Liberty And Equality channels converge towards the concept of equality No idea is more difficult in the whole realm of political science. To minds so ardent for liberty as Tocqueville and Lord Acton liberty and equality were antithetic things. It is a drastic conclusion. But it turns, in the case of both men, upon a misunderstanding of what equality implies. Equality does not mean identity of treatment. There can be no ultimate identity of treatment so long as men are different in want and capacity and need. The purpose of society would be frustrated at the outset if the nature of a mathematician met an identical response with that to the nature of a bricklayer.
Equality does not even imply identity of reward for effort so long as the difference in reward does not enable me, by its magnitude, to invade the rights of others.
Equality, broadly, is a eoherence of ideas each one of which needs special examination. Undoubtedly, it implies fundamentally a certain leveling process. It means that no man, shall be so placed in Society that he can overreach his neighbor to the extent which constitutes a denial of the latter’s citizenship. It means that my realization of my best self must involve as its logical result the realization by others of their best selves.
It means such ah ordering of social forces as will balance a share in the toil of living with a share in its gain also. It means that my share in that gain-must be adequate for the purposes of citizenship. It implies that even if my voice be weighed as less weighty than that of another, it must yet receive consideration in the decisions that are made.
The meaning, ultimately, of equality surely lies in the fact that the very differences in the nature of men require mechanisms for the expression of their wills that give to each its due hearing. The power, in fact, of the ideal of equality lies in the historical evidence that so far in the record of the State the wills of men have been unequally answered. Their freedom, where it has been gained, has accordingly been built upon the unfreedom of others.
Inequality, in a word, means the rule of limited numbers because it secures freedom only to those whose will is secure of respect. They will dominate the State and use its power for their own purposes. They will make the fulfillment of their private desires the criterion of public good.
Equality, therefore, means first of all the absence of special privilege. I have already discussed the general meaning of that phrase. In the penumbra of equality, it means, in the political sphere, that my will, as a factor in the counting of heads, is equal to the will of any other. It means that I can move forward to any office in the State for which men are prepared to choose me. It means that I am not to find that there are persons in the State whose authority is qualitatively different from my own.
Whatever rights inhere in another by virtue of his being a citizen must inhere, and to the same extent, in me also. There is no justification in such a view for the existence of an hereditary second chamber. For obviously, in the second generation of such an assembly men exercise political authority not in virtue of their own qualities, but by reason of parental accident.
So, also, no office that carries with it power can ever be rightly regarded as an incorporeal hereditament, for that is to associate important functions I with qualities other than fitness for their performance. The exclusion of any man, or body of men, from access to the avenues of authority is always, that is to say, a denial of their freedom.
Equality means, in the second place, that adequate opportunities are laid open to all. By adequate opportunities we cannot imply equal opportunities in a sense that implies identity of original chance. The native endowments of men are by no means equal.
Children who are brought up in an atmosphere where things of the mind are accounted highly are bound to start the race of life with advantages no legislation can secure. Parental character will inevitably affect profoundly the quality of the children whom it touches. So long, therefore, as the family endures-and there seems little reason to anticipate or to desire its disappearance-the varying environments it will create make the notion of equal opportunities a fantastic one.
But that is not to say that the opportunities created may not be adequate. We can at least see first that all men are given such training as seems, in the light of experience, most likely to develop their faculties to the full. We can at least surround those circumstances With the physical media without which the training of the mind can hardly be successful.
We can, where we discover talent, at least make it certain that it does not perish for want of encouragement. These conditions do not exist to-day. Children who come hungry to school cannot, on the average profit by education in like degree to those who are well fed. The student who is trying to do his work in a room which serves for the various tasks of life cannot find that essential isolation without which the habit of thought can rarely be cultivated.
The boy or girl who has to assume that at fourteen they are bound to pass into the industrial world rarely acquires that frame of mind which searches with eagerness for the cultivation of intelligence. In the modern world, broadly speaking, opportunity is a matter of parental circumstance. Boys of a certain social status may assume that they will pass from the secondary school to the university Boys.
Whose parents are,broadly, manual workers will in the vast majority of cases be inevitably destined to manual work also There is no reason to decry either the value or the dignity of manual work, but there is every reason to examine the social adequacy of a system which does not at every point associate the best training available with those whose qualities most fit them to benefit by that training.
We do not want possibly we cannot afford-to prolong the period of education unduly. But no State has established conditions of reasonable , adequacy until the period of education is sufficiently long, first, to ensure that the citizen knows how to use his mind, and second, that those of special capacity are given that further training which prevents the wastage of their talent.
No one can deny that this wastage to-day is enormous. Any student of the results of adult education in Europe will have realized how great is the reservoir of talent we leave unused until it is too late. The sacrifices to day involved when the average manual worker seeks the adequate education of his children are sacrifices we have no right to demand. Often enough, the training of one child is built upon the conviction of others to a life of unremitting toil.
The circumstances which those who live by intellectual work know to be essential to its performance are, as a matter of definition almost, denied to the vast majority of the population. And since citizenship is largely a matter of the use of trained intelligence, it is obvious, accordingly, that its substance is denied to all save a fraction of the community.
Our business, therefore, is to assure such an education to all as will make every vocation, however humble, one that does not debar those who follow it from the life,of intelligence. That certainly means an extension of the period within which the earning of one’s living is impossible. It means also that even after the earning period has commenced there are full opportunities for the devotion of leisure to intellectual ends.
It means, thirdly, that those who devote themselves to the business of teaching represent the best minds at the service of the community. In the modern State the teacher has a responsibility far greater than that which devolves upon any other citizens and unless he teaches from a full mind and a full heart he cannot release the forces which education has in leash.
Nothing in all this denies the probability that mental qualities are inherited and that, other things being equal, the children of able parents will be abler than the children of average parents. But it does deny the equation, characteristic of the modern State, between ability and material position. The average trade-union leader cannot afford to send his sons to the university , but the ability of the average trade-union leader is probably not inferior to that of the average banker or the average bishop.
Where, that is to say, the inequalities of our system are not due to natural causes, there is a clear case for their remedy. Nor can we hope to discover the existence of capacity unless our system provides for its discovery. It may do so to-day in the case of the rich assuredly it does not do so in the case of the poor. And it is urgent to remember that, important as nature may be, it requires an adequate nurture if it is to function satisfactorily.
The present in equality are not referable to principle. We have therefore to define the outlines of such a system as build the inequalities we admit upon the needs of society. At present they most largely arise from the impact of the property system upon the structure of the State. But what is reflected by the property system is less ability to serve the community than ability to gain economic power Without reference to the quality of wants supplied.
The provision of adequate opportunity is, therefore, one of the basic conditions of equality, and it is mainly founded upon the training we offer to citizens. For the power that ultimately counts in society is the power to utilize knowledge and disparities of education result, above all, in disparities in the ability to use that power.
I am not pleading for equality of function. I am pleading only for the obvious truth that without education a man is not so circumstanced that he knows how to make the best of himself and that therefore, for him, the purpose of society is, ab initio, frustrated. Once men are in that situation where they can know themselves, the use “they make of their opportunities becomes subject to principles of which equality is only one.
But if we agree, as I have argued earlier, that a democratic State regards its members as equally entitled to happiness, it, follows that such differences as exist must not be differences inexplicable in terms of reason. Distinctions of wealth or status must be distinctions to which all men can attain and they must be required by the common welfare.
If a State permits the existence of an hereditary aristocracy it must be because it is capable of proof that an hereditary aristocracy multiplies the chances of each man’s realizing his best self. If we are to have an economic system in which the luxury of a few is paralleled by the misery of the many, it must be because the common welfare requires that luxury. In each case the proposition is open to historical disproof.
An here? ditary aristocracy is bound, sooner or later, to use its political power to general disadvantage, unless, like the peerage of France, it has ceased to be anything but a faded memory. A State divided into a small number of rich and a large number of poor will always develop a government manipulated by the rich to protect the amenities represented by their property.
It therefore follows that the inequalities of any social system are justified only as it can be demonstrated that the level of service they procure are obviously higher because of their existence. It is obvious that a general must have larger powers than a private because, thereby, the purpose of an army is more likely to be fulfilled.
