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Gosh talking in “-isms” sure gives me a headache. F.A. Hayek, in The Constitution of Liberty, articulates famously that:

From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally (before the law), the result must be inequality in their actual position and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either the one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Later on, Hayek goes on to argue that the argument for liberty is not an argument against an egalitarian distribution of material goods. There is nothing in the theory of liberty which suggests this is “bad.” However, in making the point in bold above, many critics of Hayek jump to the erroneous conclusion that scholars of liberty (and lovers of it) sanction and promote unequal outcomes as a matter of policy.

But that is a complete straw man argument. What the argument for liberty rejects is any deliberately chosen pattern of distribution – whether equal or unequal. What are the implications of this view? He goes on to argue that the desirability of an object is not sufficient to justify the employment of coercion. And we will explore in future posts the importance of this position. For now, just because one opposes the forced creation of equal outcomes does not mean one favors the forced creation of unequal outcomes, even if one believes that some measure of inequality is important for promoting productive effort.

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