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What is More Important – Equality or Morality?

question of morality or equality

We live in an imperfect world. Injustice, poverty, violence, and other social, economic, and political problems are part of our everyday reality. Among those who wish to fix the numerous ills in our society, there seems to be a widespread need to assert the equality of all people and to avoid recognizing any differences between them at all costs.

‘Nobody is superior and nobody is inferior. Nobody is better-off and nobody is worse-off. Nobody has more rights and nobody has less rights. Nobody is smarter or better looking or more accomplished etc. We’re all equal.’

And so it is hoped that if we diminish differences between people, it will cause them to behave in a more moral fashion. The thinking goes that once we’re all equal, there will be no more strife and everyone will treat one another fairly and compassionately.

As rosy and idealistic as the above may sound, this sort of thinking is misguided. It’s a mistake to think that by making everyone equal, we would have a more moral society. On the contrary, in order for morality to exist there need to be differences between people. Morality is predicated on inequality. Morality assumes that some people have advantages over others and it dictates that we do not take advantage of those who are disadvantaged.

And so to be moral, we need to have this imbalance. We need to have those who are rich and those who are poor, those who are weak and those who are strong, those who are knowledgeable and those that are ignorant. Morality is what ensures that the rich do not take advantage of the poor. Morality says that the strong must help the weak and a knowledgeable person must not deceive one who is ignorant. That is morality.

We need to advance morality in our society. Not equality. It is morality that dictates that a government cannot abuse its power and a teacher can’t abuse the authority she has over her students. However, to simply say that the teacher shouldn’t have any authority is not moral, but amoral. It avoids the moral issue altogether hoping that things will work out nicely.

Morality is not afraid of inequality. Even the human being – which is certainly superior to the animal – has certain moral obligations to the animal. This is not because we are equal to the animals, but because we have an obligation to be moral.