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Liberty, Income Equality, and Tyranny

Having retrieved from my bookshelves my copy of Richard Pipes‘s Property and Freedom (for use in this post), I was perusing it just before returning it to its special place when I found this other insight, on pages 283-284, worthy of attention.  (This book is loaded with insights.  Picking out just one or two does the volume poor justice.)

The main threat to freedom today comes not from tyranny but from equality — equality defined as identity of reward.  Related to it is the quest for security.

Liberty is by its nature inegalitarian, because living creatures differ in strength, intelligence, ambition, courage, perseverance, and all else that makes for success….  As Walter Bagehot observed over a century ago, "there is no method by which men can be both free and equal."

Ironically, the enforcement of equality destroys not only liberty but equality as well, for as the experience of communism has demonstrated, those charged with ensuring social equality claim for themselves priviliges that elevate them high above the common herd.  It also results in pervasive corruption, inasmuch as the elite which monopolizes goods and services, as must be done if they are to be equitably distributed, expects, in return for distributing them, rewards for itself…. In the contest between equality and liberty, the former holds the stronger hand, because the loss of liberty is felt only when it occurs, whereas the pain of inequality rankles every moment of the day.