Liberty empowers us and is protected by equality in the eyes of the law. It is our right to pursue property and happiness, whatever our definition of happiness is. Just laws are established to ensure that others don’t impede on our rights.
Economic equality is the antithesis of liberty. Rather than having control over the fruits of our labor, economic equality demands submission to the State or other entities to plunder. The end result of pursuing economic equality is tyranny.
Abraham Lincoln - Liberty and Tyranny
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatable things, called by the same name—liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatable names—liberty and tyranny.
-Abraham Lincoln, Address at a Sanitary Fair, April 18th, 1864
Abraham Lincoln is a legend in American history, and for good reason. That being said, he was a product of the times. He did not believe that the slaves were equal in intelligence or capabilities. When he was preparing to emancipate the slaves, he even entertained ideas of shipping them all back to their home country. Today, we know this to be nonsense.
The reason Lincoln is revered despite his flaws is that he felt every individual should have the same opportunity to live by the fruits of their own labors, in freedom. Despite any prejudices, he was committed to the liberty declared in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the Constitution.
Liberty - Right to the product of our labor
Liberty, as stated at the top of this article, is our right to pursue the life we want. We have the right to seek out employment, freelance opportunities, and skills to improve our lives. We have the right to be secure in the product of our labor. The law protects us in these pursuits.
Pursuing the life we want doesn’t entitle us to take advantage of “the product of other men’s labor,” as Lincoln declared.
We don’t have the right to plunder the citizenry to fund our pursuits.
I don’t have the right to demand you pay for my apartment any more than you have the right to demand it from me.
Once we cross that threshold, we are no longer exercising our liberty. We are impeding on the rights of others.
Economic Equality is Incompatible with Liberty
Pursuing economic equality is an antithesis to liberty. It requires adjusting the playing field for different “classes” of citizens. The rules become different for different individuals and violates the Equal Protection Clause of our 14th Amendment. The rules for what Billionaire Bob can do with his property become different than what Broke Billy can do with his property.
Until every product and service on the planet have the same supply, demand, and labor required to provide, there will never be economic equality (Spoiler alert: these economic forces will never reach parity).
Economic equality can only be achieved in a Utopian fantasy where human nature is subdued and, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, “each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
The Road to Despotism
As long as someone has more, people will push for more “equality.” How could they not? Equality in some eyes is equality in results, not equality in liberty and protections under the law. The final outcome can only be tyranny.
Achieving economic equality is impossible. There are too many forces at work, and in order to control them, it would require tyrannical rule by the State. We can look to almost any experiment in Marxism/Socialism/Communism and see this.
Right now, we are going to look at Venezuela’s experiment.
Venezuela’s Descent to Tyranny
Venezuela has been applauded for how well they took care of their citizens. It was pointed to as the example on the benefits of collectivism. They provided free healthcare, had huge amounts of spending for the poor in the country and the gap in economic equality closed.
In 2009, it was applauded by director Oliver Stone, in the documentary South of the Border (Yes, that source is Wikipedia, deal with it. I’ll do better next time). I know all of you reading this can do the math, but I want to emphasize that this was just eight years ago!
Then we have the always interesting Michael Moore, applauding Hugo Chavez after he died.
Hugo Chavez declared the oil belonged 2 the ppl. He used the oil $ 2 eliminate 75% of extreme poverty, provide free health & education 4 all
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) March 6, 2013
Why is it important to note the praise Venezuela has received? Western societies, especially the United States, have extremely short attention spans. If we don't pay attention to the field, we are unable to see when the goalposts are moved.
Venezuela’s current government gave the people everything that today's Progressives want: free healthcare, generous entitlements for the poor, and destroyed the wealthy Bourgeoisie class (besides the rulers, but that's another story).
Welcome to Utopia
How extreme are the food shortages? The crisis is so bad that 75% of Venezuelans reported losing over 19 pounds… in just a year. Over a third are skipping meals.
Thank God they have free healthcare to address the health issues of malnourishment.
For all of the issues in the American healthcare system, I doubt anyone with half a brain would describe the United States’ hospitals as “a dormitory for the dying.”
What recourse is left when you have no food and no effective medical system? You vote to change it. Thank God that Venezuela is a democracy so the people can vote out the corruption.
Think about this... the people voted for the political opposition to the Socialist party. This was unacceptable to the tyrannical leadership. So they butchered the already ineffective power that the legislature had. What now? Without foreign intervention, the Venezuelans are left to figure it out themselves.
At least the Venezuelans have gun rights similar to America’s Second Amendment to fight this tyranny.
Do you see where this is going yet?
This is the road that all socialist nations go down. It starts with dividing people into subgroups by class. Once they are divided, they can convince the citizenry to view their lives as being controlled by the other class. They are convinced that they don't have money because the wealthy hoard it. The reason an industry, such as health care, is suboptimal and has flaws is that the greedy capitalists care about profits at the direct expense of the patients.
If you get bored one day, take a read through the Soviet Union's 1977 Constitution, in particular Chapter 7 about the rights of the citizens. It sounds too good to be true (spoiler alert: it is).
Liberty Protects All
My apologies for the tangent on Venezuela, but this is what happens when we begin to relentlessly pursue economic equality. Liberty gets destroyed.
In good times, you can endlessly pursue all the “equality” you want and it seems to be for the greater good. When you take economic power away from the people, you lose stability. Rather than having thousands of supports propping up society’s table, you have a table with one centralized support.
Once that leg wobbles, the table collapses.
Our founders, for all their flaws, created the most pro-liberty and pro-humanity form of government the world has ever seen. They acknowledged human nature. Rather than fighting our nature, they created a system of government that protects our natural rights and makes tyrannical descent more difficult.
It is up to each and every one of us to keep our liberty. Don't let yourself fall into the trap towards socialism. You may get warm fuzzies thinking it is for some "greater good." Don't be fooled. We need to resist the push towards economic engineering in the name of equality. To create Utopia, the amount of power the State requires is absolute. I'm not willing to give that much power away. It isn't altruistic to give up the rights of our neighbors.
As always, thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, give it a like/share/tweet. Reach out to me on social media or e-mail if you have any questions.
Below are a couple books for additional information. I receive a small commission from any sales, but the price doesn't change.
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt is a great introductory book to economics. However, as everything else, there are always at least two sides. Our modern economic debate is on Austrian vs Keynesian economics. This book introduces us to Austrian economics. If you enjoyed it, you can also consider reading Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, which was a book on economics written the same year as our Declaration of Independence.
The General Theory of Employment, Interests, and Money, by John Maynard Keynes is the flip side of the economic debate.