The sacred cow, or perhaps I should say golden calf, of “equality” is wreaking immeasurable damage on our society. It started with a principle that at least sounds good, that of “equality before the law”. Of course, equality before the law precludes any sort of nobility or aristocracy, and now we are feeling the lack of those.
The principle of equality before the law had its first major exploitation when feminists demanded that women be treated precisely the same as men by the law. The problem here is that women are not the same as men. Women have different capabilities and needs. Women require more protection from roving criminals; men are more apt to be able to defend themselves. (Part of the reason that schools have become so dangerous is that most teachers are feminists and they are unwilling to tell boys not to hit girls, as this would imply that girls are not equal to boys!) There are roles, i.e. those of soldier or policeman, that require physical strength and stamina that women simply do not have. Women also require protection from being seduced and left on their own with children. I could go on, but I believe my point is taken. Naturally, the attempt to force the law to treat men and women equally has backfired in a thousand ways, and by now, of course, the legal inequality has simply been adjusted. For example, women angry at not being treated like ladies can now sue for sexual harassment, but how often do men sue for the exact same thing? Suggest that men ought to, to someone who claims to believe that the sexes are the same, and even they will laugh at the idea. Statistics demonstrate that women commit more than half of domestic violence, so where are the shelters for battered men? And why do divorce courts routinely demand that deserted husbands give most of their property to the alleged equals they married and financially support those “equals” in perpetuity?
The mania for “equality” has created in most people a pathological intolerance for being shut out of anything. It has also led to an excessive emphasis on age, as children or adolescents are among the few people who can still be justifiably discriminated against. In the introduction to a recent edition of one of E. Nesbit’s novels, a modern woman told us everything that was wrong with these nonetheless charming novels. (I don’t have a sarcasm font, but let me assure you that the sarcasm is very much there.) She attacked a scene in which a man took one of the boys aside for a man-to-man talk about how he shouldn’t be mean to his sisters because girls and boys are different, and have to be to do the grownup work of women and men. She was furious at how “patronizing” this was; personally, I wish that the boys I was forced to associate with as a child had patronized me that way. She was also outraged that these upper-class children gave orders to the family’s adult servants, and demonstrated better judgment than they did. She did not explain how she thought the children and servants ought to have related to each other, but I hazard a guess that she thought that these children, who would grow up to have a measure of power and influence in their society, ought to have been deferring to, taking orders from, and perhaps even learning from their servants. Reflect for a moment on whether you wish your laws to be made by people who were taught about the world by servants, or whether you wish your retirement fund to be invested in the stock of a company run by such men, and you will see how absurd the notion is.
Much has been written, by conservatives far more moderate than myself, about the difference between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcome”. In fact, some of the more mischievous attackers of feminism have mischievously suggested that the ERA is exactly what we need: hold women to the precise same standards as men for employment and men will triumph over them. It only takes a few minutes of examination to see that what the agitators of feminism and affirmative action are demanding is special privileges for their protected group. Many mainstream conservatives and libertarians ask ingenuously, “Why aren’t they satisfied with a level playing field?” The answer is that, whether nature or nurture is to blame in the various cases (in the case of women it is most definitely nature), if we have a genuinely level playing field, the winners overwhelmingly will be white men, Asian men, and Jews. But this is unacceptable, because at some point we convinced ourselves that all humans – every last one of us – is exactly equal in potential and ability. Therefore, unequal outcomes must be the product of evil prejudice!
And of course, to any sensible person (that is, anyone who is not a progressive), it is obvious that such policies do no disadvantaged group any favors. Few will publicly admit it, but many people are reluctant to use the services of black professionals because they might have attained their positions by affirmative action rather than ability. When you need surgery, do you want your doctor to have been given special privileges out of a sense of “reparations”? When you have been accused of a serious crime, do you want to be defended by a lawyer whose grades would have been too low for admission to law school were it not for racial quotas?
But even more than that, affirmative action and similar measures deter members of the newly privileged groups from striving for achievement. This to the groups that can least afford such deterrence.
But I am wandering from my thesis, which is that the notion of “equality” detracts from achievement in general society. Once the notion of equality has gotten about, it routinely becomes a mania that all people must be equal at all times and in all ways. Never mind that, to a sensible person, men and women are equally vital for the survival of a society; the fact that their contributions are necessarily different is intolerable, and women must be forced to turn themselves into imitation men. (When that doesn’t work, men will be forced to be less manly so as not to make women feel bad about not being men.) We are now even seeing various proposals to prevent people from leaving their own property to their own children, because God forbid that those children should have any “unearned” privilege. That parents work for the express purpose of creating a legacy which can be passed down to their descendants, a legacy of property or beliefs or codes of behavior or skills, seems to elude these egalitarians. Deprive people of the right to bequeath a legacy to their own children – which is precisely what schools do when they teach children values different from those of their parents – and soon there will be no more reason for achievement of any sort. We have to endure a bit of “inequality” in order to enjoy the benefits of civilization.
(Personally, I am in favor of entailments preventing parents from disinheriting their children. I believe that when you put your zygote where another zygote can get at it, that is the moment at which you accept your obligations to your offspring, and there is no getting out of them.)
I submit that people had a healthier attitude towards inequality when it was institutionalized – that is, when we had an aristocracy. A thousand social customs and laws reminded people from day to day of the very real differences in rank and station. This constant reinforcement of inequality of rank no doubt aided people in accepting differences in ability, made it easier for them to accept that some people were better at things than they were. They were used to being unequal; encountering a different sort of inequality was just a fact of life.
In addition, the modern attacks on ability were unknown, because ability was one of the few ways in which those born to a low station could hope to rise. Nowadays we punish people for superior ability. Bright children are expected to wait for their duller agemates to catch up, because what is important is that everyone go through precisely the same indoctrination routine, not that they be taught anything. Capable men see the jobs they have spent years working towards being given to less qualified women who then demand the right to be paid the same amount for part-time work. Such madness was unknown a mere century ago.
Bring back titled aristocracy and we will become a meritocracy again in no time.