Lost Language, Lost Liberalism

A review of the changes 1880-1940 to the central semantics of liberal civilization.

Equality  Rejoinders

Anonymous. 1880. “Equality,” The Atlantic Monthly 45(Jan.): 19-32.

[25-26] Notwithstanding the world-wide advertisement of the French experiment, it has taken almost a century for the dogma of equality, at least outside of France, to filter down from the speculative thinkers into a general popular acceptance, as an active principle to be used in the shaping of affairs, and to become more potent in the popular mind than tradition or habit. The attempt is made to apply it to society with a brutal logic; and we might despair as to the rest, if we did not know that the world is not ruled by logic. … Along with the spread of a belief in the uniformity of natural law has unfortunately gone a suggestion of parallelism of the moral law to it, and a notion that if we can discover the right formula, human society and government can be organized with a mathematical justice to all the parts. By many the dogma of equality is held to be that formula, and relief from the greater evils of the social state is expected from its logical extension.

[28] The pursuit of the chimera of social equality, from the belief that it should logically follow political equality; resulting in extravagance, misapplication of natural capacities, a notion that physical labor is dishonorable, or that the state should compel all to labor alike, and in efforts to remove inequalities of condition by legislation.

[31] Inequality appears to be the divine order. … Even inequality of condition is the basis of progress, the incentive to exertion. … We are attempting the regeneration of society with a misleading phase; we are wasting our time with a theory that does not fit the facts.

There is an equality, but it is not of outward show; it is independent of condition; it does not destroy property, nor ignore the difference of sex, nor obliterate race traits. It is the equality of men before God, of men before the law; it is the equal honor of all honorable labor. No more pernicious notion ever obtained lodgment in society than the common one that to ‘rise in the worldis necessarily to change the ‘condition.’

[32] It must be observed, further, that the dogma of equality is not satisfied by the usual admission that one is in favor of an equality of rights and opportunities, but is against the sweeping application of the theory made by the socialists and communists. The obvious reply is that equal rights and a fair chance are not possible without equality of condition, and that property and the whole artificial constitution of society necessitate inequality of condition. The damage from the current exaggeration of equality is that the attempt to realize the dogma in fact — and the attempt is everywhere on foot — can lead only to mischief and disappointment.

It would be considered a humorous suggestion to advocate inequality as a theory or as a working dogma. Let us recognize it, however, as a fact, and shape the efforts for the improvement of the race in accordance with it, encouraging it in some directions, restraining it from injustice in others. Working by this recognition, we shall save the race from many failures and bitter disappointments, and spare the world the spectacle of republics ending in despotism and experiments in government ending in anarchy.

Woerner, J. G. 1882. “The Liability of Real Estate for the Debts of Deceased Persons,” The Southern Law Review 7 N.S.(6): 812-870.

[869] Of late years there is a tendency to deprive the legislatures of all power in this direction. Whether statutes authorizing individuals to do that which under the general law, valid alike for all persons, they cannot do, are an encroachment upon the judicial power or not, it is very clear that such legislation is thoroughly repugnant to the American theory of government. Equality before the law is at the very foundation of justice: to have one law for the community at large and another for John Doe or Richard Roe, as occasion may make desirable, is not equality, and therefore not justice. It is the office of the legislature to announce what is right between man and man,—not arbitrarily or capriciously, but in accordance with inherent principles of justice: the authoritative announcement of these principles by the legislature is law. That all men must be governed by the principles so announced is too apparent to call for demonstration; and hence it is clear that a special act is not, in the true sense, a law: in so far as it differs from the general law, either the one or the other is not in accordance with justice, and the coexistence of both is an official announcement by the legislature that it has been untrue to its trust or unequal to its office.

William Hurrell Mallock (1849 – 1923) was an English novelist and economics writer.

William Hurrell Mallock (1849 – 1923) was an English novelist and economics writer.

Mallock, William Hurrell. 1882. Social Equality. Richard Bentley & Son: London.

[7] Before our own epoch, the professed party of progress aimed only at equality in political rights; not at equality in the conditions of private life… Its real end now is social, not political, equality; and by social equality it means a very distinct thing — an equality in material circumstances.

