Equally Unequal?

Bill Murchison
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Posted: Apr 05, 2010 12:01 AM
Equally Unequal?

Something from last month's frenzy over Obamacare remains to be noted: not so much the tactical stuff as the ideological underpinning of the whole venture.

The federal government was going to make us all equal in health care terms, if the Democrats knew anything about it. And now, well … we'll see, because no governmental enterprise premised on the closing of economic gaps ever actually closes them.

Sean Hannity FREE

It's just the way American politicians talk. Gaps of any kind, we hear, are wrong and unfair. That they might be a function of nature and fortune and choice never comes into the conversation.

"[T]he ways [Obamacare] attacks the inequality of the Reagan era … " says a New York Times economics writer, "will probably be around for a long time." Could be. So could "the inequality of the Reagan era" be around for a long time -- an inequality consisting in things beyond the power of any government to control.

How come Bill Gates has more money that I do? I'll tell you. It's because Bill Gates exceeds your humble scribe in various matters, including technological vision, management moxie and basic knowledge of what a computer chip does. Some luck probably figures into it as well: being in just the right place at the dawn of the cybernetic era.

It's not fair?!!! But, yes, again, it's completely fair. We two Williams were born for different ends and objectives. Difference itself, in human terms, implies inequalities of different sorts. I know (likely) more than does my brother Gates about the construction of an English sentence. Does he care? I doubt it. Why should he?

We're not all the same. "So far is it from being true that men are naturally equal," Dr. Johnson observed, "that no two people can be half an hour together, but one shall acquire an evident superiority over the other." Economic "superiority" grates the most, to judge from all the political measures levied against it. The joy of Obamacare is twofold: 1) Spreading economic bliss to more of the poor than previously at 2) the expense mainly of "the rich." You hear the same scratchy old theme: haves and have-nots, take from the former and give to the latter.

Pretty much everyone, including the rich, agrees the poor deserve the government's attention and concern. Does that mean equalizing everyone by government edict? Hardly. To begin with, "equality" talk is just that -- talk. Most members of Congress have a whole lot more money than most Americans. Do they intend to spread that money around until the spending power of several thousand more Americans equals their own? You know the answer to that one.

Put it another way. Do more than two or three liberal Democrats believe sincerely that the financial success of a few -- the rich -- doesn't make the lives of the poor generally better? Where do those two or three think the money goes? Into investment, into consumption it goes, and so into the creation of jobs and the expansion of the workplace.

Does it matter -- except in political terms -- that chief executives earn more than mailroom clerks and even schoolteachers? If it matters morally, philosophically, whatever, just take the money from them and pass it around the table. But don't expect those who earned the money in the first place to stay around for a second government raid.

Rewards, not penalties, are what inspire long days at the office or in the lab. To say what a business executive truly "deserves" in the way of compensation and reward is to stay something ludicrous. And divisive, because attacking success leads to political distortions, such as the campaign to "equalize" access to health care.

Didn't the recent terms of health care access require reform and redress? Certainly. Did they require uprooting a system based imperfectly on market forces, replacing it with a government-controlled regime whose cost may hurt the poor as much as the rich?

Ah, but we're equal now. In time, we may all be equally sick of a political scheme designed, supposedly, to make us equally well.