Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fr. Schall on "The Inequalities of Equality"

. . . Moreover, a whole intellectual industry is devoted to what I call "gapism." Any "gap" in income or talent or material goods between rich and poor, this nation or that, or this person and that, is said to be a sign of injustice, imbalance, or evil. While this view practically ignores the whole history of how wealth came to be produced and distributed in the first place, the thesis is constantly repeated as if it were obvious, which it isn’t. As a result, we inaugurate agonizing crusades to right the imbalances. Massive efforts in unequal taxation and discriminatory policy initiatives are set in motion whereby these "gaps" are to be leveled down so that those who are said to suffer under them can feel more "equal."

Interestingly enough, studies in the history of envy show that often envy, the spiritual vice associated with equality and inequality, is more prevalent when people are more nearly equal than when they are not. This fact suggests that this "gap" analysis is missing something fundamental about human nature. Indeed, chances are that if we took a given population and somehow made them, on a given day, absolutely equal in terms of income and property, after a few years we would return to see that, in the meantime, by normal workings of exchange, talent, energy, and effort, some would have more, others less. The same inequality would return. Some people will be horrified by this result. Others will understand that inequalities are themselves a normal part of the human condition, something that explains why elements of aristocracy, the distinction between virtue and lack of it, have always existed in every society. . . .

The Inequalities of Equality, or All Things Being Equal, Not Everything Can Be Equal, by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. Ignatius Insight October 12, 2005


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