William Munny- protagonist of the classic Clint Eastwood Western “Unforgiven”- was a fearsome gunslinger, widower of a good Christian woman, and the father of two young children. He stood in awe of life and death and struggled with good and evil. But one thing he was clear on was fairness-
Deserve, indeed, has nothing to do with it. And yet “deserve”- the issue of equity- has been the central issue of Western politics for centuries.
The first struggle over equity involved King John versus his barons, and forced him to concede his rule was not absolute and that freemen could only be punished under law. It resulted in the Magna Carta. This document wasn’t always followed, but it set the theoretical precedent that the individual could insist on fair, and equal treatment. More importantly, it set up an ongoing conflict between the need and desire of the state to exercise power to maintain order and the need and desire of the individual to do what he wants.
The people answered to the king, and the king answered to God, who answered to nobody. Since who, what, and where God is, and what God wants is a matter of ongoing debate, under this model the king- or for modern purposes let us say the state- has absolute power and answers to nobody. It may choose to permit people certain freedoms, but that is at its discretion. This model of the state is what is most generally accepted today. Mainstream conservatives like the idea of “natural rights”- that there are certain rights the state cannot abridge under any circumstances. Leftists like the idea of rights, but only when it is convenient for them. Since all governments are leftist, the idea of natural rights is effectively moot.
Thomas Hobbes believed the state was not ordained by God, but created by men for the common welfare- but having created it, it became absolute, and gained absolute power. Since the state must always be able to guard the common welfare, it has absolute power to do this. Hobbes rejected the idea of “separation of powers” such as the US constitution has. As Moldbug says, power is conserved. The state has the ultimate power, and in the US all these issues are decided either by government regulators who interpret rules with little real oversight, or judges who make a final ruling. Moldbug attributes most of the power of the state to bureaucrats, but even bureaucrats answer to judges- not often, as judges are busy, but eventually. When conservatives try to claim various rights, liberal judges always find for the state under the concept of protecting the common welfare.
So we have a state with absolute power, but as Steve Sailer likes to ask- Who? Whom? Who controls it, and does what to whom? To some extent this is a question of authority. Who legitimately has the power? But under this is usually the question, in whose hands is the power equitable?
The major event of the middle of the last millenium- the Reformation- was a matter of authority. But having shaken loose the locus of authority, from the Pope to- well pretty much anybody who could read- the issue of equity came much more to the forefront, explicitly or not.
In England it became a struggle between the commercial class and the traditional military aristocracy. The commercial class actually did stuff, but the aristocracy only ruled by accident of birth, so how was that fair? The English commercial class promoted its interests for several centuries by spreading democracy, until this became the world standard. The reformist Protest religion of this loved the idea of equality, tearing down those above it and civilizing those below it with religious discipline- the “sivilizing” that rankled Huckleberry Finn so much.
Human neurological uniformity is thus a very deep part of the reformist mentality. No one can rule by birth, and no one can be born to be ruled. People are still obviously not uniform, so what makes them different? Morality, rather than some inborn quality. The people who run society do so because they are more moral. People are good citizens to the extent they adhere to this morality, or at least agree to it.
The hereditary aristocracy largely crumbled away, at least in terms of social and political power, in the 19th century. They were replaced by the commercial class, who were theoretically in the position they were due to their personal probity and work ethic. And yet society was becoming even more unequal in some ways. A new urban proletariat of industrial workers and misplaced peasants appeared, and in the US Midwestern farmers found themselves at the mercy of railroads, banks, and agricultural processors.
The idea of human biodiversity- that humans were not fundamentally the same, but differed biologically between races and with races, and that social class, stratification, and other human differences were a result of this, appeared at this time. A society more unequal than ever, should things be allowed to develop on their own, appeared inevitable.
Against the corrosive forces of economic inequality, business regulation, labor laws, and monetary reform- read debasement of the currency- became the issues of liberals of the day. If people were equal, then only limited equality could be tolerated. Income and inheritance taxes would reduce inequality, and allow the prohibition of alcohol- alcohol was regarded as the scourge of the lower classes, but the government depended heavily on alcohol taxes for revenue. Women’s suffrage would bring the sensibility of the fair, and more moral sex, into government.
