Equality Versus Diversity

Labour Party blogger Jordan Carter wrote last week on what it means to be a socialist.

Our ideology at heart says that because people are morally equal, and because the distribution of talents and capacities is largely a matter of luck (and therefore morally arbitrary), the community as a whole has a responsibility to embrace a political and economic system that reflects this.

That is, public policy uses a range of tools – sometimes markets, sometimes community provision, sometimes state provision – to ensure that each person has a roughly comparable standard of living, quite independent of their luck in drive, intelligence, physical aptitude etc.

Classic liberal blogger David Farrar countered with this;

This shows the difference between right and left. On the right we think it is nonsense to have a society where everyone has the same standard of living. Certain countries have tried paying brain surgeons the same as street cleaners. The results are well known. yet despite this, it remains a goal of the left – to drag everyone down to the same standard of living. To penalise those who have ambition, intelligence and drive etc. After all they’re just lucky to have inherited them in their worldview.

This notion of society compensating for those who are not as “gifted” as others is classic statist thinking. Where should it end? Should ugly guys have the state provide paid prostitutes so they get as much sex as the “studs”. Should those with arsehole personalities be given more money to compensate for the fact they don’t get promoted as much as helpful people?

This post explains much about the thinking of the left. There is never ever a time where there is too much state involvement. Because until the laziest, thickest, most arseholed member of society has a comparable standard of living to the most hard working and intelligent, then there is always more state intervention to be done.

David is right. No two atoms in the universe are identical-how can enormously complex entities such as human beings be made equal? Why in God’s name would you want to?

All humans should be equal before the law. That is-the same law should apply to Paris Hilton as to John or Jane Doe.

Because we are all human, we are all entitled to the same human rights. Our common humanity gives us certain rights and obligations-beyond that its a free-for-all.

Most of our world’s splendour comes from its variety. Humanity is fascinating because of its diversity. Equality breeds weakness. Diversity creates strength. Basic genetics tells you that.

Why would anyone be crazy enough to want to make us all equal, even if only in terms of income or wealth?


Author: Admin

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27 thoughts on “Equality Versus Diversity

  1. Excellent discussion, the classical Marxist pundit lacks no skill in building a rationale for this worldview. Any criticism directed at your argumentation will fail if the strategy is blow by blow verbosity.

    Marxists are infamous for their seemingly limitless capacity to ignore reality, preferring to rely on their opponents running out of willingness to resist or continue in unending dialog with false assumptions and insincere presuppositions and contrived definitions and purposeful deconstructionism, or simply running out of bullets and soldiers, before they do.

    Conflict, revolution, conquest, dialectical materialism, “dictatorship of the proletariat,” the politics and economics of state sanctioned theft, the philosophical denial of basic individuality apart from the State, the view that the person exists to serve the state collective and as an economic unit being spent in a cultural war (“class struggle”) that is by definition cyclical and unending (revolutionary means a cyclical exchange of roles of who is bourgesosie and who is proletariat, the victors become those they conquered and the cycle repeats itself. Violent pursuit of a utopian society that is by defintion impossible to acheive and the process of attainment is the very definition of the “decadence” they project onto everyone else in the world. They claim exalted virtues, extol their unselfish motives, even while confiscating your property, raping your wife and children, an lining you up in front of a firing squad or shipping you off to lifetime imprisonment in a forgotten gulag 3,000 miles from home, no purpose for your disappearance and unending captivity other than to satisfy the authoritarian lust of the State to torture human beings as a matter of principle, it serves only one pragmatic goal, to keep the other economic units in line, subservient, silent, and totally cowed in fear.

    That’s Marxism.

    It isn’t that any statement of your argument by itself is necessarily self-refuting or self-evidently evil. Sentences and concepts strung together in careful fashion can produce a powerfully convincing but delusional Hegelian dialectic.

    “The objective of Hegelian dialectics in this sense is to replace something old with something new (e.g., capitalism with communism, traditional Bible doctrine with theological modernism, a traditional educational system based on moral absolutes with a new one based on relativism, an old age with a new). Used like this, Hegelian dialectics cannot produce the new thing, but it can destroy the old. Other processes and techniques come into play in actually producing the new thing that is desired. Hegelian dialectics is used today to create a “paradigm shift” by replacing an old “paradigm” (prevailing belief system) with a new one. It is a technique of “social evolution” and “political transcendence.” It is not an innocent process. It is used by “change agents” and “facilitators of transformation.” Hegelian dialectics is “the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution” (quoted as found on http://truediscernment.wordpress.com/2008/

    While I applaud your verbal dexterity and obvious knowledge of your chosen philosophical orthodoxy, I must criticize your lack of critical thought in examining your epistemology and apologetics for the glaring failure to challenges one’s assumptions and definitions against the weight of real world evidence avialable in abundance all around you.

