by Ted Honderich 

This is a survey, in six sections, of almost all the main ideas of equality. It takes into account fierce critics of them, almost all of these critics being from the political tradition of Conservatism. This survey was not written yesterday, but it is not about history. The tradition of Conservatism did not wither away with the departures of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan. Its main continuation, however, is its contribution to the politics of centrist or supposedly centrist parties, some of them calling themselves New Labour, some Social Democrats, and others Republicans and Democrats. The survey is in fact a chapter of my book Conservatism , and contains a reference or two to what preceded it in that book. In a world of perfect websites, the survey would be more revised. It might also take account of the fact that the principle it leads in the direction of, The Principle of Equality, turns up later as the Principle of Humanity in my 2002 book After the Terror.


John Adams reported in one of his letters in 1814 that he  had seen fifty infants in one room of the Hospital of Foundlings  in Paris and that they were all different. He went on to declare  that what other Americans had to say about equality was as gross  a fraud as ever was practiced by such un-American persons as  monks, Druids, Brahmins, priests of the immortal Lama, and, worse  than all of them, the self-styled philosophers of the French  Revolution. To Burke, what was put about by those philosophers  on the subject of equality, and by their English sympathizers,  was no better. It was "that monstrous fiction, which, by  inspiring false ideas and vain expectations into men destined to  travel in the obscure walk of laborious life, serves only to  aggravate and embitter that real inequality, which it never can  remove...."   

Burke had been inoculated against the monstrous fiction of  our common equality, of course, by his formative experience of  encountering the true and wonderful superiority of some of us, in  the person of Marie Antoinette before she came to the throne of  France, and before the Revolution overturned it.   

"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the  queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles;  and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly  seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her  just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in -- glittering  like the morning-star, full of life, and splendour, and  joy. Oh! What a revolution! and what an heart must I  have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and  that fall!"   

There has not been much change nor much lull in Conservative  denunciations of egalitarianism in a wide sense, or, what comes  to the same thing, the politics of the Left. Egalitarianism in  this sense consists in a number of political traditions opposed  to Conservatism and having to do with equality, notably  democratic socialism and what in the United States was called  liberalism before the name was claimed by the New Right.   

Peregrine Worsthorne in one of his pieces lets us know, in  the words of its heading, "How Egalitarianism Breeds Robbery and  Yobbery", the latter being a form of loutishness peculiar to the  British Isles in the time of Thatcher governments. David Cooper  begins his book by recalling that just as Tom Wolfe, on whom we  are to depend for a judgement of abstract painting, was given the  revelation at a particular moment that there is nothing to it, so  he himself, while ploughing through yet another egalitarian  tract, experienced a similar moment of perception about doctrines  of equality. There is nothing in them. They lack, among other  things, any real unity.  

William Letwin, bringing the resources of the Dismal Science  to bear on his endeavour, finds that egalitarians of all shades  are pursuing a fetish and will-o'-the-wisp, are deluded by loose  thinking and utopian fantasies, and that their convictions suffer from internal contradictions and rest on no coherent intellectual  foundation. There is no determinate ideal of equality.Keith  Joseph and his collaborator Jonathan Sumption, discover in their  contribution to restrained political philosophy that  egalitarianism consists in muddled thinking, logical incoherence,  semantic chicanery, screens of verbiage, emotional arguments,  confusions that a few moments of honest reflection can save us  from, and misconceptions of facts. The last-mentioned  misconceptions prevent egalitarians from seeing, for example,  that the entrepreneurial manufacturer of electric cocktail  shakers may have spent many penniless years seeking a market for  his goods before being rewarded by prosperity.  

To revert, as Burke would have us, to our betters, there is  also His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, whose book of  speeches Mr. Worsthorne had in mind when he wrote in another  column that the idea of equality had become so broadly comical a  notion as now to be open even to royal jocularity, jocularity by  a royal house which takes care not to offend. In his "Men,  Machines and Sacred Cows", in between thoughts on fuel technology  and on being a vice-chancellor in Wales, and not far from the  truth that horses are horses, the Duke provides a reflection on  helicopters. Are they socially unjust because only a few people  own one? Since there is not an equality of helicopters, are they  all to be put down? His Royal Highness evidently feels he has not  come to the end of his flying time.   

This tutorial refrain on the part of Conservatives will come  as no surprise, given what we have learned already of their  politics: its opposition to social and civil freedoms, its commitment to private property and to incentives, its coolness  about democracy and resistance to more of it, its condescension  to the swinish multitude and awareness of a natural aristocracy,  its inclination to racism and the like. (Those facts about  Conservatism far outweigh what we also noticed, that it has  sometimes prided itself on a fact of legal equality having to do  with property-freedom.) Still, the general refrain against  equality is distinct from all of that. To see what use it is to  us in characterizing Conservatism, and what justice there is in  it, we need to do one thing at a time. We need to look at each of  a rather large number of propositions about equality, or families  of propositions. Most of them are assigned by Conservatives to  their various opponents within the Left. They themselves take  different views of them.   

Section 1: Natural Equality, Spiritual Equality, Equal Respect, Equal Political Rights, Formal Equality, Equality Before the Law, Equality of Opportunity, Fair Equality of Opportunity, Real Equality of Opportunity, Equality of Treatment, Equal Pay   

The first has to do with what can be called natural  equality, and is much belaboured by Conservatives. It, unlike  most of the other propositions in question, is a factual  proposition, something true or false in the plain sense, and  hence not recommendatory or evaluative.   

What John Adams declared to be so false was "that all men  are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in  society, to equal property and advantages through life". His  countryman, James Fenimore Cooper, carried forward the same cause  of enlightenment some years later. `Men are not born equals,  physically, since one has a good constitution, another a bad; one  is handsome, another ugly; one white, another black.'   

Anthony Flew reminds us, similarly, that Abraham Lincoln was  right in his comment on the Declaration of Independence.`The authors of that notable instrument,' said Lincoln, `did not  intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not  mean to say that all men were equal in colour, size, intellect,  moral development, or social capacity.' Anthony Flew also feels  called upon to remind us that Thomas Jefferson had the suspicion  that the blacks are inferior to the whites in the endowments both  of body and mind. Indeed he voiced other opinions about them,  which our author in his delicacy is reluctant to repeat, but to  which he can bring himself to allude. William Letwin seeks to  instruct us by denying that we are all genetically equal, and by  letting us know that genetic differences give rise to this or  that eye colour, more acute hearing, and such oddities as  vestigial fingers.Keith Joseph points out that in fact we have  different wants, and that `it should not be necessary to devote  much space to making the point that mankind is not, in fact, as  homogenous as the egalitarian must perforce assume.'  

It is plain indeed that it is not just one proposition of  natural equality that Conservatives assign to the Left but many,  an awful bundle. One that is implied, and may have had some small  effect on innocent readers, would require for its truth that we  have been living a dream. It is that each of really is the same,  down to the colour of our identical non-vestigial fingers.  Another is that we are equal in fundamental respects, perhaps  what can be called powers and faculties. A third is that we havesame wants, not generally speaking but nearly at the level of  wants as specific as those for electric cocktail shakers. A  fourth is to the effect that there are no significant racial  differences between us.    

Four questions arise about this collection. The first is  whether the propositions are true. The answer, at any rate if we  take a little care in their formulation, particularly the last,  is that they are false. The second question is whether they are  in fact asserted by the opponents of Conservatives. The short  answer is that they are not. A longer answer would take into  account another of Anthony Flew's useful reminders, that the U.S.  Department of Labour said in 1965 that blacks are potentially as  intelligent as whites. Jefferson, we are to understand, knew  better. The third question, more interesting, is whether other  propositions about equality, recommendatory ones, do in fact  depend on or presuppose any of the various absurdities. Are  egalitarians in fact committed to some of this nonsense? We shall  keep that question in mind in what follows. The fourth question,  in fact separable from the third, is why Conservatives have been  so persistent in assigning propositions of natural equality to  their opponents. We shall come to an answer to that.    

A second sort of proposition about equality has to do with  what can be called, for want of a better name, spiritual  equality. Here again we have a factual claim, something true or  false in the ordinary sense -- or anyway an approximation to such  a thing. In one form, perhaps the oldest, it is to the effect  that we are equal in the sight of God. In Russell Kirk's brief  summation, we will be equal when we turn up for the Last  Judgement. Is it this fact, perhaps, that is implied in the  Declaration of Independence when it is asserted that we are all  `created equal'? In another form, owed to the philosophy of  Immanuel Kant, the proposition is to the effect that each of us is an end-in-itself, something that has value for itself and not  as a means to anything else. In yet another form the proposition  is plainer, and to the effect that each of us is alike in having  autonomy, which is to say a unique capability of deciding things  for ourselves, including right and wrong. This is not far from  the assertion of Free Will.   

Conservatives assign such a conviction to their opponents,  but are quick to point out that it does not distinguish them.  Conservatives themselves, they declare, do not disdain the  conviction, but share it. Burke, by the way, avows something  related, which is `the true moral equality' of mankind,  consisting in the fact that we can all be happy in following  virtue in whatever condition of life we find ourselves, however  disagreeable. Conservatives are not much less quick to point  out, and with good reason, that what follows from such a  conviction is not too troublesome to them.   

One thing that follows from it, and indeed is not wholly  distinguishable from it, is the recommendation of equal respect:  each of us is to be accorded an equal respect. In Kant's version, which is fundamental to his moral philosophy, and has the name of  the Categorical Imperative, it is this: `Act in such a way that  you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or the  person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the  same time as an end'. Not a great deal of sense has ever been  made of that except perhaps by transforming it into something  mundane, perhaps that no one's interests should be left out of  consideration in deciding on a course of action. No one should be  forgotten about, whether or not one concludes that anything should actually be done to their benefit.   

