The Magazine

A Real Equality Agenda

Let’s redistribute power, not income.

Feb 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 21 • By JAY COST
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A true equality agenda, which Obama is incapable of pursuing, would start where Old Hickory began. Acknowledging that inequality is a natural fact of human existence—after all, skills and talents are not equally distributed by God—it would concern itself with the ways in which our government is wont to “add … artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful,” in the words of Jackson.

Those seeking to enact such an equality agenda through the federal government would approach the problem humbly, knowing that Uncle Sam has a way of being profoundly unfair, perhaps especially when passing laws with names like the Fair Labor Standards Act. They would therefore begin by reforming the way Washington itself does business, not only cleaning out the dirty pathways of power but acknowledging the structural limits of government’s ability to act for the common good. They would then focus on empowering individuals directly, rather than via bureaucrats or interest groups. Block grants to state and local governments (where the citizenry can exercise greater control), vouchers, and easily accessible tax credits are all ways to level the economic playing field as well as the political one, for they all can empower individuals to make their own life choices.

Of course, today’s Democratic party will offer nothing of the sort. Founded by Jackson as a coalition deeply suspicious of government, it evolved over a century ago into the party advocating the use of big government to solve problems. Today, it is now merely the party of government—and not just any government, but one whose constitutional framework has been twisted to concentrate wealth and power upon itself and its clients. Jackson’s party has come to represent everything that Jackson himself once opposed.

Jay Cost is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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