    This statement was particularly revealing:

    “Marx was not a determinist- there will be no natural evolution from the barbaric system of capitalist exploitation based on war, imperialism, racism and sexism to a new collective world unless people consciously organise to bring it about. He argued for socialism from below- the liberation of the workers was not to be done by anyone but themselves- “Philosophers have only interpreted the world” he once said, “The point is to change it.” The second part of the Manifesto goes on to look at the basics of the economic workings of the capitalist system, which are explored in detail in his masterwork, Das Kapital. The theory of surplus value as the basis of wealth and profits is put forward- wage labour and private property (the undemocratic ownership of industry by a minority of capitalists) is how this is attained.”

    Most of your strung together sentences have at least an appearance of actual conviction, but this falls back into typical Hollywood stereotypical caricature of the college-kid Marxist clumsily quoting his whacked out Black Panther-Maoist social revolutionary professors who dress like socialist-progressivist-communist supporting Noam Chomsky, and like Chomsky, take huge salaries from elitist educational institutions where they work, and are on the payroll of governments they publicly rail against (to make money on books, speeches, etc.), preach conservation to the masses while they drive Beamers and SUV’s and live in the Hamptons on weekends away from teaching global communism as a virtue for the rest of the masses, etc, etc, etc.

    I read Das Kapital when i was seventeen years old, and it was a piece of crap then, and it’s a piece of crap now, from a third-rate economist and a fourth-rate writer.

    The failure of Marxist systems for the past 100 years, their historical record of crimes against humanity, their redundant failure to comprehend simple natural law economics, leads any rational observer to conclude that anyone espousing this philosophical/economic system is either incredibly gullible and insufferably credulous, or they are a pathological liar and attempting surrepticious propaganda for ulterior motives and self-gain.

    A serious conversation over the virtues of Judeo-Christian ethically based capitalism against Marxist “I make up my own dialectic as it becomes convenient to do” COMMUNISM, is a serious waste of time.

    It’s already been done, ad nauseum. Some of the best treatises on this subject are by some economists/theologians I happen to disagree with vehemently in my own area of expertise, theology, but think they are brilliant when they pontificate and analyse on this economic topic:

    The Christian Reconstructionists, particulary Dr. Gary North (yeah, I know he busted his nut on Y2K, but he’s still a great analyst on Marxist ideology), and (the late) David Chilton. I knew Chilton, and the guy had the personality of a African warthog genetically spliced into a Gregorian Jesuit monk, but the guy was a brilliant author (and equally brilliant at manipulative theology) and wrote what I think is the seminal work for the common man on the subject of socialist insanity and “liberation theology,” and is fun to read, “Productive Christians In An Age Of Guilt Manipulators,”

    I would suggest you read the book, dude, but at this stage I think you are a goner.

  2. Winning a court case in NZ means that in all but exceptional circumstances the losing party pays both the monetary damages and a large proportion of the winning party’s court costs and their own costs. If an action is not defended then the plantiff will usually win, unless there is no cause of action or its an abuse of process.

    Defamation actions are quite hard to defend as the plaintiff has several procedural advantages and the onus on the defendant is quite heavy. So that you can prove a good deal but still lose the case, the McLibel Case (Wikipedia) is a good example of this. Its almost a reverse onus of guilt.

    I don’t think its true to say that a right can never violate others. We face a constant conflict of rights with national interest and with other rights. For example, defamation law is an attempt to balance rights of freedom of speech with the right of people to enjoy their good name. Numerous other examples exist, trespass: limitation of freedom of movement to protect private property rights etc (damn tort law eating my brain). Rights as expressed in the NZBORA or ICCPR are abstract and because they are so are considered as absolute. At the point of application they become more flexible and a bit of balancing is required.

    I’m having difficulty understanding your justification that rights exist based on one’s humanity not as a social construct.

    Social contract theory for example advocates that people give up some natural rights for the protection of a state. It is perfectly arguable that that includes the right to take taxation and provide for the less fortunate, and in part this helps to ensure the fulfillment of the remaining rights and social stability.

