Freedom, Equality and “Progressivism”

A re-post from January 22, 2012 in memoriam of Komrade Karl’s deceased intellect…

What is the true nature of freedom and its relationship to the concept of equality?

This is one of the key questions that men have sought to define thought the ages and the very reason that they seek to construct governments among themselves to answer it. It is possible that this is even THE most important question and certainly the one that is most often answered incorrectly.

Since the times of the first attempts at governance, even to the times of  the ancient Athenians and Greeks, man has struggled to attain and realize the ideal of equality. How it is defined has a lot to do with that. Is it equality in the sense that everyone is left alone to achieve as much or as little as they can (or as they choose), leaving all circumstances to sort out success and failure or is it a forced or “managed” equality, a scheme where some collective entity decides how to make individuals “equal” regardless of individual achievement?

Freedom is easy to define. Freedom is the unconstrained natural state of man.

In the most primitive of societies, there was no forced equality. The prosperous became so because they were the best hunters, the most prolific gatherers or the fastest learners. Since the means of survival depended primarily on physical strength, there was no sympathy for the weak, the sick or the aged, as they we no longer productive in ways important to the group and they were pretty much left to die as any wild animal would be.

At this point in history, there existed the ultimate in natural freedom, the individual was only limited by his or her own abilities and their worth was only measured by that same ability. To some philosophers, that meant that man’s nature was to be savage, violent and war-mongering.

I have been reading Mark Levin’s new book, Ameritopia, and he makes this point in relationship to the ideological precursors to the communism of Marx and Engels and the national socialism of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Levin argues that the foundations for this line of thought, that man is a savage without the ability to democratically rule himself, is developed in Plato’s The Republic, Leviathan written by Thomas Hobbes and Utopia by Sir Thomas More – each of these three thesis resulted in two propositions: first that the public at large must be ruled by an elite group trusted to rule justly. In the case of Plato, it was the Guardians, with Hobbes, it was a Sovereign and More’s ideal society had a Prince. Secondly, the people had little say in the role they played in the daily life of the society and all was planned in excruciatingly painful detail and their responsibility was but to execute that plan.

In The Republic, Plato sought to create the ideal society in response to the corruption that lead to the death of his teacher, Socrates, but failed in doing so. What he did succeed in was to propose a society where there was no individual, all lived for the service of the city and to accomplish this “perfect” society – government sponsored murder and infanticide, euthanasia, eugenics, class segregation and abolition of the family unit.

Doesn’t sound much like the “perfect” society, does it?

Plato and the Utopians simply couldn’t account for the fact that societies continued to develop and as they did, they became more advanced and complex and individuals also developed diversified skills – skills like the ability to grow crops, fashion tools and even to retain knowledge of those varied skills and the ability to teach them. Since these skills were not dependent on age, health or physical capability and were recognized being valuable, so was the possessor of those skills and abilities recognized as valuable. Social/communal actions began to build interdependence between the individuals within a group and communities and societies were developed that allowed for the members to be discriminated based on their individual value to the functions of that individual family unit and society as a whole.

Social and economic circumstances became the tool by which divisions within societies were defined. As groups of people began to band together into functioning units, the tasks performed to benefit that organization became ranked by value to that unit and the people who were capable of such tasks were associated with those tasks and stations in life. We actually owe the societal convention of the surname to this very fact, being that the Anglo-Saxon tradition was to add the descriptor of the skill possessed to the first name. Thomas the blacksmith became Tom Smith, and so on.

So people became self-selected by ability and capability. The refuse handlers were a lower station than the bakers, the blacksmiths greater still. Blacksmiths, in the medieval time, were usually second or third in line of importance due to their ability to manufacture weapons and teach the art of warfare – skills that society at the time valued greatly. The point being that there was a definite hierarchy of importance based on ability and value to that societal unit.

Plato eventually recognized that his vision of perfection could not be created, that it would have been impossible for Socrates to have existed in such a society – asking questions of authority was what got him the hemlock cocktail from the Athenians in the first place. Unfortunately many did not recognize the irrationality of Plato’s work and this set the stage for the communism of Marx and Engels, the national socialism of Hitler and the policies of the people we now call “progressives”.

Then there was John Locke and the idea that the individual man was the sole owner of the product of his labor and he was free to do with it as he would. He also thought that the exercise of this freedom to own one’s own labor imparted more benefit to society that collectivism because there was no restrictions to the value that one person could create.

So where does “equality” enter the picture?

The very basis of the writings of Plato, Jonathan Hobbes, Thomas More, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is that equality must be forced on society though some sort of controlling force, a government so total as to completely erase every trace of individualism. Their commonality rests on the false premise that men cannot resist the savage urges long enough to freely bond together in common interests of their own choosing and must be ruled with ruthless abandon and vestiges of the very savagery that is sought to be avoided – Plato was particularly prescriptive of violence in service to the city (state).

