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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The fallacy of leveling

With the rise of modern liberalism as displayed through the victory of Obama last year come policies devoted to leveling. Though this doctrine is the norm here in the Great White North, the U.S. has a tradition of swimming against the current if the course will lead to disaster. Others in America wish to assimilate into the global world and adopt foreign policies for sake of national equality. Just as Edmund Burke warned the French of the fallacy of leveling, here lies a warning to those Americans who wish to listen. The contexts are different, but the points are timeless.

“Believe me, Sir, those who attempt to level, never equalize. In all societies, consisting of various descriptions of citizens, some description must be uppermost. The levelers therefore only change and pervert the natural order of things; they lead the edifice of society, by setting it up in the air what the solidity of the structure requires to be on the ground.”

In other words, those who attempt to level society are essentially turning the social structure upside down, with the foundation in the air and the roof on the ground. Such an idea is absurd in the physical world; it’s equally as absurd in the social world. The attempt to create equality through programs such as affirmative action, the welfare state, and over-taxing “the rich” are actually ensuring a shaky, deteriorating social future, if not an eventual social collapse.

That being said, there’s the counter-argument that purely relying on a hierarchy often leaves only those of inheritance to govern, and they might not be that bright or wise despite their “good blood”. As always, Burke has ready a strong response:

“You do not imagine, that I wish to confine power, authority, and distinction to blood, and names, and titles. No sir, there is no qualification for government, but virtue and wisdom, actual or presumptive.”

In simpler terms, he goes on by saying “[e]very thing ought to be open; but not indifferently to every man.” Although everyone should have the opportunity, not everyone has the right set of skills and talents, not to mention the vast wisdom needed to successfully govern a nation. And so it would make sense to have those not competent enough for power to be in power. Unfortunately this is often ignored in the name of equality. The process of gaining power should be hard enough to weed out those without true merit, but not be so hard as to exclude the great minds and hearts that deserve the opportunity, according to Burke. “If it be open through virtue, let it be remembered too, that virtue is never tried but by some difficulty, and some struggle.” Even when it comes to the left-wing’s emphasis on equality, historic imagery spring to mind: Would the ideas of equality be as hard-hitting has Rosa Parks not struggled to sit on the bus like everyone else; if MLK never wrestled with racism; if Hitler was never stopped?

Those from the left side of the political spectrum will denounce this idea of classical conservatism with the notion that those at the “bottom”, who make up the foundation of society, are subject to oppression from the state. However,

“Such descriptions [as a ‘hair dresser or a working tallow-chandler’ for example] ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule… [I]n asserting that any thing is honourable, we imply some distinction.”

Many argue that classical conservatives advocate prejudice and discrimination, but as Burke argues, “…you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.” He believes there is a natural order or hierarchy in society, and up until recently this idea wasn’t simply ideological musings, but observational fact. Left alone, the human species is much like the animal Kingdom in the sense of natural orders. Do you think the animal world would last very long if suddenly sharks had legs, dolphins had wings, and tigers lost their claws and teeth? Certainly not; that mental image is both comical and ridiculous. Today, this exact idea, applied to humans, is the norm in many, if not most countries. Interestingly enough the idea of leveling (in its pure form) was proven to be devastating, à la communism. Are we that short-sighted? If we considered history and the wisdom passed down by our ancestors, we would know that leveling is a failed experiment that’s ongoing simply because it’s such a feel-good issue. Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on July 29, 2009 in Canadian Conservative Politics | Permalink


Smart idea! Get rid of best so everyone is mediocre? Get rid of the rich so everyone is poor?

The idea originally was everyone has equal opportunity not everyone is equal. Logically, the idea that everyone is equal is idiotic. Those idiots who propose the everybody is equal ideal should at least read Ayn Rand. The problem is idiots are to lazy to read the other side of the argument.

Posted by: Doug Gilchrist | 2009-07-29 5:46:16 PM

the best example comes from the movie
"the Incredibles", superheros are discriminated against for their powers in an effort to preserve the status quo . "When everyone is super; no one will be"

Posted by: Cid the Cidious | 2009-07-29 7:09:05 PM

Levelling is a basic tenet of communism. Instead of claiming equal opportunity for everyone, it tries to enforce equal outcome for everyone. Yet the communists never practised what they preached, as there was a huge class difference between the ones in power and the common man, including all kinds of benefits, financial and otherwise. A classless society has never existed and never will, because we are not all equal. We should all be equal before the law, but it ends there. The importation of this bogus idea to the West has brought us such things as affirmative action, so-called human rights commissions and many other types of non workable creations. The whole education system has adopted the same fallacy, meaning that students are not marked on effort and achievement as that is too divisive. Like their communist fellow travellers the leftists in the West never include themselves when they insist on levelling being necessary.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-07-29 8:05:56 PM

Because of the truth that no socioty has ever removed class, I've stopped worrying so much about trying to level the world, I figure even in Russia, China and Cuba there are people at the top, and people at the bottom. So if I understand money and the average person doesn't, regardless of what's going on, if I stay sharp, I'll rise to the top, even if the top might not be as high. Sure it'd be nice if things were better, but I probably can't change it. Besides our desire is based on our context, so in 1990 I didn't want 2010 Subaru STI, because it didn't exist, so in 2019, I will simply want whatever is good then, regardless of if it could have been better in some other timeline.

If you do become what your study or worship, study and worship what you want to become.

Posted by: Pete | 2009-07-29 8:39:50 PM

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