    Rights based theories are also malleable to a social welfare argument. You and I will argue about the scope of the rights and the phraseology used in them and draw different conclusions.

    The ICCPR for example refers to ‘inherent dignity of the human person’ in its preamble and my definition of that includes (where the state can provide it) the right to a certain standard of living (social rights) because as I’ve said that protects the articulated politico-legal rights and it allows people to have some hope of a reasonably secure existence (dignity).
    Maybe that inherent dignity overrides rights absolutely to one’s income (ie taxation).

    Since that in my perspective puts the value of human being above that of property and still protects the majority of property rights then I think its an excellent idea.

  3. Wouldn’t those persuing the defamation case bear the costs, unless in fact they were defamed. Free speech is not the right to lie about people and any defendent in such a case would be innocent until proven guilty.
    I don’t know the requirments to enrol to vote but any mail can be addressed care of the post office to be collected.
    Right aren’t social constructs but exist based on our humanity and no right can exist which require the violation of anothers rights. That would be an empty concept. Goverment and laws should protect rights, not create new fake rights. If you have no problem funding housing for those unable to provide for themselves go for it, but leave others to fund their own favourite charity, by free choice.

  4. You’re right that exercising free speech against the govenment is unlikely to be hampered though it may have collateral effects (see below).

    But free speech is also an important right in the private sphere and can be undermined.
    For example when they make a statement against a powerful or well-off person which is made the subject of a defamation claim and they are too poor to defend it because one has to spend anything thy have on subsistence (and these are tricky things to defend at common law) or in a minimalist welfare state as many people here seem to believe in, there is no provision for legal aid out of taxation. Inability to defend these claims (even potentially valid ones ) will mean that people are discouraged from making them and rights of free speech against others become more limited.

    The right to expression of political opinion can also be damaged by poverty, since firstly a person in dsperate circumstances may be forced to use their vote as a commodity a secondly for those so poor as to be homeless they have no hope of complying with the formal requirements necssary to enrol to vote.

    These propositions are based on a system where guarantees of shelter or income are non-existent and conditions of severe poverty exist in segments of the population. I accept this is a debateable foundation but I see it as very likely that if NZ didn’t have benefits, housing and health then even hard working people would find themselves in conditions of severe hardship either through random misfortune or where perfectly understandable emotional imperatives override the rational economic concerns that Chicago school economics usually presage temselves upon.

    Ta-da !

  5. Thank god someone finally shot down the eugenics argument, evolution as John very kindly pointed out has nothing to do with political theories of social welfare. Mainly because in evolutionary terms we are isolated from the selective effects of the environment.

    I think that what the originally cited article have been advocating is an equality of opportunity or a societal guarantee of a minimum standard of living and comfort, the provision of state housing, benefits and helathcare ensuring a modest level of comfort beyond which people are largely free to strive fro additionnal benefit. Nothing wrong with that I don’t think and I don’t object to it being unded through taxation.

    Equality in purely political or legal terms is something of an empty concept without a foundation of underlying social rights.

    While a person may be guaranteed certain rights against the government or each other, these rights cannot be effectively exercised when one lives in a state of poverty or desperation.

  6. And capitalism is bad for the vast majority of humans and the planet, all the free market crap you put out there wont change that.

  7. John-humans survive best in a blend of co-operation and competition.

    Socialists try and eliminate the competition aspect and predictably come a gutser.

    All the academic theories in the world wont change that basic reality.

  8. Thanks for that Reid. I meant to call bush a neo -fascist but the large glass of cuban rum I had just consumed had me hitting the wrong keys.
    But as long as bush and his gangster mates have the likes of you jumping through their hoops wearing blinkers they can continue
    their rape of the world unabated.
    But thats ok. There are still some good points about the cess pit that is America. I dig those chubby negro chicks for a wild night on the town in Vegas.

  9. John said “In human evolution cooperation is the prime reason we have survived so far.”

    Capitalism – consensual cooperation
    Socialism – coerced cooperation

  10. Dirk,

    President Bush is not a neo-con. Nor is Cheney or Rumsfeld. They are lifelong conservative Republicans. A neo-con or new conservative is a former leftist who defected. People such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz are former Democrats who switched sides specifically because the Democrats are no longer strong on defense. When you call Bush a neo-con you demonstrate your ignorance and brainwashing by radical leftist elements.

    You are entitled to your mythical beliefs about America. One thing that isn’t a myth is the prosperity of the average middle class “exploited” American worker compared to the average citizens of nearly all other nations. In fact, there is a long waiting list of people from NZ, Australia, Canada, UK and other free nations trying to legally emigrate here. They want to emigrate here for freedom and prosperity.

