We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The assumption of equality of outcome

The legitimacy of altering social institutions to achieve greater equality of material condition is, though often assumed, rarely argued for. Writers note that in a given country the wealthiest n percent of the population holds more than that percentage of the wealth, and the poorest n percent holds less; that to get to the wealth of the top n percent from the poorest, one must look at the bottom p per cent (where p is vastly greater than n), and so forth. They then proceed immediately to discuss how this might be altered.

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (page 232).

By coincidence, a classic example of “the rich are gobbling up all the wealth and something must be done about it” mind-set was in perfect view in this Guardian article yesterday.

While I browsed for a few minutes in Hatchards, the bookshop, yesterday, I came across this book by Daniel Halliday, which attacks the right of people to bequeath their property to heirs, friends, etc. So in other words, the author thinks your wealth isn’t yours to give away. It is rare for such attacks on the right to transfer property to be stated so baldly. I might see if I can grab a review copy and read it, and maybe Fisk it later. (The book has already been reviewed from a fairly benign point of view in the Financial Times, here.)

12 comments to The assumption of equality of outcome

  • Regional

    Wait till Brexit then you’ll see contempt for rules.

  • Paul Marks

    F.A Hayek tried to explain the Equality Cult.

    Hayek argued that humans had evolved in hunter-gatherer packs – and although reason had created civilisation (actually Hayek did not seem to rate reason that much – to him civilisation also evolved without much thought), our pack instincts for “fair shares” remained.

    I think Hayek was correct about our savage instincts (the instinct to hate anyone who has more than their “fair share”) – but I also think that we think (that we are reasoning agents) that Free Will, moral agency, exists – that we can overcome our instincts to rob and rape and murder.

    I hope that, at some level, Hayek thought so to – in spite of all the bad philosophy (Hume and so on) that he had been taught. Of course humans can fail to be human BEINGS (moral agents – overcoming the beast within us), but we can be human beings (at least most of the time) if we really TRY.

  • Paul Marks

    Certainly relying on custom and “that is not how we do things round here” will NOT do – that will not stand up to the savage beast within us. To defeat the beast (the PACK of beasts) we must cultivate the use of our moral reason – for it does exist.

  • If the equality cult is wrong, someone being wealthier than I am could be my fault, not theirs.

    It does not have to be: Hayek noted that if all the individual allocations of wealth in the world were each regarded as some human’s conscious choice instead of the unforeseen outcome of many choices and accidents, then some of them would rationally be seen as unjust.

    But if I know that, then I’m already well beyond the simple dichotomy of believing that another’s wealth was taken from me, so as not to think it’s a reflection on me.

  • Stonyground

    What are the differences, I wonder, between how lefties and non lefties regard those less wealthy than themselves? I’m not rich but I’m not poor either. Both my wife and I have reasonably well paid jobs and I think that our lifestyle choices have been relatively sensible. Neither of us had any kind of silver spoon, we both worked for what we have. As I see it, our lifestyle, such as it is, is open to anyone who is prepared to work for it, I don’t feel that I owe anything to less successful people. What do others think?

  • Sonny Wayze

    “So in other words, the author thinks your wealth isn’t yours to give away”

    Slightly tangentially, Megan Mcardle had a post a number of years back pointing out that (from memory) the only logical positions to argue from about inheritance/estate tax were 0% or 100%. Otherwise, estate tax proponents would need to justify why one was allowed to bequeath only 40%/50%/60% of one’s estate, and why the government was due the rest.

    Yes, I know, the reason is ‘gimme’.

  • bobby b

    April 13, 2018 at 6:57 am

    “What are the differences, I wonder, between how lefties and non lefties regard those less wealthy than themselves? I’m not rich but I’m not poor either. Both my wife and I have reasonably well paid jobs and I think that our lifestyle choices have been relatively sensible.”

    We can take a hint by how they see the more wealthy:

    Lefty: “You can write well, and in English. You refer to a “wife” non-ironically, so you’re likely a heterosexual male. Poor people don’t have “lifestyles” – that’s reserved for the well-off. You ooze intersectional privilege like a snail oozes slime. You didn’t build that wealth – it was built on the shoulders of the slave-trading educated white hetero men who came before you and stole everything you now proudly claim from the dispossessed and the downtrodden.”

    Non-lefty: “Ooo, he’s got a Lamborghini! Cool!”

  • Doug Jones

    By all means, grab that review copy- and every other one that isn’t nailed down. If other people’s property rights mean nothing, then why should Halliday have any property rights?

  • Deep Lurker

    Social inequality is much more important than economic inequality. The rich are not my “betters” – they’re merely a tribe that has much more money than me and the other members of my own tribe. One of the (many) reasons why I loathe the Left is that they want to change this. Their rants against inequality are cover for their belief that I ought to treat the “deserving” (i.e. leftist) rich as my betters and their annoyance that I’m a bitter gun-clinging deplorable who refuses to do so.

  • Stonyground

    A Ssangyong Korando as it happens.

  • Thailover

    Paul, I came to the same conclusion Hayek did on my own. Virtually every defunct leftist position can be traced back to a tribalist mentality and a flatlander type zero-sum thinking. It’s like they were dragged Kicking and screaming into the Neolithic Period.

    Equality of outcome is insipid even on the face of it. Think about what ultimate success would mean to Donald Trump and what that would look like. Now consider what ultimate success would look like in the eyes of Walt Whitman. Are the two quite different? You betcha. So my question is, who is cheated in that situation, Donald Trump or Walt Whitman?

  • Nicholas (Unlicenced Joker) Gray

    Let’s practice equality of outcomes at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games! All athletes have to have the same times! No contact sports, like boxing, or two-sides competition! A multi-legged race, competing against records from other years! We can do it! Fully socialised sport!