It may be supposed, differently, that what follows from our  spiritual equality is a principle of equal political rights. That  is, each of us ought to have certain political rights. These may  be summed up as the right to have a government to which one  consents, the right to minimally democratic government. Perhaps  Captain Rainborough asserted no more than this in the Putney  Debates after the English Civil War.  

"Really I think that the poorest he that is in England  hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore  truly, Sir, I think it is clear, that every man that is  to live under a government ought first by his own  consent to put himself under that government; and I do  believe that the poorest man in England is not at all  bound to that government that he hath not had a voice  to put himself under."  

If Conservatives do not have the splendid Captain  Rainborough among their favourite people, they are, as remarked,  willing at least to tolerate the recommendation of equal  political rights as conceived and also the recommendation of  equal respect -- at any rate equal respect when also minimally  conceived. More to the point, they can insist with some reason  that in Britain, America and like places, we have at least for  the most part acted on these recommendations. Here, they say, is  no cause for dispute. Egalitarianism is in this respect morally  truistic. They add, further, that in none of this is there a principle which could justify anything in sight of the  depradations of the socialist state. Here there is no fundamental  principle of equality, with such a thing taken to be a principle  which would sanction robbing the rich to give to the poor.    

Various questions arise, including the question of to what  extent egalitarians of the several kinds do depend on spiritual  equality and whether they assert, about respect and democracy,  only what is said to follow from it. But let us press on, and  look to a proposition which is in one respect similar. It is the  principle of formal equality. It is owed to Aristotle, and is  that we are to treat like cases alike, and different cases  differently. Or, as comes to much the same thing, we are to treat  cases differently only if we are able to cite a relevant  difference between them. The principle might, at first sight,  seem to be something useful to various adversaries of  Conservatism. This is so since it might be thought to have the  upshot, say, that equally hungry people are to have equal amounts  of food, and unequally hungry people to have unequal amounts.   

As Conservatives have been fond of pointing out, however,  the principle by itself has no such unique outcome. We can  abide by it as readily by treating alike those who are hungry to  whatever extent and can pay for food, and treating differently  those who are hungry and cannot pay. Indeed, South Africans can  abide by it by treating blacks one way, the way they do, and  whites in another way, the way they do. All depends on how cases  or people are compared, or what is taken to be relevant in  considering them. The principle says nothing at all about that.  As has often been remarked, the principle reduces to no more than an injunction to be consistent, to follow some rule or other,  however dismal. Here there is no foundation for any politics in  particular. Nor, by the way, has anything different been supposed  by any egalitarian who has come to my notice. Conservatives are  inclined to pay a little attention to R. H. Tawney's book  Equality, indeed to accord it a kind of respect. So far as I can  recall, Formal Equality does not get into it. Aristotle appears  only with respect to his well-known views on the fittingness of  the institution of slavery.   

Is there hope for the Left in equality before the law? This  is not a matter of the Last Judgement but, so to speak, the lower  courts. If any egalitarian thought so, he is disabused of the  idea by a line of Conservatives from Burke onwards. He is rightly  disabused unless he or she is under the misapprehension that the  equality in question consists in an equal freedom to use and be  defended by the law, a freedom in the sense settled earlier. Equality before the law, as Conservatives and indeed the  usual run of lawyers have it, consists only in every citizen  being subject to law, none having special privileges or  disabilities in terms of what the law says, all being able to  have a fair trial -- where none of that involves a reassurance  for someone who cannot raise the legal fees or, say, has been  engaged in a miners' strike which a government has enthused its  judges to punish.   

It is the Conservatives, rather, who can be most  enthusiastic about their support of equality before the law, as  traditionally understood, and fit it effectively into their  politics. You may wonder, of course, if equality before the law might be construed differently, so as to be something that might  enter uniquely into a politics different from Conservatism.  Indeed it might -- as equal respect might -- but let us leave  that aside for a time. Our present concern is the outlook of  Conservatives with respect to equality, and it behoves us for a  while to stick to their terms.    

What of equality of opportunity? What is said here, first,  is that there is a plain kind of it that is defensible. This kind  of equality of opportunity arose out of the French Revolution,  and is the only mitigation of that disaster. What is in question  was conveyed by the demand for `la carriere ouverte aux talents',  which is to say open competition for certain careers, with the  results of the competition being determined not by rank, money or  family connections but by talent or ability shown in a common  entrance examination. This, say Conservatives, with whatever  degree of good faith is consistent with their traditional  commitment to an old boy network, and a true natural aristocracy,  is all right by us. This is not something owned by our opponents.  In this instance too egalitarianism as something both sane and  distinctive evaporates.    

However, say Conservatives, our opponents now go further,  for two reasons. First, they have discovered a flat contradiction  in their doctrines. Plain equality of opportunity does not  contribute to a larger and vaguer thing they also want, so far  unmentioned. It does not contribute to what can be called an  equal society, but to its opposite. For a start, it contributes  to greatly unequal material rewards, attached to the higher  careers. As Keith Joseph reminds us, all Englishmen in the early years of this century had an equal opportunity of founding Morris  Motors, but only one of them did, and he became very rich.   

Secondly, there is the question of who gets the greater  material rewards, the members of what social or economic class.  Our opponents explain this, say Conservatives, by the proposition  that some of the persons taking the common examinations can still  be said to have unequal and better opportunities. They are better  prepared for the exams, by having come from better schools or  from homes with books in them. What we now need, they say, is  equal opportunity where that is not only the common exams but  equal preparation for taking them, equally good backgounds. This  fair equality of opportunity , they suppose, is right in itself  and also will issue in or contribute to an equal society.   

Conservatives have much to say against fair equality of  opportunity. One thing is that a good background isn't really  needed for success. After all, as Keith Joseph informs us, the  founder of Morris Motors was of humble origins, little education,  no inherited wealth, and began life as a bicycle repairer. It is  no surprise to our informant, we may assume, that he didn't do  quite as well as John D. Rockefeller, since, as we are also  informed, he was brought up by a quack medicine salesman and a  mother who used regularly to tie him to a post and beat him.  

That is not all. If we were really to secure equal  backgrounds for all those entering the common examinations, we  should have to follow Plato's mad dream and abolish the family.  We should have to have, as William Letwin sees, infant-farms.  That is not all either. There is a yet madder dream to which  thinking about equal backgrounds leads.   

Is it not the case that some of the candidates from the  local infant-farm would do better than others in the exams? Some  would have greater powers of concentration. They, surely, could  thereby be said to have a greater opportunity of success.  Something would have to be done about this, to secure equal  powers of concentration. We would need to secure real equality of  opportunity. The least that Conservatives have to say against  this proposal is that egalitarians have now collapsed the  distinction with which they began, and on which all this  reflection depends if it is to be sensible. That is the  distinction between opportunity on the one hand and talent or  ability on the other. What we have is a mess, says David Cooper,  and a perversion of that original good thought about opportunity  at the time of the French Revolution.   

Nor are we near to finished with the disgraces of the Left.  Another of them, according to Conservatives, is that it involves  the injunction to treat everyone alike -- equality of treatment.  But that, as Lincoln Allison is not alone in supposing, would  issue in our dimwittedly providing the same amount and kind of  food for all, irrespective of age, size, nature of work,  appetite, vegetarianism and so on. He might have added, with the  Duke of Edinburgh in mind, that equality of treatment commits us  to helicopters for everybody, or at any rate equal flight time.  Further, if we try to find something more sensible for the  egalitarian to say about treatment, we come up with too many  possibilities: allocating food according to age, allocating it  according to size, allocating it according to work, and so on.  There is no particular policy that can be called the egalitarian approach. Conservatives have in fact spent too much time arguing  against egalitarianism, and not quite enough to see what is true,  that there is nothing much to argue against.  

William Letwin sees what he takes to be yet more fundamental  difficulties with equality of treatment, and in particular the  utopian recommendation of equal pay. Is the latter the  recommendation of the same rate of pay per hour of work? If so,  and if workers happen to work different numbers of hours per  week, some will be paid more than others per week. Is the idea,  maybe, that everyone should get the same annual pay? If so, and  if they work different numbers of weeks per year, as may happen  for one reason or another, they will again be getting unequal  weekly pay. We have it, in short, that any equality of pay for a  particular period of time involves inequality of pay for another  period of time. To set out to produce equality is necessarily to  produce inequality as well. Egalitarianism is no less than  internally incoherent.   
Section 2: Rawl's Principles of  Equal Liberty, Equal Opportunity, and Socio-Economic Equality or Inequality   

We have so far looked at natural equality, spiritual  equality, equal respect of a kind, equal political rights of a  kind, formal equality, equality before the law, equal  opportunity, fair equality of opportunity, real equality of  opportunity, equal treatment -- of which more will be said -- and  equal pay. In none of these, it seems, whatever else is to be  said of them, have we found a fundamental principle or set of  principles of equality, a foundation for the politics of the  Left. That would be something that is distinctive and defensible,  and takes first importance -- it underlies all other egalitarian  principles, rules and maxims, which are brought into conformity with it. It may well entail the rejection of one or more of them.  Is such a thing to be found in a large and impressive book which  has a very great deal to say of equality, John Rawls' A Theory of  Justice?   

It advocates some principles of justice, ranked in a certain  way, and also an argument for those principles of justice as  ranked. The argument has to do with an imaginary social contract,  one which is made by contractors who are ignorant of their  personal advantages, and we may excuse ourselves from considering  it. It has been belaboured by some Conservatives, and something  will be said of the belabouring later.  The principles,  by one method of counting them, are three in number. They can be  considered independently of the argument for them.   

