The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘The Heresy of Equality’

Posted on | November 4, 2019 | No Comments

In 1970, Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey published The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition, a careful attempt to distinguish our nation’s actual historic traditions from the mythical version of those traditions that had gained popular currency. In 1975, Professor Harry Jaffa published a critique of Kendall and Carey’s work with the title, “Equality as a Conservative Principle.” To this, Professor M.E. Bradford replied in 1976 with an essay, “The Heresy of Equality,” (included in Bradford’s 1979 book, A Better Guide Than Reason) which included this quote:

“Equality as a moral or political imperative, pursued as an end in itself — Equality, with the capital ‘E’ — is the antonym of every legitimate conservative principle.”

The grounds of that dispute between Kendall, Carey, Jaffa and Bradford we need not rehash here. In 2010, I found myself in the comments here explaining the problem with Jaffa, as a disciple of Leo Strauss, and his influence on the conservative movement:

Jaffa made his name as a Lincoln hagiographer, and has spent a half-century attempting to make Lincoln’s rhetoric the basis of a sort of conservatism. But as Kendall, Bradford and others pointed out, Jaffa’s arguments are ahistorical and serve to obscure, rather than reveal, the genuinely conservative nature of the American founding. This has also brought Jaffa into conflict with Robert Bork, among other conservative thinkers.
Let me cite just one example of the fundamental problem with Jaffa-ism: Jaffa has argued against gay rights. Yet if equality is, as Jaffa insists, a conservative principle, why shouldn’t this principle apply to homosexuals?
This is the kind of problem that Kendall and others foresaw, and Jaffa clearly did not: Equality is a ravening wolf (cf., Matthew 7:15) with a boundless appetite, and there is no telling what future use might be made of such a “principle,” which is most certainly not conservative.

Jaffa died in 2015, and the Claremont Institute, in which he was a towering figure, has since apparently purged some of his writings against gay rights from its website, but the problem persists of the confusion caused by “Equality as a Conservative Principle.” And what Bradford called the heretical nature of Equality — with a capital “E” — has affected our society in many harmful ways. Red Pill philosopher Rollo Tomassi, speaking of how some men try to use egalitarian approach to male-female relationships, calls equality “a deliberate lie with the hoped-for purpose of empowering people who cannot compete, or believe they have some plenary exclusion from competing in various aspects of life. . . . There is no such thing as ‘equality’ because life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.”

The point Rollo makes is important: People do not embrace an intellectual abstraction like “equality” because it is self-evidently true, but rather because, as he says, they fear that they are somehow disadvantaged in the competition of life. Thus, whatever advantages are enjoyed by the winners in the competition are condemned as unfair — a violation of equality — and from this emerges a politics of envy called “social justice.” We see this, for example, in demands for “free” health care and “free” college tuition. Because more affluent people can afford to pay cash to send their kids to Harvard, according to this egalitarian “social justice” mentality, it is unfair that less fortunate people are effectively excluded from elite schools or, if they can gain admission to Harvard, must borrow money to attend. But if college tuition is to be “free,” why not a new car? Some people can afford new Cadillacs, while other people are forced to settle for used Nissans. (Don’t tell me that quality transportation is less important than quality education, or I might get triggered — that’s a micro-aggression against old Nissan drivers.)

What we see is that Equality with a capital “E” has attained such influence in our way of thinking that, as Rollo points out, even our romantic relationships are distorted by this concept. Many people believe they are abused or exploited in relationships, simply because their partners fail to fulfill their expectations of “equality.” They believe they are entitled to a 50-50 compromise on every disagreement, or that their partner is obligated to reciprocate their efforts in a certain way — “I bought her a steak dinner, she should have sex with me” — and become disgruntled if their expectations are not met: “It’s not fair!”

Expectations of “equality” cause us to forfeit happiness by dwelling on situations that seem to us unfair. Rather than to be grateful for what we’ve got — we can afford to pay the electric bill this month — “equality” incites us to envy those who have more, and to resent people who have done us no harm, simply because they fail to meet our expectations.


 

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