It is obvious that a states man in office must be so remunerated that he is not oppressed by narrow material cares , and that might well involve placing him in a higher financial rank than a boot maker or a shop assistant. In each case the measure of difference is conceived in social terms. It is set in a principle which is demonstrably rational. It is fitting the circumstances of function to the environment of which it has need.
Such a view admits, at least as a matter of theory, of fairly Simple statement in institutional terms. The urgent claims of all must be, met before we can meet the particular claims of some. The difference in the social or economic position of men can only be admitted after a minimum basis of civilization is attained by the community as a whole.
That minimum basis must admit of my realizing the implications of personality. Above that level, the advantages of the situation I occupy must be advantages necessary to the performance of social function. The advantages I enjoy must be the result of my own effort, because they are the return to me for my own services, and I am clearly not entitled to enjoy them as the result of someone else’s services.
One man is not entitled to a house of twenty rooms until all people are adequately housed, and one man, even in that environment, is not entitled to a house of twenty rooms because his father was a great advocate or a large industrialist. The things that are due to me are the rights I must enjoy in order to be a citizen, and the differential advantages which society adjudges inherent in the particular occupation I follow. We may, in other words, have Belgravias, if their existence is a necessary condition of social welfare, but we are not entitled to have Belgravias until we have secured the impossibility of Poplar’s existence.
If all this is true, equality is most largely a problem in proportions. There is an aspect in which the things without which life is meaningless must be accessible to all without distinction in degree or kind. All men must eat and drink and obtain shelter. But those needs are, in their turn, proportionate to what they do. My wants are my claims to find a harmony of impulses. I do not want the same harmony if I am a miner as I shall want if I am a surgeon.
But the system which obtains must not satisfy the claims of the surgeon at the expense of the miner’s claims. My urgent needs are not less-urgent than the needs of any other person, and they are entitled to equal satisfaction. Once urgency is satisfied superiority becomes a problem of so fixing the return to service that each man can perform his function with the maximum return to society as a whole.
In this aspect the problem of proportions is largely an economic problem. It is a question of the methods We use to determine the claim of each citizen upon the social dividend, and of the environment which surrounds the application of those methods. There have been famous answers to this problem.
We have been told that response should be made in terms of need, or in terms of contribution, it has been insisted that identity of response is alone adequate of these solutions that Which would reward me by what I do for society is certainly the least satisfactory. For it is impossible in any genuine way to measure service.
We cannot say what Newton or Lister, Shakespeare or Robert Owen were worth to their fellow citizens. We cannot measure the contribution of a banker against the contribution of a bricklayer. Often enough, as in the case of Galileo, for example, we may not be able to see how vast in truth the contribution is. Nor, it may be argued, is the communistic solution adequate.
For, in the first place, there is no total identity of needs between men, nor is their effort so equal as to merit an identical return. The communistic principle is adequate up to the point where , human urgencies are in question, it is not adequate after that point.
And it is adequate only so far as its application wins the result of a deliberate effort on the part of those whose needs are satisfied to do work of civic quality. And since to do work of civic quality involves differentiation of function, it is, I think, clear than when the primary needs of all men are met, the differences they encounter must be differences their function requires, requirement involving always the context of social benefit.
But this, it will be argued, is to assume sufficiency. It implies that there is in fact enough to go round, whereas we know that the productivity of men does not suffice for their wants. What we ought rather to do is to allow the free play of capacity to win response to its need and let those prosper who show the power to triumph in the race.
The answer involved in this attitude is far less simple than it seems. If the State exists for social good, capacity can only mean capacity to add to social good. It is not in the least certain that the exercise of talent in a society like our own does in fact result in social benefit.
Capacity, in short, must run in the leading-strings of principle. It must be excited to the end our institutions have in view. And since that end is the achievement of happiness for each individual, it seems obvious that we must, if the margin be insufficient, suffer equally by its insufficiency.
We can never, therefore, as a matter of principle, justify the existence of differences until the point Is reached when the primary claims of men win a full response I have no right to cake if my neighbor, because of that right, is compelled to go without bread. Any social organization from which this basis is absent by denying equality denies all that gives meaning to the personality of men.
