I have always been impressed with the essays of Jane Orient at the newsletter of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons.
Sometimes she just knocks me out with her scholarship and thoughtfulness.
Here is her latest and I would say–it is typical of her erudition, but it rang a bell in my head and reminded me of why I worry that we are seeing the culmination of 1984 in the adminstration of this barbarian from Chicago.
Here’s Jane, Internal Medicine specialist, but more than that, from Arizona:
“Do you remember,” [O'Brien] went on, “writing in your diary,
‘Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four’?”
“Yes,” said Winston.
O’Brien held up his left hand, its back toward Winston, with the thumb
hidden and the four fingers extended.
“How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”
“And if the Party says that it is not four but five — then how many?”
George Orwell, 1984
The torturer’s goal was not simply to force Winston to say
“five,” but to get him actually to believe it—and to change his
belief to “three” if the Party so required.
The objective truth is that two and two always make exactly
four, and for every such equality, there is an infinity of inequali-
ties. If [some] inequalities are defined as “disparities,” which are
“unfair” (see AAPS News, February 2014 and March 2010), re-
formers have an unending task to “right” them.
Human beings are often discontented with the natural order
and may go to extreme measures to alter it. In the topsy-turvy
world of Gilbert and Sullivan, Princess Ida wants to overturn the
old order in her all-female academy, but does see where it leads:
The narrow-minded pedant still believes
That two and two make four! Why we can prove, …
That two and two make five or three or seven;
Or five and twenty, if the case demands!
Let all your things misfit, and you yourselves
At inconvenient moments come undone!…
[Let] the bashful button modestly evade
The soft embraces of the button-hole! …
Let old associations all dissolve, …
In other words let Chaos come again!
The Source of Inequality
The obviously unequal distribution of beauty, talent, strength,
happiness, health, and wealth was previously accepted as the de-
cree of Fate, Nature, Providence, or Karma. In a special section
on “the science of inequality” in the May 23 issue of Science,
Adrian Cho explains the most probable distribution of energy in
the molecules of a gas: exponential, with many molecules of low
energy and a few of high energy. That is the natural inequality
arising from entropy. A similar distribution, with some caveats,
arguably applies to income and wealth.
But is it fair? While humans, like animals, are born unequal,
our ancestors in “our egalitarian Eden,” writes Elizabeth Pennisi,
adopted an egalitarian way of life that lasted up until 10,000 years
ago. The appearance of storable surpluses was one of the “ancient
roots of the 1%,” explains Heather Pringle. This inequality
“plagues” economies, writes Cho, and disparities can be deadly,
writes Emily Underwood. Leveling income inequality might, some
suggest, avert up to 1.5 million deaths annually, worldwide.
The culprit is capitalism: “While emerging economies boom,
equality goes bust,” writes Mara Hvistendahl.
Science editors applaud Big Data, with benefits potentially as
great as the Human Genome Project. A century of income data
and two centuries of wealth data have been compiled, and the
Gini inequality coefficient calculated for 117 nations.
French economics superstar Thomas Piketty, author of ama-
zon number-one best-seller Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has
crunched the numbers and revealed that the rate of return on
capital (r) is greater than the rate of economic growth (g). “This
simple formula (r > g) means that families who own capital tend
to acquire more and more wealth,” writes Eliot Marshall.
Piketty concedes that the pattern broke down in the mid-20th
century. Thanks to the Great Depression and the destruction
wrought by two world wars, we had a “golden era” between 1950
and 1980, “triggering a pause in the concentration of wealth.” But
now we have reached an “extreme point” that could lead to
“terrifying” disparities that threaten democracy.
Fictional accounts of efforts to level disparities have been
terrifying dystopias: for example, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison
Bergeron,” in which the hero must carry 300 pounds to compen-
sate for his natural advantages; Facial Justice by L.P. Hartley; and
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which probably inspired George Or-
well and Ayn Rand. In the real world, we have experiments like
Cuba and Mao’s China (see p 2).
Piketty’s proposal, greeted by Paul Krugman and other
Keynesians with ecstatic applause, calls for punitive taxes on
wealth (see John Goodman’s analysis at http://tinyurl.com/
mjwjyg5). The tax would have to be global and involve an inter-
national banking regime to prevent capital flight (http://
A utopian state of income and wealth “equality” cannot oc-
cur without changing human nature, attempting to wipe out natu-
ral differences—and existing institutions that oppose the totalitar-
ian agenda. This includes religion, the family, and what George
Bernard Shaw called “middle class morality” (see p 2).
If she carried out her glorious scheme to get all the maidens
to abjure tyrannic Man, Ida thought all Posterity would exalt
her—save for the question, “How is Posterity to be provided?”
