The Religion of Equality

The modern left claims to worship equality, despite all evidence.

Winston Churchill once said, "A young man who is not a liberal has no heart.  An old man who is still a liberal has no brains."  We've known very intelligent people who remain totally dedicated to the concept of large-scale redistribution of wealth from people who produce it to people who want to consume it without working for it.  Liberal egalitarians want everyone to share more or less equally in the output of the economy regardless of their skills, education, or how hard they work.

Any serious study of economic history show that societies become wealthier when individuals are allowed to keep as much of what they produce as possible.  The only way we know to ensure that people become wealthy by providing valuable goods or services is to insist that they persuade customers to purchase from them voluntarily.  At the same time, government must ensure that other individuals or businesses are free to complete by offering better products for less money.

Government's proper role is to use its power to insist that businesses do not grow large enough to raise prices beyond what a more open market would bear.  We have a few monster banks which are too big to fail.  They grow fat because the government has written so many rules for banks to follow that smaller banks can't keep up with the rules and go out of business.  With fewer competitors and less competition, big banks are free to raise their prices.

In a competitive market-driven system, no individual can become seriously wealthy by providing goods and services all by himself.  While accumulating his billions, Bill Gates hired many people because he was not able to do everything his customers wanted by himself.  By helping him produce great value for Microsoft customers, so many of his colleagues became so wealthy that the term "Microsoft millionaire" was coined to describe them.

The utter economic failure of collectivist solutions, known either as communism or socialism, is equally evident.

The Most Vivid Economic Lesson of History

When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, they agreed to share all things.  None of the farmers worked particularly hard because everyone knew that the crops would be divided evenly after the harvest.  There was no point in extra work because all would share equally regardless of effort.

The colony nearly starved to death during the first winter.  They quickly realized that collectivism wouldn't work and switched to a system where each farmer got to keep whatever he grew.  The problem of slacking went away, and the colony became a success.

The Pilgrims has traveled to America for religious liberty, in contrast to the Jamestown colonists who came simply to get rich, but both colonies experienced the same profound realization: socialism doesn't work, and private property does.  This was also obvious to our Founders - they put protection of property right up there with protection of life and liberty.

Even during the height of the communist efforts at collective agriculture, the Soviet authorities let farmers keep whatever they were able to produce from about 1/10 of the land.  Sure enough, 90% of the fruits and vegetables were grown on these small plots.  Communist ideology of collectivism was far too strong to let farmers keep their crops from more land and food shortages persisted throughout the Soviet era.

One of our readers traveled to Cuba via Canada to join the Venceremos Brigade to help with the 1973 sugar harvest.  The Cuban workers did not want him to cut more cane than they'd convinced the government was the maximum possible.  Being warned by a crowd of machete-wielding colleagues that anyone who cut too much was likely to slip, fall, and be badly sliced by a machete convinced him to work at the agreed, slow pace.

Toward the end of the season, they told him that they'd seen his skills improving and wondered if he'd like to really go at it to see how much he could do. "Every young man wants to do that at least once," they said.

On the agreed day, a team stood by to take away his extra cane.  When the sun went down, he'd cut five times the usual quota without working particularly hard.  He returned to the US firmly convinced of the value of individual incentives and the futility of collectivism in any guise.

More recently, we have the example of Venezuela which has squandered the wealth from one of the largest oil deposits in the world.  Toilet paper has become a luxury good and even the New York Times admits that people are starving. The government diverted so much wealth from the oil fields to reward the poor for their support that they couldn't pay to keep the pipes and pumps working.  Oil production declined, revenues followed, the middle class was destroyed, and now there are more poor than ever, all with their hands out.

Equality - The Greatest Possible Good

With all these historical facts, we've been unable to understand why so many smart people are convinced that collectivism is a human imperative. As we listen to Democrats talk about "climate justice" and "economic equality," we've concluded that our "Social Justice Warriors" have made a religion of equality.  They aren't interested in equality of opportunity, they demand equality of result.  That is, nobody should have any more of anything than anyone else - except for their exalted selves, of course.

They want so badly for everyone to share equally that equality of outcome is more important than any other societal consideration.  That was the reasoning behind "gay marriage."  Why shouldn't gays be equally able to enjoy the benefits of marriage regardless of traditional qualifications?

