Depending on the theory, that special
might be, among other things: coercivepower, political and legal rights, social status, opportunities to realize basic capacities, access toinstitutions and offices, command of material resources, or happiness. However, on no theory of the good society do all these dimensions of inequality happily coincide. More inequality on onedimension is often the price we pay for less on another.
For example, it is impossible to reduce income inequality through government transferpayments without granting a handful of people the awesome power to coercively expropriatewealth, and this introduces large inequalities of political power that, as a matter of fact, almostalways lead to some level of corruption and abuse.
As the philosopher Roderick Long glosses
John Locke’s seminal liberal conception of natural political equality, “
equality involves notmerely equality
legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality
legislators, judges, and police.
Even if we are satisfied that such inequalities in power are made legitimate by fairdemocratic institutions that reliably safeguard us against abuse, there is simply no avoidinginequality whack-a-mole. When we raise taxes on the wealthy to finance spending on the welfareof the poor, we increase inequality in tax rates; a small segment of the population will bear anincreasingly unequal share of the tax burden. Reduce tax inequality and income inequality goesup.
“Closing one gap widens the other,” political philosopher David Schmidtz
notes in a lucid
Schmidtz, “When Inequality Matters,”
.See also “Equal Respect and Equal Shares,”
SocialPhilosophy and Policy
Roderick T. Long, “
Equality: The Unknown Ideal
Lecture delivered at the Philosophy of Liberty Conference atthe Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, Saturday, September 29, 2001. Online at
.See also, Roderick T. Long, “Liberty: The Other Equality,”
Locke says, “
there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuouslyborn to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongstanother, without subordination or subjection
Second Treatise of Government