What do equality campaigners want?

Most “equality campaigners” are confused as to what sort of equality they want. They’re unclear as to whether they’re looking for equal consideration of interests, equal opportunity, equal treatment, or factual equality.

By neglecting to reflect on what “equality” means, they tend to talk as if they value the most obvious form of equality, i.e. factual equality. Typically, they call for a reduction of de facto differences between people, as if factual equality were valuable in itself.

But a couple of reasonably well-aimed questions can reveal that they aren’t really attached to that at all. For example: Is it a good thing for children born with a disfiguring cleft palate to receive cosmetic treatment? — Of course it is. Would it be a good thing for people of exceptional beauty to be deliberately disfigured, in order to reduce the inequality of physical attractiveness that causes such widespread distress? — Of course not.

Anyone who sincerely regarded factual equality as something valuable in itself would answer Yes to that second question, since the act it describes would effectively reduce inequality. No one in their right mind would though, because no one in their right mind genuinely values factual equality per se. They’re opposed to privation, and resent people who have been luckier in life than they have been themselves.

I share their opposition to privation, and indeed I share their resentment. But I’m not going to dress the latter up so it looks like a principled attachment to “equality”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *