Readers probably haven't heard of the US philosopher John Kekes. Kekes did a Ph.D. at the Australian National University then, after writing on the theory of knowledge in the 1970s spend his career defending conservatism and criticising liberalism. He is a sharp critic of liberal egalitarian philosophers such as John Rawls and Ronald Dwokin. In Australia we do not have intellectuals as highly regarded by the Establishment as these two liberals. Rawls, for example was awarded the Medal of Freedom and was regarded as "the most distinguished moral and political philosopher of our age" by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why?

 

 

Both philosophers are champions of egalitarianism; for both of them the mere fact that some people have more property than others is morally problematic and offers good reason for the elimination of such inequalities, and the equalisation as far as possible of property. Thus the haves should give to the have-nots, regardless of why the have-nots, have not.

 

Kekes in his popular article "Dangerous Egalitarianism Dreams", at http://www.city-journal.org/html/11_4_urbanities-dangerous.html offers a concise refutation of equalitarian nonsense: "The impassioned egalitarian rhetoric that asserts this supposed obligation cows many people into acquiescence. But no such obligation exists, and the appeal to it is absurd, because it requires the equalisation of the property of rapists and the victims, welfare cheats and taxpayers, spendthrifts and savers. No reasonable person can believe that we are obliged to treat the moral and immoral, the prudent and imprudent, the law-abiding and the criminal with equal consideration". 

 

Rawls and Dwokin do, though. Rawls argued, famously, based on contract theory, that some abstract principles justify the equalisation of property. We should ignore historical reality, Rawls said and consider a hypothetical original condition with a "veil of ignorance" so that self-interested individuals do not know what position in society they will occupy. Under the "veil of ignorance", absurdly, no-one will know their position in society. Thus such people will choose socio-ethical principles that will make the best of even a worst state. In such a state people will endorse two principles. The first is the "equal liberty" principle, that there should be maximum liberty for all, consistent with the liberty of all. The second principle is the "difference" principle, that "economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are… to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged". Thus a doctor is only justified in having a large salary if that is the only way the poorest can get health care, to use Keke’s example.

 

Kekes makes the obvious point that Rawl’s system has no correspondence with reality, that there is no original position. This shows a major theoretical defect in much of liberal theory flying from his work. But it seems to me that even in the original position it is by no means the case that one should choose Rawlsian liberal egalitarianism. Maybe, even if one is not well off, one believes that merit and hard work should decide who owns what in society. Why should equality be accepted? The entire project appears to be circular, assuming egalitarianism to begin with and working towards it. Kekes is definitely right: the egalitarian simply assumes that equality is a sovereign value, but it is not, being merely one socio-ethical value among many others, such as freedom, privacy and social harmony.

 

Egalitarianism is thus an extremely dangerous dream. I believe that egalitarianism is essentially an ideology of spite and jealousy and has been behind communism, humanity’s most evil philosophy.