Friday, July 27, 2012

John Adams: "equal rights" is not a blank check to redistribute wealth

Our founders wrote more on the issues of modern times than people perhaps realize. The words used are simply different, sometimes being more complex or sometimes outdated. In a letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote some things about John Jacques Rousseau and the distortions of reality that took place in the French Revolution: (in section III) (Alt. link)
That all men are born to equal rights is true. Every being has a right to his own, as clear, as moral, as sacred, as any other being has. This is as indubitable as a moral government in the universe. But to teach that all men are born with equal powers and faculties, to equal influence in society, to equal property and advantages through life, is as gross a fraud, as glaring an imposition on the credulity of the people, as ever was practised by monks, by Druids, by Brahmins, by priests of the immortal Lama, or by the self-styled philosophers of the French revolution. For honor’s sake, Mr. Taylor, for truth and virtue’s sake, let American philosophers and politicians despise it.

Equal property and advantages through life; this is the exact opposite of what modern American progressives preach, where everything is equal in everybody's house. This is quite a stark difference between the Founding ideals of America and the corruption of progressive ideology. He goes quite far in detail, ripping into the false notions of the narrative of absolute equality:

I believe that none but Helvetius will affirm, that all children are born with equal genius.

None will pretend, that all are born of dispositions exactly alike,—of equal weight; equal strength; equal length; equal delicacy of nerves; equal elasticity of muscles; equal complexions; equal figure, grace, or beauty.

I have seen, in the Hospital of Foundlings, the “Enfans TrouvĂ©s,” at Paris, fifty babes in one room;—all under four days old; all in cradles alike; all nursed and attended alike; all dressed alike; all equally neat. I went from one end to the other of the whole row, and attentively observed all their countenances. And I never saw a greater variety, or more striking inequalities, in the streets of Paris or London. Some had every sign of grief, sorrow, and despair; others had joy and gayety in their faces. Some were sinking in the arms of death; others looked as if they might live to fourscore. Some were as ugly and others as beautiful, as children or adults ever are; these were stupid; those sensible. These were all born to equal rights, but to very different fortunes; to very different success and influence in life.

The world would not contain the books, if one should produce all the examples that reading and experience would furnish. One or two permit me to hint.

Will any man say, would Helvetius say, that all men are born equal in strength? Was Hercules no stronger than his neighbors? How many nations, for how many ages, have been governed by his strength, and by the reputation and renown of it by his posterity? If you have lately read Hume, Robertson or the Scottish Chiefs, let me ask you, if Sir William Wallace was no more than equal in strength to the average of Scotchmen? and whether Wallace could have done what he did without that extraordinary strength?

Will Helvetius or Rousseau say that all men and women are born equal in beauty? Will any philosopher say, that beauty has no influence in human society? If he does, let him read the histories of Eve, Judith, Helen, the fair Gabrielle, Diana of Poitiers, Pompadour, Du Barry, Susanna, Abigail, Lady Hamilton, Mrs. Clark, and a million others. Are not despots, monarchs, aristocrats, and democrats, equally liable to be seduced by beauty to confer favors and influence suffrages?

Certain parts of this writing threw me off, because he appears to be referring to himself in third person, but that is indeed how John Adams wrote it. Other parts he seems to be quoting himself as quoted by Mr. Taylor.

What President Adams wrote is pretty clear. These self styled "philosophers" who preach tyranny under a new disguise were perfectly transparent to him. The redistribution of wealth seeks to make everything equal in everybody's house, but there's a whole lot about humanity in which we are not born equal into, which cannot be redistributed. Only our rights are equal, everything else is up to us to make what we can of it.

In section VI, Adams writes this:

Will Mr. Taylor profess himself a downright leveller? Will he vote for a community of property? or an equal division of property? and a community of wives and women? He must introduce and establish both, before he can reduce all men to an equality of influence. It is, indeed, questionable, whether such laws would not produce greater inequalities than ever were seen in the world. These are not new projects, Mr. Taylor. They are not original inventions, or discoveries of philosophers of the eighteenth century. They were as familiar to Plato as they were to Helvetius or Condorcet. If I were a young man, I should like to write a romance, and send a hero upon his travels through such a levelling community of wives and wealth. It would be very edifying to record his observations on the opinions, principles, customs, institutions, and manners of this democratical republic and such a virtuous and happy age. But a gentleman whose mind is so active, studious, and contemplative as Mr. Taylor’s, must easily foresee, that some men must take care of the property of others, or it must perish with its owners; and that some men would have as many wives as Solomon, and others none at all.

At first, this may seem unclear. But Adams writing that the doctrines of levelling(an outdated term for wealth redistribution) would create an even greater inequality, is prescient. In the age we live today, we see just how damaging to society that wealth(levelling) redistribution is, and how empowering it is to tyrants and potential tyrants. Tyrannies are always unequal, even those that profess to be the most equal. We see this in all of the communist politboros of the third and first worlds. All the people are equal, but the leaders are even more equal and thus live lavish lifestyles.

Large portions of the Adams letter are devoted to the structure of government. It's a great read, if you have the time.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your post. I just posted one similar on my blog. You're invited to read it. Thanks for sharing the light of truth. The nation, and the world, needs more of that.