[27] The first and foremost of [the principles of the Democrats] is contained in the abstract proposition, that the perfection of society involves social equality. Let us be careful to see what the words exactly mean. They do not mean that equality is the same thing as perfection—for equality in itself might be merely equality in destitution: but they do mean that inequality is essentially an evil and an imperfection. The Democrat postulates, no less than the Conservative, the conversation and even the increase of existing material luxuries. But…his distinctive contention is that the chief evil of life is the unequal distribution of them; and that progress consists of such changes as tend to make it equal.

[28] This doctrine resolves itself into the following train of reasoning. Happiness is proportionate to distributable means of enjoyment; of these means there is only a certain quantity, which has to be distributed amongst a certain number of people; and consequently when one class has more than an equal share, somewhere else there is a corresponding deficit. The luxury of one man means the privation of another; the high rank of one man means the degradation of another. Thus, happiness being proportionate to riches and social status, social inequality, in its very nature, implies unhappiness somewhere. It is, in a word, identical with a social wrong. Accordingly, the end of progress being the diffusion of human happiness, progress is essentially a constant approach towards equality.

Medley, Dudley Julius. 1884. Socialism as a Moral Movement. B. H. Blackwell: Oxford.

[24-25] And now we come to the most vehemently asserted, but the most radically false of all the assumptions of the Socialistic theory. We are told that society is founded on an unjust basis, and that all the miseries which overwhelm it, have resulted from the fact that men have found it to their interest to ignore the cardinal doctrine that justice is equality. The right of all men to be equal—such is the claim put forward in its most ordinary form and one which, when backed up by religious arguments, it is often hard to refute. But substitute for ‘right,’ which has unfortunately gained vague, if not ugly, associations, the word ‘endor ‘natureand assert that is in every man's nature to be equal—but how equal? As equal as every man's inherent nature will allow him to be, as equal, that is, as Providence intended. Beyond that we cannot go. Equalise mankind by law to-day, and to-morrow the inherent inequalities will reappear. …

It is incumbent, then, on the Socialists, even when they have grasped and accepted the idea of ‘distributive justice,and have once for all recognised that similarity is not equality, to look that they choose a proper and not a one-sided criterion on which to base the justice they demand. But what is this criterion, the application of which to a constitution will show whether it is bent on the true end or not? It is surely one drawn from this natural inequality. Now such inequality may be divided into physical and mental. But in so far as we feel it would be absurd in a civilised society to base our constitution on the maxim that ‘might is right,or to grant a share of power to every man of a certain height or breadth of chest, we can at once eliminate any criterion which might be drawn from physical inequalities, and confine our attention to the mental or intellectual side. But this is just the point which the Socialistic theories usually ignore; while the only aspect in which they do touch it, is the one most open to dispute. For the demand for free education, which might be calculated to do something towards smoothing away the natural inequalities of talent, is the one most likely to result in evil consequences; since it would be the transference to the State from each individual of a primary obligation which he owes to his children, and would be an additional incitement to the increase of the already over-grown and starving population. Yet it is against the favour shown to irrelevant or artificial inequalities that the protests of the democratic Socialist are rightly launched. He feels that nature has placed between man and man distinctions broad enough to need no aggravation by human ingenuity. It is, however, in his attempt to fill up this impassable trench by artificial means and then, triumphantly taking the effort for its accomplishment, to declare that all men as a fact are equal, that the error of the Socialist lies; and unless he will consent to see that nature has ordained for mankind, at any rate for countless generations yet to come, an intellectual hierarchy, great and wise, his schemes must end in smoke, and, far from recommending his doctrines, must cause an ever increased repulsion from their cardinal tenets.

Rae, John. 1884. Contemporary Socialism. Charles Scribners and Sons: New York.

[18-19] But these differences are only refinements on Baboeuf’s plan, and its main features remain — equality of conditions, nationalisation of property, democratic tyranny, a uniform medium fatal to progress, an omnipresent mandarin control crushing out of the people that energy of character which W. von Humboldt said was the first and only virtue of man, because it was the root of all other excellence and advancement. In short, socialists now seek, like Baboeuf, to establish a democratic republic — a society built on the equal manhood of every citizen — and, like Baboeuf, they think a true democratic republic is necessarily a socialistic one.

Lawrence, Edmund. 1884. Principles of the Commonwealth. William Clowes and Sons: London.

