There is unrest in the Forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the Maples want more sunlight
And the Oaks ignore their pleas.
- The Trees, Rush
Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays, by Murray Rothbard
This book is a compilation of sixteen essays by Murray Rothbard. The title of the book is also the opening essay: Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature. It is this opening essay that I will examine in this post.
For well over a century, the Left has generally been conceded to have morality, justice, and “idealism” on its side; the Conservative opposition to the Left has largely been confined to the “impracticality” of its ideals.
With this, Rothbard sets the stage. The Conservatives have ceded the moral ground; by doing so, they have created an environment where the Left can achieve gradual change – over the long run “practicality” cannot succeed against “moral” and “ethical.”
Rothbard describes the “impracticality” argument as one that holds up economic considerations against the Left’s ideals. I find this a tremendously important point. In how many arguments in favor of libertarian (or supposedly libertarian) ideals are the economic justifications raised, while moral and ethical considerations are deemed secondary – if even considered?
The trouble with the Maples
(And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
They say the Oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
Regarding the value judgment on behalf of “equality,” Rothbard asks:
Is there no requirement that these value judgments be in some sense valid, meaningful, cogent, true?
How is one to judge what is “valid, meaningful, cogent, true?” From the Introduction to the First Edition, Rothbard writes:
Libertarianism is a new and emerging discipline which touches closely on many other areas of the study of human action: economics, philosophy, political theory, history, even – and not least – biology.
“True” is found in the reality of humanity. Essentially, the student of libertarianism cannot ignore the reality of the world around him, the reality of humans as they are, the reality of the successes and failures in history and the causes of these. The better grounded the student of libertarianism is in this reality, the better grounded his advocacy in this reality, the more seriously will his ideas be considered.
But the Oaks can’t help their feelings
If they like the way they’re made
And they wonder why the Maples
Can’t be happy in their shade?
Rothbard asks: “should equality be granted its current status as an unquestioned ethical ideal? In response, he offers: