Chile: Inequality is not the Problem
Equality of opportunity by no means guarantees equality of results.
These days the media routinely discusses the good intentions of the government: It works hard to grow the economy, it works hard to generate more employment with the hope of reaching 600,000 new jobs at the end of the current presidential term, it works hard to regain the confidence of the people…et cetera.
All these outcomes are very desirable, of course, and they are not only legitimate aspirations, but also expected from all citizens. It is difficult to imagine that there are individuals who do not share those good wishes; the crucial point is to know how to reach those objectives, and assess whether the route currently followed is correct or not.
When the solutions to the problems of the nation are made based on the social diagnosis that dictates that the cause of the lack of harmony comes from inequality, we can expect that these solutions proceed in conjunction with the problem they are trying to solve, that in the case of Chile, admitted by all governments from Ricardo Lagos onwards, is inequality.
Now, consider the suggestion that because the diagnosis is generalized, impregnated in the collective thought, pitched to the masses by the media, and backed by the political authorities, that this line of thinking comes to be viewed as correct. People are fallible and their diagnoses can be as well, no matter how popular they have become. One need only examine the history of Galileo to understand that the majority is not always right, and much less so in economics, which is a science that needs to consider variables as sensitive as human behavior.
This is important to establish, since given that the diagnosis for Chile’s national problem is inequality, solutions are now imposed on us that achieve the opposite of what is desired. The government is good at trying to cut certain expenses and at least give the impression of austerity, but this discourse seems to be fragile and disappears when we see that many of the devices that drain public finances are sustained and instead of cutting costs, these even increase with the creation of new bureaucracies.
When working to reduce the material gaps between people, the government focuses on the observable and measurable in short periods of time. Maybe it’s because it’s an easy plan to sell to the public: fight the horrible inequality, that some have more than others, that some earn too much and others barely make ends meet, it seems daunting and sordid and the fight against that, has solid political capital, but it is not possible to achieve without crushing freedom in some of its aspects.
You see, material equality, which is the one goal that the progressive world aspires to, has as a background the fact that there are people who have had fewer opportunities in life and thus the playing field must be leveled. This gives us two variants of the progressive egalitarian current: the first is that which promotes what is called “equality of opportunities” and the other, which is the most radical and pure leftism, simply promotes equality of results. Having both is impossible and for both it is necessary to minimize freedom.
Equality of opportunities, automatically discards the possibility of equal results. Allow me to explain. If the objective is to equalize the foundations on which people build their lives, this would imply accepting the results that arise from this since the origin is in theory, just. Thus, if in the course of life’s vicissitudes, some gain an advantage over others, such results will have to be accepted without complaining, because they are natural results derived from the inherent differences between different human beings.
As an example, we could equalize all education at a certain level, so that no one has advantages over anyone else, but what different individuals achieve with that education will be different, since individuality exists regardless of the policies of political leaders This means that some would reach higher and loftier goals than others, and therefore have a better quality of life than others and none of this could be questioned because the foundations were fair and even.
The next generation would be obliged to give their material goods to the state, and the state would redistribute them arbitrarily to achieve so-called “equality” in the educational realm.
What progressivism sees in this situation is that while some advance economically, others falter, and they do not understand that despite the differences, the vast majority got there on their own merits. In any case, the freedom to pass on to posterity the fruit of that economic advancement, would be completely curtailed by a state that is forced to equalize foundations with each new generation.
We have already seen where this line of thinking leads. It is that discourse of taking away from the rich to give to the poor. Chávez used it in Venezuela and today we see that they are increasingly closer to absolute material equality, but in misery. When equality is the goal, you have no other options besides these two I have mentioned.
Either you choose equality of opportunities by crushing the freedom to create your social foundations and/or inherit the fruits of your advancement, or you lean towards the suppression of the freedom of private property, allowing the state to distribute goods, but only until there is nothing left to distribute, because this last system takes away incentives to produce.
Perhaps it would be good if the government of Chile abandoned once and for all the idea and intention of falling for progressivism in order to reach agreements. The opposition is willful, radical, and obstructionist regardless of the concessions made by the government, but the current administration was chosen to reorder the national priorities and work on issues that really concern Chileans: issues such as poverty, unemployment, security, health, education, justice, and freedom.
Inequality, on the other hand, is not even on the list. It is good that the government remembers this when drawing up its plans. The only fair system of equality is equality before the law.