[110] It has been advocated because it is ‘based on a recognition of the equality of Indians and Englishmen;’ an equality which in no sense of the word exists, any more than an equality between the different races of the inhabitants of India; indeed, the whole social, political, and legal constitution of things in that land acknowledges and is based upon, differences and inequalities. In the legitimate application of the term equality, that is equality before the law, it is evident that this is a great good, but it cannot exist till there is only one law for all men to stand before; and the giving to Hindoos and to Englishmen an equal right, if duly qualified, to preside in courts of justice, is not to give them equality before the law, but rather an equality over it.

William Graham Sumner (1840 – 1910) was a classic liberal American academic and held a professorship in sociology at Yale University

William Graham Sumner (1840 – 1910) was a classic liberal American academic and held a professorship in sociology at Yale University

Sumner. William Graham. 1885. Collected Essays in Political and Social Science. Henry Holt and Co.: New York.

[101] There is no room for ‘equality’ under justice unless deserts are equal. Political justice does not include political equality, i.e. equality of political power, much less socialistic equality, i.e. equality of possession and enjoyment in life, for all men; much less for all members of society.

Equality before the law is a joint product of liberty and justice. It means that the law does not judge any one unfit (on grounds of birth or other arbitrary limitation) to have and enjoy any right which he can acquire, under the conditions which the state has seen fit to attach to its acquisition, and that the law does not hold any one fit (on grounds of birth, etc.) to have and enjoy any right without the same conditions which are attached to its acquisition by others.

[102] I can find nowhere any foundation or place for the notion that all men are equal, in any sense of equality, nor for the notion that they ever were equal, or can be equal, or ought to be equal, or were born equal, or were intended by God to be equal. If there is any place where men are equal, it is not the cradle but the grave. The only observation of the facts of life which has some remote bearing on the equality of men, altho far removed from any political or socialistic dogma of equality, is that a certain law of compensation runs through human life, by virtue of which, when all things are taken into account—health, wealth, talent, fame, power, domestic relations, and all other elements of human happiness—the lot of men on earth, at least within the same political body, is far more equal than the sentimentalists, the agitators, and the discontented are willing to admit.

Brown, Thomas Edwin. 1886. Studies in Modern Socialism and Labor Problems. D. Appleton and Co.: New York.

[149] We can no more replace the method of feudalism in industry, than we can re-enthrone the method of absolutism in government. The drift of events…is toward equality, equality conditioned by justice and liberty, but equality—not an equality of wealth or intellect or inherent powers, but an equality of individual rights and freedom. No sane man will wish to hinder these drifts. He will seek to adjust himself to them, and to direct them for best, safest, and surest social progress.

Robbins, Alfred F. 1888. Practical Politics, Or, the Liberalism of To-day. T. Fisher Unwin: London.

[42-43] It is, perhaps, presumptuous to attempt to lay down in a few words a basis of Liberal principle, but I would submit that basis may be found in the contention that

All men should be equal before the law; that, as a consequence, All should have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of action; and that, in order to secure and retain these liberties, The people should govern themselves.

With regard to the first point, I do not contend that all men are, or ever can be, equal. Differences of mental and physical strength, of energy and temperament, and of will to work, there must always be; and in the struggle for existence, which is likely to grow even keener as the world becomes more filled, the fittest must continue to come to the top, as they have done and deserve to do. A law-made equality would not last a week, but much law-made inequality has lasted for centuries, and it is against this that Liberals as Liberals must protest. We object to all law-made privilege, and we ask that men gifted with equal capacities shall have equal chances. We do not claim any new privilege for the poor, but we demand the abolition of the old privileges, express and un-express, of the rich. Something was done in the latter direction when the system of nomination in most departments of the civil service and that of purchase in the army were got rid of. But as long as in the higher departments of public affairs a man has a place in the legislature merely because he is the son of his father; as long as in the humbler branches no one unpossessed of a property qualification can sit on certain local boards; and as long as in daily life the facilities for frequent appeal, devised by lawyers within the House for the benefit of lawyers without, provide a power for wealth that is often used to defeat the ends of justice, so long, to take these alone out of many instances, shall we lack that equality of opportunity which we demand not as a favour but a right.

Wordsworth Donisthorpe (1847 – 1914) was an English individualist anarchist and inventor, pioneer of cinematography and chess enthusiast.

Wordsworth Donisthorpe (1847 – 1914) was an English individualist anarchist and inventor, pioneer of cinematography and chess enthusiast.