This forced “equality” in the quest for a perfect societal order is the claimed reason that “progressives” exist and that government is their tool of choice.

What soon becomes evident as one studies Plato, Hobbes, More, Marx, and Engels on the one side and Locke, Burke, Montesquieu and de Tocqueville on the other is this – freedom depends on the subtraction of government, not the addition of it. It is also self-evident that true equality cannot exist without freedom; therefore the attempts to create “equality” through government action are illegitimate and self-defeating, serving to only create less freedom and even greater inequality.

Take any favorite of “progressives” as an example – affirmative action programs is an obvious target or in reality any program that favors one particular group over the other – this could be farm subsidies, federal school funding, “diversity” requirements, “progressive” tax policies or even federal money for “green” industries.

“Affirmative” action seems to be such a positive term – it isn’t, for how does the government achieve this “affirmation”? They enforce a quota system based not on achievement and freedom of choice, but one simply on the basis of race. They subtract freedom of choice by the educational institution and the individual and substitute their judgment that it is greater value to society to have lesser qualified students of a “protected” class to be granted admission to a particular institution or program than to have the best candidates selected without regard to race at all.

There will be those who will read this as a racist statement. I don’t see it that way. I would like to see admission to these programs not even identify a name or a race and have them selected purely on merit.

The point is that for a “progressive” government to create “equality” in the attempt to redress some definition of social or economic disadvantage; freedom is reduced to one class. It is hard to make an argument that is not what happens. Society at large may decide that this is an appropriate course of action but the fact remains that there are qualified students that are being denied admission to programs on the basis of race. Even though the Supreme Court handed down a muddled 5 to 4 decision upholding an otherwise illegal quota system in the landmark reverse discrimination case of Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), also known as the University of Michigan Law School case, it was factually recognized that lesser qualified black students were being admitted to the Wolverine Law School when white students with stronger qualifications were being rejected.

Why was this supported by the Court?

Simply put – a belief in “progressivism” by the majority of the Justices was the reason. Freedom was sacrificed at the altar of “diversity” in an attempt to create “equality”.

Freedom was sacrificed at the altar of “diversity” in an attempt to create “equality”.

Writing for the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated:

The Law School’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI, or §1981. Pp. 9—32.


The Court endorses Justice Powell’s view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions. The Court defers to the Law School’s educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission.

So in the interest of “diversity” based on stare decisis in favor the acceptability of race based considerations defined in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court allowed a public institution to sidestep the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution (the 14th Amendment).

Whether you agree or disagree with the Court, affirmative action or any sort of preferential treatment, one cannot argue that a student with higher grades who is denied admission to an academic environment supposedly geared toward creating the best legal practitioners has had their freedom restricted by a governmental decision.

A similar case can be made in any situation where government specifically intervenes on behalf of any favored party in an attempt to create “equality”.

If you believe my statements to be racist, just substitute “wealth” for “race” in an examination of “race based” programs. How many of us would argue that a fat trust fund beneficiary, selected solely on the basis of his bank account, would make the best doctor if he had D’s in all of his science classes in college or high school.

I stand by my earlier proposition.

Freedom depends on the subtraction of government – not the addition of it. True equality cannot exist without freedom and attempts to create “equality” through government action are illegitimate and self-defeating, serving to only create less freedom and greater inequality.

Smitty at The Other McCain is optimistic that “progressivism” has found its death knell with the Bamster...

16 thoughts on “Freedom, Equality and “Progressivism”

  1. I just started Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny. I’m getting Ameritopia next.

    You make some good points. And this brings me to the candidates running for the GOP nomination. Ron Paul most closely follows the premise you intimated in your post.

    Mike G.

  2. Before I grab my chalk, I want to say this is another sound essay. Nice job, Utah. Now, if I may (and I know you expect it of me – even if you may not want to hear it):

    First, and this is no minor point, the notion of equality goes back WAY before the Greeks. This is one of the reasons I have always been disappointed with Levin: he knows what follows, but he refuses to acknowledge and/or address it. So do his counterparts in the “conservative” media.

    The first record of a constitutional republic dates back to the Exodus, more than a thousand years before Plato. The Israelites first republican form of government was built upon the notion of equality under the law. This is the primary source from which our founders drew their thinking when they constructed our system of government. Personally, I believe this is why this nation faired so well for so long.

