A review of Matthew S. Battaglioli’s “The Consequences of Equality.”
Review by Keith Preston
For the political Left, there is no value that is more important than “universal human equality.” To be against equality is to be reactionary, regressive, benighted, bigoted, unenlightened, unseemly, and anti-human. And while previous generations of leftists were concerned primarily with legal equality, and then economic equality, today’s leftists demand equality in every sphere of human activity. Every profession must have an exact proportion of males and females (“gender parity”). Every institution must have an equitable proportion of ethnic groups. Any statistical disparity among races, genders, ages, sexual orientations, or classes is thought to be the result of mere oppression, exploitation or greed on the part of those who seem to have a leg up in life. Hence, the popularity of “privilege theory” among fashionable social justice warriors who equate the fact of having been born straight, white, male, “cisgendered” or some combination of these to be the equivalent of original sin.
In “The Consequences of Equality,” Matthew Battaglioli takes aim at every prevalent piety of the age. There is not one major leftist idea in this work that is not subjected to scathing criticism. Whether the issue is income inequality, climate change, racial equality, gender equality, the LGBT movement, the welfare state, “democratic peace theory,” or even conventional democracy itself, Battaglioli does not shy away from the critical examination of the assumptions behind each of these sacred leftist cows. He finds these assumptions to be wanting for substance and intellectual rigor. For Battaglioli, the enemy is “equality,” which he regards as a pernicious concept that carries severe consequences in the areas of economics, politics, ethics, and culture.
It is also clear that Battaglioli is heavily influenced by those whose ideas have helped to shape the neo-reactionary and right-libertarian movements that have become increasingly prominent in recent years. Much of his economic analysis relies heavily on Austrian economic theory. His criticism of modern mass democracy is clearly very profoundly influenced by the thought of Hans Hermann Hoppe on this question. Battaglioli also embraces the theories of Richard Lynn regarding the relationship between the distribution of average IQ levels among ethnic groups and their relative economic success. This brief but weighty volume is a must read for anyone who is in search for a primer on the basic theories of paleolibertarianism. Battaglioli provides a wealth of information and arguments with which students can enjoy offending and irritating their leftist professors and campus social justice crusaders.
Perhaps the greatest weakness of this work is its failure to address arguments that have been raised by left-libertarians concerning the consequences of state intervention into the economy and society for the sake of conveying political favors on the already advantaged. Vulgar apologists for crony capitalism and the corporate state aside, no serious libertarian thinker argues that contemporary capitalist economies function on the basis of a libertarian free market. Nearly all libertarians recognize that modern states function as an oligopoly of special interest groups that are attempting to rig the game in their favor. Is it not then reasonable to suggest that the state might have initiated a wide range of interventions that serve to privilege already wealthy and powerful corporations, banks, and industries? And that wealth inequality might be to at least some degree derivative of this state of affairs?
Would it not then follow that the privileged and powerful have been the ones that have accrued the net gains from state interventions past and present? Could this analysis not subsequently be extended to the social and cultural arena to include an analysis of how the hated “straight white males” might likewise have accrued similar net gains on a historic basis? One need not take up the banner of safe spaces and trigger warnings, or embrace the jihad against microagressions, to affirm that those who make such arguments might at least occasionally have a point. Debates of this type are among the most contentious among contemporary libertarians, and it is regrettable that this book does not more effectively address such arguments.
Battaglioli’s work presents a coherent worldview that purports to offer explanatory analyses of a wide range of immensely controversial topics. This book mercilessly dissects the progressive worldview, and dismisses virtually every staple of progressive thought as hollow chimera and deceptive nonsense. The arguments that are presented in this work are those that the Left has thus far failed to effectively rebut, and consequently seeks to silence and demonize. There are ideas included in this book that would be offensive not only leftists and liberals but to many mainstream conservatives and libertarians as well. It is sufficient to say that Matt Battaglioli would be a very unpopular man in today’s academic institutions. His ideas are the kinds to which leftists normally respond with the “f word” (as in “fascist”).
However, Battaglioli is not any conventional type of right-winger politically, but an anarcho-capitalist in the tradition of Murray Rothbard and earlier libertarians such as Lysander Spooner that sought a society of total liberty ordered on the principles of voluntary exchange in the marketplace. He ironically describes how the postal monopoly decried by Spooner remains in place even in today’s world of UPS and Fed Ex. “The Consequences of Equality” is an important contribution to political discourse, and raises assertions of facts, logic, and evidence that cannot be challenged by means of mere ad hominem. It would be interesting to observe a serious left-libertarian scholar (or even an ordinary progressive) attempting to honestly engage with this work. Battaglioli has certainly thrown down the gauntlet.