The religion of equality is particularly harmful in schools.  Another of our readers taught sixth grade in Massachusetts more than 40 years ago.  When the egalitarian movement swept through the schools, educationally challenged kids had to be "mainstreamed" by putting them in with normal kids of similar age regardless of their academic abilities or achievement.

Suddenly, her 6th grade class had a mix of students, all the same age, but whose educational levels ranged from 2nd grade to 8th.  "Mainstreaming" made it impossible for her to teach a coherent lesson to her entire class.  It should come as no surprise that academic achievement plummeted for everybody.  The 2nd grader was totally lost when she presented 6th grade material while the 8th grader was bored out of his mind.

We're seeing a manifestation of this destructive movement in Mayor de Blasio's attack on the eight test-driven high schools in New York City.  The New York Post described their racial makeup - and no, they aren't white supremacist as Democrats have led you to expect:

Under the current system, Asian kids predominate at the city's top high schools. They make up 74 percent of the population at Stuyvesant, 66 percent at Bronx Science and 61 percent at Brooklyn Tech. At Queens HS for Science at York College, 82 percent are Asian.

Mr. de Blasio is outraged that these schools have so many Asian students and wants to replace the admissions test with new admissions criteria:

"With these reforms, we expect our premier public high schools to start looking like New York City," he wrote. "Approximately 45 percent of students would be Latino or black." ...

"A single, high-stakes exam is also unfair to students whose families cannot afford, or may not even know about, the availability of test-preparation tutors and courses," de Blasio wrote.  [emphasis added]

He's making the usual argument that it's unfair that wealthy parents can provide tutors and other help to get their children into capable schools.  He neglects the tiny detail that Asians are the poorest demographic in New York City - at least 60 percent of kids at three of the specialized schools are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

In public meetings, graduates of the schools told how their parents skipped meals to buy books or pay for tutoring to help them gain admission.  Their success had nothing to do with wealth, but with determination and family discipline.

The Post points out that the problem isn't that the test is unfair, the problem is that city middle schools, which the Mayor says can't even be counted on to tell parents about test preparation, do such a terrible job preparing students for the elite high schools.

Back in 1989, black and Hispanic teens made up 16 percent of the Stuyvesant study body, 22 percent at Bronx Science and 67 percent at Brooklyn Tech.  [emphasis added]  ...

But another change in the early '90s was particularly damaging: The city got rid of the "honors" classes that used to be near-universal in its middle schools - and gave promising poor, minority kids the education they needed to ace the exam.

Ending the classes was meant to be a step toward equality: "Tracking," the theory went, denied some kids opportunities offered to others. But the real impact was just to stop offering the opportunity at all. High-achieving black and Hispanic kids lost their major pathway to the city's elite schools[emphasis added]

Of course tracking denied some kids opportunities which were offered to others - how could our friend's 2nd-grade-level student possibly benefit from opportunities offered to the 8th grader?  That was the whole point of tracking - divide up students by ability so that the best and the brightest could be pushed to excel while the slower kids were given extra help.  The result - 67% of the kids at Brooklyn Tech were black or Hispanic!

Having some students do better than others is anathema to committed egalitarians, of course.  They would rather destroy the high-achieving schools by dooming unqualified students to years of frustration than restore honors classes to the middle schools so that more minority kids could qualify on their merits.

Dumbing down the elite schools would be particularly disastrous.  We're in an era when we have many problems - environmental concerns, excessive medical costs, urban crowding.  We can't afford to miss any smart people who could help us - as the Left likes to say but doesn't mean, without regard for their family wealth or race.  Dr. Ben Carson's accomplishments prove that genius can be found in housing projects, but we have to look for it, nourish it, cherish it, and encourage it instead of holding it back!

The Mayor has a point in observing that gifted minority kids miss out on the elite schools, but that's because they aren't given the early training they need and they aren't even told about test preparation resources!  The solution is to bring back tracking and the honors programs and open more elite high schools, not to deny smart Asians opportunity in favor of unqualified students of any race.

