Almost a century and a half ago Alexis de Tocqueville predicted that the belief in the principle of equality, which he saw as the most fundamental and significant feature of American life, eventually would spread throughout the world. That age of egalitarianism, which he believed was primarily motivated by envy, has dawned.
In concepts such as the revolt of the masses, the herd, the will to power, the cheerful robot, sensate culture, centralization, bureaucratization, and Caesarism, a number of diverse social thinkers have grasped some of the contours of the current egalitarian epoch. The most accurate term, however, to describe the developing historical paradigm in which we find ourselves, and which encompasses the above ideas, is empire.
The preoccupation of many twentieth-century intellectuals with the phenomenon of imperialism, once a secondary definition of empire, has obscured the original meaning of the latter. As Western Civilization retreats from imperialism, it is confronted in its maturity, as have been civilizations such as Rome and China, with the dilemma of empire as a stifling, centralized, bureaucratic statism, which threatens, despite considerable material abundance and leisure, to rob life of freedom, creativity, and ultimately, of meaning itself.
Equality, envy, egalitarianism, and empirereferred to here as the E factorsare, therefore, key aspects of a historical syndrome within which civilizations have tended to evolve.
It is difficult to discover exactly what some writers have meant by the terms equality and egalitarianism. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, a nineteenth-century critic of equality, complained that equality is a word so wide and so vague as to be by itself almost unmeaning. And even a defender of the idea, R. H. Tawney, admitted that the word had more than one meaning.
Although both words are often employed as if they were synonymous, two concepts are actually involved, and the two terms should be used in such a way as to make that distinction clear. In the literature on the subject, even its critics tend not to oppose equality when applied in two areas: of opportunity, in the sense that a society be without castes, and before the law. Opposition centers around the effort to extend the idea into other areas, such as income, property, and status. Some writers have tried to differentiate by referring to this extension of the concepts as radical or strict egalitarianism.
Rather than use equality and egalitarianism interchange-ably, or add qualifying adjectives, a basic conceptual distinction is made here between equalityof opportunity and before the lawwhich assumes that differences in income, property, and status may still exist; and egalitarianismthe desire to level and thus to eradicate such distinctions.
The confusion that can result from a failure to distinguish clearly between these two concepts is demonstrated in A Theory of Justice, by philosopher John Rawls. He ended a section on envy with an attack on conservative writers and suggested that a desire for equality is not based upon envy, but a sense of justice. Rawls then observed, To be sure there may be forms of equality that do spring from envy. Strict egalitarianism, the doctrine that insists upon an equal distribution of all primary goods, conceivably springs from this propensity.
To concede this point, however, weakened Rawlss argument; the only example he cited for many conservative writers was Helmut Schoeck. Schoeck, however, appeared to agree with the relationship of envy to what Rawls called strict egalitarianism. And although Schoeck saw envy as a factor in the demand for equality of opportunity and before the law, it operated as a positive and constructive function of which he obviously approved. While he did not explicitly make the distinction made here between equality and egalitarianism, Schoeck came close in speaking of an increasingly fervent egalitarianism, the misunderstanding and exaggeration of the idea of equality. Thus he found a sense of justice, an aspect of which is a desire for equality of opportunity and before the law, as based upon legitimate indignation-envy, in contrast to egalitarianism, which derives from vulgar envy.
Egalitarianism often has a negative connotation even among advocates of equality, as can be seen, for example, in Rawlss comment above. Whether this arises from an awareness of a relationship to envy and leveling, or, in the minds of Americans, the association of equality with the Declaration of Independence and egalitarianism with the violence of the French Revolution, is difficult to establish. It is simply something that one senses in surveying the literature, often by the absence of egalitarianism as, for example, in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, or the newer, massive, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, both of which discuss only equality.
If this analysis is correct, and given the historical American commitment to equality, of opportunity and before the law, one can expect advocates of egalitarianism to continue to talk of equality, implying that their program is not radically different from, but merely a fulfillment of, traditional American notions of equality. And, quite expectedly, inequality, with its strong moral implication that social justice has been violated, is preferred by egalitarians to the neutral word difference.
