Americans are so enamoured of equality, that they would rather be equal in slavery, than unequal in freedom — Alexis De Tocqueville
I recently shared the above quote on Twitter the other day, and got a curious response from a follower on there, in which they asked how is it freedom if some people are inherently unequal to others? I replied by stating I didn’t know that equality and freedom were supposed to be the same thing. They, in turn, replied by saying that isn’t what they were implying. When I asked what exactly the question they were asking was trying to accomplish, I ended up getting crickets.
Regardless, de Tocqueville’s quote and the question from my friend raises an important issue in the argument between big government, social justice advocates and smaller government, free market advocates. Those who push for equal outcomes among people seem to ignore one simple fact about humans as a whole: we are unequal in almost all things when viewed on an individual to individual basis.
To illustrate this point, we’ll look at the two basketball players pictured above, LeBron James and Jason Collins. To begin with, don’t forget that all players in any professional sport are the top one percent of the top one percent. In the NBA’s case, there are approximately 450 players distributed among the 30 teams in the league. Again, keeping in mind that active NBA players likely represent the absolute best players in the world, the occurrence of inequality among humans is easy to see.
Collins, who most recently got publicity for announcing he’s gay, is, at best, a journeyman NBA player. In his 10+ year career in the league, Collins has averaged 1.1 points per game, and about six rebounds per game. LeBron, in his 10-year career, has averaged nearly a triple-double over the course of his time in the league, with 25.1 points per game, and approximately 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game.
So, in the highest concentration of basetball talent in the world, you have two players who’s stats can’t be further apart. Accordingly, their salaries reflect the inequality in the amount of talent the two players have. For instance, Collins averages about 1 million a season, while LeBron’s earnings for the 2012-13 season were approximately 19 million. And, in this situation, to proclaim that Collins is deserving of Lebron’s salary is patently ridiculous.
And yet, that’s the argument that we hear all the time today from the left. Income inequality is through the roof, and the only just solution would be to try and provide for equalized outcomes for everyone. Pulling from our example above and applying it to a more everyday scenario, the left essentially suggests that a cashier in a Wal-Mart is deserving of a wage commensurate with that of a highly skilled worker or middle management.
Within the larger context of our society, equality and freedom are there, despite the inherent inequality among us. Because, you see, both Collins and LeBron had equality of opportunity to choose what to do with their lives. In turn, because of the equality of opportunity, one can also argue that their freedom is unrestricted as well.
Well, that’s it for today. The pain meds are making my brain foggy, and I’m surprised I was even able to spit out 600 words or so. Til next my time, my friends.