One of the great values of modern Western culture is equality. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” and “all men are created equal” are historically important statements of the basic importance of equality. For 500 years in the West, especially in England, activists such as the Levelers strove to have special legal provisions for aristocrats nullified, and to institute instead equality before the law. Early in the 19th century, slavery was abolished, and the Atlantic slave trade interdicted by the Royal Navy. Later in 19th-century England, the restrictions on Catholics and Jews voting and holding office were eliminated. In 1918, women were given the right to run for office, and all women were given the right to vote in 1928. America and many others followed these leads shortly thereafter. The civil rights movement in America led to protections for racial minorities, particularly African Americans.
In the 21st century in America and elsewhere, self-described progressives strove to display virtue and gain power through advocating a maximalist position on equality. Equality of opportunity, still imperfectly implemented, was jettisoned in favor of equality of result or outcome. Any inequality, from whatever source, was deemed by progressive to be evil and requiring correction. This has led to the attempt by progressives to treat inequalities among parties as illegitimate, and imposed equality as obligatory. As a result, many new proposed equalities were specious. Here are some examples.
Progressives, including most Democrats and most candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, now claim equality and equivalence between criminal illegal aliens who have entered the country by stealth, and legal immigrants who have been admitted by government procedures, and citizens. Progressives advocate open borders, allowing anyone who arrives to enter the country, and providing for them the same medical and welfare benefits given to legal immigrants and native-born citizens. One reason for supporting open borders is that progressives see America as an oppressive race hierarchy, and open borders would allow the intake of multitudes of people of color, thus displacing the evil American whites.
Progressives do not think that illegal aliens, even criminals, should be expelled, and demand that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) be restricted or disbanded. Many Democrat-controlled jurisdictions have declared themselves sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, flouting laws passed by Congress. In those jurisdictions, police are forbidden from alerting ICE when illegal-immigrant criminals are freed before trial. Montgomery County, Maryland, enjoyed a spate of rapes of children by the illegal immigrants its sanctuary was protecting. As well as jurisdictions, most colleges and universities, all captives to progressive administrators and staffs, have also declared themselves sanctuary institutions, providing many special services to assist students who are illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants, as opposed to American citizens, are regarded as especially deserving of consideration and benefits.
Progressive jurisdictions have taken it a step further in equating criminals with law-abiding citizens, by simply canceling laws and decriminalizing what used to be felonies, in the name of “justice reform.” So, for example, in California, the laws against theft have been removed for goods of less than $950, which has resulted in widespread property theft, the highest level in the country. As well, the mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless have been allowed to occupy public sidewalks and parks, using them for sleeping, shooting up, begging, and urinating and defecating, spreading disease along with their filth. In New York State, 90% of the people arrested for serious felonies, pretty much anything short of murder and robbery with firearms, no longer have to post bail in order to be released, but are immediately sent out into the law-abiding public to carry on what they were doing before, such as the bank-robbing releasee who, once released, robbed five more banks. The rationale is twofold: first, poor people are disadvantaged compared to richer people in paying bail, so let everyone out without bail, and let the public deal with them; second, because more African Americans commit crimes and end up in jail, the justice system is RACIST! so we are obliged to abolish the justice system. In New York State, public safety is, by law, not considered in justice-system legislation or decisions.
In economic terms, equality means equal amounts of wealth and income. Progressives are very agitated about “income inequality,” and rant against the One Percent who are much wealthier than they are. Financial equality of outcome is the philosophical version of envy, a normal but unfortunate human reaction (and one of the Seven Deadly Sins). It is also the attempt to make equal what can never be equal, because human beings are unequal in intelligence, talent, and motivation, and so outcomes will never be equal unless coercive force is used to make them so.
The favorite economic policy of progressives is redistribution: taking wealth from those who have earned it, to give to those who have not earned it. As is always the case, the production of wealth is ignored in favor of distribution, so that eventually wealth runs out and everyone shares in poverty. Here too, displaying virtue and gaining power are the benefits of advocating redistribution, as those in the bottom half of the wealth and income profile are likely to vote for those who promise them other people’s money. That the people in the top half of the wealth and income profile pay most all of the taxes, and those in the bottom half pay almost none, and receive many welfare benefits, does not satisfy progressive equality absolutists. Progressives love to hate the evil rich, and to profit from their hate.
Progressive believe that they must champion “marginalized” and “racialized” populations in order to advance “social justice.” Poor victimized females are a high-priority “marginalized” population that requires special consideration and benefits. That females have a higher level of employment than males in the U.S., entirely dominate the educational sector, including all colleges and universities, and make up a large majority of government employees, does not appear to influence their alleged “marginal” status. One red herring that constantly swims back into progressive discourse is the gender “wage gap,” the difference in pay between males and females. The progressive assertion is that this is due to unfair gender discrimination. The reality is that it reflects the many more hours, days, weeks, and years that males work in comparison to females. The false equivalence of male and female work ignores these basic facts. But facts never kept progressives from demanding more for females.
The assumption of discrimination is applied by progressives to any statistical discrepancy between different sectors of the population. The lack of any population’s presence at the same level as their percentage of the general population is taken as a sign of discrimination. For example, if African Americans, at 13% of the population, are not admitted to elite colleges and universities at 13% or more, that must be due to discrimination. So too with members of any business, government office, political office, and so on. The problem is that representation is different from a group’s share of the general population is not a sign of discrimination. We know that African Americans numerically dominate, i.e. are highly “overrepresented,” in some professional sports, such as the NFL and NBA, but no case could be made that this is due to discrimination against whites and Asians. Similarly, East Asians and Jews are highly overrepresented in professions and academia, but there is no evidence that this is due to discrimination against people of European ancestry or Christians.
The low numbers of African Americans and Hispanics in elite colleges and universities has been a great concern of progressives. Progressives have favored “affirmative action” to enforce admission of African Americans and Hispanics, although Americans in general do not approve. Progressives continue to argue that low admissions of racial minorities is due to racial discrimination. But the reality is that the academic performance of African Americans and Hispanics, in both schools and in national tests, is relatively poor, compared to whites and high-flying East Asians. This is clearly not a matter of racial discrimination: Caribbean and West African blacks in America perform at a high academic level, and are highly successful in education and employment. What differentiates the different racial groups is their cultures. There are different attitudes in different groups toward education. There are also different social arrangements in different groups that have an impact on education. For example, 70% of African American children are brought up in single-parent homes, and are disadvantaged by that. African American children brought up in two-parent homes are much more successful academically.
In the name of “diversity” and “inclusion,” progressives insist on the admission of academically weak racial minorities into colleges and universities. Progressives reject ideas of “merit” and “achievement” as “white-supremacist talking points.” They prefer to force the issue. And the results are exactly what you would expect: African American students with good academic records do fine; African American students with weak academic records admitted on a racial basis do poorly, for example, drop out of science programs and end up in black studies or other identity programs of little merit. But we might note here that inclusion of people means exclusion of others: applicants with weak credentials are given places, while others with much stronger credentials are rejected. So affirmative action “diversity” does not just mean “inclusion,” it means exclusion of disfavored racial groups. Progressives demand that African American and Hispanic students be treated as academically equal to other students, when in many cases they are not. The results are poor for everyone, with academia degraded, with some individuals being punished with exclusion for their non-preferred race, and with subpar students graduated and passed off as legitimate to the wider society.
The new “marginalized population” du jour is the transsexuals. Progressives now not only give individuals, from five years old up, the right to change their gender without parental permission, but they require taxpayers to pay for the hormonal treatment and plastic surgery constructing fake sex organs, and for everyone else, under force of law, to abide by the fantasy that people can change their sex. Physically male “transfemales” and physically female “transmales” can change their surface appearance, but it is impossible to “transition” male xy genes and female xx genes into their opposite. Progressive claims that transfemales can menstruate and have babies, and transfemales can seed babies, is laughable rubbish. Progressives demand the public recognition of “gender identity,” although transracial identities and transtemporal age identities have been rejected. We are supposed to accept that physical male “transfemales” are genuine females, and transmales genuine males, a false equivalence, the absurdity of which even surpasses previous false progressive equivalences. The damage done by the trans movement and its supporters—physical males invading female spaces, the destruction of female sports as “transfemales” dominate—is incalculable. The progressive program to advance women at the expense of men, is here stood on its head, and physical males given leave to abuse females at will. When will the me-too movement wake up to trans abuse?
But what progressives are most enthusiastic about is abortion. For 2014, the Guttmacher Institute reported 926,200 abortions in the U.S. What kind of society encourages its women to kill their babies? Progressives promised that legalized abortion would be “rare,” but they are now lobbying to legalize late term abortions and infanticide. However more frontiers remain; why not have the option to terminate children up to the age of majority? Progressives label abortion “reproductive rights,” but that label is not equal to honest transparency; would it not be more accurate to call it “the wholesale slaughter of babies”?
Progressives have raised the value of equality above all others. Liberty, prosperity, order, beauty, and others are disregarded in the quest to make equality the overriding value. But by championing many equivalences that are not in fact equal, progressive have betrayed not only the other values, but equality also.