Donisthorpe, Wordsworth. 1892. “The Limits of Liberty” in A Plea for Liberty edited by Thomas Mackay. John Murray: London.

[60] Socialists say, treat all alike, and all will be well. But equality in slavery is not liberty.


Dodsworth, William. 1894. Social Inequalities and Modern Socialism. Office of The Journal Of Commerce and Commercial Bulletin: New York.

[6] The science, however, that deals evasively with natural law bears on its front a prima facie presumption of its falsity; and, in the case before us, theory-builders have chosen for their foundation the sand of assumption rather than the rock of natural ordination. Among the sophisms propounded from this point of view as fundamental social axioms are these: —

That all men are born equal and, therefore, are deprived of a divinely-conferred birthright if equality of condition be denied them;

That all men are the offspring of a Divine parentage and, therefore, all are entitled to share equally in the manifold good which the Universal Parent has provided for the common race;

That, having a common parentage, mankind constitute a common brotherhood, which relation morally excludes an unequal distribution of the varied boons of life;

That, as a rule, men equally use their efforts to the best of their ability to acquire possessions, and therefore should receive equal shares in the awards of industry, of whatever kind;

That all men are endowed with equal capacity for enjoyment and, therefore, are intended to receive equal means for and an equal share of enjoyment;

That, in a word, the unity of the race in all justice calls for uniformity of possessions, powers and privileges.

A most winsome philosophy, assuredly! Sugar-coated with unlimited philanthropy; beaming with ideal fraternity; dignified by transcendental justice; and so grandly millennial in its promises.

[8] What would become of this great productive and accumulative instinct under a system that enforced equality of possessions but not of production, and which neutralized the motive for work by preserving the common equality of all men, irrespective of what each might or could contribute to the common fund for sustentation? Enforced social equality means the extinction of this fundamental impulse to progress. The free exercise of the impulse calls for an unrestricted field for its play; and that, coupled with the various capacities for effort, results in the diversity of acquisitions which has ever existed among mankind.


Flint, Robert. 1894. Socialism. Isbister and Co.: London.

[317-318] And the idea of equality is very apt to be the object of an exaggerated and impure passion. In countless instances the desire for equality is identical with envy; with the evil eye and grudging heart which cannot bear to contemplate the good of others.

The principle of equality is one not of absolute but of relative truth. It has only a conditioned and limited validity. There is, indeed, only one sort of equality which is strictly a right: namely, civil equality, equality before the law, the equal right of every man to justice. And it is a right only because the law must have due respect to circumstances and conditions; because justice itself is not equality but proportion, rewarding or punishing according to the measure of merit or demerit. Political equality, equality as to property, and religious equality, unless simply applications of this equality, simply forms of justice, are misleading fictions which make equality what it ought never to be—a substitute for justice, or the formula of justice, or the standard of justice. … All such equalities when presented as additional to civil equality, the equality of all men before the law, the equal right of all men to justice, are illusory and pernicious; they have worth and sacredness only as included in it.

[320-321] Equality of conditions is not an end which ought to be aimed at. It is a low and false ideal. The realisation of it, were it possible, which it fortunately is not, would be an immense calamity. It would bring with it social stagnation and extinction. Mankind must develop or die, and development involves differentiation, unlikeness, inequality. The only equality which can benefit society is the equality of justice and of liberty. Let equality be regarded as a truth or good in itself; let it be divorced from justice and opposed to liberty; let the free working of the powers in regard to which men are unequal be repressed, in order that those who are of mean natures may have no reason to be jealous of any of their fellows ; and society must soon be all a low and level plain, and one which continually tends to sink instead of to rise, for it is just through the operation of natural inequalities that the general level of society is always being raised in progressive communities.


Brooks, George. 1895. Industry and Property. Sampson Low, Marston and Co.: London.

[192] There is no such thing as equality of nature, of temperament, of talent, of ability, of position, or of possessions; but there is in civilised countries, or at all events in civilised countries where Christianity holds sway, an equality of status, or of right. That is to say, both rich and poor equally enjoy the right of freedom, the right to be protected by the law both in person and property, the right to be treated justly, and, generally, the right to do as they please provided that they do not infringe the liberty of others or offend against the interests of society. This is the kind of equality which both religion and reason contribute to establish and support, and it is compatible with the largest inequality in other directions. Indeed this inequality exists in England to-day, for we are all equal before the law, but in all other respects, physically, mentally, morally, and socially, we differ in every conceivable manner and degree to our great advantage. The equality of Socialism is not equality of status, but equality of condition, and this form of equality is impossible because it is opposed to the laws of nature and of God, and repugnant alike to the reason and the conscience of man.


