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Egalitarianism

Egalitarianism is a political doctrine that holds that all people should be treated as equals from birth, usually meaning held equal under the law and in society at large. It is a belief in human equality, especially with respect to social, political and economic rights and privileges, and advocates the removal of inequalities among people and of discrimination (on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc). Political philosophies such as Socialism, Marxism, Communism and Anarchism all support the principles of Egalitarianism to some degree. Some argue that modern representative democracy is a realization of political Egalitarianism, while others believe that, in reality, most political power still resides in the hands of a ruling class, rather than equally in the hands of the people. For example, the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 includes a kind of moral and legal Egalitarianism in its assertion that "all men are created equal" (and therefore that each person is to be treated equally under the law), but it was not until much later that U.S. society extended these benefits to slaves, women and other groups. The motto of the French Revolution of 1789, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity", was only really institutionalized during the Third Republic at the end of the 19th Century. The term is derived from the French word "Egal", meaning "equal" or "level", and was first used in English in the 1880s, although the equivalent term "equalitarian" dates from the late 18th Century.

Types of Egalitarianism

Economic Egalitarianism (or Material Egalitarianism) is where the participants of a society are of equal standing and have equal access to all the economic resources in terms of economic power, wealth and contribution. It is a founding principle of various forms of Socialism.

Moral Egalitarianism is the position that equality is central to justice, that all individuals are entitled to equal respect, and that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status.

Legal Egalitarianism the principle under which each individual is subject to the same laws, with no individual or group or class having special legal privileges, and where the testimony of all persons is counted with the same weight.

Political Egalitarianism is where the members of a society are of equal standing in terms of political power or influence. It is a founding principle of most forms of democracy.

Luck Egalitarianism is a view about distributive justice (what is just or right with respect to the allocation of goods in a society) espoused by a variety of left-wing political philosophers, which seeks to distinguish between outcomes that are the result of brute luck (e.g. misfortunes in genetic makeup, or being struck by a bolt of lightning) and those that are the consequence of conscious options (e.g. career choices, or fair gambles). Gender Egalitarianism (or Zygarchy) is a form of society in which power is equally shared between men and women, or a family structure where power is shared equally by both parents.

Racial Egalitarianism (or Racial Equality) is the absence of racial segregation (the separation of different racial groups in daily life, whether mandated by law or through social norms).

Opportunity Egalitarianism (or Asset-based Egalitarianism) is the idea that equality is possible by a redistribution of resources, usually in the form of a capital grant provided at the age of majority, an idea which has been around since Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809).

Christian Egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ, and specifically teaches gender equality in Christian church leadership and in marriage.

Differing Viewpoints on Egalitarianism


An essay by Gary Hull (Ayn Rand Institute) in Capitalism magazine criticizes:
egalitarianism, which claims only to want an 'equality' in end results, hates the exceptional man who, through his own mental effort, achieves that which others cannot... In an attempt to dumb down all students to the lowest common denominator, today's educators no longer promote excellence and students of superior ability... Imagine the following Academy Award ceremony. There are no awards for best picture or best actor. Instead, every picture gets a certificate and every actor receives a prize. That is not an awards ceremony, you say? So it isn't. But it is an egalitarian's dream -- and an achiever's torment. Talent and ability create inequality... To rectify this supposed injustice, we are told to sacrifice the able to the unable. Egalitarianism demands the punishment and envy of anyone who is better than someone else at anything. We must tear down the competent and the strong -- raze them to the level of the incompetent and the weak... What would happen to a Thomas Edison today? If he survived school with his mind intact, he would be shackled by government regulators. His wealth would be confiscated by the IRS. He would be accused of 'unfair competition' for inventing so many more products than his competitors.

On the other hand, Alexander Berkman suggests:


...equality does not mean an equal amount but equal opportunity... Do not make the mistake of identifying equality in liberty with the forced equality of the convict camp. True anarchist equality implies freedom, not quantity. It does not mean that everyone must eat, drink, or wear the same things, do the same work, or live in the same manner. Far from it: the very reverse in fact... Individual needs and tastes differ, as appetites differ. It is equal opportunity to satisfy them that constitutes true equality... Far from leveling, such equality opens the door for the greatest possible variety of activity and development. For human character is diverse.