Unfortunately, our lefties' religious fervor for equality keeps that from happening.  The damage done to unqualified students from pushing them to schools they can't handle is well documented and the damage done to gifted students who aren't pushed to excel is just as evil.  Are our lefties secretly trying to keep minorities "in their place" by making sure that their best and brightest experience failure, frustration, and contempt in college as Michele Obama did?  For now, everyone knows that any student at these high schools is well qualified.  If students who can't pass the test are admitted, people will quickly learn that some are "black first, student second" as Mrs. Obama put it.  What does that perception do to black students who actually were able to pass the exam?

Oceans of Hypocrisy

We've pointed out that our ruling elites are perfectly happy to deny educational opportunity to minority students while sending their own kids to private schools.  Very few media outlets document this yawning chasm of hypocrisy because media folk are part of the elite and don't send their kids to public schools either.

It gets a lot worse than that.  Governor Cuomo of New York State has pointed out that New York City is famously enduring a "summer of hell": the city subways have suffered billions of dollars worth of neglected maintenance and repair costs in New York City are by far the highest in the world and take the longest.

Does Mayor de Blasio suffer from all the delays, failed air conditioners, and canceled trains?  Of course not!  Hizzoner has a taxpayer-funded chauffeured SUV with very good air conditioning to take him to and from his gym.  He doesn't even fly commercial; as the Daily News reported:

Taxpayers shelled out at least $3,850 for Mayor de Blasio's NYPD airplane trip Thursday to a Bronx ceremony - more than three times what it would have cost if he and two security officers flew commercial, a Daily News analysis found.

Instead of squashing in with the peasants, Hizzonner had the city's custom anti-terrorism airplane take him to Montreal, then fly back to Montreal to bring him back to Gotham.  This $3 million plane is normally fitted with sensitive radiation sensors, and flown out to sea to see if ships approaching New York harbor might be carrying nukes.

Preventing the city from vanishing in a ball of nuclear fire is a worthy and legitimate goal of government, of course.  But if the threat was truly urgent, would even Mayor de Blasio have diverted the plane from its appointed rounds?

The plane has also been used since May 1 for flights to and from Boston Logan Airport, Washington, D.C., and Albany. The purpose of the flights and the identity of passengers was unknown. ...

De Blasio in 2016 was criticized for using an NYPD chopper to travel from Prospect Park to an event in Queens. "I really don't understand what this is all about," he told reporters at the time.  [emphasis added]

This is the sort of hypocritical behavior we've come to expect from our elected officials.  Equality of poverty and failure for you and me, and especially for minority children locked into disastrously equal public schools, but not for him.  The sad part is that he probably didn't understand why anyone would object to his using police choppers 12 times in a single year - after all, he's The Mayor!  What could be more appropriate than that?

Why It Always Happens

These incidents show us that no matter how fervently our liberals may desire to bring one-world equality, they can't possibly do it no matter how hard they try.  It's an inescapable fact of nature that someone must be in charge in any enterprise involving more than one person.  Every five-person basketball team has someone, a coach or team captain, who calls the plays.  Small towns have selectmen or mayors or town managers who operate the highway department, the sanitation department, and schools.  Larger units such as cities, states, and nations have more and more people in charge of this or that.

Even Mayor de Blasio, our totally committed egalitarian, thinks nothing of wasting city money flying himself around in a plane that ought to be looking for nuclear threats.  After all, he's such a dedicated public servant committed night and day to the cause of equality that he deserves a few perks as a just reward for his selfless dedication.  Being in charge gives him the opportunity to exercise his desire for ease and comfort at our expense.

In that sense, liberals are correct in saying that socialism has never been tried.  This is because they have never been able, and never will be able, to find leaders who are willing to live in grass huts like all the peasants.  Al Gore jets about preaching the gospel of minimizing carbon use to Save the Planet as he insists that his limo driver leave the motor running to keep the car cool during his lectures - but he's such a big shot, he deserves that kind of comfort.  You don't.

Thus it always has been, and thus it always will be.  Any communal system, whether communism or socialism, falls apart due to the inescapable realities of human nature.

It might work if those of us who write for Scragged were put in charge, however.  We, too, might get greedy eventually, but it would be an interesting experiment to see how long we'd hold to our ideals.

We'd like to try it.  Wouldn't you?

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Partisanship.
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