. What Jefferson was getting at is that government should treat everyone equally, not favor a few. There are only two uses of "equal" in Jefferson's magnificent Declaration, in the first paragraph and in the first sentence of the second paragraph.
In the original Constitution, there are exactly six iterations of the word "equal" and its variations. There are two iterations in Article I, three iterations in Article II, and a single iteration in Article V. In all these instances, the Framers use the word "equal" to refer to number. In the first ten amendments to the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, there is no instance of "equal." In all the rest of the Constitution, Amendments 11 through 27, there are only two iterations of "equal." One is in the 23rd Amendment, and it, too, has to do with number.
The remaining iteration of the word "equal" is found in the 14th Amendment, Section 1. I've saved it for last because unlike all the other iterations, it doesn't concern number. It's called the Equal Protection Clause: "No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
This little clause contains the one problematic iteration of "equal" in the Constitution and is the source of all our "equality problems." In the 1970s, some tried to extend this clause with the Equal Rights Amendment. But the ERA failed to get ratified before its 1982 deadline. Its operative provision was in Section 1: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
If we amend the Constitution for every way in which folks are different (i.e., unequal), the document is going to get awfully cluttered. Perhaps if the ERA had included other categories besides sex, like age, creed, race, appearance, etc., it could have gotten more traction and been ratified. (I reckon the gals just wanted their own amendment.)
But even today, 142 years after the 14th Amendment's ratification, and after the civil rights movement, the 19th Amendment, and all the rest, the sexes are still treated differently (unequally).
Perhaps nowhere else does the issue of sexual equality come to the fore more than in military conscription: the draft. One would think that when the government plucks a man out of his peaceful existence and puts him in harm's way, perhaps to lose his life, that a nod to equality would be required so that sacrifice can be shared. But that's not the case.
In Rostker v. Goldberg (1981), the Supreme Court held that excluding women from registering for the draft is constitutional. Justice Rehnquist wrote the Court's opinion:
The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them.
Rehnquist's opinion is an evasion; it begs the question. Isn't requiring only men to serve in combat discriminatory, unequal? (Justice Marshall's dissent also misses the point.)
In requiring only males to register for the draft, the federal government is singling out one group, and making demands of that group that it doesn't make of other groups. That is prima facie inequality. Imagine if only blacks had to register for the draft, or Jews. The consequence of this unequal treatment is that only males become combat casualties.
But that's the way it should be. Although the Court's reasoning in Kostker is faulty, the outcome of the case was correct, as excluding females from combat serves a vital public interest. And that's because the sexes aren't equal. The state must protect women more than men. Men are expendable. One (very busy) man can sire a nation. But one woman can usually birth only one child a year. If they were equally represented on casualty reports, America would have lost more than 200,000 women in WWII. We can't have that. America needs her women stateside, being mothers.
So government not only legitimizes inequality; it institutionalizes it. And much of this institutionalized inequality makes sense; it's a nod to Jefferson's Laws of Nature.
The left is not fixated on "equality before the law," the equality where everyone has the same rights and duties. The equality that obsesses the American political left isn't even addressed by our foundational documents.
The equality that motivates the left is material equality -- i.e., the distribution of goods and services among the citizenry, and even the entire world. The left thinks it monstrous that there is an uneven distribution of wealth among people. The left wants to even up things through redistribution. This is why we are subjected to a never-ending rant about the growing inequality of incomes from the likes of Al Sharpton and other lefties who use inequality to stoke resentment. Orating on "social justice," Sharpton intones: "The dream was to make everything equal in everybody's house [video]."
Never mind that the income gap is due to an unequal distribution of talent and ambition, or that the wealthy might work harder. For the left, the salient issue is that the wealthy have more stuff, and for the left, that's unfair, unequal, and must be rectified through "progressive" taxation. In his keynote at CPAC 2011, David Horowitz reminds us:
As the Founders warned, there is an ineluctable conflict between Liberty and equality. You cannot make men equal without taking away their Freedom. [Applause.] The Founders devised a Constitution designed to thwart what they called "wicked schemes" to take wealth from one segment of the nation and distribute it to another. [Video and transcript.]
The reason prosperity took hold in America is because of inequality. The great American businesses that have so enriched us all came about because of great concentrations of private wealth, not though government-engineered equality. All of us live richer lives precisely because of the unequal distribution of wealth.
Inequality, for lack of a better word, is good. Inequality makes the world go around. So screw equality. Equality is the hobgoblin of little minds. Equality is for wusses. What real men care about is Freedom.
Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City.