    I am not trying to denigrate the Anglosphere by pointing out that many of it’s citizens wish to emigrate to America. Just pointing out the absurdity of the leftist litany against America.

    The workers paradise of Cuba and North Korea don’t have a lines of people trying to emigrate there. Even leftists know better even if their rhetoric says the opposite.

  11. “Ani=on-very good point. As evolution is based on the “survival of the fittest” principle, then evolutionists should logically be capitalists.”

    Mutualism, Symbiosis and cooperation have been recognised as playing a larger role in evolution than competition. Any modern first level university textbook should clear this up. Any organism which benefits its ecosystem and surroundings has a far higher chance of survival than one which outcompetes everything else and in doing so degrades its surroundings. For an organism to survive longer than a few thousand years (or a civilisation for that matter) it must form symbiotic and benefical relations with its surroundings.

    In human evolution cooperation is the prime reason we have survived so far. For over 99% of our existence as a species cooperation and an equitable distribution of food wealth etc was the complete and required norm. In fact there is a large body of evidence (I can reference this if required) that societys which are based on competition tend to be more violent, abusive and stressful than those based on cooperation and sharing. Once again a few anthropology textbooks should give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Competition between humans living in close proximity is a relatively recent innovation brought about by the scale of our society. Of course the set up based on cooperation will not work when people are organised into groups large enough that people do not know everyone involved, this is one of the fatal flaws for state based socialism as it is advocated by many. Of course there are many other ways of organising a society that do not requre a state.

    Darwinian arguments about the supreme role of competition are outdated and show an ignorance towards how the “real” world operates. Any state will be nessacarily be violent and oppressive and any society based on competition will result in major inequities between the rich and poor. I would appreciate it if in future posts you do not use the same brush to tar everybody you disagree with.

  12. I suggest America is not a free nation.
    Under the Neo-Cons of George Bush’s administration “freedoms” have been eroded.
    People are detained without trial, held at unknown destinations without the benefit of legal representation. Mail is intercepted, phones and e-mails are tapped. The police are Thugs/hired guns with a license to kill.
    “Truth,Justice and the American way” is nothing but a myth.
    But its a very cleverly constructed myth and america is still a great place if you looking for “Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll.


  13. and furthermore…

    I am a capitalist. I own a heating business in rural upstate New York. As far as exploitation goes, I am exploited far more than I exploit. First come my customers. Without them I have no business so they are treated like gold. Second come my beloved highly paid employees. Third comes the government and taxes. Finally if there is anything left comes me. There have been years when I made what I consider big money. And there have been years when I have lost money. Whether I made money or lost my employees were highly paid. My employees can terminate my exploitation of them anytime they desire. I can’t subjugate them nor would I want to. Since I live in a free nation nobody can subjugate me. I am a free man. People who live in socialist nations can’t make that claim.

    Society exploits capitalists as much as capitalists exploit workers.

  14. John Reed,

    Liberty doesn’t exist in socialist systems. Socialism requires coercion and is based on subjugation of the populace.

    I absolutely agree with you that capitalism exploits workers. I prefer to engage in consensual capitalist exploitation rather than forced socialist subjugation also known as serfdom or slavery.

    Fact is the more you earn the harder you work. The massively compensated American corporate leaders work much longer hours than their exploited workers. Yes, some rich people inherited their money. Most rich people in the US became rich through enterprise and not through inheritance.

    I asked you to provide an example of socialist prosperity? Socialism is very good at killing people. Over 100 million dead in the 20th century. Capitalism is very good at raising exploited workers standard of living.

    You ask when have capitalist ever created prosperity without workers? Capitalists are the hardest working workers. Those who discount the importance of management discount the importance of intelligence.

    Yes, workers can survive without capital. They just have to adopt an aboriginal lifestyle.

  15. John Reed of America said…


    Your ideas are 18th century intellectual relics. Part of the trash heap of history. As usual with any school of thought there are true believers long after the expiration date.

    If you really want to live a life of liberty you can do it within the socialist system. Instead of engaging in meaningless lectures about Utopian socialism that went out with Robert Owen, why don’t you see that capitalism can’t survive without workers, but workers can without capital.

    In the US tens of thousands of industrialists formed hundreds of industries since the Industrial revolution. They all are based on exploitation. Why? Creating a capitalist paradise requires hard work. The kind of work that workers do and Monty Burns doesnt.

