Egalitarianism is the combination of a normative belief in equality of opportunity, and an empirical belief that people are not really so different as to justify the inequality we see in the world. From these two premises comes a belief in equality of outcomes. So far as one person is indeed significantly richer than another, that disparity is undeserved – whether from unearned advantages (e.g. good parenting, “winning the genetic lottery”) or from some sort of malfeasance by which the richer got on top.
If therefore, according to the egalitarian premise, we want to go to the root of inequality in opportunity, the way to do it is not by tinkering with the outcomes. Efforts like healthcare and welfare and social security miss the fundamental engenderer of inequality by decades. The only consistent application of the egalitarian ideal is to nationalize child-rearing, and to remove that right from parents.
Most arguments-in-principle for the redistribution of wealth can be applied more consistently to nationalized childcare than to the welfare state. If a man requires a certain amount of resources to “get off the ground” economically, how much more does a child require a certain baseline of care to succeed in life? If a man’s poor economic situation is the fault of external factors like exploitation and oppression, how much more is his disposition the fault of external factors like poor parenting? Where redistributionists want to level the economic starting point after the fact, the consistent egalitarian knows that the starting point can only be leveled at birth.
Each child, then, is raised in the same manner, and from there chooses his path in life, allowing his natural talent and disposition to shine through. With each child raised in the exact same manner, the rest of the economy could be quite free. Parents may not bestow any resources upon their children except as a donation to the general fund, for one child may not be given an “unfair” or “unnatural” advantage over the rest – whether developmentally from loving care, or through resources. The principle could even be taken so far as forced sterilization and a prohibition of free procreation, as free choice in pairings engenders inherent biological inequality as well. Nevertheless, there must still exist some degree of genetic diversity, the elimination of which would place the continuation of our species on shaky ground. The only tolerable differences in outcomes, then, will be those arising purely from biological disposition (which would test the empirical half of the egalitarian ideology).
But, it may be objected, those differences arising from biological disposition are precisely the point. The low-IQ student did not choose his genes, so there is no reason he should enjoy less than anyone else. That even the nationalization of child-rearing fails to satisfy those who object to advantages stemming from having “won the genetic lottery” illustrates the absurdity of the whole project. Indeed, egalitarianism, more than any competing socioeconomic doctrine, is atomistic – in the sense that it must conceive of a core “self” which is independent both of birth and upbringing; some ethereal self to which praise and blame attach. Such a core must indeed exist to justify an entitlement to material equality among men of differing birth and upbringing.
To posit a core self so far prior to the actual man is (always practically, and often avowedly) to completely abolish praise and blame, for one such “self” is undifferentiable from any other, regardless of the choices which attach to it. To assert that a man, living in poverty due to his bad habits, is not responsible for his genes, is a category error – properly meaningless, as if we could step outside of ourselves to choose our own being, while still retaining a “self” to which responsibility might be applied.
Likewise, there is no “self” apart from that which has been constituted by upbringing and experience. To trace shiftless habits to bad parenting may assign guilt to those parents, but it does not absolve the subject. Responsibility must be assigned to the self; it makes no sense at all to say that a man is not responsible for who he is.1
If inequality of outcome is indeed a problem to be remedied, ex post redistribution must always be a second-best solution. The problem must be attacked at its core. But though the nurture part of the core might be in theory be feasibly equalized, as in Brave New World, the nature component reveals not only the practical futility, but the logical incoherence, of the whole endeavor.