Opinion

Equality: achievable utopia or idealistic dream?

Written by Callum Williams

Most people want equality – or so they think anyway. Ideologically, nearly all of us want it, but practically none of us really want it. Not convinced? Of course you aren’t. You don’t want to admit it. None of us do. But why?

We like to think we want equality because it makes us feel better about ourselves – a bit selfish, don’t you think? Why don’t we truly want equality? Well, it is simple: because equality is equal opportunities for everyone. If we had genuine equality, our quality of live would be reduced. This is especially prevalent as we live in a developed country.

The easiest way to explain this is with an example.

At the moment, women are statistically less likely to get high-paid jobs. A lot of men might want the world to be a meritocracy and for women to get equal job opportunities, but in reality why would men want that? If women can get higher paid jobs as well, there is more competition, so men are less likely to get a high-paid job. It is counter-intuitive to lessen our own prospects, and we are human, which means we are selfish.

If you say you truly want equality, you are either deluded or not human.

No-one would be prepared to forgo their quality of life to give others the same opportunities.

So, we really might think we want equality, but we don’t – not truly.

Equality is a good thing to strive for, but ultimately it is unachievable. That will never change. Feeling a bit depressed now? Probably a good thing… It shows you are as a good a person as a human ever can be.

Verdict: idealistic dream

About the author

Callum Williams

44 Comments

  • I disagree with your thoughts on as humans we are inherently selfish and that no one would give up their quality of life for someone else to have a better one. Charity workers in warzones for example. Their quality of life is not exactly stellar and they are trying to make other people’s lives more tolerable. That seems pretty selfless.

  • Interesting perspective, however, do you not agree, that whilst we may all be selfish to some extent, we can still believe in, and strive to achieve, equality even if it means reduced quality of life for the privileged in the short term? I am sure many of us would be more than happy to face slightly greater struggles on a daily basis in order to allow everyone an equal chance to progress. Better still, not all aspects of equality need to be detrimental to ourselves. The legalisation of same-sex marriage, for example, came at no cost to those who do not intend to marry someone of the same gender. So why must all aspects of equality be seen to come with a price?

  • That’s a really interesting opinion – on the subject of gender equality, what do you think of the idea that it benefits both men and women? For example, when women finally stop being seen/treated as the “weaker” sex, men will be able to express themselves more freely, without being bullied or harassed for being “too feminine”?

  • you only gave an example of why men wouldn’t want equality. You did not give a reason why women wouldn’t want equality. I’m pretty sure that most women want equality, like your example it may be a bad thing for men, but it is a good thing for women to be able to get higher paid jobs and to be on the same level as men.

    • Yes, in this case women would want equality, but your point is based on a world where only gender inequality exists. I bet a women (or a man) from a MEDC would not sacrifice her better life to have the same standard of living and help the people from an LEDC.

  • Wow – that’s pretty mind-boggling… What an interesting article!
    If, however, circumstances could not get any worse for someone would it then be possible for them to truly desire equality?

  • Why shouldn’t everyone in the world be treated the same, just because of their geographical location. Everyone’s the exact same on the inside.

    • Well I think I want it but I don’t really like everyone else because we are inheritly self centred because we are human and don’t want to disadvantage ourself and to get equality we would have to disadvantage ourselves

  • I have never thought about that before, It is a very interesting perspective and I do have to agree. The real question is if it is right to think like this.

  • Not true. Equality is possible, but only if implemented slowly. The form of shift towards an equal society you are talking about is immediate, or at least imposed upon society over a very short period of time (e.g. a year). However, the strive for equality would require a slow, gradual shift (or revolution, but that’s an entirely different thing) – a concept commonly accepted amongst socialist thinkers.

    • But that would require everyone to give up their standard of living and even people who would describe themselves as being left or socialist, most of them aren’t prepared to do this. For example if a socialist was earning £40000 per year and was currently taxed 20% they wouldn’t want to pay 50% tax to get equality because it is counterproductive to themselves

      • Lower their wage, in order to raise others. Also by the scale of the (GRADUAL) change, a person earning £40,000 p.a. would only lose a maximum of about £5000 p.a. anyway

  • Equality can never happen. Individuals are different, that’s one of the things that sets us so significantly apart as a species. If we are unequal at birth, then there is no point expecting it to happen societally. People have self-determination, and this necessarily creates inequality, through different life choices. Be what you want to be, and cherish the fact that you live in a society that, generally, allows this to happen.

    • So, do you believe that we shouldn’t at least try to strive for equality in a semi-productive way, even if we won’t strive for it fully due to our own self-preservation.

      • If a company wants to mandate that 50% of their workforce are women, that 13% are Ethnic minorities, let them do it. No qualms there. But that tends not to work as a business model, because, what if you have a situation where women don’t want to work in your business? You’re stuffed.

        • I agree that positive discrimination is a bad idea because it undermines meritocracy and causes resentment and exploitation. However don’t you think we should at least try to help people who want to make top positions in other ways to get equality of opportunity.

    • No, I’m not. I agree that it would be the morally right thing to do but my point is nothing to do with political spectrum but to do with human nature. Although I’m left-wing I accept that me like others will never truly believe in those ideals as it makes them worse off and as humans we are naturally selfish. Your comment just shows your denial which was exactly my point

      • I’m aware that you’re left wing, but you’ve presented a horribly overused (and frankly wrong) argument of the right.

        The difference is the politics of individuality versus the politics of society. You are looking at equality through the spectacles of a capitonominative society – the path to equality needs a SLOW and SOCIAL change, not an overnight one, which is the only method that you are suggesting. This method is KNOWN to not work, and has been known to not work for a long time.

        • You are still in denial, the point is society doesn’t exist, it is a group of people, you can only change society when you change the perception of individuals and no matter how morally thinking an individual is, no human on the planet will reduce their quality of life to the required level to gain equality because it is counterproductive for them and therefore against their human nature. It is nothing to do with politics just the human brain and human psychology

    • For example giving more resources to poorer schools to give students extra help to reach their potential.

      • Well, at that stage, they may not want to go and get a top job, so we have to mindful of forcing an ideal upon people. We’ve done that over the past few decades with university. We’ve held it up to be this thing that people must do, at the expense of other alternatives, such as vocational training. When student fees were scrapped by the Scottish government, it’s actually led to people from middle and upper classes still coming out vastly ahead, because of other factors like tuition and the like. Inequality still happens.

      • Hate crimes are crimes. They therefore should be punished as crimes. We should encourage people to report them.
        Inequalities of high-paying jobs are a little different. Government shouldn’t say to a business, “You are only allowed to pay someone what we tell you”. That involves the initiation of force, and is anti-freedom.
        Meritocracy means people are rewarded based on what they do, not what they are. This should be encouraged by making it easier to set up small businesses, encouraging competition. This will be achieved by anti-monopoly laws, like we see in most Western countries. But people earning high salaries is a good thing, the government receives higher taxes. Aspiration should be encouraged. Once again, anyone can be who the want to be, and do what they want.

  • Sorry, somehow I couldn’t respond to your reply.

    You’re still only describing an immediate change – with a gradual change, most people just accustom to it: most people won’t even make a conscious decision.

    • The point is that a gradual change requires a societal change and that would mean a changing of perception and people will never truly have a perception that equality is good because it doesn’t benefit them and humans are naturally selfish.

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