William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Kids Raised By Parents Creates Unfair Advantages, Inequality: A Consequence Of Egalitarianism

The inequalities implied by this picture are too numerous and horrifying to mention.

The inequalities implied by this picture are too numerous and horrifying to mention.

The deadliest, most destructive, and dumbest philosophical idea of all time is egalitarianism. It says not that all things are equal, but that they should be. A good case can be made that egalitarianism, in its insistence on equality, is the original sin. “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Even if this isn’t true, nothing is more obvious than that people are different. Egalitarianism is the philosophy that these differences should be eradicated, and it tells us how the Utopian goal of Equality can be met.

Academic philosophers are largely progressives, and progressivism is to look forward to an ever-brightening future. This explains why progressives must despise the past. The past is that which is to be escaped from, a necessarily vile and dark place. That it is so is an excuse not to be familiar with it. Why muddy yourself? And because academic philosophers are largely not familiar with it, they frequently stumble upon old arguments unaware that they have been refuted. They cherish these arguments to the extent they can be made to conform to egalitarianism.

Such is the case with academic philosophers Harry Brighouse and the inaptly named Adam Swift (as you will see, no relative of Jonathan). Seems these fellows “discovered” that parents raising their biological children confer advantages on these children, advantages in which children being raised in other ways cannot share. This is anti-egalitarian and thus “unfair” and a “disparity.”

Here it is from Swift himself: “I got interested in this question because I was interested in equality of opportunity”. Equality of opportunity is the necessarily impossible goal of ensuring every person starts all undertakings equivalently disposed. It is necessarily impossible because all people are different (even identical twins) and not all people can be in the same place at the same time. Equality of opportunity in any real endeavor can be met controlling for only a limited number of variables. For example, runners in the 100-yard dash are started at the same time. But obviously, we cannot enforce the condition that all runners have led identical lives up the point of the race. Somebody must lose.

Swift’s next comment is proof that progressive philosophers routinely ignore the past: “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.” Any person with any contact with reality would not have had to do “work on social mobility” to know that families are different.

He continues:

One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.

The “social justice problem” is a theorem of egalitarianism which says that any equality is a social injustice. Notice that lack of equality is explicitly called “unfair.” Fairness is equality. Equality is level playing fields. Notice too that Swift, being generous, is not now advocating “abolishing” families.

Yet since he felt (and did not think) families should be abolished, he had to explain, given egalitarianism, why not. He and Brighouse were puzzled: “Why are families a good thing exactly?”

Swift, his eye set upon a distant future, was astonished to discover, “From all we now know, it is in the child’s interest to be parented, and to be parented well. Meanwhile, from the adult point of view it looks as if there is something very valuable in being a parent.” All we now know. Progressivism knows no past.

The tension between the innate natural knowledge that families are good and the internalized belief in egalitarian theory is resolved, for the moment, with this:

‘What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children’.

The test they devised was based on what they term ‘familial relationship goods’; those unique and identifiable things that arise within the family unit and contribute to the flourishing of family members.

For Swift, there’s one particular choice that fails the test.

‘Private schooling cannot be justified by appeal to these familial relationship goods,’ he says. ‘It’s just not the case that in order for a family to realise these intimate, loving, authoritative, affectionate, love-based relationships you need to be able to send your child to an elite private school.’

Egalitarianism must always lead to authoritarianism. Because people are different and cannot be other than different, an enforcement mechanism must necessarily be in place which restrains and controls these differences. If the restraints did not exist, the differences would persist, and that would lead to unequal opportunities and outcomes. Notice that Swift tacitly admits this when he twice says, “we wanted to allow parents”. Swift obviously puts himself in the authority as one who will allow. That the creation of this authority also creates inequality is always seen as a passing phase, something future progress will obviate.

Swift also tacitly admits that “elite private school[s]” produce better educated children than their opposite, non-elite, non-private, non-schools. Uniformity in education is an egalitarianism demand. (Incidentally, this uniformity is called “diversity.”) “Allowing” parents control over their biological children leads to unequal outcomes. The tension remains.

This tension is bound to result in distress. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates this than when Swift says that he would allow parents to read their children bedtime stories. He says, “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t”. You just knew bad statistics would come into it some how. Parents who invest more time with their children are more likely to read them stories, yes? And therefore probably care more about their education. No statistics needed.

The tension mounts when Swift says:

I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.

Egalitarianism is there: never lose sight of it. What you’re doing in reading to your child creates inequality. Feel badly about this. But rejoice in the loving relationship. Swift continues: “We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage”. Swift is willing to trade small amounts of inequality in exchange for “loving bonds” within families. But not too much. Indeed, given time, even these inequalities can be vanquished.