    When workers worked hard and bosses didn’t it caused strife and eventual strife. Capitalists want a free ride where someone else in the collective does the real work.

    Where have capitalists ever created prosperity without workers???

  16. SW supporter,

    Your ideas are 19th century intellectual relics. Part of the trash heap of history. As usual with any school of thought there are true believers long after the expiration date.

    If you really want to live a collectivist life you can do it within the capitalist system. Instead of engaging in meaningless street theater why don’t you pool your resources, buy some land and create your workers paradise?

    In the US tens of thousands of collectivists formed hundreds of communes in the 1960’s. They all failed except for a few religious based communes. Why? Creating a workers paradise requires hard work. When some members worked hard and others didn’t it caused strife and eventual failure. Socialist want a free ride where someone else in the collective does the real work.

    Where have socialists ever created prosperity???

  17. Thanks for putting the effort in SW supporter, but this is really meaningless.

    It is based on many incorrect assumptions, particularly its pre-supposition that class is a meaningful concept.

    Libertarians, such as myself base our priciples on individuals not class.

    No individual is bound to a class, unless they are lazy enough to fall into that position by default.

  18. SW supporter responds to “The failure to recognise intellectual effort and management skills as labour.”

    The capitalist class in NZ and other advanced capitalist countries can only survive by creating a bureaucratic hierarchy of control.

    It is within this hierarchy that contradictory class locations occur. Middle-level managers and administrators ‘perform the function of capital’ in the sense that they ‘carry out the work of control and surveillance’. It is no Marxist, but the sociologist John Goldthorpe who has shed the most light on this issue. Goldthorpe argues that members of what SW calls the new middle class have a relationship with their employers which ‘necessarily involves an important measure of trust’:

    These employees, in being typically engaged in the exercise of delegated authority or in the application of specialized knowledge and expertise, operate in their work tasks and roles with a distinctive degree of autonomy and discretion; and, in direct consequence of the element of trust that is thus necessarily in their relationship with their employing organization, they are accorded conditions of employment which are also distinctive in the level and kind of rewards that are involved.

    The element of trust arises in the case of managers and ad¬ministrators from the fact that they are performing the function of capital. The ruling class, forced to delegate part of their role to their employees, needs to be able to rely on these delegates to exercise the discretion involved in a manner conducive to their own interests, and therefore offers those in contradictory class locations considerable financial rewards.

    Those in contradictory class locations are clearly distinguished from the ruling class itself in two respects. First, there is the nature of the control involved. Some writers have distinguished between two forms of effective possession of the means of production. On the one hand, there is ‘allocative’ or ‘strategic’ control, ‘the power to employ resources or to withdraw them, in line with one’s own interests and preferences’; on the other hand, there is ‘operational control’, ‘control over the day-to-day use of resources already allocated’.

    Strategic control corresponds to Wright’s category of control over investment and resource-allocation. It is the prerogative of the capitalist class, irrespective of whether the capitalists are share¬holders or employees (or, as often, both). The new middle class is involved in operational control, making decisions within a framework laid down by those with strategic control.

    Secondly, there is the question of how one gains access to the bourgeoisie and the new middle class respectively. Capitalists ‘owe their positions not to processes of bureaucratic appointment and advancement but rather to their own power’.
    Inherited wealth continues to play a crucial role in the formation of the bourgeoisie, both in giving them a direct share of their strategic control through their shareholdings, and in gaining for them privileged access to top managerial positions through slective private schools and education networks.

    The new middle class, by contrast, have a measure of operational control delegated to them from above, thanks to their success as individuals in climbing up a bureaucratic career-structure.

    This sets them apart from the proletariat as well as the bourgeoisie. The degree of control which some groups of workers may achieve over the process of production reflects their collective organisation and strength.

    Continued at

  19. Ani=on-very good point. As evolution is based on the “survival of the fittest” principle, then evolutionists should logically be capitalists.

    Socialism flies in the face that principle yet the vast majority of socialists are evolutionists.

  20. SW supporter. Interesting piece but flawed on one major point. The failure to recognise intellectual effort and management skills as labour.

    People who work with their heads are generally more productive than tose who work with their hands and consequently deserve richer rewards.

    That priciple renders Marxism irrelevant.

  21. Why do evolutionist-socialists try to make everyone equal when their core beliefs say that they are not? Why do they cling to evolution in the first place only to preach overriding its basic truths?

