Tibor Machan’s Equality, So Badly Misunderstood is a positive pleasure to read. Short, readable, waffle-free and devastatingly destructive of the radical egalitarian position. It could be subtitled: What’s So Great about Equality? In a relatively brief compass it explores and undermines the intellectual grounds upon which the egalitarian project is constructed. There are many valuable aspects to this book and I’ll comment on them as I proceed but I’d like to remark immediately that it’s worth reading (and buying) this book for just one argument which shows conclusively that the egalitarian project is internally incoherent. Enforced equal outcomes, apart from being practically unachievable could only even begin to be brought about if those enforcing the measures to give effect to this material equality are significantly superior in power to those on the receiving end. What Machan calls “bloated equality” has, he believes, “helped, paradoxically, to reintroduce the former political and even moral inequality, which had been nearly totally discredited in much of the developed world.” (11) As he remarks somewhat later, “the effort to accomplish the massive coercive redistribution of benefits and harms” means that “those who take on this task obtain an inordinately greater measure of power over others than those others have over them.” (36) So, equality of outcome could only be brought about if we have significant inequality of power.

by Gerard Casey
School of Philosophy
University College Dublin

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