‘It’s true that in the societies in which we live, biological origins do tend to form an important part of people’s identities, but that is largely a social and cultural construction. So you could imagine societies in which the parent-child relationship could go really well even without there being this biological link.’

From this realisation arises another twist: two is not the only number.

‘Nothing in our theory assumes two parents: there might be two, there might be three, and there might be four,’ says Swift.

Swift forgets that the child can only be created by a mom and a dad, yet he is willing to leave science behind in the march of progress. Understand: everything Swift says, except for his allowing small freedoms, follows necessarily from egalitarianism. His only inconsistency is allowing any freedom, like bedtime stories.

Yet because egalitarianism is stupid and obviously false, making oneself believe it is always a painful process. One can just bring oneself to propose (or to swallow) modest increases in equality, like Swift has done, but one cannot make oneself believe in totalizing equality. Yet always (see this article about drift) today’s progressive is tomorrow’s “conservative”.

“We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,” he says. “If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.”

Indeed.

——————————————————————-

Thanks to reader Mike Berry for alerting us to this article.

46 Comments

  1. Oh Brave New World!

    Aldous Huxley saw this coming.

    9. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FAMILY

    The combination of genetic engineering, bottle-birth, and sexual promiscuity means there is no monogamy, marriage, or family. “Mother” and “father” are obscene words that may be used scientifically on rare, carefully chosen occasions to label ancient sources of psychological problems.

  2. Interesting point there in the beginning. Something I have not personally correlated upon till you highlighted it. Egalitarianism and the apple, part and parcel. I’ll have to bend my mind on this, thank you.

  3. I don’t know when it happened — during the Clinton Administration it accelerated but there were antecedents — that egalitarianism changed from bringing the disadvantaged up to an advantaged level to dragging down the advantaged to a lowest common denominator. Welfare, Medicaid, desegregation, charter schools, etc. all attempted to give benefits that were lacking for some. Now the winds seem to blow more toward hampering the advantaged ones. Egalitarianism is unnatural and so it will fail ultimately, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people can’t be made miserable in the struggle to establish it — ‘Everyone a Sisyphus’ could be the motto. Just make sure the boulders are equally difficult to push.

    Btw, the link to the article on drift didn’t work for me.

  4. “We do want to defend the family against complete fragmentation and dissolution,” he says. “If you start to think about a child having 10 parents, then that’s looking like a committee rearing a child; there aren’t any parents there at all.”

    But I was told “it took a village”

    Gary said : “during the Clinton Administration”

    Oh, yeah! Hillary was fond of the village…(was that Village of the Damned?)

  5. When you say:

    “The “social justice problem” is a theorem of egalitarianism which says that any equality is a social injustice.”

    Do you mean “any inequality is a social injustice”? Just trying to keep your enemies at bay!

    These people, quite literally, scare me. In recognizing that two parent families confer many benefits to their children (duh), their solution isn’t to bring everyone up to that level, but to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

    The egalitarian can never encourage improvement or changes in behaviors for the better, because that would immediately invalidate their ridiculous concept of equality. They cannot say “A biological mother and father confer so many advantages, therefore we should encourage that structure”. Instead, they opt for “All family structures are equally good, but some are more equally good. We’ll have to force them all to be exactly the same, because equal.”

    Notice also the complete lack of thought toward obligations of parents. If certain kinds of families confer all these ‘unfair’ advantages, one would think it would be morally remiss of other kinds of families to not confer those advantages to their children. But no, we can’t be seen saying some things are better, or (gasp) morally right or obligated! That’s why they must call “raising your children to have the best chance in life” an “unfair advantage”. In what universe is reading to your children something to be ashamed of?!

    These people are sick.

  6. “Swift forgets that the child can only be created by a mom and a dad, yet he is willing to leave science behind in the march of progress.”

    Swift and his ilk assert that their theories are ‘science’. Science, in academia, is whatever they say it is regardless of rational thought and human history.

    I recall a wise man once said “Love of Theory is the Root of All Evil”.

  7. So this is where the Australian ABC got the story as mentioned by Andrew Bolt on his blog

  8. There was some coverage on Fox and Friends under the title ” Woman set to join FDNY despite failing the physical exam” where they interviewed two women. The one most favorable to the event said they shouldn’t lower the standards but change the test to include more women. No mention of how this could be done without lowering the standards.