    Are they self-conscious and guilty about the the beauty in the idea that “All men are created equal under God”? Is the idol of Socialism just taking the place of God here?

    Some things stay constant – Michael Crichton wrote about this eloquently in comparing environmentalism to religious beliefs; that beliefs never go away, they change form. Perhaps because we all need to believe in something. It seems religious belief in socialist fundamentals takes the place of traditional religion for these people. At least the idea that “all men are created under God” makes sense, by appealing to the transcendent: what we see with carnal eyes is shallow and misleading.

    But people who believe vehemently in evolution, which requires people to be UNequal, yet are socialists, are self-contradictory and hypocritical. There is also no analogue to what they believe in their un-created Nature. For as you point out Trevor, uniformity breeds weakness since it goes against the holy mechanism of natural selection!

  22. Modern political discourse concerning the values of liberty and equality can be said to have begun with the Great French and American revolutions of the late eighteenth century, which overturned the old feudal orders in favour of what can now be called liberal democracy. In liberal democracy, formal political equality was guaranteed by a declaration of rights, where “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good”. In addition, “Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents”. (The Declaration of the Rights of man and of the Citizen, 1789)

    This formal political equality replaced the previous divine right of kings, where political power was inherited from noble birth, and the economy was organised in a feudal pyramid based around the ownership of land. The American and French revolutions freed the emerging capitalist class from these bonds, allowing them to freely develop the modern capitalist economy. Their reforms became the basis for modern liberal democracies: “Each to count for one, and none for more than one” (Jeremy Bentham).

    A new philosophy of political economy emerged. Led by thinkers such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Jeremy Bentham, they argued that modern individuals were rational economic beings who would make choices based on maximising their welfare or satisfaction. The purpose of the modern capitalist economy was to facilitate the greatest amount of economic satisfaction, or utility, for the widest amount of people as possible. This school is known as Utilitarianism.


    During the Enlightenment, several philosophers tried to describe how best the new liberal democracy could best guarantee the rights and welfare of its citizenry, such as Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government” and Rosseau’s “The Social Contract”. One of the most eloquent writers of this Contractarian school was the Harvard professor John Rawls, whose publication in 1971 of “A Theory of Justice” provided liberal egalitarianism with one of its touchstone texts. “A Theory of Justice” sketches a hypothetical contract by imagining a world where individuals must rationally choose how to order society. Here Rawls introduces some important ideas and principles.

    The first is how these individuals make the choice to order this society- the so-called “Original Position”: a hypothetical situation outside of history that Rawls uses to explore how we would rationally plan a society. Rawls introduces what he calls the Veil of Ignorance- the individuals have no information about their own or each other’s “conception of the good”, social situation and talents and abilities.

    “No one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does he know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence and strength and the like. Nor, again, does anyone know his conception of the good, the particulars of his rational plan of life, or even the special features of his psychology such as his aversion to risk or liability to pessimism or optimism. More than this, I assume the parties do not know the particulars of their own society.”
    Rawls, Theory of Justice, Oxford University Press 1971, p137

    Under this veil of ignorance, we are unaware whether we will be a man or a woman, a boss or a worker, black or white, intelligent or strong. As such, Rawls foresees that rationally, we would thus try to ensure that whatever our subsequent identity, we are guaranteed equal rights within this new society. Equal opportunity to resources should be a rational choice we would make if we did not know our background otherwise.
    Rawls defines this as “justice as fairness”. This leads him to state what he calls the Two Principles of Justice.

    ‘1. Each person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all.

    2. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions. First, they must be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second [the difference principle] they must be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.’
    Rawls, Theory of Justice, p302

    The first principle, in modern democratic discourse, is rarely contested. People of many different philosophical or political ideologies would all agree with equal political rights and formal basic liberties for citizens, be they socialist, liberal, conservative or libertarian.

    It is within the second principle, especially around its second part, the so called “Difference principle”, that Rawls sets the debate on fire.
    Rawls here actually makes a case for why social and economic inequalities are philosophically justifiable in a liberal democracy. The first part of the second principle describes how competition between individuals should be fair, seeing decisions being made within this new society by a meritocracy of the talented. This is obviously an improvement from the days of feudalism, where power and wealth was monopolised by the nobility at the expense of wider society. There is an objection against any system that ‘permits the distribution of wealth and income to be determined by the natural distribution of abilities and talents… distributive shares [in such a system] are decided by the outcome of the natural lottery; and this outcome is arbitrary [therefore objectionable] from a moral perspective. There is no more reason to permit the distribution of income and wealth to be settled by the distribution of natural assets than by historical and social fortune’ (A Theory of Justice, p.74).

