Front Page Titles (by Subject) Neoconservatives, Liberty, and Equality - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Neoconservatives, Liberty, and Equality - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Neoconservatives, Liberty, and Equality
“Neoconservatives and the Fear of Equality.” Dissent 26 (Spring 1979): 169–182.
Neoconservatives such as Irving Kristol, Daniel Moynihan, Daniel Bell, and Robert Nisbet have raised the crucial problem of the relation between equality and liberty. Their strong assault on equality is to a large extent surprising, since few people in America support radically egalitarian measures or endorse redistribution simply for the sake of redistribution. The neoconservative critique of equality focuses on the incompatibility of equality with liberty, meritocracy, and legitimacy.
Equality and liberty are in tension, it is argued, since restrictions on income limit individual freedom, particularly freedom of economic enterprise. This view wrongly sees liberty as an absolute, incapable of mixture with other values. Actually, a large measure of equality is a necessary condition for the self-responsibility without which true liberty is meaningless. The purely negative conception of liberty as the removal of governmental restraint must be supplemented by a conception of liberty as the fulfillment of a positive ideal.
Irving Kristol has pointed out that abilities, and hence economic rewards, tend to distribute themselves in a bell-shaped curve. Thus egalitarianism is inconsistent with a natural, meritocratic order. The social democratic theorist Michael Walzer has aptly responded that there is no reason salaries ought to depend on a single set of abilities; taking different skills of people into account requires that economic power be limited. If this is done, people with different types of ability can express themselves, as opposed to a system in which only the ability to make money counts. The neoconservatives tend to overstress personal responsibility for one's position on the economic scale. They also tend to offer unfair criticism of the moderate egalitarianism of John Rawls.
The final charge against equality is that the undue pursuit of this value weakens legitimacy. Governments cannot meet ever increasing demands for equality and threaten to be swept away in popular resentment directed against the upper classes. The situation is exacerbated by third world nations' demands on the developed countries. This argument drastically oversimplifies the facts. Equality is only one value among many, and it is wrong to regard it as a demonic force responsible for virtually all social evils.