Vonnegut on "Equality"

by Don Boudreaux on April 13, 2007

in Nanny State

My favorite of all the works of the late Kurt Vonnegut that I’ve read is his 1961 short story "Harrison Bergeron."  It’s a gruesome tale of government-enforced "equality" of outcomes.

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Chris O'Leary April 13, 2007 at 11:02 am

This is one of my favorite short stories ever. Thanks for posting it.

Steve Horwitz April 13, 2007 at 11:45 am

And, of course, there is Rush's "The Trees" which picks up the same theme:


Storey April 13, 2007 at 2:17 pm
Ed Lopez April 13, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Vonnegut was an avowed socialist who admired the practical implications of Marxian economics and heavily advocated welfare-state style redistribution. This story is far subtler than a critique of leveling. I believe Vonnegut's intention is to remove a couple arrows from the quivers of redistribution's critics.

Dr.Dean April 13, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Equality is not the same as equality. There are democratic forms of equality. Strict forms. Moderate forms. And so on.

And there is strict inequality and strict injustice – which make real liberalism impossible.

So – the truth is in the middle.

Ray G April 13, 2007 at 7:05 pm

In my youth, Vonnegut was one of those writers whom I felt that I "had" to read in order to qualify as well read.

But of course his writing would just drag, and I never got very far in any of his work.

Personally I liken his work to pop music. Very few people really like it all that much. Thus, a majority of Vonnegut sold sits pretentiously undisturbed on so many book shelves.

Rex Pjesky April 13, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Ray G, I agree. I really don't know why he is famous. Of course, this short story is very insightful.

Rex Pjesky April 13, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Follow up: Could his popularity (given Ray G's hypothesis that many people claim to like him that really do) be a case of a thrid degree network externality?

Rex Pjesky April 13, 2007 at 10:26 pm

I should have said "…that many more people claim to like him that really do)

I also should have spelled "third" correctly.

Ed Lopez April 16, 2007 at 5:12 pm

I elaborate on my above remarks here: http://divisionoflabour.com/archives/003714.php

oyunlar April 25, 2007 at 11:45 am

Good blog

I hope everybody read this article.

thanks for informations.

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