    Same woman tried to drown out the other one who said it was a dangerous precedent where a member of a team is by default is less capable in a job that requires strength and stamina. This talking over business is becoming far too prevalent lately

  9. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

    their solution isn’t to bring everyone up to that level, but to bring everyone down to the lowest common denominator.

    Duh? It’s easier that way and success for the bureau’s annual performance reviews more readily attained. Go entropy!

  10. Is there a link to the Brighthouse, Swift paper?

    I need it because when I speak of this to my friends they won’t believe me; they’ll accuse me of making it up (reactionary that I am).

  11. These appear to be comments made by the philosopher drawn from an interview conducted by the A(Australian)BC Radio : http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/new-family-values/6437058

    To be fair, as early as 2006, the pair avowed in that “parents do indeed have rights with respect to their children.” (http://www.mit.edu/~shaslang/mprg/BrighouseSwiftPRVF.pdf)

  12. They say that parents have rights, and I agree, but those right (I think) stem from the need to allow parents to fulfill their obligations.

    The rights to select a school or read bedtime stories must be preserved because parents have an obligation to teach their children. Stated differently, children are really the ones with the rights in this scenario, and the parent have obligations. Whenever someone says parents have rights, I don’t disagree, but I do worry that the statement is being made from a libertarian-esque position, and not from one of parental obligation.

  13. Do you mean to say that this vision suggested by Hillary Clinton is not realistic?

    “I have always believed that every child should have the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential,” Clinton wrote. “I’m more convinced than ever that our future in the 21st century depends on our ability to ensure that a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta or the Rio Grande Valley grows up with the same shot at success that Charlotte [Clinton’ grandduaghter] will.”
    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-road-to-elle-clintonworlds-plutographic-presidential-rollout/article/2562882

  14. The following sums up my general impression.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t6qQSll7InQ

    The idea of communal raising of children is not new, although the Spartans were smarter about it. This kind of experimentation was common in the sixties as well. It is an idea that keeps coming up throughout history, usually with disastrous results.

    He says “I had done some work on social mobility and the evidence is overwhelmingly that the reason why children born to different families have very different chances in life is because of what happens in those families.”

    I would use the word underwhelming. See the following for the effect of peers,

    http://www.amazon.ca/The-Nurture-Assumption-Children-Revised/dp/1439101655

    and the following for the always neglected fact that children are the result of sexual reproduction.

    http://www.amazon.ca/The-Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial/dp/0142003344

    I believe that these insights are best expressed by the old adage of “falling in with the wrong crowd”.

  15. James, “Whenever someone says parents have rights, I don’t disagree, but I do worry that the statement is being made from a libertarian-esque position, and not from one of parental obligation.”

    Strange but I have exactly the opposite worry. In particular that guns and badges are the preferred mode of insuring that obligation. See:

    http://thefederalist.com/2015/04/21/maryland-police-detain-kids-for-walking-three-blocks-to-the-park/

    The days when a cop was a kid’s friend are long gone.

    Reason-on-line has noticed the same study and is even more upset about it.

    http://reason.com/blog/2015/05/06/abolish-the-family-or-just-hobble-parent

  16. Scotian,

    I am probably worried just the same as you about guns and badges being the means of enforcing some of the obligations! The whole detaining kids for walking to the park is ridiculous. I actually can’t imagine an obligation to parents to not allow their kids to learn to be independent, such that those kinds of detainings are seen as good.

    I probably shouldn’t have used libertarian-esque. What I was intending by that phrase is to mean a shift toward parents having rights in a very open, anything goes kind of sense. It leaves too much wiggle room and seems to ignore the rights of the child.

    The danger in that, and the source of my worry, is that by not discussing the rights of parents along with the rights of the children, then we lose focus of the most important part of that (the children). Since children are fairly defenseless and needy people, their rights should be of the primary concern, not the parents’ rights.

    That being said, the parents absolutely have many rights with respect to their children. The largest set of those is probably the set of rights that ensures the parents ability to fulfill their obligations.

  17. Briggs,

    broken link to the article.

    I would be very curious to access the context of the interview. It’s very hard to take him seriously, or that it he seriously believe what he says.

    Though such an experiment was conducted in the beloved Israel, where the elite who were Jewish people from Europe also called ashkenazi. They found that the sephardi jews were not up to the standard of the ashkenazi and decided to place their kids into kibbutz to be raised. Of course, the parents never saw them again.

    If he is serious, his line of thought is on the very fringe. No one that I know of think of the quality of opportunity has being absolute.

    Equality of opportunity really means that everyone has the opportunity to go to school, not that everyone has to go to a specific school. Everyone can buy a car, but not everyone has to buy a Cadillac.