The first is the Principle of Liberty, that in our societies  each of us is to have as much liberty as is consistent with each  other member having as much. There is to be an equality of  liberty at the highest possible level. The second principle is  that there is to be a kind of equality of opportunity to get into  any positions of favourable socio-economic inequality in our  societies. The third is the Principle of Socio-Economic  Differences. It is to the effect that we can have, and indeed we  must have, only exactly as much socio-economic inequality as has  a certain recommendation. It must, on one reading of the  principle, make the worst-off members of the society better-off  than they would be without that degree of inequality. As for the  ranking, the first principle takes precedence over the second,  and the second takes precedence over the third. A society should  aim first at realizing the first principle, and preserve it rather than the others in any case of conflict -- it cannot be  that any departure from greatest equal liberty is justified by a  gain either in opportunity or in connection with socio-economic  advantages. So with the second principle in relation to the  third.  Do we here have a unifying set of principles for  egalitarianism?   

Do we here have the means of bringing order into  the egalitarian muddle? Conservatives have not been much alarmed  at the threat, for what seems to me good reason, better reason  than they themselves have supplied in any clear way.   

What are the liberties or rights of which the first  principle speaks? It is curious, and can be a source of  reassurance in itself, that Rawls does not not use many of his  607 pages in specifying them. In fact he does not use one. What  we are told is not much more than this:   

`The basic liberties of citizens are, roughly speaking, political liberty (the right to  vote and to be eligible for public office) together with freedom  of speech and assembly; liberty of conscience and freedom of  thought; freedom of the person along with the right to hold  (personal) property; and freedom from arbitrary arrest and  seizure as defined by the concept of the rule of law.'  

No doubt it can be assumed, from the rest of A Theory of  Justice, that Rawls is not himself inclined to that particular  right to hold personal property that enters into Conservative  property-freedom. Still, what he says leaves it open to others to  interpret 'the right to hold (personal) property` as they like,  and he does not declare himself against Conservative property-freedom or argue against it. Something the same is true, to mention something else of importance, of the mentioned political  liberty. It is left open to interpretation. It must also be  reassuring to Conservatives that what we are to have in each case  is only maximum equal liberties or rights, which is not to say  freedoms in the sense settled earlier in our inquiry. Conservatives have long allowed that we ought to be equal in  those, which does not come near to committing them to the  proposition that we ought to be equally able, say, to acquire  private property.   

That is not the only ground for reassurance. A second one is  that if the kind of equality of opportunity favoured by  Conservatives is a more minimal one than is favoured by Rawls,  his is not out of sight. The third and main ground has to do with  the Principle of Socio-Economic Differences. What it says, to  repeat, is that we are permitted and obliged to have any  inequalities of wealth, power and standing that improve the lot  of the worst-off: the worst-off are made better-off than they  would be without them. The fact of the matter is that until more  is said, we have no idea of what society we get from the  operation of this principle.    

Imagine a society where socio-economic goods are shared in  perfect equality, and it is also true that allowing some members  to become rich, powerful and respected, relatively speaking,  would result (a) in others being worse-off in absolute terms than  they were before, or (b) would leave them exactly as they were  before in absolute terms. The Difference Principle certainly has  it that the society is to persist in its perfect egalitarianism  if (a) is true. Depending on a common reading of the principle,  it has the same consequence if (b) is true -- we are not to allow  some members to become better-off even if no members become  worse-off.    

On the other hand, imagine a society where there are such  socio-economic differences as have not so far been dreamed of in  the philosophy of the New Right. The distance between rich and  poor is greater than the distance between the estate of a prince  or the ranch of an oil billionaire and the cardboard box of  someone whom inheritance and the market have not favoured.  Imagine that it is also true of this society that any reduction  of the well-being of those on the top of the pile would in some  degree worsen or would not improve the lot of those on the  bottom. The Difference Principle certainly has it that the  society is to persist in its perfect inegalitarianism on the  first assumption and perhaps on the second.    

A Theory of Justice does not give attention to the essential  and battered question of whether our actual societies are like  the first or the second of these two imagined ones, or like  others in between. It does not open the question of whether  incentives in terms of income and wealth are necessary, or to  what extent they are necessary, if the worst-off are to be  better-off than they would be without them. As a consequence, to  come to the conclusion of these reflections, it is entirely open  to Conservatives to embrace this fundamental part of the given  theory of justice, then to argue that great incentives are necessary, and thus emerge with a justification of society as it  is. It is open to Conservatives to conclude, yet again, that  egalitarianism in so far as it advocates something sensible, advocates no more than they do. What the egalitarianism of Rawls  comes to, when the argument about incentives is added to it, is  something about which we can all fall into contented agreement.   

Section 3: Equality of Results or Outcome, Six Objections   

There is something more distinctive, another idea or sort of  idea on which the Left is said to attempt to rely. It was in view  earlier when `the equal society' was mentioned. It was  in view too when we earlier touched on social and civil  freeedoms. It calls for more attention than anything  considered so far, as do the many objections made to it. It is  sometimes called equality of results or outcome, sometimes  equality of condition or circumstances. Let us settle on equality  of results.    

Keith Joseph uses the term and speaks of `what the great  Victorian jurisprudent Dicey pithily describes as "the  equalization of advantages among individuals possessed of unequal  means for their attainment"'. It is what is sought, we are told,  by those who wish to organize societies so as to make all men  equal, and perhaps part of what was in the mind of the alarming  priest John Ball in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. `Things never  shall go well in England,' he said, `until all things are in  common and all of us are of one condition.' It is the principle,  I take it, which brings to the mind of several of our  Conservatives a recollection of Procrustes -- `a celebrated Greek  highwayman who used to tie travellers to a bed, lopping off their  legs if they were too long for the bed and stretching their  spines if they were too short for it'.Procrustes now, of  course, is the welfare state, also known as the ever-expanding  state machine, the central enforcer of equality of outcome, and so on.    

For Milton Friedman, apparently not too mindful of the history  of the 20th Century, let alone the Peasants' Revolt, equality of  results is something that has emerged in the United States in  recent decades.   

`In some intellectual circles the desirability of  equality of outcome has become an article of religious  faith: everyone should finish the race at the same  time. As the Dodo said in Alice in Wonderland,  "Everybody has won, and all must have prizes." ...  "Fair shares for all" is the modern slogan that has  replaced Karl Marx's "To each according to his needs,  from each according to his ability'.  

William Letwin is distracted by his obligation to deal with  the confusions of egalitarians, and so cannot spend much time on  bringing equality of results into clear view. He has it in mind,  perhaps, when he concerns himself with the bare injunction `All  persons should be equal', and speaks of the idea that people  should be equal in respect of certain general and vital goods.  These include income, wealth, esteem, political power, legal  rights, and education.   

Conservatives, in attending to equality of results,  generally have Tawney's Equality in mind. He speaks of  `equality...of circumstances, institutions and manner of life',  and equality of `social and economic environment'. To seek this  equality is to allow that individuals may differ profoundly in capacity and character, but to maintain that `they are equally  entitled as human beings to consideration and respect, and that  the well-being of a society is likely to be increased if it so  plans its organization that, whether their powers are great or  small, all its members may be equally enabled to make the best of  such powers as they possess.' The idea is that it is regrettable  `that different sections of a community should be distinguished  from each other by sharp differences of economic status,  environment, education, culture and habit of life.' The idea,  again, is that  

`it is the mark of a civilized society to aim at  eliminating such inequalities as have their source not  in individual differences, but in its own organization,  and that individual differences, which are a source of  social energy, are more likely to ripen and find  expression if social inequalities are, as far as  practicable, diminished.  

It is noticeable that what is called equality of results is  not wholly distinct from equality of treatment, at any  rate if we think of equality of treatment in something other than  the idiotically specific way proposed by some Conservatives. We  can take it, that is, as having to do with treatment or provision  more generally conceived -- education rather than this or that  specific sort of education, travel rather than rides in  helicopters, and so on. The close relation between equality of  results and equality of treatment is reflected in what Conservatives say of it. Procrustes, if he can be thought about  in terms of results, certainly goes in for treatment.   

What can be argued to distinguish equality of results and  equality of treatment is that the aim of equality of treatment  does indeed concern only activity with respect to people, what is  done to or for them: giving them food, giving them pay, providing  the means to travel. This treatment or provision is itself to be  equal, whatever is the case with the upshot of the treatment or  provision. The aim of equality of results can rather be taken to  be about, fundamentally, the upshot of treatment or provision,  which treatment or provision may be other than equal. What we are  to be equal in is satisfaction of hunger, or what comes of our  weekly pay, or comes of such aids as old-age pensions. One thing  that brings equality of results and equality of treatment into  connection, despite what has just been said, is that it is very  often an ideal policy, and yet more often the only practicable or  realistic policy, to pursue the end of equality of results by the  means of equalities of treatment.    

It is to be allowed, perhaps, that Tawney did not succeed in  giving fully effective and economical expression to his  recommendation of equality of results. Let us take it to be this:   

`A society should seek to secure, as far as is  practicable, lives of equal satisfaction for all its  members. It should do this by in general seeking to  secure, as far as practicable, equality of income and  wealth, equality of respect (where that is other than  what was noticed earlier, the mere recognition of the relevance of all persons), equal political and legal  freedoms, the full development of the different  potentials of individuals by means of education and in  work, equality in housing and environment, equal  medical care and provision for old age.'   

That is not so clear and determinate a recommendation as we  might like, but it will do for our present purposes -- which are  to look at Conservative objections to equality of results, of  which there is no shortage. Almost all Conservatives, certainly,  take what we have as sufficiently clear and determinate so as to  be open to conclusive refutation. They do not put it aside as  unclear, but as wrong.   

