City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Myron Magnet
Liberty or Equality? « Back to Story

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Poor T Jefferson. For more than two centuries, millions world-wide have died trying to validate his noble and dramatic quote. History, however, has graciously ignored his paternalistic efforts to keep his slaves and concubine. Inherent in Magnet's essay is a warning that government's paternalistic efforts to achieve equality by sustaining an underclass changes nothing.
Robert Michael McAvoy July 01, 2014 at 6:05 PM
An outstanding assessment no matter what your political leanings. I plan to use the article as required reading in my political science class.
A democracy should assure citizens equality of opportunity and equality before the law. But all citizens are not born equal. The extensive data from which IQ bell curve is derived shows a wide spectrum of human intellectual ability. Differences in intellectual ability are the primary driving force which distinguish life outcomes. IQ disparities are biologically inherited, over 80%, including the 5+ point mean, which distinguishes men above women.
I disagree with Vic to the extent that a permanent and growing bureaucracy undermines both democracy and the ability of people to change programs or methods that are not working. This permanent machinery intervenes with change. So 1960's programs continue in spite of their failure in today's world. The deep rust is destroying any chance of incremental change.
You can have both; liberty and equality, but equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. The latter is based on their being no equality of effort!
Patrick MacKinnon June 18, 2014 at 6:42 AM
All men are created equal but after that you are on your own. There are no constitutional guarantees, nor should there be, that circumstances will not intervene to engender inequalities. We see it all around us every day yet some foolishly expect that equality will prevail. It only does in the ant hill where there are hormonal
factors to ensure that all know their place. God save us from that.
NorthCoast Patriot June 18, 2014 at 5:44 AM
Upon reading this superb article, I am saddened to realize just how far our nation has fallen from its founding principles...we have incrementally permitted the tyranny of the majority to metastasize through our acquiescence. Only the severe and inevitable hardships to come will open Americans' eyes to the folly of the past 100 years of leftist 'Mission Creep'. It will be very ugly, but is the only way to cleanse the rot. Our 'Bread and Circuses' culture be sustained. So sad.
"Liberty is to faction what air is to fire", indeed. And because this country abounds in liberty, faction has grown unchecked for the last two hundred plus years. Faction is now sucking all of the air (liberty) out of this country. One can only wonder what will be left when liberty is completely trampled. From where will come the air necessary to maintain faction? (My apologies for grabbing on to the metaphor quoted--albeit out-of-context--from Federalist No. 10. But I think the point is made.)
This article summed up something I have been trying to articulate for myself for at least a decade. Nice, smart writing -- especially the beginning -- where Magnet lays out the liberty vs. equality conundrum and shows how one can stultify the other. Thank you for this!
I'm reminded of what *should* have been the motto of the French Revolution:

"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Pick One."
so, a populace that rapidly evolves into a pathetic majority of Euro-slags

has embraced the vision of Hussein the Community Organizer

As long as the politicians on opensecrets.org are for sale ... their harlots'-wages addiction for funding makes them predictable, and impotent... e.g. our President has been described as the owner of a pair of "marshmallow balls"

whatever :(
Nice writing, Myron. I don't agree with Vic, though. Liberty vs. equality is precisely the issue today. Obsession with the latter is threatening the former, as our grievance-based society has lost sight of the fact that one necessarily results in the other.
This argument is a red herring. The issue is not liberty versus equality. Our Americian Experience has several values in addition to liberty -- one being just the promotion of the general welfare.

I suggest you go back and study the Federalist Papers. What has made America great and unique is that we are not a status quo nation, either institutionally or culturally. We have values that conflict and get re-examined every so often and re-interpreted. Power is divided many ways in our federal system -- not just among the different branches of the fed govt, but also with the states and with the freedom/rights that individuals and private organizations enjoy.

As Madison said in Fed 10 -- "Liberty is to faction what air is to fire."
Of late, in response to more pieces like this, I'm reminded of a quote from Alexis de Toqueville..

"There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality which excites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom."

DIA, Volume I, Chapter 3