The Institutions of Inequality
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
At the beginning of the American nation, when there was much discussion on how the country should be governed, Founding Father John Jay famously said, “Those that own the country should run it.” We now see very clearly that Declaration’s famous statement of,” All Men Are Created Equal,” was code for “All White Male Landowners Are Created Equal.” This actually played out when the lines of separation were drawn and the property-owners and the tenants were placed within their respective roles with the middle class acting as a buffer between the landowners, the Indians and the poor. Slaves weren’t even considered.
That “All Men Are Created Equal” as a truth that is “self-evident” has been a statement that has long been open to debate, for some believe that practical equality can never exist since people have differing abilities, education, talents and intellect. Thus there needs to be a higher value or merit placed on who a person is or what he does.
This can be seen in the example of the ‘value gap’ between a doctor and a ditch-digger. The doctor holds more ‘value’ or ‘merit’ than the ditch-digger due to the doctor’s education, his vocation and the ability to create wealth, while the ditch-digger is assumed to likely be mentally retarded or an ex-junkie or a bum with no comparable value at all. Obviously, a big problem in discussing equality as a starting point for a new social model is the difference of value between people that justifies separation, education, class and income.
Many philosophical doctrines and formulations on the subject of equality have been taken up by many people throughout the centuries, however these points almost always considered within the framework of the current money system, which makes discussion problematic since capitalist society does not support equality at all, because the system as it is cannot ‘run’ on equality if it is set up to run on competition, reward, profit, merit and scarcity.
In the dictionary, equality is defined as a noun, the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Mathematically, equality is the condition of being equal in number or amount. Or refers to the mathematical expression of the fact that two quantities are equal. The word, “equal” descends from the Latin, ‘aequus,’ meaning ‘even, level.’ When speaking about equality, the topic primarily seems to concentrate on moral, social or political equality, and hardly ever in economic terms. Usually, equality in society means fuck all except in the most piddling fashion as in “equal voting rights” or “equal protection under the law.”
Intimately bound up with the principle of Equality is that of Freedom and Individualism, or rather, the freedom to Be Individual. This freedom-individualization program only allows for the “idea of equality” to be considered as long as it does not impinge on “freedoms of the individual’s” right to property, wealth and competition. Transforming the capitalist system into an egalitarian-based society will be considered an unacceptable “loss”- a degeneration into a (God forbid) ‘socialist” or ‘communist” economic system.
The Values of Competition
Can a society based on competition ever become one that promotes and enforce economic equality for all? Obviously not. It appears that “freedom” of the individual negates, overrides and diminishes the principle of equality. For all the lips service given to “equality,” the fact is “Freedom” is given more value.
And what beings realize, either consciously or subconsciously, is that to ensure equality for all means that the Freedoms of the Individual that allows greed, profit, abuse and poverty to exist, will have to be curtailed and ended. Freedom actually means, “freedom to abuse others.” Equality would not allow any abuse, or the liberty to abuse others.
Speaking of which, “liberty” defined is to be “free” from oppressive social restrictions imposed by governmental authority on one’s behavior, life or politics. In philosophy, the notion of Liberty is extended to freedom from control and fate. Nobody sees that this freedom and liberty are actually controls and enslavement that forces us to exist in patterns of exploitation and domination, because in a competitive society, there must exist losers for the winners to vanquish.
The ironic thing is that the perceived desire for “freedom” and “liberty” covers up the fact that in our modern culture, liberty and freedom do not actually exist, since there are plenty of “non-freedoms” that human beings are subjected to, such as:
no freedom to not participate in the system and still survive
no freedom to travel freely
no freedom for survival
no freedom from governmental authority
no freedom from using money to survive
no freedom from work
no freedom from participating within capitalism
no freedom from poverty
It seems there are some lack of “freedoms” that we already seem prepared to live with, as long as we are prepared to have our individuality.