The first of ten objections -- here it will be worthwhile  being thorough -- has to do with the actual facts of inequality  in our societies and hence the appositeness or urgency of the  recommendation. George Saintsbury, who is introduced to us by  Russell Kirk as, among other things, a genial essayist, could  bluffly inform Englishmen of the lower orders, about 1922, that  they had no great need to think about inequality. `The goods you  have are real, and the ills, in all probability and experience,  to a large extent imaginary -- certainly bearable in that they  have been borne.' Keith Joseph, on a page where he accepts the  need for a welfare floor or minimum standard of living, so that  the poor do not sink into a condition in which they would prefer  well-fed slavery to indigent freedom, also has something to say  about the facts or extent of poverty.   

`A family is poor if it cannot afford to eat. It is not  poor if it cannot afford endless smokes and it does not  become poor by the mere fact that other people can  afford them. A person who enjoys a standard of living  equal to that of a mediaeval baron cannot be described  as poor for the sole reason that he has chanced to be  born into a society where the great majority can live  like mediaeval kings.By any absolute standard there is very little  poverty in Britain today.   

Those words were written for a book that was published in  1979, the first year of Thatcher governments. They would not, I  fancy, have been written a decade later, after the immiseration  of a part of the British people by those governments, with the  writer of the words to the fore in them. But that is not the main  point, which has as much to do with the genial essayist.    

Nor is the main point one that might attempted by the  miserably impoverished, that the tradition of Conservatism is not  unique, but has liars in it. They would be the counterparts of  those of their opponents who assert that there is no way whatever  in which socialist governments restrict freedom or engage in  coercion. The lie on the part of these contemplated  Conservatives, to put it one clear way, would be this  proposition: the inequality which exists in Britain or America is  such that if people generally had a real awareness of its  reality, they would not take it to be sufficient to make the  recommendation of equality of results arguable or worth consideration -- that is, the facts of inequality are such that  people if well-informed would not feel any need to go on to  consider what else can be said against the recommendation of  equality of results, since they would take its presupposition  about significant factual inequality to be a fiction.   

It is not of much importance whether either our genial  essayist or our politician is a liar by this test, or whether  such a proposition is their main concern. The main point is that  their words, when taken to suggest the given proposition, as they  can be, are not worthy of consideration. They are not made so,  certainly, by any additional content having to do with absolute  and relative deprivation or the fact that mediaeval barons lacked  vacuum cleaners or anything else. Nor would we do justice to the  large tradition of Conservatism by assigning the offensively  false proposition to it.   

There is not much more need to linger over a second kind of  objection, if that is what it is, to equality of results. This  consists in ad hominem retorts of two kinds, the first kind  directed to proponents of this equality who are themselves  decently well-off. We shall believe them to be honest  enthusiasts, says Burke, and not as we now think them, cheats and  deceivers, when we see them throwing their own goods into  common. Paul Elmer More, he who wished Rockefeller not to be  mealy-mouthed about shooting strikers, knows that if you hear a  man talking overmuch of egalitarianism, you can be pretty sure he  will be slippery or dishonourable in his personal transactions;  Anthony Flew reminds us that Bernard Shaw, although in favour of  equal incomes, remained representative of his prosperous co-believers in not surrendering the part of his own income that was  above average; Milton Friedman points out that while equality of  outcome has become almost an article of religious faith among  intellectuals, from whom he evidently distinguishes himself, they  do not go off to live in a commune or a kibbutz.   

The ad hominem objections of the second kind are directed to  those who would themselves benefit from a society's securing  something like equality of results. They, in their present  unfortunate state, are charged with the sin of envy. The support  for equality of results by these possible beneficiaries is the  product of their resentment of those who are better-off. Keith  Joseph, it is true, has a word to say for envy, or for the  possibility that it can be aroused or increased in people. `Envy  is capable of serving the valuable social function of making the  rich moderate their habits for fear of arousing it. It is because  of the existence of envy that one does not drive Rolls-Royces  through the slums of Naples....'Most of his fellow-Conservatives, while no doubt as prudent, are more given to  pointing to envy as a means of discrediting the idea of equality  under consideration. Elsewhere in his reflections, Our politician  perhaps moves towards joining them, announcing as he does that  equality of results has something to do with naked class  interests.  

We shall eventually come round to the general subject of  naked class interests. For the moment, not greatly more is  required with respect to the ad hominem retorts than the reminder  that it is widely accepted that the worth of a recommendation or  principle is not a function of the personal morality, whatever that may be, of its proponents or its beneficiaries. Also, there  is the consideration that a well-heeled proponent of equality of  results, while advocating that unachieved state of things, can in  the meantime properly be restrained in disposing of his income by  certain comparisons -- between himself and his family on the one  hand, and, on the other hand, others than the worst-off. His sons  and daughters and their aspirations can be regarded in terms of  more comparisons than one. Proponents of equality of results need  not be saints, and certainly cannot be called to that condition  by Burke and his epigoni.    

To reflect for a moment on the envy of the poor, the extent  and gravity of their sin is unclear. I take it with that the  lawful owner of a Rolls-Royce is not to be much abused for  envying the now advantaged state of the Neapolitan who stole it  from him. What he mainly feels, he will say, is something  different from envy, not merely righteous but rightful  indignation. And, if he also owns up to envy, he is unlikely to  be so paralysed with guilt as to come back from his holiday a  broken man. He will in fact not take his envy as greatly  culpable.   

So -- not all resentment having to do with the advantages of  another person is to be much condemned. In particular, if it is  the case that we ought to achieve equality of results, and hence  that our present unequal distributions are wrong, and,  furthermore, that the wealth of some enters into the explanation  of the poverty of others, then the feelings to which the poor are  subject are partly in the category of rightful indignation, and,  for the rest, the envy is human enough. Even if it is supposed there is a connection between principles and certain feelings of  those who hold them, Conservatives cannot effectively proceed  from the charge of envy to the refutation of the principle of  equality of results. They must rather proceed in a way which is  not easy, and not of the greatest use to them, from a refutation  of the principle to the slight addendum of a charge of culpable  envy.   

A third sort of response to equality of results is that a  society which achieved it would not be natural, as egalitarians  are supposed to believe, but unnatural. Alas there have been  egalitarians given to such stuff, in some cases conjoining it  with a certain optimism. Matthew Arnold of the Victorian Age was  one of these: `A system founded on inequality is against nature,  and, in the long run, breaks down.' No doubt he has some 20th  Century successors who also have recourse to the ineffective  notion of the natural. Let us leave them to contend in some safe  place with those of their Conservative opponents who are also  attracted to the notion.   

There are a good many of the latter, as we already know.  They are, differently described, advocates of the organic  society, or certain of the societies named as organic. They  advocate certain of the societies that have grown rather than  been constructed, certain of the societies which are tree-like  and which alteration will destroy, another the society of  inheritance. Advocacy of any of them is what might  be called naturalistic opposition to the the principle of  equality of results. Let us not go back to all that. To recall  the essential fact about attempts to defend a thing as natural, it appears that the defence reduces to claiming that the thing  exists or will persist if not interfered with, from which nothing  follows as to whether it ought to exist or persist, or the  defence is already the judgement that the thing ought to exist or  persist, which is the conclusion for which support is supposed to  be being provided. Resort to the natural is the resort of a true  believer who finds himself short of an actual argument.   

A fourth objection to equality of results is the regular one  that a society will in fact never achieve it. We earlier noticed  in another connection Burke's dictum about what  egalitarians, when they get into power, do with it.   

`Believe me, Sir, those who attempt to level, never  equalize. In all societies, consisting of various  descriptions of citizens, some description must be  uppermost. The levellers therefore only change and  pervert the natural order of things; they load the  edifice of a society, by setting up in the air what the  solidity of the structure requires to be on the  ground.'   

To take a later example, from 1948, there is Bernard Braine's  prescience in Tory Democracy . Within a very short space of time this new equality  will have vanished into the mist. Some men will be  rich, some will be poor. Some will be masters, some  will be servants. A few will lead, the rest will follow.  

A part of a reply to this sort of thing is that to achieve  equality of results would not in fact be to achieve anarchism,  where that is an absence of government. Nor would that be the  aim. As Conservatives are all too ready to insist, as we shall  see soon, equality of results could only be achieved by  government, and hence through the inequality of power that all  government involves, including fully democratic government. That  inequality, however, is consistent with various fundamental  equalities on the part of the governed and to some large extent  the governors. The fact of government, too, whatever bureaucracy  it involves, is consistent with an absence of such ascendant  classes as now exist in our societies. As for Bernard Braine's  certainty that there will always be the rich, it must come to  mind that there do now exist societies, whatever else is to be  said for or against them, which plainly are without a class of  the rich as we know them. I trust that he can be brought to  tolerate what has hitherto been thought to be a pretty firm  proposition, that what is actual is possible.   

To bring together two more small but persistent objections  to the recommendation of equality of results, a fifth and sixth,  Conservatives manage to suppose that the recommendation rests on  the factual premise that we are all equal, and that acting on the  recommendation would produce a terrible uniformity. The first  idea, that the recommendation rests on one of the bundle of  propositions about natural equality, should not survive  reading Tawney's sentences about our differences in capacity and  character, our greater and smaller powers. Whatever the  recommendation rests on -- and there is more to be said of this -- it does not rest on some kind of blindness as to the actual  differences between us.   

Nor, in any fatal sense, would equality of results issue in  uniformity. It is not, if English retains its sense, the proposal  that everyone should be made the same. It is better described as  the proposal that we should be equal in the worth of things  rather than the things themselves, that we should have lives of  equal value rather than the same lives. Having said that, it  remains true that the proposal of equality of results is indeed  the proposal of equality of income and wealth and so on, as far  as is practicable. In another sense, then, it is the proposal  that we have certain uniformities. To object to it as such,  evidently, is to be engaged in this ungripping line of argument:  the proposal of certain equalities or uniformities is mistaken  because it proposes certain equalities or uniformities. Is there  something else in the objection of uniformity? Is there  something, incidentally, which takes into account the very real  uniformities in our existing societies of inequality? Perhaps  there is, but not enough to detain us.   