Equality therefore, involves up to the margin of sufficiency identity of response to primary needs and that is what is meant by justice. We are rendering to each his own by giving him what enables him to be a man. We are,of course, therein protecting the weak and limiting the Power of the strong. We so act because the common welfare includes the welfare of the weak as well of the strong grant as we may well grant, that this involves a payment by society to men and women who limp after its vanguard, the quality of the state depends on its regarding their lives as worth preserving.
To act otherwise is to regard them not as persons, but as instruments. It is to deny that their Personality constitutes a claim. It is deliberately to weight Institutions against a section of the community. If they are to harmonies their impulses in the effort after happiness, such bias is inadmissible. For it is utilizing their service not for their own well-being, but for the well-being of others. That is essentially the definition of slavery.
It is no answer to this view to urge that it bases social organization upon a principle hitherto inoperative in history. The decay of previous systems has been most largely based on the fact that it was inoperative. Men have seen institutions pass, or have co-operated to destroy institutions, precisely because they did not see in them the forces which sought response to What made them men.
Nor are we seeking to compel all citizens to win from life an identical response. We seek identity only up to the level where the facts insist upon identity. We argue that some will not starve quietly if others have abundance. We urge that the conference of knowledge upon some while others are excluded from its benefits is, in fact, their exclusion from the purpose of the State.
And no other principle, as a working system, will effect the results the State has in view. For immediately we admit privilege within the area of equal need, it will use every weapon at its disposal to multiply its access to special benefits.
The history of privileges is not a history of voluntary abdication in terms of social welfare, it is rather the history of a careful limitation of the idea of social welfare to those who enjoy the opportunity it offers. It is only, as a consequence, by making identity the basis of our institutions, and differences an answer to the necessities of social functions that we can make our society call into play ,the individuality of men.
I shall inquire later into the principles upon which those differences may be organized. Here it is immediately important to insist on certain conditions upon which alone that basis of identity may be maintained. A first essential is approximate equality of wealth. I do not mean by that the absence of varying rates of payment for effort. I mean only that the rates of payment shall not so differ that merely in virtue of those differences men can exert an unequal pressure upon the fabric of institutions.
That unequal pressure obviously exists to day. There are men in every community whose power is built not upon what they are or do, but upon the possessions they embody. The influence they exercise is not a tribute to themselves but an offering to their wealth. They act by owning. They command the service of others to the performance of functions built upon a private will not necessarily relevant to the social welfare.
They can direct the flow of production into channels notable only for their wastefulness. They can dominate the supply of news, and so influence to their own ends the working of political institutions.They can adjust the economic power of the community to purposes fatal to the welfare of those who have nothing but their labor to sell.
The desire, for instance, of the great iron masters of France to dominate the heavy industries of Europe may well send the next generation to die on the battlefield. Where there are great inequalities of fortune, there is always inequality of treatment. It is only when no man merely by virtue of his possessions can influence the course of affairs that the equal interest of men in the results of the political process can secure validation. The surest way to that end is in the prevention of such disparities of wealth as will make the Owners of fortune able to manipulate unfairly the mechanisms of power.
Broadly, I am urging that great inequalities of wealth Wake impossible the attainment of freedom. It means the dictation of the physical and mental circumstances which Surround the less fortunate. It means the control of the engines of government to their detriment.
The influence of the great corporations upon the legislative system of the United States is only a supreme example of that control. Hardly less deleterious is the way in which it controls the intellectual environment it encounters. It is able to weight the educational system in its interest. It is able, by the ,rewards it offers, to affect the property less brain Worker to its service. Since the judiciary will be largely selected from its paid advocates, legal decisions will largely reflect the lessons of its experience. Even the Churches will preach a gospel which is permeated by their dependence Upon the support of the wealthy.
Political equality, therefore, is never real unless it is accompanied by virtual economic equality, political power, otherwise, is bound to be the handmaid of economic power. The recognition of this dependence is in the main due to the explanation of historic evolution, and it is, indeed, almost as old as the birth of scientific politics.
Aristotle pointed out the equation between democracy and the rule of the poor, between oligarchy and the rule of the rich. The struggle to remedy economic disparity is the key to Roman history it is at the root of English agrarian discontent. It underlies the sermons of John Ball, the Utopia of More, the Oceana of Harrington.
