Today’s must-read: Vincent Phillip Muñoz’s article about Progressives’ and Conservatives’ different ideological approaches to equality.
To the extent we conservatives look to the Constitution as the alpha and omega of our political ideology, we’ve thought a lot about equality in theory and in practice. Problems arise, though, when Progressives push their version of “equality,” a notion that marches under the same name as the constitutional concept, but that has a very different meaning.
This different meaning is not a distinction without a difference. Instead, it goes to the very heart of every citizens’ relationship with the state. The first encourages the state to leave citizens alone. The second demands that the state force citizens to pay homage to other citizens. The Left’s understanding of the First Amendment is the ideological equivalent of the Obamacare mandate, in that it relies on state power to enforce Progressive ideas.
As you all know, and as I’ve obsessively pounded away at my keyboard to explain, the conservative notion of equality is grounded in our understanding of the nature of the relationship between citizen and state. The Constitution generally and the Bill of Rights specifically (with assist from the Declaration of Independence) establish that government is the servant of the people.
As such, government does not exist to place value judgments on which people are of greater or lesser worth (i.e., judgments based upon race, creed, a legal citizen’s country of national origin, etc.). Instead, it exists to apply limited law impartially to all citizens, to protect us against threats to our national security, and otherwise to leave us alone to do what we believe necessary to pursue our notion of happiness.
With respect to that last item (leaving us alone), a limited government does have a limited role in ensuring that neither individuals nor the states act affirmatively to prevent people from pursuing their own happiness. In other words, we cannot bake discrimination into the cake (cake reference intentional). Laws cannot apply to one race and not another; places of public accommodation cannot explicitly exclude people based upon characteristics tied solely to race, religion, etc. We citizens have therefore given the government power to ensure that we play fairly under the Constitutional rules; we have not given it the power to come down on one side or another. [Read more…]