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Home > Document Library > Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding > The Heresy of Equality: A Reply to Harry V. Jaffa

The Heresy of Equality: A Reply to Harry V. Jaffa

M.E. Bradford

[A prominent conservative attacks Harry Jaffa’s defense of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. — TGW]


Let us have no foolishness indeed. Equality as a moral or political imperative, pursued as an end in itself—Equality, with the capital "E"—is the antonym of every legitimate conservative principle. Contrary to most Liberals, new and old, it is nothing less than sophistry to distinguish between equality of opportunity (equal starts in the "race of life") and equality of condition (equal results). For only those who are equal can take equal advantage of a given circumstance. And there is no man equal to any other, except perhaps in the special, and politically untranslatable, understanding of the Deity. Not intellectually or physically or economically or even morally. Not equal! Such is, of course, the genuinely self-evident proposition….

But the equality of Professor Jaffa’s essay, even in the ordinary sense of "equal rights", can be expected to work the other way around. For this equality belongs to the post-Renaissance world of ideology…. Envy is the basis of its broad appeal…. Furthermore, hue and cry over equality of opportunity and equal rights leads, a fortiori, to a final demand for equality of condition….

But behind the cult of equality …is an even more sinister power, the uniformitarian hatred of providential distinctions which will stop at nothing less than what Eric Voegelin calls "a reconstitution of being": a nihilistic impulse which is at bottom both frightened and vain in its rejection of a given contingency and in its arrogation of a godlike authority to annul that dependency.

[From "The Heresy of Equality: A Reply to Harry V. Jaffa," in A Better Guide than Reason: Studies in the American Revolution (La Salle, Ill.: Sherwood Sugden, 1979), 29-31.]


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