Section 4: Equality of Results and the Objection about Liberty   

We come now to what a seventh and the most used set of  Conservative objections to equality of results or the equal  society. They will need little illustration. They are to the  effect that equality of results is inconsistent with freedom or  liberty, that we cannot have both, that such equality reduces,  threatens or destroys freedom or liberty. We need to pay them  somewhat less attention because we have in fact encountered them already, in other settings, differently expressed.   

(A) One liberty-objection is that equality of results  carries the risk of or issues in totalitarianism. We in fact  encountered and took a view of something close to this objection  in considering the argument, in our inquiry into Conservatism and  freedom, that to abandon Conservative property-freedom and  market-freedom is to run the risk of totalitarianism or be fated  to succumb to it. This latter claim as to the risk  or result of not having Conservative economic freedoms is close  to the objection that equality of results runs the risk of  totalitarianism. This becomes clear as soon as it is supposed  that giving up the Conservative economic freedoms is on the way  to embracing the principle of equality of results. If that  supposition is not quite true, it is certainly true that many of  the serious adversaries of Conservatism, in opposing Conservative  economic freedoms, do indeed propose and attempt to replace them  with an equal society or something like it.   

We concluded that giving up Conservative economic freedoms  very definitely has not been shown to issue in totalitarianism.  We can conclude now, by the same or similar arguments, that  embracing equality of results would not necessarily issue in  totalitarianism. The latter conclusion might be modified by our  making further distinctions, but not upset. If the argument for  the earlier conclusion was sound, as certainly it seemed to be,  something like it is as effective here.  

(B)  We also considered, some way back, the closely related  matter of whether Conservative economic freedoms can be  recommended as securing or preserving what was called `a liberal-democratic political order'. We drew two conclusions.  The first was that Conservative economic freedoms do indeed serve  as more effective means to the end of such a political order when  it is defined as consisting in just those limited political and  civil freedoms proposed by Conservatives, but that restricting  such freedoms to those particular ones needs justifying. The  second conclusion was that Conservative economic freedoms do not  serve the end of `a liberal-democratic political order' when that  is taken to be a matter of greater and more widely supported  political and civil freedoms.   

We can as readily draw certain conclusions about a second  liberty-objection to equality of results, that it conflicts with  what can be called, again, `a liberal-democratic political  order'. We can readily allow, first, that the equal society or  equality of results is not an effective means to, or does not  contribute to, just the limited political and civil freedoms  allowed or proposed by Conservatives. We can as readily argue,  second, that the equal society or equality or results can be the  effective means to or can contribute to greater political and  civil freedoms. The short story, then, is that equality of  results does not issue in what very many people do not want, and  it may issue in what they do want. Equality of results does not  lack but rather may have precisely the recommendation which  Conservatives imply that it lacks.    

(C) There is a third thing that equality of results may be  said to have as a consequence, something that perhaps can be  regarded as in between totalitarianism and just the sort of  infringement we have had in mind of political and civil freedoms.Ül Ü  This too is at least close something noticed earlier. We noticed that Conservatives are in fact not wholly opposed to  revolution, but only to a kind of it. They are well capable of  contemplating revolution to overthrow governments to which they  are radically opposed, including governments of their own  nations, notably governments which are excessively democratic or  have no reverence for private property. Burke could contemplate a  different sort of Cromwell, and Macaulay a despotism that would  save civilization. We may add in Lord Salisbury who in 1883 had a  fear, in particular, of the growing strength of the trade unions.  If England were to succumb to them, he wrote, `we would welcome  the military despotism that should relieve us.'  

As will be clear enough, this third thing to be said of  seeking equality of results is that it will issue not in the  totalitarianism of the Left or any totalitarianism, but an  undemocratic regime of the Right, most probably a military  regime. Conservatives, partly because of their determination to  present themselves as good constitutionalists, are unlikely  actually to specify as a third liberty-objection to equality of  results that they themselves, or those who share their  commitments, and in fact are distinguished from them only by  their uniforms, would resist its achievement by resort to force  and military government. What they are reluctant to announce,  however, is something which they are capable of leaving in the  air, indeed putting into the air.   

It is evidently more a threat than an objection of  principle. It is not, at least in the ordinary sense, a moral  objection to eqality of results, but a grim prediction that the thing will be resisted by force. The prediction, no doubt, has  for good reason done more to restrain ambitious socialist  governments than any argument they have had to meet. Our present  concern is argument of principle. What is to be said, then, is  that no argument of principle against equality of results is  provided by saying that if a democratic argument is lost, the  loser will in the end reply with tanks.   

(D) To turn instead to what can be regarded as an argument  of principle, it is provided for us by Robert Nozick, and beloved  by those who swear by him, or did for a time. It stands in some  relation, which we need not look into, to the second libertyªobjection to equality of results. The argument is directed  against more things than equality of results, but certainly  against that.   

Contemplate the equal society, a society that has in fact  achieved equality of results. The distribution of goods, and the  upshot of that distribution, is just what is called for by the  idea of equal results. The pattern is in accord with that idea.  For one thing, there is the required distribution of income and  wealth. In the society there exists a basketball player, one Wilt  Chamberlain. He is, as Professor Nozick explains, a great gate  attraction, and makes a certain contract with his team. The  result is that people cheerfully buy their ordinary tickets to  games and also drop a separate twenty-five cents into a special  box with his name on it. Wilt Chamberlain winds up, in one  season, with $250,000, far greater than the average income. It  gives him, too, far greater wealth than is had by others in what  was the equal society. We are not to forget, and Professor Nozick is in no danger of letting us forget, about the fans, that `Each  of these persons "chose• to give twenty-five cents of their money  to Chamberlain. They could have spent it on going to the movies,  or on candy bars, or on copies of "Dissent• magazine, or of "Monthly  Review•. But they all...converged on giving it to Wilt Chamberlain  in exchange for watching him play basketball.'    

Nozick implies a good deal about all of this, and introduces  some talk of justice that is likely to confuse matters. But his  main purpose is clear enough. It is to assert that if the equal  society or any like society is to be maintained, this must be  done by infringing freedom or liberty. The fans must be stopped  from making Wilt rich. To preserve the pattern of distribution in  the equal society the liberty of both the fans and Wilt must be  violated. `Liberty,' we are to see, `upsets patterns.' No such  principle as that of equal results `can be continuously realized  without continuous interference in people's lives.'   

Shall we join the thinkers of the New Right and some other  suggestible persons in their awe of this argument? We need not  rush.   

We have a tolerable idea of what, in general, a freedom is.  It is, in one manner of speaking, perhaps the most ordinary,  "being able to act on a desire•. To have a freedom with respect to  something is to have a certain power to do it or to get it. There are, as we saw, and will see again, other  ideas of freedom, but none that could alter our present line of  reflection. It could be pursued exactly as well, although perhaps  not as neatly, in terms of those other ideas and various  supplements. To come to a first point, then, are all freedoms in the given sense powers that ought to be possessed, abilities that  persons rightly possess? Very evidently not. I should not have,  and my society does what it can to prevent my having, the power  to harm others in certain ways. It strives to limit or indeed to  destroy the freedom of the rapist, the car thief, and, perhaps,  the fraudulent broker.   

Would the equal society, if by law it stopped the fans  making Wilt rich, because of apprehensions about further  developments, be affecting their freedom and his? Indeed it  would. There is not the slightest doubt about that. But would it  be wrong to do so? Would it be wrong to take steps, such as the  one in question, to preserve itself as an equal society, one  where private wealth does not result in closed wards in public  hospitals? Would a democratic majority who voted for preserving  that society be acting wrongfully? Would a democratic majority  who voted for preserving what are of course the "freedoms• of that  society be acting wrongfully? That is the only question of  interest, of any interest whatever. In the political folk-tale we  have before us, it is of course assumed that it would be wrong to  infringe a freedom which would issue in the destruction of an  equality or of certain freedoms, but "no reason at all• is given  for that assumption. What we have is not an argument of any  significance against equality of results, but rather a certain  amount of persiflage.  

There is the same conclusion if we turn our attention to the  idea of liberty. What is a liberty? Well, it is at least natural  to say that the fraudulent broker may unfortunately have been  free to defraud the widows, but that he had no liberty to do so. A liberty, in this common way of speaking, is a freedom to which  one is entitled, or better, a defensible or justified freedom.  Would the equal society, if it ruled against Wilt's box for the  twenty-five cent pieces, be infringing his liberties and those of  his admirers? Nozick says yes. Others say no. The trouble is that  our professor, who is conducting this seminar, only "says• so, and  does not explain in his folk-tale what entitles him to his usage.    

Elsewhere in his book he is attracted to reflections on the  subject of rights , which subject we have already noticed. Such reflections lead to the idea that what the equal  society must do, in order to maintain itself, is to violate the  non-legal rights of the persons in question. But to say someone's  non-legal rights to do something have been violated, if we leave  out a certain amount of ancient or sacred obscurity, is to say  something of this sort: as follows from some moral principle of  worth, he ought to be able to do the thing. There is no avoiding  the question of what the principle is, and of what is to be said  for it. There is no argument on hand in the absence of answers.   

What we have so far with respect to equality of results in  connection with liberty, putting aside the military threat, is  that this equality cannot be said to issue in totalitarianism,  does contribute to our having political and civil freedoms which  have a wide appeal, and is not to be put aside by way of the  folk-tale. It is possible, on the basis of these and others of  our reflections, to come to several summaries. Both of them  demonstrate the inanity of supposing that there is a simple  opposition between equality and freedom, and, perhaps more  important, that either side in the dispute has the possibility of simply claiming that it is more virtuous with respect to freedom.   

