Monday, February 20, 2012

How Extreme Equality Prepares for Despotism

There has been a great deal of discussion on talk radio and in the public square about the radical version of equality being pushed by politicians and our public education system.

It began with the Christian doctrine that all men are created equal and then it ended up pushing equality to an extreme. Not only are all people equal under the law and equal under God (if they were to believe in him), but with this egalitarian-socialist ideology, it is believed that everything should be equal. Among their objectives today is the reduction of salary and economic status to one dead level. This is but a central tenet of socialism and communism.

Before this hard push for economic equality, however, there was a great leveling effect: Christianity with other religions, parents with children, academic results in outcome-based education and traditional marriage with same-sex marriage. Therefore, long before the radical equality of socialism was aggressively advanced in our free market economy, there was radical equality being advanced in the social order. In order to resist the push for political and economic equality, we cannot forget about the religious and moral equality that first prepared the way.

With an uncanny foresight, two Catholic men in the nineteenth century predicted the perilous effects of radical equality and how it would prepare the way for despotism: Their names are Alexis de Tocqueville and Pope Leo XIII. Both provide penetrating insights into what America is challenged with today. Below are just a few excerpts.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America:

As in ages of equality no man is compelled to lend his assistance to his fellow-men, and none has any right to expect much support from them, everyone is at once independent and powerless…His independence fills him with self-reliance and pride among equals, his debility makes him feel from time to time to want of some outward assistance, which he cannot expect from any of them, because they are all impotent and unsympathizing. In his predicament he naturally turns his eyes to that imposing power [i.e. the State] which alone rises above universal depression…

Thus the vices which despotism engenders are precisely those which equality fosters. These two things mutually and perniciously complete and assist each other. Equality places men side by side, unconnected to any common tie; despotism raises barriers to keep them asunder; the former predisposes them not to consider their fellow creatures, the other makes general indifference a public virtue…

The evils which freedom sometimes brings with it are immediate; they are apparent to all, and all are more or less affected by them. The evils which extreme equality may produce are slowly discovered; they creep gradually into the social frame; they are only seen at intervals, and at the moment at which they become most violent, habit causes them to be no longer felt.

Pope Leo XIII, On Capital and Labor

The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation.

There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition.

It is good to keep in mind that secular-liberalism, socialism and communism are Christian heresies, so to speak. At the very least, they begin with Christian half-truths. Their origin, as well as their success, depended, in part, on the appeal to the Christian doctrine of equality and the love of the poor. For this reason these ideologies- and the political systems based on such ideologies -are markedly inferior to the real thing; namely, Christianity. However, it is for the Christian and the Church to draw attention to the fact that these heresies of partial truths are imitations of what is truly original, life-giving and liberating. Without us separating the wheat from the chaff for all to see, I am afraid that onlookers will mistake secular-liberalism, socialism and even communism for the real thing.