I’ve been casually using the term “equality” in a disparaging way for some time, but I’m not sure all readers understand what I’m getting at, so I’ll explain myself.
There are two understandings of the word “equality” in the contemporary United States. The first and original, which is equality before the law, is losing ground to the second, which is equality of outcome. I call the latter “equalism.”
Practically everyone who has been to school in the US is familiar with the phrase “all men are created equal,” but only a minority has any sense of its context. The American Revolution was a repudiation of the British aristocracy and the privileges of title and birth. Although these had long been a feature of British society, they served little purpose in the colonies, where men’s fortunes were not set in stone at birth, but rather made or lost on the frontier, in trade, or on the farm. Furthermore, they incited feelings of anger amongst colonists, who suspected that their hard-earned profits were being taxed to pay for the idle lives of foppish lords back in England.
By declaring themselves “equal,” Americans thereby liberated themselves from any obligations to those who outranked them by title, and removed handicaps to their own political ascendance. So the Declaration of Independence, which contained the phrase, was not so much a statement of magnanimity as it was of self-interest.
However, as selfish as the motive may have been, there is much to be said for the concept of legal equality. A good model for how it works is the athletic world. In a basketball game, the hoops are set at a standard height on both sides, the court is a certain regulation size, and the rules apply equally to players.
The result is that a player or team of superior skill and talent will rise above others, because the rules are consistent. If, on the other hand, one team had to play with a higher basket, or was refereed more strictly, the game’s result would not necessarily be dependent on skill and talent. The winner or loser would likely be determined by which team was favored, which is much closer to aristocracy than legal equality.
So, if we want a society in which people can live up to their potential (or lack of it), legal equality is a better means of doing so than aristocracy. The idea is that all of us benefit, because people have the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential without hindrance.
This is an ideal, and doesn’t work perfectly in practice. Even in professional sports, many athletes had an advantage when young and others were disadvantaged. Some may have had fathers who were football coaches, while others may have been too poor to afford the fees for extracurricular activities and so on. The same goes for those who are born into wealth whose parents can afford to prepare them for college and a well-compensated job vs. those whose fathers were impoverished as a result of divorce. However, it is generally understood that despite the flaws, legal equality provides more opportunities than a system in which certain people simply are not allowed to compete for one reason or another, or are deliberately handicapped.
The new “equality,” which is prevalent today, has little to do with legal equality, but rather what is often called de facto equality, or equality of outcome. Under this form of equality there lies an assumption that all people have the same potential if only certain conditions are met. Although this has been scientifically discredited for a long time, it has not prevented people from sincerely believing in it. This is why I describe Equalism as a religious faith, and I do not do so merely to take a cheap shot, but because it has all the characteristics of a religious belief that is not based in any way on reason.
the Equalist rejects legal equality where it is not producing the desired result. In the armed forces, for example, female recruits are not held to the same standards as male recruits, yet they are called “soldiers” and afforded all the same privileges (but not responsibilities). Often, those tasked with an equalist mandate will resort to deception to achieve their goal. When the Marine Corps recently said it will require men and women to complete the same physical test so as to ensure “equality,” they neglected to mention that the test will be scored differently. This is what we know of as “moving the goalposts,” and that is exactly how equalists achieve their version of equality.
The means are roughly the same as in aristocracy, where some people are privileged and others handicapped by the rules. This is not the kind of equality our founding fathers intended, and in all likelihood they would have changed the wording of the Declaration of Independence if they had known people would come to interpret it in that manner.
Feminists, for their part, are equalists to the bone, and they will never be otherwise, because under legal equality (men and women are not legally equal under current American law) they would lose hands-down in just about every competitive endeavor. This is why it is foolish to assume that they would ever support true legal equality; it’s against their self-interest, and women would never deliberately work against their self-interest (they are demonstrably more intelligent than men in that regard). Although it’s understandable that women may never want true legal equality, and it might not be for the greater good if they were, equalism will eventually work against their interests, too, because they will be obliged to depend on the state rather than the men in their lives for their female privilege, and the state doesn’t really care about individuals all that much when it comes down to it. If the state were really all that caring, wouldn’t children who grow up as wards of the state be better off than those with parents? That’s something women really ought to think about.
It’s time that Americans started making a clear distinction between equalism and legal equality, because people often confuse the two, and we should have the opportunity to choose which one we prefer.