On the one hand, it would be absurd to say that equality of  results would not conflict with or destroy certain freedoms. It  is inescapable that any such programme or policy, like any  legislation, will not only give powers to people but also reduce  or take away powers from people, sometimes the same people. A society which secured equality of income and wealth  would in so doing go against Conservative property-freedom and  very likely Conservative market-freedom. Similar concessions, if  that is what they are, need to be made with respect to every  element in the conception of equality of results -- with respect  to education, for example. Further, in so far as the  point is a separate one, and as was granted in what was said of  the `liberal-democratic political order', equality of results  would have an adverse effect on precisely those constrained  political and civil freedoms which Conservatives allow. It would  replace them or tend to replace them. On the other hand, to come  to have an equal society would patently be to come to "have•  certain freedoms. Nothing is clearer. It would be to come to have  a property-freedom of a certain kind. Similar and more important  propositions are indubitably true with respect to every element  in the conception of equality of results. The equal society would  give us freedom from kinds of disdain, freedom to work, and so  on. Further, to revert to `the liberal-democratic political  order', in so far as the point is a separate one, equality of  results would secure or contribute to political and civil  freedoms greater than those supported by Conservatives.    

So much for one summary. A second one makes use of our earlier categories of freedoms.It divides freedoms into political freedoms and non-political freedoms, and divides the non-political freedoms into economic, social and civil freedoms.    

Equality of results, as we have conceived it, is itself  nothing other than a matter of certain freedoms of all these  kinds. It would secure certain freedoms in each category. With  respect to economic freedoms, to give an example, it would no  doubt allow for certain goods to be distributed by a market, not  so many as Conservatives would like. With respect to social  freedoms, it would secure freedom to have a job, and, with  respect to civil freedoms, perhaps a considerable freedom of  information. With respect to political freedoms it would secure  greater democracy.    

It is exactly as true, if we are charitable in connection  with what is sufficient to count as a social freedom, that  Conservatism can be said to secure freedoms of all the kinds. It  provides for an extended market. A welfare-floor can be regarded,  charitably, as a beginning on or a form of social freedom.  Conservatism obviously secures lesser civil and political  freedoms than would exist in a society of equality of results.    

The fundamental questions, of course, are what in fact  unites each of these two arrays of freedoms, the Left or  egalitarian array and the Conservative array, and what can be  said for and against each. An effective answer to the first or analytical question in each pair is essential to an effective  answer to the second or evaluative question. An effective  summation of what unites the Conservative array would be what we  have been pursuing for some time, a rationale of Conservatism.  Something will be said below of the rationale of the freedoms  involved in equality of results -- or, at least, something will  be said of what Conservatives claim it to be.  

Before leaving what we have been calling liberty-objections  to the equal society, there is need for a little more repetition,  of another sort. Believe me, dear reader, there is need. Equality  of results, it was said a moment ago, would involve freedom to  work. Conservatives, whom we know pride themselves on not being  quick to learn, will be prone to a certain reply. It is a denial  that what is in question is properly called a freedom. So too  with other elements of equality of results.    

What indubitably is in question, as all must agree, since it  is part of the definition of equality of results, is the securing  of a state of affairs where everyone, with some obvious  exceptions, is in fact able to act on a desire, the desire to  have a job. Conservatives, as I say, will persist in the view  that this is not properly spoken of as a freedom, and that to  speak of it in this way is to seek to gain an improper advantage  in argument. Indeed it is to be dishonest, to go in for the sort  of thing to be expected of persons who are slippery or  dishonourable in their personal transactions. That it is  dishonest is said by Keith Joseph, in his role as moralist and  linguist, at the end of the section in his book called "Property  Is Not Unfreedom". In a proper and honest way of speaking, we are to understand, freedom to work is no more than something like  this: "a state of affairs consisting in the absence of legal  barriers to getting a job, or the absence of coercion in this  regard, or the absence of coercion by other specifiable  individuals•. Hence, what our egalitarians are demanding, with  respect to jobs, and what we are contemplating, is more than a  freedom.    

How tedious it all is. Suppose we take up the preferred  usage. What we now say is that equality of results would secure  (a) freedom to work, and (b) whatever else is needed in order to  get a job. We call the latter thing something or other -- power,  means, real opportunity or whatever. We follow the same sort of  distinction with every other item of equality of results -- say  in connection with housing and medical care. We then do the same  with each item in the array of Conservative recommendations.  Nothing whatever is affected with respect to the answers to the  fundamental questions except their expression. They become: What  unites the egalitarian array of freedoms and also powers or  whatever, and what can be said for and against it? and What  unites the Conservative array of freedoms and also powers or  whatever, and what can be said against it? We will proceed in the  simpler way in due course, but not just now.    

Section 5: Equality of Results -- More Harm than Good?  

We now leave behind liberty-objections to equality of  results, or what can be called equal freedoms, and not too soon.  We turn to an eighth kind of objection which often seems to be  offered to all of the recommendation of equality of results, but,  at least in the first instance, pertains only to part of it. The  whole of the recommendation, to recall, is that so far as is practicable all members of a society should have equally  satisfactory lives secured for the most part through equalities  in income, wealth, respect, political and legal freedoms,  housing, environment, medical care and provision for old age, and  the full development of the different potentials of individuals  by means of education and work.    

The objections to which we turn, at least in the first  instance, are that to enforce equalities of income and wealth  will somehow do more harm than good with respect to income and  wealth. This has to do with the claim that such equalities  deprive us of incentive. Not enforcing such equalities, and  therefore allowing incentive, will somehow improve matters in  terms of income and wealth. The objections, further, since  typically they are offered as objections to the entire  recommendation of equality of results, are presumably also to the  effect that not enforcing equalities of income and wealth will  somehow improve matters in terms of the other elements of the  recommendation. There will be benefit, for example, in terms of  respect and self-development.    

We have already spent time with this kind of argument,  having to do with incentive. We first considered whether it could  be other than a piece of theory , as Conservatives wish it to be,  and concluded it could not. That left open the possibility that  it is a true piece of theory. Subsequently we looked  at Conservative incentive arguments as based on a premise about  human nature, and in particular our low or self-concerned  natures. Here we did not find what end-result it is that a system of incentives is supposed to have, whether described as `economic well-being' or in some related  way. A description of the end-result in terms of such economic  totals as Gross National Product, it was remarked, is consistent  with various distributions of goods. So too the description of it  as a situation where everybody is better off. Finally we looked  at incentive arguments as defences of Conservative propertyªfreedom and market-freedom. Our difficulty about the  proposed end-result persisted, and was not resolved by  considering the Hidden-Hand Vindication of Conservative economic  freedoms, itself a form of incentive argument. Shall we do better  now?   

Keith Joseph declares on one page that the opulence of one's  own way of life, in contrast to the drabness and squalor of  others' lives, arouses one's feelings of guilt, but that to think  that the opulence of the rich has anything to do with poverty is  in fact to be emotional and subjective rather than logical and  objective. On the next page, however, it comes over him that  there is, on the contrary, a very good connection, one which is  certainly to his taste.   

`The relief of poverty has not in the past been thought  to require an equal society and it is difficult to find  any necessary connection between them today. On the  contrary, everything in the experience of this country  since the last war has combined to demonstrate that you  cannot make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.  You can only make the poor richer by making everyone  richer including the rich.'  

Harold Macmillan, for a time leader of the Conservative  Party in Britain, was not of the New Right, and is to his credit  not so definite. `...it is only by giving their heads to the  strong and to the able that we shall ever have the means to  provide real protection for the weak and for the old.' Friedrich Hayek strikes a related if less concerned note.  

`If today in the United States or Western Europe the  relatively poor can have a car or a refrigerator, an  airplane trip or a radio, at the cost of a reasonable  part of their income, this was made possible because in  the past others with larger incomes were able to spend  on what was then a luxury. The path of advance is  greatly eased by the fact that it has been trodden  before. It is because scouts have found the goal that  the road can be built for the less lucky or less  energetic. ... Even the poorest today owe their  relative material well-being to the results of past  inequality.'  

William Letwin is keen to prove there is but a grain of  truth in the Argument of Diminishing Marginal Utility. That is  the argument for the view that the goal of the Utilitarians,  sometimes called the Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number,  and less misleadingly called the Greatest Total Satisfaction, is  served by an equal distribution of goods. According to the  argument, if we have three similar persons on hand, and three English breakfasts, each of the persons will get less  satisfaction from a second breakfast than a first, and still less  from a third than a second -- therefore, to secure the Greatest  Total Satisfaction, we must see that each person gets one  breakfast. For various reasons, according to Letwin, it doesn't  work that way with incomes. In fact, to secure a more equal  distribution of incomes would depress the absolute level of  everyone's income, including the incomes of the badly-off.   

Milton Friedman, his fellow economist, is a little more  cautious in his conclusion. The Conservative alternative to  equality of results `enables almost everyone, from top to bottom,  to enjoy a fuller and richer life'. Not everyone, but almost  everyone. He also informs us why attempting to implement equality  of results will not work, as it did not in Britain after the  Second World War.   

`The drive for equality failed for a...fundamental  reason. It went against one of the most basic instincts  of all human beings. In the words of Adam Smith, `the  uniform, constant and uninterrupted effort of every man  to better his conditions' -- and, one may add, the  condition of his children and his children's children.  When the law interferes with people's pursuit of their  own values, they will try to find a way round. They  will evade the law, they will break the law, or they  will leave the country. ... When the law contradicts  what most people regard as moral and proper, they will  break the law -- whether the law is enacted in the name of a noble ideal such as equality or in the naked  interest of one group at the expense of another.'  

