Kurt Vonnegut understood the threat of government-imposed equality. His short story "Harrison Bergeron" portrays a future in which no one is permitted to have any physical or intellectual advantage over anyone else. A government Handicapper General weighs down the strong and agile, masks the faces of the beautiful and distracts the smart.
So far, the Handicapper General is just fantasy. But Vice President Joe Biden did shout at the Democratic National Convention: "Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you." If he meant that we're all equal in rights and before the law, fine. If he meant government shouldn't put barriers in the way of opportunity, great. But statists like Biden usually have more in mind: They want government to make results more equal.
Two actual examples of the lunacy:
When colleges innovated by having students use Kindle e-book readers instead of expensive textbooks, the Justice Department sued them, complaining that the Kindle discriminates against blind students. The department also is suing the Massachusetts prison system because it makes prospective prison guards take a physical test. Since women don't do as well as men on that test, Justice claims the test discriminates against women.
Arthur Brooks, who heads the American Enterprise Institute, says statism is becoming the "central organizing power in our economy," and that the battle between free enterprise and statism will shape our futures. He remains optimistic because a recent poll showed that 70 percent of Americans want free enterprise. I'm less sanguine. In that same poll, 54 percent of Americans said government should exert more control over the economy. Brooks discounts that, claiming people forget their "core values" during crises.
But he asks the right question: Do we want a culture of takers or makers? Ryan and Brooks say most people want "the American idea": freedom and self-responsibility. I fear they want a Mommy State to take care of them. What do you think?
The choice is crucial. If we continue down the Road to Serfdom, our destination will be a poorer society, high unemployment, stagnation and complacency.