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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8913/egalitarianism-as-a-revolt-against-nature/

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature

November 7, 2008 by

Economists of this century of the broadest vision and the keenest insight — men such as Ludwig von Mises, Frank H. Knight, and F.A. Hayek — came early to the conclusion that mastery of pure economic theory was not enough, and that it was vital to explore related and fundamental problems of philosophy, political theory, and history. In particular, they realized that it was possible and crucially important to construct a broader systematic theory encompassing human action as a whole, in which economics could take its place as a consistent but subsidiary part.FULL ARTICLE


Gil November 7, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Does not Rothbard’s take on equality uses three standard fallacies:

1. Appeal to Tradition
2. Appeal to Nature
3. False Dichotomy

1. Well societies have all been traditional patriarchies therefore women demanding to secure any serious position in society should be laughed at. Not to mention since matriarchy has never existed therefore patriarchy is the correct form for society. Likewise condemning slavery or advocating Libertarianism is false because all societies have been slave-owning and ‘statist’.

2. Mother Gaia have given women childrearing abilities and men leadership abilities so who are we to intervene? Similarly many people are natural achievers and other are natural dullards therefore concern for inequality is false. Likewise any technology that equalises people in any way (e.g. guns makes weak people strong, spectacles give weak people good sight, etc.) is a revolt against all that is natural.

3. Since people can be anywhere from sickly losers to healthy winners so who is any one to set a position for a minimum obligatory ‘decent life’ which hurts to winners to rewards the losers? Likewise who is any one set a place for any imposition on any one’s behaviour? The two full extremes of human behaviour is totalitarianism versus complete licentious freedom. Even Libertarians calling for impositions against ‘force & fraud’ are interfering with peoples’ freedom. Libertarians can voluntarily defend themselves against those who use ‘force & fraud’ but to call for any restrictions against ‘force & fraud’ is impeding peoples’ freedom by dictate and begins the slippery slope to totalitarianism.

mitcjm November 8, 2008 at 1:42 am


I think that you misrepresent/misunderstand what Rothbard says here. The point of the essay, as I read it, is that a moral theory that holds “equality in its fullest sense” as the highest value is in direct conflict with man’s biological nature. He has no “take” on equality apart from that.

He is not saying that inequality ought to be institutionalized. He is not saying that women do not deserve any “serious positions in society”. He is not saying that subjugation is natural. He is not saying that coercion is natural. He is not saying that the weaker should not be allowed to make himself strong. And I can’t make heads or tails of your ‘false dichotomy’ paragraph.

All he says is that inequality exists in nature and that any moral theory that tries to completely wipe out inequality is a theory that is in conflict with man’s biological nature.

I think that you should read the article again.

Gil November 8, 2008 at 2:19 am

Or maybe to put it another way no can complain about inequality or argue for ‘people should equal’ for anything. Some Libertarians argue for ‘equality before the law’ but that has been debunked by Anatole France. Therefore equality can be view a dirty word from Commie-topia.

newson November 8, 2008 at 5:41 am

“Some Libertarians argue for ‘equality before the law”

wrong. all libertarians demand laws be applied with impartiality. “lady justice” is always blindfolded (statues at least pay service to to this ideal).
but what’s that got to do with egalitarianism?

StatusQuoJoe November 8, 2008 at 10:41 am

From a very average guy’s opinion (since I think that you all need that around here) I think that in terms of equality the framers of our constitution had a pretty good grasp of the essential elements which every man/woman shares.

Being that there are certain “rights” that every man/woman shares and that these rights are inalienable, untransferable by any group or governing body, they are in effect rights given to them by God (or if you are an atheist by a higher moral principle: but how a principle in effect does this is beyond me). Other than these inalieanable rights, God gives abilities, skills, intelligences in varying degrees to individuals whereby they participate and interact with others in their society.

By trying to establish a mean or average of these varying abilities within a populace by the state, the state threatens the inalieanable rights of every man/woman. Seems to be our fate that most intellectuals continually try to circumvent (or perhaps redefine) a document that made a pretty good synopsis of those things which every man/woman shares. But perhaps through this constant attack (struggle) the average person can further appreciate a document that made a very noble attempt at defining those attributes which everyone shares and should be the basis by which laws are created to ensure those attributes for everyone in the governed body.

maera November 8, 2008 at 11:29 am

I think Gil is a redhead because he obviously stopped reading after that section.

Instead of appealing to tradition or nature or setting up some false dichotomy, Rothbard builds nicely to his point after a discussion of biological differences:

“Similarly absurd fantasies are at the root of the Marxian utopia of communism. Freed from the supposed confines of specialization and the division of labor (the heart of any production above the most primitive level and hence of any civilized society), each person in the communist utopia would fully develop all of his powers in every direction.[17] As Engels wrote in his Anti-Dühring, communism would give “each individual the opportunity to develop and exercise all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions.”[18] And Lenin looked forward in 1920 to the “abolition of the division of labor among people … the education, schooling, and training of people with an all-around development and an all-around training, people able to do everything. Communism is marching and must march toward this goal, and will reach it.”[19]”

Marxism imposes an ideal upon us all that hasn’t really been thought out with the rare exception of women like me who have absolutely no interest in working on a construction crew or digging ditches. Yet people accept the premise of egalitarianism wholeheartedly precisely because they are aware that not everyone has the same intelligence or athletic ability or musical/artistic talent and for some reason feel guilty about it.

