There are many factors that went towards creating the charming, modest and somewhat opinionated person that I am today. Growing up and observing the fallout of the National Energy Program gave me a healthy dose of regionalism and watching Thatcher and Reagan work to try and save us from the consequences of policy based on the drug-addled attitudes of the sixties certainly helped shape my opinions on the political world.
There was one outright turning point in my thought and growth that stands out though. While in junior high we were required to read the short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. The story is a futuristic portrayal of what may happen should we continue the pursuit of equality where it simply does not exist. It excellently displayed the futility of such pursuits and the damage to free society that will result. It began my course down political philosophy which is still of course evolving.
Kurt Vonnegut was not a right winger by any stretch of the imagination. He was an admirer of early socialist labor leaders and was always critical of Republican governments . Vonnegut did recognize one of the critical flaws in socialism though and wrote on it.
In the pursuit of equality, one finds that they can’t pull the non-productive up to the level of the productive thus socialists tend to turn to pulling down the productive to the lowest common denominator instead. This is referred to as “Crab mentality” and it is one of the most destructive trends we have.
The politics of envy run strong particularly when times are tough. We saw that in the vapid yelping of the “occupy” movement as they tried to separate and demonize a mythical 1% who they felt controlled the world. We see this as teacher’s unions fight every manner of testing of children and fight all forms of competition in schools. The every child gets a ribbon sentiment is nice but it damages children terribly when they encounter the real world and find out that we can’t always win.
Raj Sherman released his desperate provincial Liberal platform recently. In sprinting for low hanging fruit he has taken up the usual shallow stance of taxing the perceived rich. Despite numbers showing that people of higher income are already paying the vast majority of taxes in Canada, the lazy and envious want to drag these hard workers down even further.
The real outcome is secondary to the perception of equality.
Some years ago I was debating with a fellow on an internet forum about European health provision models. The discussion came to a point where it was proven that in some models by allowing people to pay out of pocket to jump the queue; the entire lineup gets shortened for all in the universal system. This fellow still was opposed to the possibility of utilizing these provision models. I doggedly kept on him and asked if he preferred that everybody waited and suffered longer as long as the suffering was equal. He floored me in his honestly when he said yes. This man’s envy could not let him abide by somebody getting faster treatment even if it meant faster treatment for everybody in the end. His attitude is shared by way too many people though many may not realize it or be as honest as this guy was about it.
The twisted ideals of equality and fairness when taken to extremes are incredibly destructive. The simplistic can be easily called out and led when a seductive case for dragging down the successful is made for the sake of political expediency.
It is a short story yet makes the point excellently. Again, I strongly suggest that folks take a moment to read Harrison Bergeron and more importantly think about the point it makes.