Casualties of the War on Inequality
Starting in 1949, “Mao Zedong waged war on inequality of all
kinds. The administration seized property from privileged classes,
imprisoned intellectuals, and appointed teams of workers to run
universities. The revolution upended the class structure, and the
party campaigned against inherited wealth and gender discrimina-
tion” (Hvistendahl, op. cit.). The Science article does not mention
the tens of millions of casualties, though it does concede that the
“leveling” of society concentrated wealth in the hands of the party
cadre. Since China’s about-face in the 1980s, the Gini coefficient
has leaped from 0.28 to around 0.55, cf. 0.4 for the U.S., where 0
represents perfect equality of incomes, and 1 means a single per-
son holds all the wealth. The government fears a backlash, but
“many Chinese view inequality as the price of economic growth
and accept it as a ‘fact of life.’”
Another model for total equality is Cuba, which had a higher
per-capita income than most of Europe in 1958. Now people eke
out life in the ruins, with a maximum wage of $20/month for
most jobs (City J, spring 2014, http://tinyurl.com/l82ajgm).
Piketty’s 700-p tome has no index entry for Cuba or Mao.
Inequalities Absent from Piketty’s Formula
. Noneconomists know inequality of outcome by another term:
life (Transom 4/23/14, http://tinyurl.com/p5s7593).
. Inflation benefits owners of assets like art, while struggling
families fall farther and farther behind (James Cook).
. The strongest statistical correlate for inequality in the U.S. is
single-parent families. More than 20% of children raised in
single-parent families live in poverty long-term compared
with 2% of those raised in two-parent homes (WSJ 4/21/14).
. In many nations, massive fortunes accumulate more as a re-
sult of thievery and corruption than as a consequence of capi-
tal investment (Atlantic 5/27/14, http://tinyurl.com/p9z9b28).
. In the U.S., states with the most redistributionist policies
have the greatest inequality (Moore, Vedder, WSJ 6/5/14).
. Great fortunes come from extraordinary technological inno-
vation, such as the microprocessor (Gordon, WSJ 6/5/14).
Cultural Revolution First
The working class failed to rise up and overthrow capitalism.
The explanation, according to two of Marx’s disciples, was the
immune system—Christianity and Western culture. Georg Lukacs
instituted a radical sex education program in Hungarian schools,
to promote licentiousness as a way to destroy the family and anni-
hilate the old values. Antonio Gramsci promoted the “long march
through the institutions”—arts, schools, media—to subvert tradi-
tional values (MIA, March 2014, excerpting Pat Buchanan).
The centerpiece of Kristallnacht in 1938 was the desecration
and burning of the Torah all over Germany—part of the Nazi
effort to create a new German identity (Commentary, June 2014).
“As Marxist despots from Cuba to Greece have discovered to their huge
disappointment, governments can neither create wealth nor effectively redistrib-
ute it; they can only expropriate it and watch it dissipate.”
“Gender equity” or “addressing gender disparity” is a prime
objective of ObamaCare. The contraception/abortion mandate,
states the National Center for Public Policy Research, is “about
promoting the economic and social power of women relative to
that of men” (http://tinyurl.com/pll68hg). It enables women,
like men, to have sex without having a baby.
Though one may question the assertion that same-sex attrac-
tions are genetic and hence unalterable, sex is indisputably genetic.
Differences between men and women are profound—though
researchers have been warned not to study them, lest they “kill
their career.” Male and female brains are organized differently,
and there are large differences in behavior with only 10% overlap
in the distributions. There are even sex-specific patterns in the
expression of immune-system-related genes (Larry Cahill, Dana
Foundation 4/1/14, http://tinyurl.com/pvupyfj).
The Y chromosome is not just a male-determining switch: “It
has an impact on gene regulation across the genome in males,
potentially influencing biological functions throughout life and in
every tissue” (Clark AG, Nature 2014;508:463-465).
Yet “sex change” (or “gender reassignment”) surgery is
claimed by some as a right (see p 3). Facebook introduced a drop-
down menu with 56 gender-identity choices (Townhall.com 3/4/14,
http://tinyurl.com/njc4e64). In other words, Chaos.
“The deconstruction of gender implies nothing less than the
splitting of the personal atom: social nuclear fission.”
An article on “Same-Sex Marriage—a Prescription for Better
Health” now comes from the University if Minnesota (NEJM
4/10/14). Chicago public school kindergarten teachers are re-
quired to devote 30 minutes/month to sex education. About one-third of the U.S. population, and one-fourth of teenage girls, has
at least one sexually transmitted disease. The marriage rate
(6.8/1,000/y) is at an all-time low (MIA, June 2014).
“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the
obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at
present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has
always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding
it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking. Bully-worship, under various dis-
guises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-
gun is still a machine-gun even when a ‘good’ man is squeezing the trigger…
have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.”
George Orwell, 1939
The Voice for Private Physicians
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