Equality at the Everyman

At the Everyman today, I discuss why holding ‘equality’ up as an ideal is a terrible, terrible idea:

Which raises a more fundamental issue. Before you can say any two things are equal, you first have to have a common and objective standard of measurement between them. I can say that two people are of equal height because ‘height’ is an empirical measurement. But honesty, virtue, intelligence, wisdom, kindness, talent, beauty, and all the other factors by which we judge men are not empirically measurable (an IQ score is not an objective measure of intelligence, so that a man with an IQ of 100 is exactly twenty points smarter than a man with 80. It only serves, at best, to give a general idea of relative intelligence).

Thus, ‘equality’ cannot really apply to human beings in any meaningful sense. You cannot measure, say, wisdom and create a scale by which one man can be compared to another. We can identify these things to a greater or lesser degree, but we cannot empirically measure them. Moreover, these qualities are incommensurable: they cannot be compared one to another (how does talent measure up against wisdom? how many ‘units’ of beauty are equal to a single unit of virtue?). Moreover, even if we could, anyone can see that we would not, in fact, find ‘equality’ even between any two given individuals, let alone across the entire human race.

What this all amounts to is that ‘equality’ is simply meaningless when applied to human beings. Law is ‘equal’ in the sense of applying indiscriminately among the population (‘indiscriminate’ would probably would be a better term in the first place), but to say that all men are ‘equal’ in any other sense is simply a misuse of language, like saying that painting is on a level with music. The point is that there is no ‘level’ by which the two can be compared.

Read the rest here.

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