Anthony Flew does not try to tell us why equality of results  has not been achieved, but does have feelings that it should not.  There is, he says, a strong case for concluding that   

`if what you want is indeed to improve the absolute  rather than the relative condition of the less and the  least advantaged, then you should go for overall  growth, rather than for those confiscatory taxes on the  more advantaged which give so much satisfaction to  procrusteans. Even if it is not strictly true -- to  borrow words used by President Kennedy in recommending  across-the-board cuts in income taxes -- that `a rising  tide lifts all boats', still it does make larger  resources available for possible transfer, whether  voluntary or compulsory.'  

Various related questions are raised by all of this, and  they must have brief answers. The answers taken together give an  evaluation of the given sort of Conservative objection to the  equal society. They also provide a response to the idea that we  have come upon the rationale of Conservatism in what is offered  as an alternative to the equal society, which is said to be one  in which everyone is better-off.   

(1) Are incentives of greater income and wealth the only  incentives, as Conservatives in general seem to suppose? Clearly they are not. As against these extrinsic incentives,  there are intrinsic incentives, which are of at least as great  importance to very many people in many occupations and  professions in our societies as they are. They would be of  greater effect in an equal society. They would compensate greatly  for the lack of greater economic incentives, whatever is said in  advance by those who are wedded to the results of extrinsic  incentives.   

(2) Would the equal society involve no incentives at all of greater  income and wealth? That is not written into the recommendation,  which specifies that we are, "so far as is practicable•, to have  equal income and wealth. As for the question of how much greater  a possible income must be in order to serve as an incentive, we  have no argument at all for what is assumed by Conservatives,  that it must be large. It is worth adding that they commonly say  that it is not the money that matters, but what it signifies,  which is recognition or achievement. But it is wonderfully plain  that a society might be of such a nature or such attitudes as to  effectively confer recognition by only slightly greater incomes.  If I alone among my peers was known to have a "higher• salary, or  for that matter some significant speckled beads, that would do  nicely for my morale.   

(3) Would those of us who have refrigerators and cars lack  them, as Hayek declares, if our societies had in the past  achieved equality of results? To say the least, that is unproved,  as are like propositions about the future. That our societies  were not in the given way equal, and that we have the  refrigerators and cars, is one thing. That if our societies had been different in the given way, we would not have them -- that  is another thing. But suppose, even, that it is true that  avoiding equality of results has given us the items in question.  The proposition is consistent with something else, that avoiding  equality of results has also given us ongoing extreme poverty and  of course ongoing immense inequality of fundamental kinds. The  historical proposition is also consistent, by the way, with a car  now being of nothing like the value of the car in which Hayek's  scout made his forward progress.   

(4) As the rich got richer, in the Britain of the New Right,  did the poor get less poor? No tolerable definitions of either  group have the slightest chance of making the answer yes. As the  rich got richer after 1979, the poor got poorer. Indeed, living  in the time in question, with the facts impossible to overlook or  manipulate, no Conservative said otherwise when in danger of  hearing replies. Nor was this historical episode unique.   

(5) Is it established as a general truth that making the  rich more rich makes the poor less poor? Given only the history  of Britain during the period of the New Right, no such  generalization is conceivable. It is no surprise, and no doubt to  their credit, that Milton Friedman cannot bring himself to say  that further enriching the rich makes all groups better off, and  that Anthony Flew falls notably short of saying the thing.  Harold Macmillan too was honest.   

(6) Relatedly, does making the rich less rich make the poor  poorer? Given only another recent period of history, the history  of Britain after World War Two up to 1979 and the rise of  Conservative governments of the New Right, no such generalization is conceivable. This period was one of which it was true that  wealth was somewhat affected, and poverty was greatly and  honourably reduced.   

(7) More precisely, is it established that it is only by  having the incentives which go with Conservative economic  freedoms -- by having a society as remote as that from the equal  society -- that we can have the possibility of alleviating the  condition of the badly-off? It is notable that not even  Conservatives can be found who specify or state plainly the  extreme inequalities that are or would would be involved in the  fully-realized Conservative society, and argue that those  equalities are or would be necessary to alleviating the condition  of the badly-off.    

(8) Do Conservatives in fact believe, let alone prove or  establish, a view of human nature from which it follows that the  incentives which go with Conservative economic freedoms are  required if there is to be economic progress? It is more than  difficult to suppose so. It is one thing to argue, as  Milton Friedman does, that Conservatives break the law in order  to defend what they have, and quite another to take their  behaviour as the inevitable result of an unchangeable human  nature. They may be resolute, and not so much given to law and  order in this instance as in others, but they are no more the  creatures of a curious biological fate here than elsewhere in  their lives. If they took themselves to be so, they would be  deprived of other arguments of which they are fond, and indeed of  what we shall finally come to see is their rationale.    

(9) Suppose the argument about Diminishing Marginal UtilityÜl Ü  fails -- does that show that the equalities of treatment called  for by the principle of equality of results or the equal society  will not achieve their goal? Certainly not, since the egalitarian  goal never was the Utilitarian one of the largest possible total  of satisfaction. It has long been clear to all but a sorry rump  of Utilitarians, and one or two others, perhaps including William  Letwin, that the Greatest Total Satisfaction is not identical  with justice, and more particularly with equality of results.  Many of those who support the latter ideal do so precisely  because it does not have the traditional fatal weakness of  Utilitarianism, which is unfairness. There is no reason to  confuse egalitarianism or the Left with Utilitarianism.   

(10) If we accepted, as our Conservative spokesmen imply,  that their own goal may be the one which equality of results is  supposed not to achieve -- everybody being better-off -- would  that give us a rationale underlying Conservatism? It would not. One reason is that there are many conceivable moves from our  present distribution of incomes and wealth that would make  everybody better-off. Suppose we now have five occupational  classes of greatly different incomes, with the top class getting  ten times the income of the bottom. One move that would make  everybody better-off would be to increase the income of the top  class very little indeed, and the incomes of the other classes  more, and differently in each case, with the income of the bottom  class lifted dramatically -- the upshot being an approximation to  equal incomes among the classes. It does not need saying that no  living Conservative, or dead, would support that. It is  inescapable, then, that the rationale of Conservatism is not given by talk of making everbody better-off. To put  much the same point differently, any Conservative who does want  everyone better-off also wants, consistently with that, to have  us very unequally better-off. What is it that justifies that?   

It is of interest in itself that when Conservatives are not  faced with talk of equality, not on guard, they tend to specify  their own end-result as other than everybody better off. When  they are not concerned with an egalitarian challenge, their end-result is spoken of, mainly, in terms of individuals having the  rewards of their labour or of the risks they take with their  money. Things are only different when the moral challenge of  egalitarianism needs to be met. Here is a related question of  interest. If God, weary of our confusions about human nature,  opened the heavens and dispensed the truth that greater income  and wealth do not serve as incentives, would Conservatives be a  whit less resolute in justification and defence of what they  have? We have no need of another divine dispensation for the  answer.   

(11) Do Conservatives, in their commitment to incentives  taken by itself, somehow reveal a rationale? Well, for a start,  are Conservatives devoted to the same sort of incentives for the  badly-off as for the well-off? Consistency requires of them some  movement in this direction, and such movement sometimes suits  them. But, as the excellently egalitarian John Baker points out,  there is a large division in their feelings. If a production  manager would get only £5000 more per annum if he were promoted  to managing director, and someone has the idea that that is not  an incentive for him, the Conservative conclusion is likely to be that managing directors should be paid more. If an unemployed  labourer would get only £10 more a week if he gave up living on  the dole or welfare and got a job, and that is not an incentive  to him, then what is given to the unemployed should be lowered.  In short, one sort of incentive is created by raising the higher  of two incomes, and another by lowering the lower. What principle  gives the answer that the first sort is right for production  managers and the second for unemployed labourers? Answer comes  there none.   

(12) Would a commitment to having everyone somehow better-off accord with commitments we know Conservatives actually to  have? Some of the latter commitments are to a true natural  aristocracy, less democracy, an extreme institution of property,  economic freedoms as against social and civil freedoms,  authoritarianism, a lesser standing for minorities, an amount of  racial condescension, the rewarding of those superior persons who  can respond to incentives. None of these could be said to issue  from a communal impulse. None could be said to reflect a concern  with the brotherhood of man, leave alone the sisterhood of women.  It would be bizarre if, in the middle of this collection of  sentiments, there was to be found a generalized beneficence of  any great significance.   

Section 6: Equality of Results, Justice, and the Objection of  Mere Relativities  

We leave behind the objection having to do with everyone's  being better-off under a Conservative dispensation, and turn to  the ninth and tenth objections to equality of results. The ninth  has to do with justice, in two ways. Conservatives protest,  first, that egalitarians and in particular those of them who  propose equality of results are guilty of something or other in speaking of equality as justice.   

`...to those who are in any way in the business of  enforcing equality of outcome, it is extremely  important to be able to see themselves, and be seen by  others, as engaged in the hot pursuit of justice. For  it is only and precisely in this perspective that their  activities are legitimated, both in their own eyes, and  in those of the rest of the world.'   

Thus Anthony Flew, who goes on to argue that the activities of  the persons in question are not legitimated. If we take him to be  insisting merely that any egalitarian who claims that `justice'  means `equality', or that equality is the only thing that can be  called justice, he is on to a good thing. No doubt there have  been such misguided persons, as indeed there are very many  Conservatives who have identified justice with the propertyªfreedom they favour or whatever.   

The other Conservative line of thought having to do with  justice may be thought to be more consequential. It is to the  effect that something called justice is what Conservatives  propose or defend, and it is the ground of their opposition to  equality of results. What is this justice, and also, to ask the  inevitable question, do we find in it the rationale of  Conservatism?   