Envy is a part of the human condition. As a factor in social and historical development, it is only now beginning to receive the attention it has long deserved. Although he never made an extended analysis of envy, Tocqueville, in a number of separate comments, came to view it as the driving force behind the egalitarian impulse. Sanford A. Lakoff has emphasized the same somewhat overlooked point:
In this context envy can be defined as a deep hatred and resentment of another person because of something that he possesses but the envier does not, as opposed to jealousya concern to guard that which one possesses. This may vary from physical characteristics such as beauty, which the envier can probably never possess, to wealth, status, and power, which the envier may argue ought to be redistributed, but which he often wishes merely to obtain for himself.
Envy of differences created by equality is a significant factor in the demand for egalitarianism, which is the harbinger of empirethat is, the need for a strong, bureaucratic, centralized state to carry out the egalitarian program.
In its original definition, empire referred to a centralized bureaucratic state. As S. N. Eisenstadt noted, Its basic connotation, as manifest in the Latin Imperium, is the existence of a relatively strong center. . . diffusing its authority over broad territorial contours. A second definition, however, has gained ascendancy, associated with a policy of imperialism, in which a powerful state exercises control of various kinds over a weaker state.
Some years ago, William Langer commented upon the loose use and bad repute of the word imperialism. In stressing the second definition, he acknowledged that in the past the term had been associated with ideas of dictatorial power, highly centralized government, arbitrary methods of administration, and in general with ideas of Caesarism and Bonapartism. Unfortunately, Langer concluded that this definition was now almost obsolete.
As the era of imperialism, of Western control over weaker nations and peoples, draws to a close, it is time to return once again to the original definition of empire, and to recognize it as one of the most persistent problems in history.
An awareness of this problem among the more perceptive American thinkers preceded the Revolution. It is, of course, well known that the Founding Fathers read Montesquieu, whose ideas on the separation of power was one source for the incorporation of that idea into the American Constitution. Somewhat less known than The Spirit of the Laws is his Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, first published in 1734. It was not only widely read, but had a strong impact on Edward Gibbon and his The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Fundamentally, the problem revolved around the possibility of creating a free society with sufficient power to defend itself without developing the centralizing, bureaucratic tendencies that plagued the civilizations of the Ancient World. Although the Founding Fathers were committed to the idea of a republic, at the same time they feared that the dissolution toward empire, which had occurred in Rome, was historically inevitable.
As early as 1775, in the Novanglus papers, John Adams was concerned with an analysis of empire. Citing Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington, he noted that:
The debate over empire continued throughout the early years of the American Republic, but with perhaps less intellectual rigor than had been displayed by the generation of the Founding Fathers. Enemies of Andrew Jackson saw the general as a dictatorial Caesar, while his political opponents, Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, were compared to Cicero. This analogy proved embarrassing, however, when the Whig party also ran generals for the presidency in the 1830s.
The rise of the issue of slavery tended to obscure the debate over empire. After the Civil War, Alexander Stephens, the former Vice President of the Confederacy and a political theorist and historian whose insights have not received the attention they deserve, called attention to the war as an example of the trend toward empire and centralization:
When the debate was opened again in the 1890s, it was essentially in terms of American overseas imperialism. It was this shift in meaning to which Langer had referred in his discussion of the term imperialism. Only a few of the anti-imperialists saw the debate over American overseas imperialism as an aspect of the larger problem of empire.
Thus empire, as a description of the process of bureaucratic centralization, has received relatively little attention throughout most of the twentieth century. Yet, although they employed different terminology, several of our most perceptive social critics were in essence describing the fundamental process of empire. Robert A. Nisbet has called attention to this convergence of thinking:
The terms used by both Tocqueville and Weber were precisely those that historically had been employed as a classic description of empire. The thinker who perhaps saw this process most clearly was the German philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler. In his view, Civilization, Caesarism, and Imperialism, were all virtually synonymous concepts, or as he stated it, Imperialism is Civilization unadulterated. It is one of the ironies of history that the West in its increasing sense of power should reject Spenglers concept of decline as hopelessly in error. Only a society literally hooked on power could fail to comprehend what is revealed by the most cursory reading of Spengler: that the decline is in freedom and creativity, while the degree of power inherent in Civilization is enormous.