The early history of socialism is most largely the record of a perception that the concentration of property other than labor power in a few hands is fatal to the purpose of the State. It was that perception which Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, made the foundation of the most formidable political philosophy in the modern world.
For though the materialistic interpretation of history is an overemphasis of one link in the chain of causation, it is the link most intimately related to the experience of ordinary men. It is overwhelmingly right in its insistence that either .the State must dominate property, or property will dominate the State.
For, as Madison wrote, I “the only durable source of faction is property.” But it is obvious that to base the differences between men on a contest for economic wealth is to destroy the possibility of a well-ordered commonwealth. It is to excite all the qualities in men-envy, arrogance, hatred, vanity-which prevent the emergence of social unity.
It is to emphasis a competition based on their separation, instead of a competition based upon their mutual interest. As soon as we postulate approximate equality of wealth, our methods of social organization enable us to respond to men’s needs in terms of the substance of those needs.
We are the more bound to this effort immediately we admit the logic of universal suffrage. For to confide to the mass of men the control of ultimate political power is broadly to admit that the agencies of the State must be utilized to respond to their needs. They involve, if they are to be satisfied, such a distribution of influence over authority as will balance fairly the incidence of its results among the members of society.
It means, that is, that I must adjust my scale of wants to social welfare as that is organized in terms of a valuation which equally weights the primary needs of citizens and that valuation remains ineffective if my power is a function not of my personality, but of my property.
But virtual equality in economic power means more than approximate equality of wealth. It means that the authority which exerts that power must be subject to the rules of democratic governance. It means the abrogation of unfettered and irresponsible will in the industrial world.
It involves building decisions on principles which can be explained, and the relation of those principles to the service any given industry is seeking to render. The authority of a medical officer who orders the isolation of an infected house is intelligible he is relating his powers to the preservation of public health.
But the authority of an employer is not intelligible except in terms of self-interested motives. His demands cannot be scrutinized. They are not referable to his capacity for his post. They are not relevant to the well being of his servants. If a worker refuses to adulterate the product made by an employer, he may suffer dismissal.
He may be penalized if he refuses to falsify his accounts, even when the sufferer by that falsification is the public revenue the burden of which he himself partially bears. There is, that is to say, all the difference in the world between an authority which grows naturally out of functions which are set consistently in a public context, and an authority which, equally consistently, is the outcome of private and irresponsible will.
The existence of this latter type is fatal to the civic implications of equality. It poisons industrial relations. It makes the position of master and servant one of waiting upon the threshold of war. Above all ,it is intolerable wherever the function involved is one where continuity of service is essential to the life of the community.
That industries like coal and electric power, transport and banking, the supply of meat and the provision of houses, should be left to the hazards of private enterprise will appear as unthinkable to a future generation as it is unthinkable to our own that the army of the State should be left to private hands.
They must be subject to rules as rigorous as those which govern medicine, simply because they are not less vital to the national life. That does not mean direct operation by government as the inevitable alternative. It means the planning of constitutions for essential industries and the possible types of constitutions are as various in industry as elsewhere.
I shall discuss in a later chapter the forms such constitutions may usefully take. Here it is enough to emphasis the urgency to freedom of making the relationship between men in industry one in which no will affected by decisions is regarded as insignificant. That does not mean that all wills are to be weighed equally all men, obviously, are not equally entitled to give orders. But it does imply that those who exercise authority can, like the minister in Office, or the trade union official, be called to account for the orders they issue.
My freedom is not hampered if I have the sense that I have access to the source of authority. The members of a trade union feel “free” because they are governed by men made by, and responsible to themselves. That cannot be the case where authority, as in modem industry, is unconstitutional in its nature. The inequalities oi status, the power which results from status, are unrelated to the interests of personality.
The worker is involved in a hierarchy in which he has no spiritual recognition. The university teacher, the doctor, the lawyer, are all of them involved in hierarchies but these breed equality because they are established by co-operation. Their members feel that they contribute to the definition of their working lives.We cannot secure professional standards in industry until room is found there also for principles which destroy the, present irresponsible autocracy.