The Power of Equality

Small things can tell us as much as big things. I recently bought a book of first-class postage stamps with an American flag design. Glancing at them something leapt out at me: the word “Equality.” The series actually has four different words: “Freedom,” “Liberty,” Equality,” and “Justice.” Cleverly, the words are juxtaposed with the word “forever” which indicates that the stamps will be valid for first-class postage “forever,” no matter what the rate becomes.

This insurance agent and blogger writes about being unexpectedly moved by the simple, patriotic message of the stamps. I couldn’t quite feel that way, though: the word “Equality” stuck in my craw.

“Equality,” in this day and age, generally expresses the liberal-left notions of “social justice” and equality of results. (The word “Justice” on the stamps is similarly problematic.) It conjures up a Civil Rights Era image of blacks struggling for “equal rights,” but in actuality is used to justify coercive governmental measures for empowering nonwhite groups and collectively liberalizing society. For instance, a commentator I heard on NPR defending the Obamacare birth control mandate justified it in terms of the “equality” it provided, which to her trumped objections based on religious freedom.

Though the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal” does give the word resonance for Americans, Jefferson’s “equality” was minimalist, indicating a certain basic common nature possessed by all humans that justified certain forms of equality under the law. Balint Vazsonyi, in America’s Thirty Years War (Regnery, 1998), correctly saw the more radical interpretation of “equality” – as in the “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” of the French Revolution –  as an un-American notion:

Note that I translate the French slogan ‘Égalité’ as ‘Egality,’ and not as ‘Equality.’ Webster’s Dictionary tells us that egality is ‘an extreme social and political leveling.’ Our word ‘egalitarian’ confirms that definition. The process of leveling is worlds apart from equality in the affairs of man, which was the aspiration of the Round Table….

Egality is the elimination of differences. Since people are different, only force can cover up the differences, and then only temporarily. Once force is no longer applied, the differences reappear…. (p. 37)

I note that Vazsonyi specifically referred to the black-white achievement gap in his discussion:

America’s balance sheet is exceptionally rich and positive, partly as a result of its demographic composition. Different countries harbor variable proportions of people with aspirations – from near-zero to very high. But all who undertook the journey to America from the four corners of the world had aspirations of some kind, making America’s “aspiration density” the highest in the world. It would be higher still, had all newcomers undertaken the journey of their own free will. But that was not the case. And that, more than any other single factor, created a rift that time alone will heal. (p. 38-9).

I am sorry to say that “equality” is the official driving ideal in the United States today; we traditionalist Westerners who do not accept it are the dissidents. The notion of equality drives the Obama administration’s open contempt for regular Americans, and the law, in its efforts to suppress Arizona’s efforts to deal with her illegal alien problem; and it drives the homosexualization of our society, now proceeding at an astonishing pace with almost no thoughtful opposition. But the more equality is achieved, the worse any remaining inequality is said to be, a sentiment expressed in a song I enjoyed in my college days (I won’t link it since I don’t endorse the repulsive messages of the band):

The power of equality
Is not yet what it ought to be
It fills me up like a hollow tree
The power of equality

(The performers of the song seemed to think that the U.S. was in danger of being taken over by the Ku Klux Klan, and that their hedonistic – and admittedly at times pretty good – music was the antidote….)

But why, why is the idea so powerful? It is obviously nonsense to believe that all people have equal abilities and equal aspirations. Even if “equality of results” were desirable, it’s clear that the growing “diversity” of our society is leading to growing inequality and stratification at every level. Yet the movement demanding equality barrels ahead, and few dare challenge it.

Update: I notice that the blogger I linked to, who sells health and life insurance, is in favor of the contraceptive mandate. Since it’s possible he’ll read my post, I’ll just mention that my objection to the mandate has to do with the morality of collectively-provided birth control presented as a “health” issue. I realize that supporters of the mandate argue in a technical way that a purchaser of insurance, individual or corporate, isn’t directly “paying” for contraception and of course is not required to use contraception himself or herself. I think this is a morally obtuse view, but don’t have time to compose a detailed objection. Maybe another time.

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9 Responses to The Power of Equality

  1. Kevin Knauss says:

    In as much as commerce and money can unite countries with opposing interests, so too can respect for the written word. The passion, conviction and connection you have for your political philosophy is very evident in your writing.

    Isn’t it interesting that certain symbols in our country can evoke such deep patriotic emotions within such completely different peopl? I suppose that is one of the mysterious elements that keeps our country from blowing apart.

    We may all have our differences but we intrinsically know that our current state is far better than the rest of the world. While we may grouse at the economy or the politicians, neither one of us is apt to leave it any time soon.

    May your blogging continue to be a counter weight to my blogging such that we keep the world in balance.

    • stephenhopewell says:

      Kevin,
      Thank you for your praise and thoughtful comment. It is interesting that you noticed the stamps just as I did, though you drew different conclusions. (I found your blog when doing search for images of the stamps.) Clearly, we do share a love for America, though we have very different views on how to address its problems. Your comment gives me hope that there’s still an underlying set of common values among our people.

      • The psychology of image association is a fascinating topic. How can the same image prompt such varied reactions to different people with seemingly similar cultural experiences.

        I would be remiss if I did not confess that a part of my reaction to the stamps was a slight cynicism as to the intent, purpose and agenda of the creator. As with any design, I ponder if their is a second meaning or goal in the marketing. Any good marketing executive exploits all the angles.

        In the end, I decided to err on the side of honest intentions by the creator that in the limited space afforded by a postage stamp there are a few key words that bind us all together in the United States.

  2. deus vult says:

    I’ve purchased these stamps, too. I affix the “Equality” stamps upside-down. If I were true to princple, I’d eat the cost and throw them away, unused.

  3. Karen says:

    I just noticed the stamps I purchased are “equality” stamps. My first reaction was what the heck to do these refer to….my assumptions led me to believe what you stated above. I think I will do as dues vult says and put them on upside down.

  4. TheCarMan says:

    “Opportunity” “Achievement” “Exceptionalism” … are just a few of the words that come to mind when trying to define the USA in a single word. (Liberty, Justice, etc. were taken.) But “Equality” ? … that’s defines a condition common to all. In the USA equality is the starting point gotten from the phrase “… created equal …” and as such is very limited in scope. The intent is already covered under “Justice” so what more can it mean by having it singled out as printed on the stamp? Unless it has more to do that just being a starting point.

  5. stephenhopewell says:

    TheCarMan, good points. It is definitely more than just a “starting point.”

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