Constable, Henry Strickland. 1897. Equality: A Socialist-Radical Fallacy. The Liberty Review Publishing Co.: London.

[54] From their envy-born yearnings for equality, many Radicals and Socialists aim at destroying freedom of labour, freedom of contract, liberty everywhere. Nature, on the contrary, loves liberty, and abhors equality, or sameness. Destroy liberty in a nation, as Socialists aim at doing and that nation will be unable to gain wealth, and thus render itself safe from invasion and conquest. Counteract the laws of nature, suffering must follow to match. Of course, liberty and equality cannot exist together in a nation. Supposing equality to exist, it could not last; liberty of competition would destroy it in a week. Forced equality is a fatal thing.


Scotsburn. 1898. What is Socialism? Isbister and Co.: London.

[161] Since equality of condition (if it is productive of or accompanied by happiness) means equality of need, since equality of means of satisfaction of needs brings happiness (and is to be enforced solely for the sake of happiness for all), it is obvious that the physical, intellectual, and moral qualities of all men must be alike, or that, if they are not alike now, they will, by equality of training, speedily become alike; otherwise it is evident that a vast number (if not the majority) of men would be excessively unhappy—in fact, would find life so unendurable that they would rebel. Socialists are of course aware of this, and are prepared to deal with rebels; for if you are too much of a gentleman to work for your own living in the twentieth century (that is, under ‘Practical Socialism’), you will be compelled to support yourself by work in a penal colony; in plain English, suffer transportation with hard labour. It is thus clear that Socialists see that some men will not submit to their equality system and, as practical men, they have arranged how to meet the difficulty of inequality of character, and the means whereby they will punish and suppress it.


Jordan, David Starr. 1899. The True Basis of Economics. Doubleday and McClure Co.: New York.

[81] Nor is experiment needed to determine what is justice, for justice is an eternal and unalterable principle of action, the law of which is as well established as the law of gravitation. Justice is simply ‘the equality of all men before the law.’ But not equality before all sorts of law; not equality before unequal law; not equality before untruthful law; not equality before bench law; not equality before military law; not equality before United States law—in fine, not equality before any human made law whatever. But justice is the equality of all men before natural law, which is alone just and equal and the only law which, when free to all men, as it should be, provides a certain guarantee that life, liberty and happiness are within the reach of all men.


Jordan, David Starr. 1901. Imperial Democracy. D. Appleton and Co.: New York.

[100] We are advised on good patrician authority that all is well, whatever we do, if we avoid the fatal mistake of admitting the brown races to political equality—of letting them govern us. We must rule them for their own good —never for our advantage. In other words, lead or drive the inferior man along, but never recognize his will, his manhood, his equality; never let him count one when he is measured against you.

These maxims should be familiar; they are the philosophy of slavery, and they only lack the claim of the right to buy and sell the bodies and souls of men. … This is inequality before the law, the essence of slavery, the essence of Imperialism which is slavery as applied to nations. Every argument used in defense of it, applies as well to the defense of slavery and has been worn out in that cause.



Abbott, Lyman. 1903. "The Race Problem in the United States," Review of Reviews 28 (Sept.): 321-325.

[323] Equality means equality before the law; equal justice to all men. It does not mean equality in character nor in function. It does not mean that all men are of equal height, or of equal weight, or of equal muscular strength, or of equal brain development, or of equal virtue, or of equal intelligence. It does not mean that all men are to exercise the same function in society; that all men are to be farmers, or doctors, or merchants, or preachers, or lawyers, or governors. It does not mean that all men shall be sheriffs or constables, executing the law; or legislators, framing the law; or voters, determining what the law shall be.


London Municipal Society. 1908. The Case Against Socialism. George Allen and Sons: London.

[215] Whilst, similarly, complete Equality involves the destruction of Liberty. The absolute Equality dreamed of by the Socialist can, therefore, never be maintained in the absence of a despotic rule fundamentally opposes to the existence of Liberty.