The Values of Happiness
Also tied up within the strong points of the Declaration of Independence is “the pursuit of Happiness.” But what makes anyone “happy” and why happiness is one of our “unalienable rights?” Why should we pursue it and how does this relate to “All men are created equal?” The question of the morality of the pursuit of happiness doesn’t seem to apply, since “evil beings” can be just as “happy” as “good beings.” This paean to Happiness might harkens back to Plato’s Republic, where Plato writes about how in his ideal society, happiness would be available to all, although each part (or individual) according to his value of one’s virtues, talents, inclination and birth (actually, ‘heredity’ or bloodline).
Within Plato’s Republic, the separation is explicit: each to his own self-created program and distinctive role. A farmer could not expect to be a successful blacksmith for instance. But more important is the template placed in the Republic that has an aristocracy paternally overseeing the lives of the sweltering masses, which has been the template of control and domination of a few over the many used to this day. We have all agreed that this social model is sufficient. So sufficient, we cannot even begin to consider other options in how we would like to live.
The Values of Justice
Another idea tied to Equality is justice, which is usually defined as along the lines of morality, fairness and equity. If justice is the quality of what is fair, reasonable or worthy, one would consider that justice must be concerned about what would be best for all – the equality for all – for we are all worthy to exist in equality. If inequality is allowed to exist, we should realize that this robs Justice of all moral force, because it is obvious that having to buy one’s own survival in this world is in itself “immoral” since human beings have to suffer and die if they can’t survive – and if one dies because of the inability to purchase her survival while others succeed – the entire meaning and value of morality is emptied, for then morality is reduced to the ability to compete with others where winners live and losers die; “good” or “evil” are now only concerned with values of competition in a hostile world.
Since no moral force is being applied to correct a situation that is in opposition in terms of the fairness Justice implies, we must see that any “balance of fairness” Justice implies for itself is based on illusion, due to the accepted immorality of the values of competition. In this sense, we have agreed that we are not worthy of Justice in terms of equality, and to legitimatize this, we have unwittingly created Institutions of Inequality:
and so on. These institutions of inequality are endemic within the current economic system to provide “losers” the society of competition requires. Justice has been allowed to manifest in protection for the principle for competitive society and inequality. The morality it enforces is the morality of domination, separation and greed.
The Value of Liberty
When talking about Equal Rights we must ask ourselves if there exists any objective standard for equal rights? Opponents of Equality do not believe any such standard exists. For them “Equality” is equality is defined as “sameness,” and they say further, it is quite obvious that All Men are Not the Same. But there has long been a historical tension between the values of Equality and Liberty, and the neoliberal mindset is certain that no such standard of Equality can ever be delivered with curtailing some freedoms within the current economic system.
They may be right, but does the removal of some individual liberties negate the principle of universal or economic equality? The notion of Liberty is concerned with the freedom from control and authority. It also indicates that “one can do as one pleases.” We have “taken the liberty” to exploit, abuse and profit from others and the Earth for our own benefit. Liberty is seen as “License” to compete and dominate, but never to further the aims of genuine Equality.
Liberty is conceived as a principle of freedom from oppressive social restrictions imposed by governmental authority on one’s behavior, life or political views. Apparently, the Libertarian views “oppressive social restrictions” as those that impede one’s individuality, choice or self-interest. Thus within their ethical system, they see a validity in taking the liberty of creating wealth by exploiting the workers of poorer countries is recognized through the “ethics” of the value of competition, thereby removing all meaning from the word “ethics” in the process.
The Threat of Equality
Thus it is not surprising that people are threatened when the subject of equal money or a basic income that covers human needs for all comes up for discussion, for we have not realized that we have unwittingly superimposed layers of ignorance, conceit and self-interest over the meanings of words that we have come to consider as the paragons of human consciousness. We have been conditioned and programmed to fear that which would give us a dignified life. When it comes to realizing that our grandiose ideas of ‘freedom” were only superimposed layers of deception that has produced the Institutions of Inequality while hiding the human suffering from our eyes, we know one thing: that everything is in reverse.