I propose that further exploration of the topic include diciphering why people are so uncomfortable publically acknowledging what they obviously know to be true. Most of us are aware that while we may be better at certain things than others, there is always someone else who is smarter, faster, better looking, etc. Generally we cope with this reality as individuals even considering it bad form to believe someone surpassed our performance merely because they went to a better school or their parents had more money.

But as a society we treat the reality of diverse aptitudes and abilities as a taboo. You have to wonder why. Have when been conditioned by crafty cultural marxists to feel guilty for being good at something? Or do we feel so much pity for those who aren’t as smart or attractive that we’d prefer to sacrifice efficiency and functionality for the sake of feelings? Or is there a more Freudian type mechanism underlying PC? For instance, are the dictates of the superego forcing us to repress the natural urge of our ego to gloat over our successes?

Scott Jefferies November 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I think you, Gil, might be confused about the difference between the natures of inequality and natural rights. What Rothbard does not explicitly mention is that humans are, in a very fundamental sense, equal with respect to rights. We are all humans and thus are all indiscriminately endowed with rights. In the libertarian sense, crimes are any infringements on these rights, so justice and the law must be blind to discrimination.

Rothbard defines inequality as the result of the natural distribution of ability. This means any attempt aimed at correcting this fundamental distribution is going against nature. Differences in income and occupation of societal and business roles must be a direct consequence of this distribution of ability. It is important to note, however, that just because certain people tend to fit into particular positions of power, it in no way entitles these people to use this power to either violate anyone’s rights or to favor(hire, promote, etc.) others on the basis of anything except ability.

I would like to point out that while genetics plays a key part in the distribution of ability, genetics are so diverse that certain abilities are not necessarily more prevalent across certain ethnic groups. For instance, while African-Americans maybe underrepresented in certain industries, colleges, and loan acceptances; this may say more about the environment that African-Americans were more likely to grow up in(inner-cities with awful public school systems) than any systematic discrimination against them.

Also, as far as inequality of woman in the workplace goes, there is a key biological difference between the sexes: men cannot get pregnant-except in very bad movies.

Gil November 8, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Nope, I stick by my three points, 1. Rothbard & friends don’t mind the “it’s right because it’s old” when it’s some tradition they like, 2. likes Mother Nature when she works in his favour, and 3. Show some concern for inequality, uh-oh, Commie Alert! Commie Alert! . . .

mitcjm November 8, 2008 at 11:09 pm


You completely misunderstand the argument. Your points are therefore irrelevant.

But thanks for stopping by. Come back when you want to engage in actual discussion.

Bruce Graeme November 9, 2008 at 2:59 am

Scott Jefferies says: “What Rothbard does not explicitly mention is that humans are, in a very fundamental sense, equal with respect to rights.”

Maybe Thomas Jefferson can help. When he stated in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness(which in Lockian-Jeffersonian terms meant the right to accumulate privately owned property), and that this is a self-evident truth, he was writing in the great tradition of ‘natural law’. Jefferson, in the tradition of natural law, believed that all men were equal in their possession of natural rights, not equal in the biological sense.

Government-created rights which are the product of legislated, artificial law and positive action are the opposite of the natural law concept. They attempt to ‘make’ everyone equal and to ‘create’ equality by government force and positive action, even when such equality does not exist in nature. It is totally artificial, and dependent on the continued use of government force for its continued existence. In simplest terms ‘natural rights’ protect freedom. Artificial, legislated, government-created rights are used to rule over man and deprive him of his freedom.

“Rothbard defines inequality as the result of the natural distribution of ability. This means any attempt aimed at correcting this fundamental distribution is going against nature.”

Indeed, there is no evidence that men are created equal by nature. If there were such evidence it would make the theory of biological evolution untenable, for the mechanism of natural selection presupposes an inborn genetic inequality (variation) among members of the species, without which it could not function, and without which evolution towards the various physical and psychic traits which are now characteristic of man could never have occurred.

Southwood November 9, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I enjoyed the article, and even thought it was “very good” – i.e. i agreed with most of what he said.

I don’t think he appealed to any of the fallacies brought up by Gil, but i do think he certainly belittled the women’s movement unnecessarily. I think the point of gender equality is not equality per se, but more a sense of equal (i.e. total) freedom for both sexes. I think Rothbard would want freedom for women, and i think there is a wealth of evidence suggesting that women are equally equipped to do many jobs, and not as biologically superior in the raising of children as he suggested. Moreover, i think that there are many people who keep their wives in a state of life that approaches slavery – just as slaves were not necessarily better at doing the tasks they were required to do, women are not always better than men at housekeeping and i have seen no evidence that men are any better in most modern jobs than women.

