Ponder this passage of stately prose:
The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.
That, of course, is James Madison, from Federalist 10, where he dilates on the origin of “faction” — its causes, he observes, are “sown in the nature of man” — and argues for a large republic (as distinct from a pure democracy) as the best prophylactic against the evil potential of conflicting interests, not least of which evils is the tyranny of the majority.
But let me return to the famous passage I quoted: “The protection of these faculties,” Madison wrote, “is the first object of government.”
Question: is it the first object of our government, the government of Barack Obama? Would it be the first object of a government presided over by, say, Hillary Clinton (who, in case you didn’t notice, is a woman)? How about a government presided over by Bernie Sanders, who is not a woman but makes up for it by being a lunatic?
To ask these questions is to answer them. But, if I may adapt an interjection from Hillary Clinton (who is a woman): At this point, what difference does it make? I mean, who cares about some 18th-century stiff who was droning on about “the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property”? Does anyone understand what he was talking about any more?
I am happy to report that there are a few people left who understand what Madison was getting at. And I can reveal that (to paraphrase the female cited above), at this point, it makes a very big difference indeed.
One such sage is the columnist George Will. In his syndicated column yesterday, Will takes up the Democrats’ biggest obsession (the biggest, anyway, apart from Hillary Clinton, who is a woman): “income inequality.” The Democratic Party, Will notes, “believes that economic inequality is an urgent problem, and that its urgency should be understood in terms of huge disparities of wealth.” But is income inequality a problem, urgent or otherwise? And are disparities of wealth really a bad thing?
Will’s next sentence encapsulates a deep, Madisonian truth:
“The fundamental producer of income inequality is freedom.”
There you have it, folks, a lapidary sentence that is as true as it is often forgotten. “The fundamental producer of income inequality is freedom.” If you have freedom, you will also have inequality. It’s part of the natural order of things.
A couple of observations: first, it does not follow that if you take away freedom you will thereby produce more equality, though that is a logical fallacy (or perhaps it is just a cynical rhetorical gambit) employed by socialists and other totalitarians from the dawn of time. As Dean Inge once pointed out, just because most of the saints were poor, it does not follow that most of the poor are saints.
Second, Will’s observation helps explain a phenomenon that everyone recognizes but few have analyzed with the requisite clarity: I mean the instinctive hatred the Left has for freedom.
This may seem at first blush counter-intuitive. Isn’t the Left always going on about revolutions or “fundamentally transforming” society, etc.? And aren’t all those revolutions and fundamental transformations undertaken for the sake of more freedom?
The brief answer is “No, they aren’t,” but that fact is obscured by the rhetorical barrage depositing the word “freedom” like ground cover all around us while the Left’s storm troopers set about mopping up pools of actual (as distinct from merely rhetorical) freedom where they may subsist. Ask the Environmental Protection Agency how this is done — if you’re nice, they might tell you. Or ask any college dean of diversity busy policing what students say and read and think.
“The fundamental producer of income inequality,” Will observes, “is freedom.” Why? Because (Madison couldn’t have put it better) “individuals have different aptitudes and attitudes. . . .[S]ome people want to teach, others want to run hedge funds. In an open society, rewards are set not by political power but by impersonal market forces, the rewards of which will differ dramatically but usually predictably.”
Yes indeedy, which is why the Left is so hostile to those “impersonal market forces.” They may make us all immeasurably richer than anyone could have ever dreamed possible even a century ago. But here’s the intolerable thing: they make some people richer than others and (the dirty little secret) the ones they make really rich tend not to be the revolutionists and architects of fundamental transformation (though there is an exception to almost every rule as the spectacle of the poor little rich girl Hillary “Dead Broke” Clinton reminds us: just take a look at her foundation).
Will quotes a short but brilliant new book by Harry Frankfurt, On Inequality, which cuts through acres of dead wood to note that there is no moral imperative for economic equality but only for economic sufficiency.”The fundamental error of economic egalitarians,” Frankfurt writes, “lies in supposing that it is morally important whether one person has less than another, regardless of how much either of them has and regardless also of much utility each derives from what he has.” How much is enough? Frankfurt has intelligent things to say about that, too, but let me close by returning to my main point: that, rhetoric notwithstanding, the Left hates, is determined to root out freedom wherever it may thrive, and that is why they hate the free market (never mind that it has made us all richer) and it is also why they have made fools of themselves enacting speech codes, “trigger warnings,” and all the other Orwellian paraphernalia of intellectual tyranny on campuses across the country. The rise of the miso-Leftists — and I am not talking about soy-based politics, but one based upon hatred — also helps to explain the sudden emergence of counter insurgencies like the phenomenon of Donald Trump, but that is a matter for another day and, besides, understanding that the Left (no matter what they say to the contrary) is the enemy of freedom is lesson enough for one day.