    However, it can be argued that here Rawls see competition rather than co operation between individuals as the motor for the new society. This is an ideological assumption coming from the Utilitarian tradition, than has been challenged by more radical egalitarians from the socialist or anarchist traditions.

    The second part again makes an assumption that social or economic inequalities can sometimes be justified if they are to “the greatest benefit” of “the least advantaged members of society”. Here Rawls is criticised both from the left and the right.

    From the right, Rawls is attacked from what can be called the Libertarian school, especially by the author of Anarchy, State and Utopia, Robert Nozick. He argues that provided we acquire and transfer our assets without the use of coercion, justice requires that we are entitled to choose freely what to do with our assets. A just distribution is whatever results from free-market exchanges. Thus, right wing libertarians oppose the welfare state as a form of coercive theft, where the natural talents of the wealthy are forced to share their resources with those who are weaker, poorer or less intelligent than them. The libertarians argue that the state has no business taxing people who have “earned” their wealth- it should be allowed to raise revenue to provide a strong police force to guarantee protection (presumably the rich) and little more. Thus, Rawls philosophical assumption that inequalities are only justified if they benefit the poor is seen as a moral defence of the welfare state, which the libertarians seek to dismantle.

    From the left, the difference principle can be criticised because its model of economic redistribution is indistinguishable from what the Neoliberal economic school refer to as “Trickle-down economics”. Led by Milton Friedman and the Chicago school in the 1970s, finding political expression in the experience of Reagonomics in the USA and Thatcherism in the UK in the 1980s, it now straddles the world under the term “Globalisation”. Central to its economic arguments are that inequalities of wealth and resources are justified if they help to develop the economy, providing more jobs for the poor- encapsulated in the cliché “a rising tide lifts all boats”. However, the experience of Reagonomics and Thatcherism has been that income gaps between rich and poor have actually dramatically increased- according to the United Nations Human Development Report of 1999, “the ratio of the income of the richest fifth of the world’s population to the poorest fifth had risen from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 60 in 1 by 1990. By 1997 the ratio had risen to 74 in 1.” (www.undp.org).

    Rawls elaborates his defence of the market as a method of distribution by arguing that it provides incentives for people to better themselves.

    “Now those starting out as members of the entrepreneurial class in a property-owning democracy, say, have a better prospect than those who begin in the class of unskilled labourers…..The inequality in expectation is permissible only if lowering it would make the working class worse off. Supposedly….the greater expectations allowed to entrepreneurs encourages them to do things which raise the long-term prospects of the labouring class. Their better prospects act as incentives so that the economic process is more efficient, innovation proceeds at a faster pace, and so on. Eventually the resulting material benefits spread throughout the system and to the least advantaged. I shall not consider how far these things are true. The point is that something of this kind must be argued if these inequalities are to be just by the difference principle.”
    Rawls, A Theory of Justice, section 13. (p78)

    It is important to remember that here Rawls argues for the existence of economic inequalities only if they generate more wealth for those at the bottom. A Theory of Justice was written in 1971, in the middle of the Cold War, where Stalinist State-Capitalism held sway over billions of people in the USSR, China and the Eastern Bloc. Comparatively, it could be argued that workers in the West had a better standard of living (and of individual liberties) than their comrades in the “classless, socialist” East. Despite the greater inequality in the West, if it benefited those “worst off”, it was philosophically justified.
    Imagine society A where all citizens have ten units of satisfaction. This would be theoretically the utopian egalitarian state. Now compare it with society B, where 90% of citizens have 12 units of satisfaction, with a 10% minority above them with 20 units. With Rawls difference principle, we would opt for society B, as the worse off improve their utility by 2 units. “All social primary goods – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth, and the bases of self-respect – are to be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution of any or all of these goods is to the advantage of the least favoured.”
    Rawls, A Theory of Justice, p302-3.

    Here we must examine theories of how wealth is created under capitalism. For Rawls, the source of efficiency, innovation and incentive in a society are the “property owning entrepreneurial class”. Businessmen and corporations are the “wealth creators”.

