Rothbard’s Equation: Equality is Evil.
“At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will.”- Murray Rothbard, “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature”
Murray Rothbard’s essay, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature,” is well – known within neoliberal and anarcho-libertarian circles for providing the classic neoliberal justification for unlimited, predatory capitalism. As the title indicates, Rothbard considers notions of equality as unnatural. For Rothbard, inequality is a biological attribute of the human being, of the human condition. Rothbard also defines equality as being “uniform.” This disingenuous stunt of mangling a word into a one-dimensional definition to make a point is a common ploy to used by some in an attempt to confuse people into accepting their opinion.
“(M)ankind,” Rothbard says, “is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation; in short, inequality.” While stating the obvious fact that there are differences between people, there is no room for argument that there exists only one kind of humanity. Humanity is a singular essence of a man and a woman and a principle not destroyed by diversity, for this essence is that which is shared equally by all. Rothbard hopes that his lazy comparison and definition of inequality and diversity will be persuasive enough to keep one from seeing the remarkable shallowness of his argument. He continues:
“What, in fact, is “equality”? The term has been much invoked but little analyzed. A and B are “equal” if they are identical to each other with respect to a given attribute. Thus, if Smith and Jones are both exactly six feet in height, then they may be said to be “equal” in height. If two sticks are identical in length, then their lengths are “equal,” etc. There is one and only one way, then, in which any two people can really be “equal” in the fullest sense: they must be identical in all of their attributes. This means, of course, that equality of all men – the egalitarian ideal – can only be achieved if all men are precisely uniform, precisely identical with respect to all of their attributes. The egalitarian world would necessarily be a world of horror fiction – a world of faceless and identical creatures, devoid of all individuality, variety, or special creativity.”
Rothbard is guilty of making a false distinction to give support his very shaky premise. Even if two sticks are “unequal in length,” that dissimilarity does not destroy the essence of what we recognize as a “stick.” We may even have sticks of different materials, color or width. It is the essence of what we have come to regard as “sticks” that unifies sticks a a particular set that shares the same stick – like essence. His “horror fiction” of an egalitarian world is basically his fear that equality will destroy economic incentive and goes Rothbard’s beautiful capitalistic system.
My own Oxford dictionary claims that equality is, “the state of being equal, esp. in status, rights, and opportunities.”
Status, rights, and opportunities. Rothbard will not go that far in his definition of equality. His definition must be closed, one-dimensional and deceptive in order to justify his premise that inequality is inescapable, thus even though rationality we can see that we have the capacity to rise beyond our inequality, it is madness to try to overturn it. Rothbard’s ironic insistence on a “rational analysis” of Equality sounds awfully self-mocking, based as it is on speciousness and emotional manipulation . There isn’t much rational analysis going on here because Rothbard’s starting point is to demolish the concept of Equality first, and then providing a “rationalist” argument for the causalities of capitalism.
“The egalitarian revolt against biological reality, as significant as it is, is only a subset of a deeper revolt: against the ontological structure of reality itself, against the “very organization of nature”; against the universe as such.”
Equality as a “revolt against nature?” Seriously, it seems Rothbard protests too much. Is “Ethics” a “revolt against nature?” Or liberty? Or freedom? Or morality? Are these things found in nature? Isn’t the human being a remarkable creature that can choose how to relate to others? Shouldn’t the human being by virtue of his rationality strive to rise beyond his capability? “…but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” I do not know Rothbard’s opinion of Shakespeare, but in light of his position of the principle of inequality, one wonders if he would have called Shakespeare an evil communist? Rothbard must have foreseen these questions because he then against the anti-capitalist and Critical Theorist, Herbert Marcuse:
At the heart of the egalitarian left is the pathological belief that there is no structure of reality; that all the world is a tabula rasa that can be changed at any moment in any desired direction by the mere exercise of human will – in short, that reality can be instantly transformed by the mere wish or whim of human beings. Surely this sort of infantile thinking is at the heart of Herbert Marcuse’s passionate call for the comprehensive negation of the existing structure of reality and for its transformation into what he divines to be its true potential.”
What Marcuse objected to was capitalism’s totalizing, overpowering force that rendered concepts such as, “liberty” and “freedom” meaningless. For Marcuse, “freedom” really meant, “freedom from want.” But the capitalistic system demands to be accepted as is, thus it is most impossible to exist without money, thus it was impossible to be free from having to buy our survival. By creating a false reality where beings identify with the commodities they created, the human being is reduced to the singular dimensionality of the commodity. Marcuse also claimed that consumerism was energized through the creation of “false needs” as a form of social control. Capitalism, Marcuse says, provides a deceptive liberty.
Marcuse: Requiem for the 1 Dimensional Man
“Under the rule of a repressive whole, liberty can be made into a powerful instrument of domination. The range of choice open to the individual is not the decisive factor in determining the degree of human freedom, but what can be chosen and what is chosen by the individual. […] Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves. Free choice among a wide variety of goods and services does not signify freedom if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of toil and fear-that is, if they sustain alienation. And the spontaneous reproduction of superimposed needs by the individual does not establish autonomy; it only testifies to the efficacy of the controls. 
By the end of the essay, the Rothbard Name-Calling Machine is pressed into service, shrilly complaining that the egalitarians have set themselves against natural law and the universe! “Terribly rotten, spoiled children,” who are “dangerous,” “profoundly antihuman” (and profoundly evil, as well) bent on a single-minded “destruction of civilization.” There you have it. Equality will destroy civilization.
But I have to ask: why would this be a bad thing?
Rothbard is right about Equality destroying the current economic order, he is right but for the wrong reason. Yes, if rigorously applied, Equality will bring to an end the current system. But it is a system that deservedly needs to end and be replaced with something more rational that is the best for all. That the system can be replaced proves that reality is indeed a blank slate that we can decide who we are to be as the human race. We can decide and claim that all human beings by virtue of being human, deserve a boon. We can decide that we deserve the honor of not having to pay for our survival. We can decide that the economic oppression by a minority against a majority is unacceptable. Economic Equality which will provide human beings with true needs as their birthright for being human. The false need engineered by the latest media sensation is not worthy of a new and true definition of who we are, unless we settle for it. Capitalism has made a mockery of liberty and freedom through enslaving through the intentional, deceptive definitions of words and concepts that have been given to society.
For Rothbard, the mere exercise of human will is perfectly fine if one uses it in enlightened self-interest or in the generation of wealth or defeating opponents and exploiting those who can’t fight back because they lack money.
For Marcuse, we can wipe the slate clean and start over through overturning the current capitalist system and replaces it with a economic equality system. It will take a lot of work and maybe a lifetime or two to implement it world-wide. But we can do this. It well within our technology. Inequality has only one defense: that self-interest is necessary. But it is only necessary within certain abusive and competitive contexts.
Yet, for Rothbard, the mere exercise of human will is quite all right if it is used to generate money and boss others around. Marcuse, on the other hand, sums up the situation accordingly:
“Freedom of enterprise was from the beginning not altogether a blessing. As the liberty to work or to starve, it spelled toil, insecurity, and fear for the vast majority of the population. If the individual were no longer compelled to prove himself on the market, as a free economic subject, the disappearance of this freedom would be one of the greatest achievements of civilization.”
 Murray N. Rothbard, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, Ludwig Von Mises Inst; 2nd edition. 2000
 Herbert Marcusse, The One-Dimensonal Man, Beacon Press. 1964