Column by Paul Hein.

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The theme of the French Revolution was the lovely phrase Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. No doubt it provided inspiration for the mobs. Mobs, however, are not given to calm, reasoned, discussion, and therefore were evidently oblivious to the inherent contradiction in the phrase. Liberty and equality seldom co-exist when equality is imposed.

Politicians, for example, are never shy about promising equality, but shrink from promising liberty, as one of the first things a truly liberated populace might do is get rid of the politicians and their dangerous and harmful organizations.

Equality requires comparisons. One seeks equality with someone, or some condition. A person is never simply “equal,” but equal to something beyond himself. The concept of equality is inextricably linked to the concept of betterment. The baseball player desires equality with the teammate having the highest batting average, not the lowest. A businessman would like to achieve equal footing with Bill Gates, not the firm’s office boy. Perhaps, if he works very hard, and learns from others, he might achieve his goal, or come close. The ball player might approach the highest batting average if he spends enough time in the batting cage, and studies those with better performance then his. No one’s liberty—freedom--is put at risk.

The equality promised by politicians, or demagogues seeking the support of politicians, is another thing altogether. It is an equality achieved not by raising the status of the lowly, but lowering the status of higher achievers. In claiming that a certain group should be equal to another, thus justifying the use of compulsion to achieve that equality, political action seems, instead, to confirm its inferiority.

Consider the famous case of Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that segregated educational facilities were unconstitutional. Why must schools be integrated if black children were to properly educated? Here are the court’s own words:

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children....Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.

How is one to read these words without coming to the conclusion that the Court believed that black children, if educated in the absence of white children, suffer a “detrimental effect”? Placing them in a school without white students would “deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.” 

If the Court was attempting to stamp out racism, at least as it involved education, it was going about it in a very strange way. It stated, quite plainly, that it was detrimental to black children to be deprived of the presence of white children in the classroom. But what of the white children? Could it be argued that, if black children suffered from being schooled in all black schools, that white children would suffer from integrated schools? 

In any event, liberty--freedom of association--was being trashed in the name of equality in education--an equality based upon the inequality of the favored group! That the black leadership did not express outrage at the Court’s racist views may be attributed to the fact that a political goal--desegregation--was furthered.

A much less important, but more amusing, example of a quest of “equality” is seen in the demands of some females that they be allowed to be in public topless, because men enjoy that status. (Parenthetically, the idea of women being “equal” to men is puzzling. Why would women feel it necessary to be “equal”?) Evidently, the concept of modesty, which permeated society for centuries, was discriminatory (of course!) and therefore wrong, and should be addressed by legitimizing the baring of the female bosom in public. The advantages--to society—that would accrue from such legislation are not obvious. If equality is desired, wouldn’t it make as much sense to prohibit men from baring their chests in public, as in permitting women to expose theirs? Either way, if “equality” is to be achieved via legislation, someone’s liberty--freedom--will be diminished. Men will no longer be free to doff their shirts, or operators of amusement parks, swimming pools, etc., will not be free to prohibit topless women in their premises. Liberty? No. Equality--of a sort—Yes!

But liberty and equality at the same time? Not if the Rulers get involved!

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