[223] “In advocating equality of condition the Socialist has recourse to the history of the past which never in fact existed. The main ideas are for the most part borrowed from Rousseau.”


Arnold-Forster, Hugh Oakeley. 1908. English Socialism of To-day. Smith, Elder, and Co.: London.  

[62-63] We are promised equality of opportunity. … ‘Equality of opportunity’ is a fine phrase, but it has no relation whatever to the facts of life, and, despite all the Socialists in the world, it never will have. It is perfectly true that the idea of equality before the law and of the absence of privilege as attached to any class of society are noble ideals worth fighting for, and, if necessary, dying for. Many Englishmen have been engaged in this laudable strife during the past nine centuries, and many of them have lost their lives in fighting for their ideal. But that is not what the Socialists are fighting for. On the contrary, they have told us distinctly, by the mouth of one of their most notorious spokesmen, that they are fighting not to secure equality, but to create a dominant class. But, supposing this were not so, and supposing that the Socialists really were in favour of equality of opportunity, do they seriously think that this is what the majority of Englishmen want? When reduced to terms of common sense, the absurdity of the catchword is seen.

[64] Once more let it be repeated that there is a sense in which equality of opportunity has a real meaning: equality before the law. But it did not require the Socialists to preach a doctrine which generations of Englishmen have understood perfectly well, and towards the attainment of which they have been striving, and, on the whole, successfully, for many years. This is not the equality of opportunity which the Socialists want. It must never be forgotten that almost the only thing on which Socialists are agreed is that it is their business to fight—to use force, if necessary—in order to create a dominant and privileged class. Let us, then, dismiss this cant phrase, ‘equality of opportunity.’


Fagan, James Octavius. 1912. Autobiography of an Individualist. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston.

[261-253] Another familiar catch-phrase which has a good deal to do with capital and labor is ‘Equality of opportunity.’ Some time ago Ex-president Roosevelt, in an editorial in ‘The Outlook,took the following stand on the subject: —

‘We take the view,he wrote, ‘that our government is intended to provide equality of opportunity for all men, so far as wise human action can provide it; for the object of government by the people is the welfare of the people.

To begin with, this declaration of Mr. Roosevelt does not contain a suspicion or a hint of the practical difficulties connected with it. As a matter of fact, opportunity is one thing, and equality of opportunity is a different affair altogether. Opportunity has, at all times, a practical working basis; equality of opportunity is a sort of political invention that has the effect, if not the design, of educating the people to the idea that equality is a fundamental of progress, which idea, of course, leads to all sorts of schemes for the mere mechanical and legislative division of property. For, after all, these catch-phrases must not be taken at their face meaning or value. Practically speaking, they represent the significance applied to them by politicians for political purposes. On the whole, then, equality of opportunity must be looked upon as a slippery and a dangerous formula which should, at all times, be prescribed with extreme caution and hesitation. In the political life of the day it is used as a text by means of which the people are being notified that the reformers have discovered a new principle of progress, apart from and superior to the clashing of inequalities, which, in matters great and small, is cosmic and eternal. On the flimsy and unreal foundation of this popular catch-phrase all sorts of social and industrial iniquities are creeping into the body politic, such as wholesale interference with management on railroads, the leveling process and the seniority rule, and in general all sorts of spoliation theories, aimed by politicians indiscriminately at the successful, the industrious, and the rich. Correctly interpreted, of course, equality of opportunity refers to educational, political, and industrial facilities and privileges. … But so long as men are born in different places, with differing faces and differing physical and mental advantages, even equality of opportunity will not really equalize matters.


Salmon, Lucy M. 1912. “Democracy in the Household,” The American Journal of Sociology 17(4): 437-457.

[439] Another reason for our failure to define democracy has been the confusion of democracy with other abstract principles that have an external, but only an external, resemblance to it. We have confused democracy with equality, democracy with liberty, and equality with liberty. ‘The deepest cause,’ says Lord Acton, ‘which made the French Revolution so disastrous to liberty was its theory of equality. Liberty was the watchword of the middle class, equality of the lower.Equality and liberty are really mutually antagonistic in spite of the coupling of the two terms on all the public buildings of the French Republic, and neither the one nor the other is a necessary accompaniment of democracy. It has been repeatedly pointed out that all men are equal only as the liberty of some is restricted, and that if all men have liberty, inequality results.


