No true advocate of liberty will claim as their intention the advancement of one class of workers. Authentic liberty, as promoted by the true liberals in the classical sense, is blind. The American symbol of law is represented by the Roman goddess Justitia (Lady Justice) holding the scales of justice while blindfolded. The symbolism is intended to mean that the law treats everyone equally without regard to wealth, status or power and on merit of the evidence produced only. This principle is echoed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (emphasis added).
The goal of a true free market – which, by the way, neither the United States nor any other country has ever held – is to allow all participants the same unrestricted opportunity to achieve prosperity. The Declaration is slightly misleading in the phrase “all men are created equal.” The Founders knew full well that not everyone is created equal. It is the inequalities among us which creates such a vast arena of phenomenal achievements across the various disciplines. Some people are gifted with strength, others with mental prowess, still others with an eye for things that could be. But everyone has different strengths and weaknesses inborn which are insurmountable by any philosophical wishing. The real meaning behind this phrase is not that all men are equal physically and mentally but that all men are equal in the eyes of the law. The Rule of Law was a cornerstone for the founding of this country and under it, all men (and women and children) are given the same opportunities and privileges regardless of any physical or political labeling.
The second emphasized phrase is of utmost importance. Our Founders hoped that it would be evident to all that a person’s life is the most treasured aspect of his being. The first unalienable right possessed by man is the right to live as one wishes. The second right, Liberty, is the guardian of the first; without Liberty a man does not have the ability to live his life as he sees fit. The final right is commonly misconstrued. The pursuit of happiness means that man has equal privilege to advance whatever goal he has the means to accomplish. This does not mean, as is currently popular, that a man must have the same opportunity to pursue his goals. The opportunities afforded to each individual are all determined by inheritance, chance and, most importantly, determination. A determined individual can become enormously wealthy and successful with drive and determination despite the lack of extravagant inheritance. The point is that a true free market would allow all individuals to reap the benefits which are achieved through their own actions as opposed to the benevolence of others.
Contrast this with the socialist policies experienced through much of the world, to include the “freedom bastion” of America. The goal of socialism is to make the distribution of wealth “more equal and fair.” The idea of concocting some grandiose policy in order to increase the pay of a single class of workers (be it middle class, lower class, working class, etc.) is to demand that a central authority control at least some portion of the economy. As has been recognized and publicized by many great thinkers throughout the ages, it is impossible to separate economic planning from intrusions upon individual liberty. As F. A. Hayak put succinctly in The Road to Serfdom:
“There can be no doubt that planning necessarily involves deliberate discrimination between particular needs of different people, and allowing one man to do what another man must be prevented from doing. It must lay down by a legal rule how well off particular people shall be and what different people are to be allowed to have and do.”
In other words, policies designed to make certain individuals or classes “more equal” are necessarily designed to discriminate against others. You must treat people differently in order to achieve the same result. The Rule of Law, as this country was founded on, insists that only one set of rules be in existence and that they apply equally to all individuals regardless of circumstance, even if this means they are treated “unfairly.” The only way to make men equal is to treat them equally.
It is common to find individuals who claim to support the tenants of liberty and Rule of Law – and even truly believe in this support – yet support the ends of socialism. The ultimate aims of socialism are equality and social justice; ideals which most people can believe in and support. The ideas of which sort of equality are intended have just been discussed but it is the means to these ends and upon whom precisely these ends meet which draws the dispute. The United States already confiscates a large percentage of wealth in order to transfer it to certain segments of the population which have achieved political clout. We have obviously been pursuing socialist goals for quite some time and still do to this day. The only question seeming to be asked is how exactly these ends are to be brought about. We fight over the means, not the ends.
What is not readily apparent is the fact that the pursuit of “social equality” erodes individual liberty until we are, in essence, slaves to the state. The presence of a minimum wage, intended to assist the poor, forces employers to hire fewer workers with fewer benefits and eliminates the ability to establish personal contract. Subsides grant great power to the bureaucrat, allowing them to discriminately distribute wealth to favored individuals, companies, or industries. Immigration control not only limits the movement of unwanted foreigners but allows the state to track the movements of citizens. Programs such as Social Security and Medicare directly confiscate wealth from those who have and transfer it to those who do not. And ultimately, programs such as “ObamaCare” dictate those who live and those who die. Rather than achieving social equality and fairness, socialism of any stripe ends in an oppressive police state.
True liberals desire for a dramatic reduction in government at all levels. It is only through this action that genuine liberty can exist.