    However, an alternative view exists which sees that what Rawls calls the “labouring class” is the source of all wealth and commodities produced in capitalism. This was accepted by John Locke, David Ricardo and Adam Smith. Smith argued that
    “the real price of everything, what it really costs the men who want to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it…It is not by gold and silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased, and its value to those who possess it and who want to exchange it for some other object, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it enables them to purchase or command”- From the Wealth of Nations, quoted in Chris Harman, Economics of the Madhouse, Bookmarks, 1995, p20.

    Decades before Marx developed the labour theory of value in Das Kapital, Adam Smith conceded the fact that capitalists, rather than creating wealth, actually took their profits from wealth created by labour. Profit was the unpaid surplus the working class created.
    “In the original state of things, which precedes both the appropriation of land and the accumulation of stock, the whole product of labour belonged to the labourer. But as soon as the land becomes private property, the landowner demands a share of the produce…
    The produce of all labour is liable to a like deduction of profit… In all manufactures, the greater part of the workmen stand in need of a master to advance them the materials of their work… He shares in the product of their labour”.
    Quoted by Chris Harman, Economics of the Madhouse, p23.

    Thus, it can be argued from the left that the Difference principle is an attempted justification of this exploitation of the majority of people in society who are compelled by economic necessity to work, by a small minority of landlords, corporations, speculators and capitalists. Rather than help reduce inequalities, these economic agents perpetuate it, basing their economies not on equality but exploitation and profits, not people.
    Thus, for radical egalitarians, the need to democratise the very economy itself becomes a prerequisite, a fundamental principle in how to organise society and redistribute the resources created collectively. The redistributive principle of the socialist movement can be summed up in Marx’s maxim “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

    In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels see the development of capitalism as a progressive step in history, overthrowing the superstitions of the old feudal order with the white heat of science and industry.

    The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production…All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away…

    Events like the English, American and French Revolutions overthrew the age old rule of kings, and began freeing the productive forces of the urban bourgeoisie to develop both industries and empires, thus creating a new imperialist global economy.
    However, the new industrialised society creates its own oppressed class, the proletariat or urban working class. The proletariat is exploited by being forced to sell its labour at a price lower than its true value- the surplus value is taken by the capitalist and becomes the chief source of the new system’s ultimate goal- profits. However, the exploitation of this new class differs in that they are exploited collectively, in massive factories, industries and workplaces. This creates the possibilities for workers to begin organising collectively in combinations or unions, pointing the way to a future collective, egalitarian society where wealth can be democratically owned and shared for the common good.

    The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the working people of a factory, then by the operatives of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly employs them…

    But with the development of industry, the proletariat increase not only in number, it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows and it feels it more.
    When Marx was writing, the global working class was equivalent to that of the workers in modern South Korea. Today, the vast majority of the world’s population (and poor) are urban workers.
    Marx was not a determinist- there will be no natural evolution from the barbaric system of capitalist exploitation based on war, imperialism, racism and sexism to a new collective world unless people consciously organise to bring it about. He argued for socialism from below- the liberation of the workers was not to be done by anyone but themselves- “Philosophers have only interpreted the world” he once said, “The point is to change it.”

    The second part of the Manifesto goes on to look at the basics of the economic workings of the capitalist system, which are explored in detail in his masterwork, Das Kapital. The theory of surplus value as the basis of wealth and profits is put forward- wage labour and private property (the undemocratic ownership of industry by a minority of capitalists) is how this is attained.

    The French Utopian Socialist, Proudhon, before Marx, had declared that “Private property is theft”. Marx distinguishes here the difference between the personal objects most working people buy throughout their life with their wages, to which they are entitled, and the ownership of huge industries, corporations and economic sectors by individuals or private cabals.

    Communism deprives no one of the power to appropriate the products of society: all that it does is deprive one of the power to subjugate the labours of others by means of such appropriation…

    The working class, through revolution, will put property and wealth under democratic control, for the use and service of all. Here, Marx addresses those critics who attack the socialists-

    You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.

    Thus, for Marxists, the principle of democratic control of the economy and the resources produced by collective labour is irreconcilable with private ownership of the means of production. How this democratic control of economics is to be achieved is widely debated- social democrats argue for gradual reforms, Partnership, a Third Way or market socialism, socialists argue for worker’s councils, a fighting trade union movement and revolution.

  23. libertarians also beleive in idealism, just a different kind. My gosh Jorden carter has got to be on “p”. How rediculus it is for us to all get the same not matter how hard we work. If working hard gives you no advantage, then you wont do it will you?

  24. Socialists believe in idealism.
    Capitalists believe in realism.

    Heaven and utopia are socialist. The real-world is capitalist.

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