Episode 92 – The Spice of Life
As the old adage goes, variety is the spice of life. And the conservative heartily agrees. Variety, not uniformity, is what gives life its vitality and each life the potential for self-actualization and the opportunity for each of us to develop in our own unique way. But is variety compatible with equality? What do we mean by equality, and how might equality be established? What is the relationship between equality, progress, and justice?
In this solo episode, Saving Elephants host Josh Lewis explores what conservatism has to say about variety and equality and their relationship to progress and justice. No one disputes inequalities exist. But there is much disagreement on why they exist, or what qualifies as an “inequality”, let alone what should be done about it. Perhaps the sharpest question we can ask is who is to blame for inequalities? Does the mere fact that one person is unequal than another person create an injustice? And what of the various kinds of inequalities? We might be able to reach a wide consensus that no injustice is done if John is taller than Bill, or even if John is wealthier than Bill. But what if John belongs to an ethnic or social group that’s predominantly wealthier than Bill’s ethnic or social group? Is that an injustice?
To the conservative, true equality—equality before the law and before God—is precisely what gives rise to inequalities. And enforcing unnatural equality necessarily violates our natural equality. If people who are born with different abilities and access to opportunities are all set on a level playing field, we would naturally expect radically different outcomes. If we were to force equal access to opportunities by granting them to those without and depriving them to those who would otherwise have access, we would still see different outcomes because people would still be operating within the abilities they inherited at birth. If we strove still to eliminate even these inequalities, by demanding or enforcing that all outcomes be the same—such that if one person’s abilities allowed them to produce more or excel in some way beyond that of their peers we would deprive them of their excess production—we might finally achieve absolute equality. But the price we’d pay would be the death of distinction, variety, and—in a multitude of historical examples where such heavy-handed leveling has been attempted—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Is that justice? Is that progress?