Sumner, William Graham. 1913. Earth-Hunger and Other Essays. Yale University Press: New Haven.

[131] The ‘state of nature’ and the ‘social compactare exploded superstitions, or rather, they have given way to a new set of superstitions—those of the nineteenth century. Rousseaus idea of liberty is not dead. The eighteenth-century notions of liberty and equality have passed into the most cherished political faiths of the nineteenth century.


Hansen, Alvin H. 1922. “The Economics of Unionism,” Journal of Political Economy 30(4): 518-530.

[529-530] Absolute equality of opportunity is, however, quite as Utopian an ideal as is absolute equality of income. Indeed absolute equality of opportunity would be impossible without absolute equality of income. For it is inconceivable that the father with a larger income than his fellows will not seek to give his child as great assistance in the start in life as his income will permit. Unequal incomes therefore of necessity imply unequal opportunities, unless we assume that human beings will some day be as much interested in the success and well-being of other people's children as their own. We have then this curious dilemma: Absolute equality of opportunity for the coming generation, which would enable everyone to attain rewards commensurate with his native intelligence and capabilities, could not be attained without absolute equality of income in the present generation. But absolute equality of income in the present generation would mean that persons with unequal intelligences and capacities would be unable to attain rewards commensurate with their capacities. Equality of opportunity for the next generation is impossible without equality of income in the present generation, but equality of income in the present generation makes equality of opportunity for the present generation impossible. If you give two boys an equal start in a race, but the rules of the game forbid each from outrunning the other, then there is no open opportunity to win the race on the basis of merit at all. There appears to be no escape from this dilemma.

It is thus evident that absolute equality of opportunity would not only be impossible without the destruction of all vested rights, such as the inheritance of private property for example, but, more than that, it would be impossible without complete equality of income. Arguments against the restrictive policies of trade unions generally rest on the ground that these policies obstruct to some extent equality of opportunity. But, except for thoroughgoing equalitarians, that argument taken by itself alone will have little validity. Most economists are agreed that while the institutions of private property and the inheritance of private property prevent absolute equality of opportunity, they can still be justified on the ground of social utility.


Hayek, F. A. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

[85] The great aim of the struggle for liberty has been equality before the law. This equality under the rules which the state enforces may be supplemented by a similar equality of the rules that men voluntarily obey in their relations with one another. This extension of the principle of equality to the rules of moral and social conduct is the chief expression of what is commonly called the democratic spirit—and probably that aspect of it that does most to make inoffensive the inequalities that liberty necessarily produces.

[87] …[M]any of those who demand an extension of equality do not really demand equality but a distribution that conforms more closely to human conceptions of individual merit and that their desires are as irreconcilable with freedom as the more strictly egalitarian demands.


Friedman, Milton. [1962] 1982. Capitalism and Freedom. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

[5] As it developed in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth centuries, the intellectual movement that went under the name of liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in society. … Beginning in the nineteenth century, and especially after 1930 in the United States, the term liberalism came to be associated with a very different emphasis, particularly in economic policy. It came to be associated with readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable. The catchwords became welfare and equality rather than freedom.

[5-6] The nineteenth-century liberal regarded an extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the twentieth-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom. In the name of welfare and equality, the twentieth-century liberal has come to favor a revival of the very policies of state intervention and paternalism against which classical liberalism fought.


Hayek, F.A. 1973. Law, Legislation, and Liberty Volume II. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

[147] What especially most of the New Left do not appear to see is that equal treatment of all men which they also demand is possible only under a system in which individual actions are restricted merely by formal rules rather than guided by their own efforts.


Oakeshott, Michael. 1991. Rationalism in Politics and other Essays. Liberty Fund: Indianapolis.

[386-387] We are instructed to distinguish between ‘positiveand ‘negative freedom, between the ‘oldand ‘newfreedom, between ‘social, ‘political, ‘civil, ‘economicand ‘personalfreedom; we are told that freedom is the ‘recognition of necessity; and we are taught that all that matters is ‘inner freedomand that this is to be identified with equality and with power: there is no end to the abuse we have suffered.

4L is authored by Daniel B. Klein, Professor of Economics, JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Associate Fellow of the Ratio Institute; email: dklein@gmu.edu

Quotations compiled by Ryan Daza & Daniel B. Klein