  18. “One way philosophers might think about solving the social justice problem would be by simply abolishing the family. If the family is this source of unfairness in society then it looks plausible to think that if we abolished the family there would be a more level playing field.”

    One way to solve the social justice problem is to simply redefine our notion of what is social justice (or injustice).

  19. Traditional monogamous marriage is a form of reproductive egalitarianism, its enforcement is authoritarian. Do you reject traditional monogamous marriage for those reasons?

  20. Sylvain, “Equality of opportunity really means …”

    It doesn’t mean anything. It is a political slogan whose interpretation varies with place, time, and political expediency. I am always amused by the assurances of the political left of this far and no further, that implies that they personally control the future. This is either arrogance or disingenuous. Also I need to point out that everyone does not have the opportunity to go to school: attendence is forced. It’s guns and badges yet again. Home schooling has been allowed here and there and now and then but the continuation of this can not be taken for granted.

  21. As Helmut Schoeck pointed out in his book, egalitarianism is a manifestation of envy. It is vice masquerading as virtue.
    http://www.amazon.com/ENVY-A-Theory-Social-Behaviour/dp/0865970645

  22. Based Boy Wonton

    May 6, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    jaw-dropping, the pure inhumanity of these “problem-solvers” . Beyond my wildest imaginings. Twisting human nature in the way these people advocate is worse than just killing people.

    Let it be according to Your will Father but I know that I won’t be able to handle a world in which this vision is inflicted on me

    Edited

  23. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 6, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Conservatives generally believe in equal process; liberals, in equal outcomes. But equal process means unequal outcomes, and equality of outcomes requires the process must be rigged.

  24. Egalitarianism is just a word. Its various applications is what may be fairly critiqued. Intelligent people would all agree, I hope, that a healthy society – which implies a healthy economy – requires egalitarian *opportunities.* Do you want to live in a society where only the wealthy have good educational and income producing prospects?

    But what inevitably happens is the stupid (of which, sadly, there will always be too many) decide that if *some* egalitarianism is a good thing, which it is, the better society will become, the more of it we advocate for. Hence you end up with people who demand egalitarian outcomes as well.

    Reasonable arguments and principles pushed to their extremes inevitably turn into really dumb ideas.

  25. Katie,

    Thanks for the links.

  26. Sylvain I’d like a source (other than an Islamic or leftist anti-semite) for your slander about Israeli Jews. By the way, the elite are not the Ashkenazi but the Sephardim, which shows how much you know about Jews or Israel.

  27. Sylvain, in the heat of my response, I erred: it wasn’t slander (that’s oral), it was libel.

  28. Steve borodin

    May 6, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Why do we call progressives progressive. They don,t.

  29. Based Boy Wonton said, “Twisting human nature in the way these people advocate is worse than just killing people.”

    Except killing people is usually how it ends in authoritarian states when they find they can’t twist human nature the way they want.

  30. Bob,

    My source is my University teacher Yakov Rabkin when I took my course on the history of the Jewish since the 19th century.

    A Jewish scholar of russian origin speaking/reading 26 languages.

    This is the kind of history that the Christians in the USA will refuse hear. Truth hurt and people will refuse to hear it.

    https://books.google.ca/books?id=r8kmAQAAMAAJ&q=yakov+rabkin&dq=yakov+rabkin&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=wdFKVd_lKZKGyATJjoHoBg&ved=0CC4Q6AEwBA

  31. 1-Ashkenazi were the Jewish from Europe and were responsible for the creation of the State of Israel,

    2-Sephardim were the Jewish living under muslim ruler.

    Their may have been a shift of power between the 2. The second being much more numerous than the first. But at the creation of Israel the Influence was Russian and Ashkenazi

  32. No serious person who advocates egalitarianism as a general rule sees it in the twisted way you describe. You are either really naive, or just don’t care at all about the scruples on display here.

    JMJ

  33. Montague (C. M. Boyd)

    May 7, 2015 at 2:58 am

    After reading a bit of Nietzsche (his Genealogy of Morals) in class, I suspect that his painting of Western civilization as an accumulation of debt is a good way to understand the progressive hatred of the past. It’s not just that they think the future is brighter than yesterday; they really think that the psychical accumulation of the feeling of debt towards ancestors, increasing through time, creates tradition, and ultimately, religion. Thus, any debt we owe to history (at least, in the Western tradition, and especially Christianity as the ultimate form of debt, in sin) is to be disavowed. In fact, to continue with the metaphor, it is anyone of that tradition – “white, angelo-saxon protestant” – who must pay back all that has been paid him in this system of “debt.”

    At least, I think this more closely explains the particular aptness of the phrase. “they refuse to acknowledge their debt to history.”

  34. Self evidently, Progressives are quite proud of their history. Freedom of speech, the enfranchisement of women, abortions, the civil rights movement, etc. Conservatives have adopted most of these social reforms as their own. Obviously, though, at some point social reform becomes self defeating. The point of the exercise becomes the act of reform itself, not consideration of outcomes. Giving women the right to vote was a great social achievement. Advocating for the granting of children and pets the right to vote, not so much. Once you’ve achieved all the major social outcomes, if you still want to be Progressive, you’re going to have to push stranger, and ultimately, socially destructive ideas. There is nowhere else to go.

  35. Briggs

    May 7, 2015 at 6:57 am

    JMJ,

    Except, of course, for Brighouse and Swift who, since they have a book on this very subject, appear to believe what they’re saying.

    Sylvain,

    You continually make the mistake of calling us “conservatives” and therefore imagine we are happy with a display of how easily the military can implement country-wide martial law.

  36. Sylvain, I don’t accept your sources. Sephardic Jews were the Jews driven out of Spain and Portugal. In this country the first Jewish settlers were Sephardic, next German Jews(the Strauss’s, the merchant bankers), last the Ashkenazi. I recall a Seder dinner with a Dutch-Jewish Colleague (Sephardic), where rice was served and we talked about other types of Seders. His wife, also Dutch-Jewish, said we don’t really know much about Ashkenazi customs (with a certain air of disdain). I’ve been trying to find a Sephardic ancestor, but have failed unto the fourth generation. So your sources give you a very limited point of view in this particular statement as in most of the other statements you put down here. By the way, I regard your statement about the kibbutz practices as with all your others.

  37. Here’s another good commentary on Swift’s trial rerun of “A Modest Proposal”, an article in NRO by Kevin D. Williamson:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418012/inching-toward-harrison-bergeron-kevin-d-williamson

  38. There is nothing wrong with egalitarianism as the claim that the meaningfulness of one person’s awareness of suffering and joy is identical to the meaningfulness of any other person’s.

    The problem comes when the meaning of subjective experience is denied in favor of a behaviorist re-interpretation of the ineffable. Equal humanity is then reinterpreted on a bed of Procrustes.

    But the insistence on objective equality is only the first step, and it is not the worst step.

    The next step comes when consciousness itself is redefined “scientifically”, as a measurable phenomenon. For when that happens, the equal humanity of people (by that definition) will be scientifically falsified. There is nothing complex in nature that is measurably equal in its different manifestations.

    By the correct interpretation of human equality, it is not something that must be achieved, it is an eternal truth. It is reasonable to question how a just society ought to be structured in the light of that truth, and this likely does entail a social contract, but the answer is likely not going to be that everyone attains equal results.

  39. Ye Olde Statistician

    May 7, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Of course, those Ashkenazim who went to Israel from Europe in the early days and started those collective farms were socialists. It is no surprise that socialists engage in collectivist social engineering. You can mark when the Left turned anti-Israeli from the election in which Labour lost power for the first time since the foundation of the State.

  40. /blockquote>“The “social justice problem” is a theorem of egalitarianism which says that any equality is a social injustice.”
    A theorem of egalitarianism! Any equality is a social injustice?! Any?
    These people are sick.
    Do these people exist?

  41. “The “social justice problem” is a theorem of egalitarianism which says that any equality is a social injustice.”

    A theorem of egalitarianism! Any equality is a social injustice?! Any?
    These people are sick.
    Do these people exist?

  42. Bob,

    Nice use of the genetic fallacy. You are very funny.

    Of course, you don’t accept my source he doesn’t say what you want to hear so it’s not a good source.

    Sephardic Jews is used to describe all the Jews that lived in muslim ruled country. The Iberian peninsula was ruled by Arab muslim for several centuries. And when the Iberian Jews were expelled in 1492, where do you think they went? Up North or down South. The second and they flourish for centuries.

    Funny that YOS agrees with me about the kibbutz. And of course anyone that criticize Israel, even when true are anti-semite. BTW, semite is a race and the closest people to what semite were are now known as the Palestinian.

    Maybe you should read from other author than pro-zionist writer, but again the genetic fallacy will prevent you to do it.

  43. YOS,

    Still they did it.

  44. Awww, I’ll have to stop reading to my child, it’s disadvantaging others.

    Oh wait, I did stop reading to him, he reads to himself now, and at 9 yrs old is one of the top readers in his school (up to age 11).

    Damn right I’ll give him every advantage I can.

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