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Machan's Musings - Impossible Egalitarianism
Submitted by removed on Wed, 2006-03-29 00:59
Among my many acquaintances there are some avid egalitarians. Among these a few are very influential, a couple of them leaders in the global movement called “the capabilities approach.” They have written extremely well-published books and essays advocating global wealth redistribution. Some have even insisted that nearly all the resources possessed by those in developed countries need to be sent abroad to be used by the poor. As one has written, “On pain of living a life that's seriously immoral, a typical well-off person, like you and me, must give away most of her financially valuable assets, and much of her income, directing the funds to lessen efficiently the serious suffering of others.”
A small thing I have noticed, however, is that all of these individuals—some of them personally known to me and now and then in
Of course, there are innumerable reasons for the selectivity with which these egalitarians allocate their precious time, depending upon various particulars hardly anyone can be expected to know, let alone evaluate. What is generally true, however, is that they all are—actually must be—very selective. There is simply no way they can grant everyone’s request who would like to take up their time.
Celebrities are always confronted with this problem, even when they would otherwise wish to keep before the public eye, as it were. So they pick and choose from among the many reporters and photographers who ask for them. Famous people, who are invited for innumerable speaking engagements are in the same boat. And so are, of course, my egalitarian acquaintances.
Now I am not even talking about those people who have no interest at all in putting their egalitarian principles into practice. I recall once
Fact is, this pretty much shows us that egalitarianism is impossible. There is no way to distribute equally among all the resources they all
What egalitarians seem to neglect is that the distribution of all sought-after resources occurs best if they are in line with the choices of those who own those resources. It is their lives and works that are at issue, after all. And, of course, there will be many who will remain wanting, even if everyone is most heedful of what others want from them. That’s never going to go away. But in a free society, where resources are in the control of those who own them—whether because they have earned it, or they are fortunate, or have received them from others—at least the distribution will benefit from local knowledge and from the better or worse judgments of the owners.
What egalitarians are effectively insisting on, then, is not equal distribution of resources, since that’s flat out impossible. They are
So like it or not, egalitarianism is not about equal distribution but about who is to do the highly selective distribution that goes on all the
That’s what’s ultimately in dispute, not the impossible task of equal wealth—or time—distribution.
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