The Issue with Equality

The inspiration for this post came from “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut’s short story about a dystopian future where everyone is equal. I also watched the short film “2081”, which is based off the story and follows it pretty closely. There are still differences with the handicaps and Harrison, though.

Here’s a link to the story: http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

And the trailer: 

I am better than you at some things; I am worse at others.  This is how society works. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s how it should be.  Would you really want everyone to be the same as you?  Would you really want someone better than you to have the same weaknesses as you? And if you were better than them, would you really want to be at their level?  It might be tempting to say yes, especially if you are jealous of other people being more skilled at certain things; however, if you were to think about it on a macro scale, society would be screwed.

Do you really want your doctor to be just as smart as the guy who bags your groceries?  And what about entertainment value? I’d much rather listen to someone with an attractive voice rather than someone who stutters over each word.  Let’s assume no one is prettier, smarter, stronger, faster, more creative, etc.  Then everyone should have a handicap. This handicap would more or less cripple society. And I do mean cripple, since some people can’t walk. No one should be able to. This logic can be applied to any of the things that are being handicapped. What about the intelligence factor? If everyone is equal, then the handicap should be applied to anyone who is not mentally challenged.

I can the intelligence thing a step further. There should not be any schools since education would be pointless to the society.  The ballerinas should never practice.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

Let’s assume that some people don’t have handicaps because they are in charge.  It defeats the whole purpose of handicapping. To quote one of the seven commandments laid out by the pigs in Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  This leads to trouble. Society is screwed.  Fun.

 

Going back to my original point, society works because people have strengths and weaknesses.  In economics, international trade works because of the same thing. There are two terms that can be applied to this topic: absolute advantage and comparative advantage.  Let’s say, for example, I can produce 10 books or 5 video games in a day and someone else can produce 6 books or 4 video games in a day. I have the absolute advantage, because I quite clearly am better at making both. However, the other person has the comparative advantage in video games because to make 1 video game, he only has to give up making 1.5 books where as I would have to give up making 2 books in the same time frame.  If we were to trade, we would both be better off because he would focus more on making the video games, which he is relatively better at, and I would focus more on making books. At the end of the day if we trade, we would both have more of both.   If I was to be handicapped and make the same things at the same rate the other person does, then I’d be wasting my skills and the people I might sell my video games or books to would also lose out.  It’s more ideal that I’m better.

Everyone is good at something. Or at the very least, not the worst at something. And everyone has their weaknesses. Doctors are hopefully good at surgeries. Filmmakers are better at making films. Economists are better at doing it with models.  Society functions because everyone is not the same.  Equality is good to a point. Once it crosses that point, it’s not longer that great. There can’t be perfect equality, as hard as some may try on the educational front with making sure everyone is literate and educated. Some excel, but there will be people who fall behind.

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