David Cooper, like some others, depends for his answer on  Robert Nozick.  

`The justice or otherwise of a distribution has to do  with how the distribution came about. ... Suppose a  number of pioneers hack out equally valuable chunks of  property from previously unowned, virgin territory; and  suppose that two of them die, leaving their property to  another of the pioneers, under no duress and without  violating any claim anyone else might have had to their  land. The lucky pioneer will now have three times as  much property as any other; but there can be no  injustice in this.   

What that comes to, in the way it must be understood, is  that justice consists in something close to Conservative  property-freedom. The just society is the one which has been and  is governed by that particular ideal. Whether or not the society  governed by the ideal is called the just society is of little  importance. One of two important things is whether we here have  an objection to equality of results, the equal society. Do we? It  must seem not. We are already too aware that what Conservatives  oppose to the equal society is, at bottom, one of Conservative  property-freedom. What we are supposed to be getting is a reason  why the latter society is preferable to the former. There is no  reason given at all, certainly, by declaring that the latter  society is one of freedom or dubbing it the just  society. Nor, to remember, were we successful in our attempt to  find a justifying basis in Conservatism for the kind of society  in question.In the objection from justice to  the equal society, the objection as just understood, we evidently do not come to have a justifying basis or rationale of  Conservatism.   

Other Conservatives have something else in mind in  maintaining that they are for the just as against the equal  society. Milton Friedman, in place of equality, would have  equity, which thing he does not trouble to explain. Since he  could not usefully have in mind just one of the legal notions of  equity, he leaves us in the dark. If we turn to the dictionary,  and find that equity in an ordinary sense consists in fairness,  or recourse to principles of justice, we shall get no more light  from his reflections.   

Anthony Flew for his part is inclined to take justice to  consist in what is suggested by a fine old legal maxim: Honeste vivere, neminem laedere, suum cuique tribuere,  that is, To live honourably, to harm no one, to allow  to each other their due. ...this lawyers' tag contains  as good a definition as we are likely to get.  

The resolute John Lucas, to remember the titles of his  articles, was Against Equality in 1965 and Against Equality Again  in 1977. Furthermore, there is his book, On Justice. Still, he is  not the greatest help either. If Friedman says too little, Lucas  says rather too much. Justice, in accordance with the ancient  idea, is everyone's having his due. But that is a matter, as it  turns out, of quite a lot: at least rights, desert, guilt,  retribution, agreements made, entitlement, status, rank, need,  and reasonableness. Justice is not doing people down. Justice is somehow being concerned with the underdog but not forgetting what  is named the plight of the overdog. We must not avoid the truth  that justice is complex. `Instead of seeing justice as a simple  static assignment of benefits, responsibilities and burdens, we  should see it as a dynamic equilibrium under tension, wanting to  treat the individual as tenderly as possible, yet being prepared,  for sufficiently compelling reasons, to take a tough line.' If we  go for tidiness in our conception of justice, indeed, we reveal a  tendency to a totalitarian view of society.    

Both Lucas and Flew, in one respect, are aimed in the  direction of what can be contemplated as the rationale of  Conservatism. They do not do anything like expound it. We shall  return to them  but what we can conclude at the moment is  that they do not provide us with a clarified objection to  equality of results, or, what would come to much the same thing,  the rationale for which we have been looking.   

The tenth and final objection made by Conservatives to the  equal society does not have to do with justice -- at any rate, we  need not drag it in. It is to my mind, as may come as a surprise,  a telling objection. It can be laid out briefly. The equal  society, to recall once more our conception of it, seeks as far  as is practicable to secure lives of equal satisfaction for all  its members, mostly by securing equalities in income, wealth, and  so on. The objection, plainly put, is this: What is good about  exactly equality, about individuals being related in a certain  way to one another? No doubt it is a good thing that I get enough  to eat, and a drink before dinner, but what is the recommendation  of my being equal or roughly equal to others in that respect -- or in any other respect, however generally described? This is the  question raised by what is unique and fundamental to the  conception of the equal society. The conception, if we do not  confuse it with anything else, and in particular with what might  be called humanitarianism, is precisely about no more than one  possible relationship as against others.    

David Cooper says that egalitarians suppose it to be self-evident that we should be equal. It is not self-evident to him.  Why should it be thought that a reason for my having something  is the amount that someone else has? Does not the reason have to  do with me? My being hungry is a reason for having something, but  is there a discernible reason in my being as hungry as you? Why  should my relative position with respect to someone else matter,  as distinct from my absolute position -- as distinct, that is,  from whether my needs are satisfied and so on? Why should I  receive more because others receive more, or less because they  receive less? What matters is what I have got, or have not got.  One Mr. Astbury, a striking lorry-driver, seems to have said `If  lorry-drivers are unable to afford food to eat, why should anyone  else?' He had a right to nourishment, David Cooper might allow,  but that has nothing to do with the state of the stomachs of  others.  

Keith Joseph, at long last, can also be reported as being in  sight of something that does need attention by the Left. `What is  it about the mathmatical process of dividing a thousand apples by  a hundred persons which confers a special legitimacy on the  possession by a particular individual of ten as opposed to some  other number of apples?', Anthony Flew is of the same puzzlement. Equality of results treats `mere relativities' as  goods in themselves, but why should it be supposed that they  are?   

The objection may be a bit elusive. It becomes clearer when  what seem to be several consequences of equality of results are  considered. Suppose, with William Letwin, that we have a choice  between two states of affairs in a society.One involves all  members having equally satisfying lives. We could say of them, if  we were able to quantify satisfaction in terms of new and useful  units rightly called Benthams, that in this state of affairs each  of them would get a balance of 5,000 Benthams over the course of  his or her life. The other state of affairs is one in which some  members get 5,000 Benthams and some 10,000. (Those that get  5,000, by the way, may get that number partly as a result of  being made a bit unhappy by their awareness of the better  condition of the others. Nonetheless, everything taken into  account, they do get 5,000.) Equality of results, which has to do  only with securing an equality of satisfaction, commits us to the  first state of affairs. In the second, however, some people are  better-off and no one is worse-off. Surely it is the better state  of affairs.   

A second and related consequence of equality of results has  to do with waste. Suppose that one class in a society of two  classes is flourishing for the reason that it possesses certain  goods, certain means to satisfaction. It is not easy to think of  such goods which could not be transferred to members of the other  class, thereby improving their lives, but suppose that there are  some. (There is the unwinning idea that the goods might be books.) Then, in order to secure equal satisfaction between the  two classes, the goods in question must be subtracted from the  flourishing class and put to no use at all. As some Conservatives  will say, the equality-commissars must destroy the goods for fear  that the once-flourishing class will regain them and destroy the  new equality.   

The whole objection, including the two consequences just  noticed, may be named the objection of mere relativities. It is  that the principle of equality of results is intolerable because  it recommends or defends mere relativities, whose recommendation  is at least obscure, and which can involve consequences which all  of us, if we see the matter clearly, will take to be irrational  or worse.   

Will my non-Conservative readers reply that the objection  somehow misconceives the principle of equality of results? Will  they say there is more to equality of results than `mere  relativities'? Will they say they had something else in mind in  the course of contemplating all the previous Conservative  objections to equality of results, and in taking those objections  to be weak ones? They will indeed, but for what reason? Is it not  the case that the principle is indeed about securing a certain  "relationship• between people?   

What is there in it, to come to a third and yet more  annoying consequence, to enable its proponents to avoid the  charge that they are committed to having everyone equally  satisfied -- in possession of the same number of Benthams, maybe  very few -- when there is the happy alternative of having  "everyone• better-off, if unequally so? What is there in the principle of equality of results to stop us from making a worst-off class of persons yet worse-off if this secures that all  classes are in equal if terrible circumstances?   

It is sad to have to allow that whatever the intentions and  feelings of Tawney and those who think and feel like him, what  they propound is open to the understanding which faces the  objection of mere relativities. Indeed it is difficult to avoid  the feeling that this vulnerable understanding of the principle  of equality of results has been part of their understanding and  of their inclination. We shall return to the matter of equality,  but let us end this inquiry into it with some conclusions.    

One is that we have a further large distinction of  Conservatism. It is the ideology which is most firmly opposed to  the principle we have latterly been considering and also to  certain other propositions about equality, including the related  proposition of equal treatment, and those about fair and real  equality of opportunity. Further, it is the ideology most  committed to yet other propositions of equality, including a  limited kind of equality of opportunity, and limited kinds of  equality of respect and equality before the law.   

A second conclusion is that those attitudes having to do  with equality do not reveal to us a rationale of Conservatism.  Those who speak against equality do not state their own  fundamental position, and it cannot easily be inferred from what  they do say. It cannot by any means be read off what is said of  justice or against mere relativities. It is no help to be told,  as we are by some Conservatives, that if they are against  equality, this does not mean that they regard inequality as an end-in-itself.    

A third conclusion is that we cannot be said to have found a  fundamental principle of the Left, something that is both  arguable and gives unity to it. Such a thing is necessary to any  final judgement on Conservatism. Conservatives, as we have seen,  speak much nonsense about equality. They have had right on their  side, however, in declaring that at least an arguable  understanding of the principle of equality of results, the only  real candidate for a fundamental principle that has been much in  evidence in the history of egalitarianism, appears in the end to  be a disaster, at any rate when understood in an arguable way. It  might be added that if Conservatives do allow it to be clear and  refutable, it is not what you might call an exemplar of  lucidity. 


Postscript to a disappointed reader: Turn to " What Equality Is". Postscript to a reader who would like page references, and the text actually to be quoted for any purposes: Get the book Conservatism , Chapter 7.

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