All this has continued down the same path since. Prohibition was achieved, found to be more trouble than it was worth, and repealed, but the pursuit of equity based on human neurological uniformity has continued in all other ways. It has not always been smooth; Williams Jennings Bryan did not get the silver standard with his “cross of gold” speech in 1896; but the Federal Reserve was established in 1913 and Roosevelt took the US off the gold standard in 1934. Regulation of opiates and marijuana is usually attributed to racial fear by liberals, but having failed in Prohibition because just too much of the population liked alcohol, less popular recreational substances offered a consolation prize.
The nature of the ruling class has changed somewhat. They are no longer merchants and bankers, but the descendents of merchants and bankers gone into more stimulating fields. They are people who make money by virtue of their elite education rather than physical or financial capital. They are Democrats rather than Presbyterians or Methodists.
Mainstream conservatives like to say that businessmen should not be taxed or regulated excessively because their ability to make money through hard work and risk taking is an admirable trait to be rewarded and emulated. They are answered with contempt by the rulers, because they haven’t gotten the memo- issued early in the New Deal- that the criteria for being praiseworthy and fit to rule was shown by the effort spent earning entry to an elite school, not the effort spent running some pedestrian, bourgeois enterprise.
The elite decides who “deserves”, due to some lack of equity, or doesn’t deserve, by virtue of some excess of good fortune. If you suspect that people who support them are found deserving, and people who don’t aren’t, you get how it works.
Philosophically, this can be looked at several different ways. The formal way it is now, is HNU = true, equity enforced by moral class. Seeing it any other way is quite heretical. Liberal HBD supporter Robert Lindsay would seem to fall into another category- HBD = true, but unrestricted HBD would lead to serious social problems, so equity must be enforced by the moral class. I don’t read him much so I can’t say for sure. I suspect that a lot of liberals really feel this way.
Another would be HNU = true, but equity is not enforced, or enforced minimally. I think of Christian social conservatives fall in this category. They think people are much the same; but they don’t like the elite meddling with things, and they don’t think a person’s social status or income in this world is important. You can be a virtuous person rich or poor, and that is what is important.
The big one is HBD = true, no enforcement of equity, the libertarian or Ayn Rand position. The libertarian position is mostly functional; overall wealth is greatest with unrestricted freedom. The Ayn Rand/objectivist position is anything but; in this view to restrict the gifted is only stupid but highly immoral. This position gets a lot of ink, but is adhered to by few. A modified version of the libertarian position is what most mainstream economic conservatives.
The fascist/nationalist position is more complicated. It holds HBD = true, inequality is inevitable, but can and should be managed. Different classes have different purposes, but equal value and honor. All work together for the greater purpose of society and the nation.
Nationalism is a powerful force. I believe it was originally invented by the Roman poet Virgil, in the Aeneid. The Roman Empire, before it got too big, had a certain nationalist sense. Nationalism remained dormant until the French Revolution. Britain has been somewhat nationalistic, but maintaining the Empire was a job for most people. It also had a strongly anti-military, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist element- some of the reformist Protestants we have been talking about. German nationalism rose in the middle of the 19th century and fell hard in the middle of the 20th.
American nationalism was ginned up in the 30’s to support the New Deal, and more to get support for World War II. It fell apart in the 60’s and shouting still continues. America is composed of too many disparate national factions to make real nationalism possible here.
The fascist/nationalist position offers the best balance between reality and the need for human dignity and purpose. Our current system of phony equality is pretty much the worst, except for communism. It offers all the humiliation and thought control of communism, but better economic results in the short run at least.
The system is deeply invested in HNU- it’s not a recent development that can be easily reversed politically. Applied to Europeans, it works to an extent, so it has had credibility for a long time. Society has to be organized in some way that admits to HBD but doesn’t have excessive friction.