Friday, May 14, 2010

Equality vs equal

Amid all the talk of 'equality,' I thought these quotes were quite timely.

"It is the greatest inequality to try to make unequal things equal." ~ Aristotle

"We clamour for equality chiefly in areas where we cannot ourselves hope to obtain excellence." ~ Eric Hoffer

I don't need a government to make me 'equal' to others - because no one (except God) could do such a thing. I have talents and skills that others don't have. Others have talent and skills that I don't possess. I have interests and goals that are different from those of other people - and they shape my learning and my actions.

If everyone were 'equal' in all these things, the world would be a very dull place. Could you imagine if all of us could play a piano like Beethoven, draw like Picasso or write like Mark Twain? If we all thought like Thomas Edison, would his inventions stand out? Would we even need anything at all from others if we all were equal?

Today's discussions all seem to center around the concept of equality, but what they really mean is equality of outcome. Regardless of your talents, skills, knowledge or abilities, you should all have the same 'things.' And by 'things,' most people mean jobs, pay, housing, food, etc... The discussion even goes so far as to designate these 'things' as rights - as in a 'right to housing' - though that directly conflicts with our founding documents that say rights are God-given and inherent in our existence. Anything that must be taken from someone else in order for you to have it (whether it's the knowledge of a doctor or a physical item like a house), cannot be a 'right.'

So I don't want to be 'equal' and I don't believe in equal 'outcomes.' One of the things that made this nation so great - a prosperous, inventive, charitable grouping of people - is our ability to use those God-given rights to make things better for ourselves.

Another thing that made our country the envy of the world - and something that I do need - is a system of laws that treat everyone equally. I want to know that when I am wronged, I have recourse in a legal system that treats me the same as anyone else who also finds themselves wronged. I need to know that the laws we all live under apply to all of us in the same manner - not that my standing or income will mean I am exempt or get special treatment.

We are a 'nation of laws, not a nation of men' for a reason. We are also a nation where each person can use their God-given talents to advance themselves - or not - as they choose. We are not - and cannot be - equal in results if we are to be true to the freedom and liberty our founders fought for.

So make no mistake: there is a significant difference between treating people equally under the law versus making everyone 'equal' in outcomes.

But I fear many adults have lost that distinction and many children are growing up not understanding it in the first place.

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