    Second, while I agree with your definition of freedom, the Progressives do not. They define freedom as the lack of want or a state where there is no immediate need. This is why ALL collective societies fail: they are based upon an idea that does not, will not and cannot exist in nature. Still, Plato based his “perfect republic” on the notion of “philosopher rulers:” an enlightened elite who would hand down perfect laws. Levin is correct: this lineage can be traced from Plato, up through Thomas Hobbs (not Jonathan), then Hegel, Marx and directly to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. This notion of a ruling elite who have a moral imperative to save us from ourselves is embodied in the Progressive movement, but it is more accurately described and explained by Thomas Sowell and his notion of the “unconstrained” view of human nature.

    This is what I have been trying to explain – albeit ineffectively: that the attempts to perfect Man’s nature by those with an unconstrained view of human nature are all artificial. Society is a social construct, and as such, it exists to serve the individuals who created it. But the unconstrained view sees society and government as singular, living organisms which they then seek to control. One cannot control such a thing that doesn’t really exist in the way you think of it. So the whole collectivist obsession is doomed to fail before it starts because it is ARTIFICIAL. This applies to those aspects of our society which we have come to treat as living beings, as well. One cannot be free when one places his creation above himself.

  3. Since the means of survival depended primarily on physical strength, there was no sympathy for the weak, the sick or the aged, as they we no longer productive in ways important to the group and they were pretty much left to die as any wild animal would be.

    There is a lot of evidence to the contrary; archaeological evidence indicates that people born with defects lived for years, and were buried with respect. People whose remains reveal that they lived long after a broken bone had healed, indicate care for the injured.

    Compassion seems ingrained in our species, and that of others….

    • There is also archeological evidence of cannibalism where the dead were consumed as any other food source.

      A study of the prehistoric remains has revealed that human flesh formed part of the diet of early man and children and adolescents in particular were regularly killed and eaten.

      Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, one of the co-directors of the Atapuerca project, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, said: “It is the first well-documented case of cannibalism in the history of humanity.”

  4. Dig your article, M.

    Here is one of my favorite Socrates’ quotes (I think it fits me): “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” 🙂

    And my other favorite: I drank WHAT?

  5. The aim of the socialist is not to “manage” or “enforce” freedom or equality, but to empower the collective to use its power, and disregard the individualist/idealist philosophy that justifies their power over the labor of the working class.

    • HOGWASH! You are a lazy, envious person who wants to justify your desire to have what other people earned. The proof is in the fact that you consistently deny the LABOR AND SACRIFICE of the Capitalist! Yes, Karl, the Capitalist works too — and usually harder than ANY of his/her employees.

      I know what I’m talking about, Karl. I’ve run my own company since 2001, and when I sold it to the workers, they ran it into the ground in less than 2 years. They thought the only thing they had to do was fill orders and spend the money on themselves. No reinvesting in the company at all — not even for more materials to keep filling orders. So I took the company back and, in less than 3 months, I have it back at the top of my industry again. It took me every penny I had in the bank, and selling everything I had I could afford to sell and working 16+ hours/day, 7 days/week for the past 3 months, but I did it. There is a clear lesson in this — for those who aren’t lazy, brain-dead or envy-blind, anyway.

      • This is the ignorance of the socialist – because how do you overcome the unequal output or intellect of the individuals in a group without forcing them to comply?

        Karl has already pointed out that there are criminals in society, just are there are those who are satisfied with varying levels of work. Both require force to “equalize”.

        Karl, you are either incredibly stupid or monumentally clueless.

        • This is the ignorance of the socialist – because how do you overcome the unequal output or intellect of the individuals in a group without forcing them to comply?

          Unequal output or intellect? Forcing them to comply? Comply with what? What are you talking about?

          • Again – ignorance. None of what you want can be done without throwing out the Constitution, therefore it is incompatible with the basis of this country, so any thoughts of your socialist Utopia are just that, thoughts. America will never be the “worker’s paradise” that you envision – look at Venezuela – there’s a “worker’s paradise” that is ripe for economic collapse. Most South American economies have expanded over the past few years except, of course, for Chavez’s socialist Utopia. To continue to argue that socialism works in the face of that puts you in the camp of the serious unserious people I posted about earlier today.

          • Karl,

            YOU said coercion (i.e. force) is a “good thing.” However, you used it in the context of YOU telling OTHERS what to do (i.e. creating your worker’s utopia). SO don’t cry when others point out the obvious: you just want to be king so you can have what others own without having to work for it.

    • The “Aim” of the Socialist is to impose His / Her will on everyone else.

      It is nothing more than this.

    • Well Karl is kinda sayin….
      “…I don’t need no Edu….cation..!!…Hey Freedom Lovers ! ..LEAVE THIS KID ALONE !!…
      ….All in all….I just wanna be another….Collectivist….Brick in the Wall !! …”

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