Accompanying the development of the E factors syndrome is a corresponding shift in the source of value or law. In his effort to understand the source of the drive toward equality, for example, and what in this paper has been called egalitarianism, Tocqueville did not begin from the premise that equality was an irreducible principle.
Equality, egalitarianism, and democracy, for instance, however they are defined, are all secondary or derivative values. That is, they are justified as aspects of a more fundamental system of value or law. There are only three sources from which concepts of value or law can ultimately be derived. The first of these is supernaturalism or supernatural law. A value or law is so because it is a part of Gods plan, communicated to the rest of mankind through his specially chosen instruments among them. A second source is natural law, or the laws of nature. Something is so because using reason, experience, and experimentation, it appears to be in the nature of things, that is, in conformity with nature as man understands it. Thirdly, there is positive law, or the law of the state. A law or value is so simply because the state says so. In republican or democratic societies such decisions rest upon the will of the majority, which is regarded as the final arbiter as to what is right. This is often linked to both utilitarianism and pragmatism by suggesting that what is right is what seems to work for the majority, or provides the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
While all three concepts of value have existed in societies, and some thinkers have attempted to combine them in a coherent hierarchy, they tend to emerge into prominence in an order related to the E factors. Societies begin their development with a basic value system derived from supernatural law. The breakdown of feudalism and the growth of equality is accomplished by the development of natural law.
Egalitarianism and empire are characterized by a growing acceptance of positive law and a belief in the state as the ultimate source of all value and law.
An understanding of the E factors and their relationship to the sources of value provides a basis from which to observe the development of that syndrome historically. The desire for equality has been a major factor leading to the breakdown of feudal relationships and the growth of more open, mobile social structures, which have characterized the emergence of the great civilizations throughout history. Functionally, such equality has meant development of a relatively free market within which individuals could freely exchange ideas, goods, and services. Talent and intelligence do not, however necessarily correlate with wealth and status, and not everyone is able to rise to the top of society. Although the overall increase in abundance raises the average considerably, the distance between the top and bottom may widen.
The egalitarianism latent within the thrust for equality now begins to be asserted. The egalitarian argument for social justice articulated by some religious leaders, secular intellectuals, and politicians to the rest of society is essentially a program for leveling income, property, and status, and is fundamentally in conflict with the idea of equality. The continued demand for greater equality often serves as a convenient issue behind which egalitarians can disguise the real nature of their program.
The quest for justice is given impetus by the existence of many economic and social privileges derived from earlier and, in many cases, continued access to the state apparatus by various interests within the society. Some advocates of egalitarianism are probably sincere in their belief that a more equitable society will emerge from a state-enforced program of leveling, rather than through the curtailment of the power of the state. For many of its advocates, however, egalitarianism simply masks an envious desire to replace those at the top, regardless of whether their position stems from privileges granted by the state, or is the result of superior ability and/or hard work. At best, the egalitarian may concede that such success is due only to luck.
The significant question is: Why do a large number of people come to believe that only through increased state intervention can justice be achieved? To a great extent this belief is due to the overwhelming acceptance of the state as the source of value and law. Society not only looks for solutions within the paradigm defined by the state, but also finds it difficult to consider the view that statism is at the heart of the problem.
The idea of the state emerges, as do certain aspects of the market economy, with the breakdown of feudalism. Statists develop a policy that in the West has been called mercantilism; that is, a policy under which the state allows private property but those in control of the state use their power to regulate and direct the economy for the general welfare of the whole society. With or without monopolies, such a system is inherently unstable and tends toward corporate syndicalism, in which various economic interests utilize the state for their own ends. Criticism of the system emanates from three sources: those who wish to reform the system by returning to a responsible mercantilism; those who want to replace the system by going one step beyond mercantilism to the abolition of private ownership in many areas of the economy, thus instituting socialism: and those who advocate the principles of the free market and who view the increased power of the state as the basic problem.
