Some of America’s present problems have deep historical roots. One is that the Left has corrupted the meaning of equality. For some, this term no longer means an equal chance to succeed, but instead a guarantee not to fail. This damages social mobility, hampers entrepreneurship and, in turn, wrecks the fundamental basis for the American Dream. However, Florida is in a good position to reverse this development.
For the Founding Fathers, freedom and equality were two sides of the same coin – reinforcing each other. However, to do so, they must be rightly construed, or dangerous tension between them occurs. Proof of this is the Cultural War, which has been raging for over a century. This is a clash between people who want to stick with the Founding Fathers’ vision of the U.S. as a model of freedom and those wishing to turn it into a European-like welfare state. Naturally, such a comprehensive war involves numerous theaters. Essentially, it’s a showdown between two different views of equality.
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Specifically, to buttress the Founders’ view of freedom, equality must be perceived as equality of opportunity. Thus, people should compete without some select few enjoying legal or other formal advantages – and accept the differences in wealth, stature, and other outcomes this produces. This is the kind of equality that Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote that America should be a land of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Conversely, equality of outcome means that everyone should be guaranteed a certain level of wealth, regardless of their talents, skills, and efforts. This idea is ancient, but long remained only a fringe notion. However, it was favored by 19th century European thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx. And since they were embraced by academics and journalists, this idea also found its way to America.
In addition, a cultural factor fostered this spread. In the 1830s, when French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville contrasted the U.S. and Europe, he observed that Americans had such a strong taste for political equality (democracy) that it risked leading to a tyranny of the majority. Hence, they liked equality so much that he feared that they one day might try to use politics to enforce economic likeness. Tocqueville echoed Plato’s insight that since the poor will always be more numerous, in democracies, they will vote to skin the rich until society collapses. This is also what is happening right now.
A MENTAL SHIFT
Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson began to answer calls for “leveling the playing field” by regulating businesses and taxing achievements. After Franklin D. Roosevelt later declared not only freedom of speech and worship but freedom from want and fear as “human rights,” politics turned into a game focused on ironing out differences. Policies to achieve this have since run from FDR’s Social Security to Lyndon B. Johnson’s subsidization of single mothers to Richard Nixon’s affirmative action programs to Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness.
In parallel, a mental shift about not only fixing legal wrongs like Jim Crow but all differences – however slight, natural, and necessary – has occurred. Indeed, this is a Communist pipedream. In the American case, however, the driver has been more mundane than grand ideological visions. It has been that people living off fighting differences – politicians, journalists, academics – as significant problems were resolved, have been forced to focus on ever-minor disputes. Thus, while Civil Rights activists once fought racism and poverty, today, their contemporaries demand “safe spaces” on college campuses.
Still, America, for a long time, remained exceptional in that even the Left grasped that, to keep the economy running, people must be allowed to become financially successful. But since liberals have never been able to resist a tax hike or abstain from a sound-good regulation, the Democratic Party today is run by figures such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who, as Ronald Reagan said, “can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.”
BLURRING THE LINES
Thus, the one big fight for “equality” still raging is about income redistribution. However, as the line between equality of opportunity and outcome has blurred and freedom dwindled, economic growth in the U.S. has slowed, and industries have moved abroad. Because when things are taxed, regulated, and forbidden to stop hard-working people from earning more money, everyone turns into welfare recipients.
However, most Americans still adhere to equality of opportunity and the policies derived from it, like low taxes and deregulation. Given this, it’s not surprising that liberals nowadays describe their goal as equity. But, even if this term formally suggests only “freedom from bias or favoritism” – not likeness – it does not change that what many on the Left fancy is socialism. Economic decline is only one result of this. Another, in many ways even more troublesome, is cultural decay. Because when people are not allowed to excel, why bother trying to be self-sufficient, responsible, and a better citizen in general? Why not just sit back and let the government put food on your table?
RESTORING EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
This erosion of work morale has been going on for decades. U.S. society is sliding apart into one traditional, overall stable, and productive half, and a rapidly growing faction of easily offended “snowflakes” believing they are entitled to an easy life and special treatment.
America’s future depends upon restoring people’s belief in equality of opportunity – and Florida is in an excellent position to foster such a development. Because, as became apparent last fall, around 60 percent of Floridians do not share “modern” progressive views of most things. Since so many of us hail from places like New England, Sweden, and Cuba – and have experienced firsthand what forced “equity” brings – we value the common sense Conservatism personified by Governor Ron DeSantis. And we vote to preserve it, showing the rest of America that the future can still be bright.
Anders W. Edwardsson is a political consultant based in Tampa. He holds a Ph.D. in Politics from the Catholic University of America. For more information, go to https://www.edwardsson.biz/.