Freedom requires Inequality

The ironic thing about freedom, in a classical liberal sense, is that it requires inequality. 

Indeed, the Doctrine of Individualism is rooted in the principle that individuals must be permitted to both rise and fall, to both succeed and fail, in order for them to be in full control of their destiny.  Whether that be economic or political or otherwise.

The reality is that people have different skills, different levels of intelligence, different levels of athleticism, different levels of attractiveness, and so on.  The unavoidable consequence of that is that in a truly free society, people will end up unequally.

Creating artificial constraints in order to equalize outcomes undermines that principle, and doing so fails to maximize the potential of individuals within that society.  Trading risk and the freedom that comes with it for some semblance of safety.  The path followed by any domesticated animal you see on a farm today.  No doubt, the only way to achieve complete “equality” between people would be limit the abilities of certain individuals, a la Harrison Bergeron.

As such, Progressives argue, we must chain ourselves. But the unspoken question that must be asked is this: is that trade worth it?  Or as de Tocqueville aptly observed two hundred years ago:

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom – Alexis de Tocqueville

In other words: do we want to be free, or do we want to be equal?  Because those two ideals are unfortunately incompatible.

The critical thing about inequality is that it creates scarcityAnd scarcity creates value. 

Without darkness, there is no light … everything the same.  A blur.  White noise.  Meaning and value derive from the contrast.  From the inequality.

If we all had a diamond at the moment of birth, or if diamonds grew on trees, then diamonds would be relatively worthless.  In the same vein, if all men were of the same uber-intelligence, then intelligence would be less valued.  Or if all men were uber-athletic, we wouldn’t pay NBA players the salaries we do today.  All of those arise from scarcity.  From inequality.

In short, if inequality creates scarcity, and scarcity creates value, then it follows that value is actually rooted in inequality itself.

Now perhaps there is some nobility in arguing that we should try to create better opportunities for all people, to sacrifice for others for the sake of equity.  But, in the end, the value equation remains the same.  There will always be winners and losers.

It has been argued by many a wise man before me that those who would trade freedom for security, deserve neither.  Of course, those were men from a different time, a different era, where the freedoms we often take for granted today were not guaranteed.

In that era, people desired freedoms, because many of them came from medieval Europe and/or were part of a colonial system where they grew up without.  They wanted opportunities, but they knew that such opportunities only came along with risk.  Failure.  Loss.  It is those things that spur individual endeavor, that it could be argued led to the development of the modern world.  But they require a frank acceptance of the cruelty that can be the struggle between life and death, between success and failure. That there will always be winners and losers.

A society must have such a frank acceptance if it is to truly thrive, rather than wither.  To be cognizant of trade-offs demanded in the pursuit of any ideal.  And to realize there is inherent value in even the “negative” things sometimes, inequality included.

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7 Responses to Freedom requires Inequality

  1. The critical thing about inequality is that it creates scarcity. And scarcity creates value.

    Scarcity doesn’t create value on it’s own. Without any demand an item has zero value for most purposes even it is relatively scarce.

  2. CopperFox3c says:

    Yet scarcity, or perceived scarcity, can actually create demand where there formerly is none. This has been shown by many psychological studies. It is, in fact, the reason why sales are always a “limited time only”, or only the first 1000 fans get a bobblehead or whatever. That’s basic principle of advertising.

  3. Yoda says:

    Too late for a Ben Franklin bobblehead I am?

  4. Yet scarcity, or perceived scarcity, can actually create demand where there formerly is none.
    Can doesn’t mean will. How much demand will it create? Is any lasting value assigned to the item being sold? Tulip bulbs for example.

    In short, if inequality creates scarcity, and scarcity creates value, then it follows that value is actually rooted in inequality itself.

    You haven’t shown that inequality creates scarcity or that scarcity automatically creates value absent demand. Oil and water are not equal, how does that generate scarcity? Seawater is scarce in the middle of the desert, yet is also is of no value there.

    Value is only what someone is willing to give to acquire or retain an item.

  5. Yoda says:

    Perhaps offered a Yoda bobblehead you should have

  6. CopperFox3c says:

    Obviously, something has to have some utility in order to be in demand, I agree with that. Although that utility often has to do with intangible things like “status” in human societies.

    However if something has utility, but is easily obtained and abundant, then the demand will not exist or be tempered.

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