Pablo November 9, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Although we all agree that the search for pure equality is dreadful, and denies human liberty. I cannot but agree with Gil. This article starts off great but looses its way in the gender debate. Besides you all sound apologetic, please try to grant that Rothbard used a poor example or reframe his argument with your own words.

mitcjm November 9, 2008 at 10:20 pm


Why don’t you offer your own argument contra Rothbard? Why should we have to reframe his argument before you offer a cogent criticism of it?

Jarno November 10, 2008 at 5:18 am

Rothbard wrote:
”Of course, one neglected reply is that if, indeed, men have succeeded in dominating every culture, then this in itself is a demonstration of male “superiority”; for if all genders are equal, how is it that male domination emerged in every case?

I would argue that in the history cited above women have not been given the “equal rights” being cited in the comments above. Women have had the right to vote for arounf hundred years only. The opportunity for higher education has not existed for women too long either.

Rothbard continues:
”In his brilliant refutation of the women’s liberationist Kate Millett, Irving Howe outlines several important biological differences between the sexes, differences important enough to have lasting social effects. They are

“the psychological consequences of different sexual postures and possibilities,” in particular the “fundamental distinction between the active and passive sexual roles” as biologically determined in men and women respectively.[8]

I believe the above to be a male-Rothbard fallacy. He would not have cited this if his wife was as “active” as mine :-)

Rothbard continues:
”Howe goes on to cite the admission by Dr. Eleanor Maccoby in her study of female intelligence that

it is quite possible that there are genetic factors that differentiate the two sexes and bear upon their intellectual performance…. For example, there is good reason to believe that boys are innately more aggressive than girls — and I mean aggressive in the broader sense, not just as it implies fighting, but as it implies dominance and initiative as well — and if this quality is one which underlies the later growth of analytic thinking, then boys have an advantage which girls … will find difficult to overcome.

In Finland, where I live, every child has an equal opportunity for higher education as the tuition is on the government. This policy has lead to the situation where women represent the majority of the graduates, and on the contrast we must worry about young males being left on the sidelines of the society, becoming a threat to the society (school shootings etc.).

The share of the women on the parlament elects as also increased steadily, in the most recent election (2007) the women got 42% of the seats.

Rothbard continues:
”Dr. Maccoby adds that “if you try to divide child training among males and females, we might find out that females need to do it and males don’t.”[9]

This I fail to get. Males do not need to do child training? What does that mean?

maera November 10, 2008 at 9:17 am

I generally ignore the more obtuse comments about women’s abilities. Many writers and pundits from before the PC revolution had views that would get them banned from the classroom nowadays. And most of us have a father or grandfather who either wouldn’t be allowed in today’s workforce or else would spend a good portion of each year in sensitivity training. That doesn’t mean what Rothbard, et al, have to say isn’t important enough to overlook many aspects of their worldview.

I absorb the lessons without reacting to theories that might relegate me to the kitchen or the elementary school classroom. Don’t you think it’s more manly of me to take what I what from Rothbard & leave him gathering dust on a shelf when I’m through with him?

That being said, some of these tangents could prevent the Austrian school from gaining wider acceptance. I hope you continue the practice of publishing contemporary authors who can expound upon Austrian economics while effortlessly negotiating the PC minefield.

Pablo November 10, 2008 at 10:11 am


Because I am not making a sexist claim! Besides, I agree with the egalitarian statement of his piece, but disagree on his examples. Using the gender example is as irrational as saying that whites through history are superior and thats why they rule the world, arian claim to fame. There are many factors involved, for example, the kind of animals you have available to domesticate or the landscape for agricultural production, etc., I would encourage you to read Jared Diamonds Guns, Germs and Steel. Finally, I respect Rothbards work!

mitcjm November 10, 2008 at 2:43 pm


So, because your claim isn’t sexist the onus is on us to reframe the argument before you offer a cogent criticism of it? Huh?

In your first post you claimed to agree with Gil. That is a different claim than in your subsequent post regarding the women example (which would encompass only Gil’s first claim). Do you agree with all of Gil’s points or just the first one? Anyway, I’ll give you my take on that point.

I read Rothbard’s claims re women as merely saying that the traditional division of labour between men and women cannot be entirely explained by culture. This reading is informed by the thesis of the essay.

I do agree that some of his supporting evidence and word choice is questionable and could be read as sanctioning continued subjugation. However, I don’t believe that Rothbard is sanctioning subjugation or coercion. He is merely saying that there ARE biological differences between men and women and to deny these or to attempt to eliminate them via coercion is objectionable.

So, in essence, I agree that some examples are poorly chosen and argued. However, if you agree with all of Gil’s point you should make an argument first and THEN someone will respond.

Pablo November 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Just like the one you just made! I agree with Gil that it was a poor choice of an example and I agree with you that ¨raditional division of labour between men and women cannot be entirely explained by culture¨ and so there isnt a need to equate people through government decree. Thats it, I am not looking to be right about it. And yes youre right, I should have argued my point. I apologize for not being clear about it.

Gaurav Ahuja November 10, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Professor Diamond was torn apart here http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/stalkers/ml_ggs.html
and here http://www.isteve.com/diamond.htm

Gender egalitarianism is refuted here for those of you who seem to think it genetic differences between men and women don’t matter much http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Differences-Seriously-Steven-Rhoads/dp/1893554937

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