The four political economies discussed above can perhaps be better understood if we imagine the economy, or the market, as a black billiard ball, and the state as a white one. In the free-market model, the state is not involved in the economy, and its main function is to maintain the rule of law. In the mercantilist model, the thrust (represented as an arrow in the diagram below) is from the white political ball seeking to utilize the economy for the general welfare. The area of interpenetration (shaded area), whatever its size, is under the control of the state. In the long run power tends to flow toward the bureaucracy administering the state, and away from the politicians. In the corporate syndicalist model, the economic interests increasingly define the system. It should be noted, however, that the system is dominated by those interests within the area of interpenetration, and not by those still in the market area, though in this model the market area appears on top. In the final model, socialism, the market has been eliminated, and is under the complete control of the political authority.
[four political economies]
Democracy obviously lends itself to mass egalitarianism, while representative government leads to the development of corporate syndicalism, for the election of representatives offers an easy opportunity for the economic interests to bring their influence and money to bear on the legislative process. This explains the persistent appeal to the would-be reformers of a Caesarian figure who will place himself above and beyond such interests. The ability of the economic interests to buy the mercantilist regulatory apparatus drives the reformers increasingly toward a socialist position.
The tendency of the system is thus toward empire. Centralized state power is viewed as essential to cope with the evils of the existing system. This in turn suggests a bureaucracy to run the increasingly complex society. Both the politicians and the intellectuals (the large number of the latter a direct result of the great affluence) see such a rationalized bureaucracy based upon merit as the way to control the power of the vested interests. In the final analysis, however, the aim of every bureaucracy is to protect itself above all else. A power struggle is generated between the ruler, the bureaucracy, the economic interests, and the people as a whole, often complicated by the military as a separate and distinct group within the state apparatus.
A crisis is reached when the economy can no longer produce enough to meet the voracious appetites of those groups that have access to the state. The classic case is agrarian China, where the squeeze system led to crisis, revolt, and the initiation of a new cycle. The incredible abundance produced by industrialization may postpone the crisis, but it does not alter the fundamental contours of the process.
Intellectuals and politicians enjoy the idea of power and control. Like the mandarin, whose long fingernails demonstrated his distaste for, and ability to evade, physical labor, many politicians and intellectuals have an inherent dislike of the market economy with its emphasis on work, entrepreneurial risk, and money. Utilizing economic regulation, the rationalized bureaucracy promises not only security and an end to injustice, but also curtailment of the brutish and antisocial competitiveness, which accompanies the free market. One of the great appeals of a rational bureaucracy is that, in eliminating competition, it also promises to eradicate envy. But, in cutting itself loose from the creativity of the free market, the bureaucracy has no way to define merit. At best a system of irrelevant symbols is established, as, for example, the Confucian examination or the Western doctorate. Such increasingly artificial elites either remain exclusive, denying equality and generating envy, or they lower whatever standards remain in response to the continued egalitarian pressures. While bureaucracy ostensibly is initiated to promote equality, it must inevitably lead to egalitarianism.
The contours of empire are thus inexorably interwoven with envy and egalitarianism. We can observe the entire E factor syndrome as it developed in ancient Greece, Rome, China, and the modern West, especially in the United States.
The idea of equality permeated the whole fabric of Greek society. As Alfred E. Zimmern noted, Equal lands and equal rights were deeply rooted and persistent traditions of Greek life. . . . But equal lands never remain equal for long-least of all in a society in which the tradition of equality is strongly developed. While the supernaturalism derived from the gods never died out completely, it was subordinated or combined in the writings of the great philosophers and dramatists with the idea of natural law Equality was tied to natural law in, for example, The Trojan Women, where Jaeger points out that Euripides describes equality, the foundation of democracy, as the law, manifest a hundredfold in nature, which man himself cannot escape.
The putative author, Pseudo Xenophon, provided a fascinating glimpse of the process whereby equality was extended even within the institution of slavery. Slaves . . . enjoy an extreme degree of license at Athens, where it is illegal to assault them and where the slave will not make way for you. . . The free proletariat . . .are no better dressed than the slaves . . . and . . . they allow the slaves to live in luxury and in some instances to keep up an imposing establishment.
The expanding equality led to increasing differences of condition, which in turn provided the basis for a strong egalitarianism, in which envy was a significant factor. The movement culminated in a series of shadowy lawgivers who emerged throughout Greece; Lycurgus of Sparta and Solon of Athens are the best known. One feature we can trace in the work of all these lawgiversan attempt to restore the unity of the state by restricting the use of wealth. And while Spartas elaborate egalitarian formula prescribed the style of life even to the kind of meals to be eaten, Athens also had a rather rigorous code. Furthermore, the aim in both cases was the sameto redress the inequalities of wealth . . . not merely. . . [through laws] . . .but by causing the rich to look as much like the poor as possible.
Lycurguss egalitarian solution was a monumental effort to turn back the clock of history. The measure of his success was that Sparta became the prototype of the economically stagnant, military state. He believed the principal cause of Spartas disorder was the fact that the land was concentrating in the hands of the rich. Lycurgus proposed to do away with competitive money making . . . greed, and luxury. All land was thus turned over to the polis for redistribution and each Spartan given an equal share. As money was the root of all evil, he caused all gold and silver coin to be withdrawn and he issued in its place a clumsy iron money, too heavy and of too little value to invite hoarding or other misuse such as any extensive commercial activity.Under such circumstances, any meaningful equality before the law or of opportunity in a relatively free market was severely curtailed. Even in Athens the supposed aristocracy defended by Plato and Aristotle was not a traditional one. but temporary oligarchies having risen chiefly in reaction to democracies. They were simply the wealthy who had seized the polis in self-defense. Oligarchs of this kind tried to keep the burden of the state on others and to keep for themselves its dignities and its profits. Equality before the law, the slogan of the oligarchs, was an empty statement to mask their control of the state for their own interests.
In The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides brilliantly recounted how the war was interwoven with the crisis of empire and the egalitarian thrust of the masses and their expansionistic, demagogic leaders. There is no more fitting description of the degradation of Athens, and of the arrogance of power and statist, positive law that characterizes empire, than the speech of the Athenians to the Melians before conquering them, exterminating all the males, selling into slavery the women and children, and resettling the area themselves:
For ourselves, we shall not trouble you with specious pretenceseither of how we have a right to our empire . . . or are now attacking you because of wrong that you have done usand make a long speech which would not be believed; . . . since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
The long span of Roman history offers an even better example of the E factors in operation. In the Ancient World, Rome was noted very early in its history for the emphasis it placed upon the concept of law. By the late Hellenistic Age, this had resulted in a metamorphosis in the position of women. Equality for women extended beyond politics into economic life, and in some occupations such as plumbing they came to dominate. The rate of divorce increased enormously, and the power of the paterfamilias was shaken to its foundations and eventually swept away altogether. The meek and henpecked Roman husband was already a stock comedy figure in the great days of the Second Punic War. This changing relationship led Cato the Censor to protest bitterly, All other men rule over women; but we Romans, who rule all men, are ruled by our women. Equality had progressed to the point that by the late Empire a woman who married retained her property, and, legally, the man had not even the right to enjoy the income from it.
As in the case of Greece, the burgeoning equality led to great differentials in wealth. In the long struggle between the plebeians and the aristocrats for control of the state, an egalitarian program began to take shape. Over the years various efforts were made, such as the Licinian-Sextian Laws of 367 B.C., to limit the possessions of the wealthy but these were disregarded and evaded in the same way that sumptuary laws trying to limit personal luxury in clothes, food, carriages, and jewellery were always disregarded.
Writing in 150 B.C. after the conclusion of the Punic Wars, the historian Polybius made a pessimistic assessment which was prophetic in the light of the almost century-long Civil War which ensued. He observed that a nation, after warding off many great dangers and arriving at a high pitch of prosperity and undisputed power, often develops an ostentation and extravagance of living, which prove the beginning of a deterioration. The people become convinced that they are being cheated by some from avarice, and in their passionate resentment . . . will refuse to obey any longer, or to be content with equal powers with their leaders, but will demand to have all or far the greatest themselves.The crisis was brought to a head by the efforts of Tiberius Gracchus in 133 B.C. to reassert the Licinian‑Sextian Laws. The story of the violent civil war was unleashed by the actions of the Gracchi and extending on and off to the triumph of Augustus Caesar is, of course, well known. At issue was who would control the state and to what purpose? In the long run, victory went to those who coupled a policy promising booty from expansionist wars with an egalitarian welfare program at home. Thus, Julius Caesar, for example, helped the debtors in 49 B.C. by canceling the interests in arrears, and the creditors had to accept payment of property as it was valued before the inflation. As Theodor Mommsen commented, Caesar did what he could to repress permanently the fearful omnipotence of capital.
In the Empire, while the Emperor attempted to link himself to the gods, and thus to supernatural law, it was apparent to the more perceptive thinkers that right rested ultimately with Caesar, the power of the army, and the state apparatus.  In a sense the Empire can best be understood as an effort to stem the long era of violence generated by the egalitarian impulse. The Emperor sought to balance the egalitarian desire for leveling by the masses and the rapacious quest to use the state to acquire and protect great wealth by various economic interests through a policy of opposing these forces with the army and the civilian bureaucracy. Despite the enormous tensions created within such a system, and the failure of positive law to provide an adequate social cement, the structure held together for an incredibly long time. In the end it fell because the crisis was exacerbated by pressures from outside the Empire.
In the current debate over the desirability of a volunteer army, the Roman experience offers some possible insights. In an extended analysis of Romes army, Martin P. Nilsson pointed out that, Ancient states were like all republics, in that they had a system of universal compulsory service. Furthermore:
The transition of the Roman army from an army based upon compulsory service to a professional army, a few generations before the appearance of Augustus, was the prelude to the transition of the Roman constitution from a republic to a monarchy. . . . The army no longer had any sentiment for the State and its citizens, but only for the profession and its profits, and the commander who knew how to exert his personal influence over it.
The growth of the centralized bureaucracy also explains something of the crisis of the Empire. W.C. Beyer has concluded that:
[T]he Roman civil service finally became oppressive and burdensome. It, too, engaged in excessive regulation of the economic life of the people and subjected them to heavy taxation to support a growing number of imperial agents. Under this dual frustration, the Roman citizenry suffered the same breakdown of spirit as did their Egyptian predecessors under the Ptolemics. Industry and agriculture languished, population declined, even the army became so weakened that it could no longer hold back the barbarians who were pressing upon the nations borders. In a real sense, the Roman civil service, which at the outset had been the empires chief instrument for bringing peace and prosperity to the Roman world, in its latter stages became one of the principal causes of the empires fall.
The E factors and the changing sources of values mesh with the interpretations of the fall of Rome offered by scholars such as M. Rostovtzeff and Chester G. Starr. Rostovtzeff began his analysis by observing that One of the most striking phenomena in economic life was the rapid depreciation of the currency and a still more rapid increase in prices. If silver depreciated, gold literally disappeared. A system of fiduciary money was introduced. It had almost no value, and was accepted only because the state forced people to do so. The depreciation of money was closely connected with the rise in the prices of products of prime necessity.Taxation and confiscation bore down especially on the cities where economic development was centered. Naturally the main sufferers . . . were those who belonged to the class of well-to-do, but not very rich, men and those who were comparatively honest. In a passage that reminds one of the plot of Atlas Shrugged, written later by another Russian émigré, Ayn Rand, Rostovtzeff noted that Such men [the upper middle class] lost their property, were degraded, and took to flight, living in hiding all over the country. Those who succeeded within such a system were the rich and unscrupulous men who had the means and cunning to bribe the officials and to found their prosperity on the misfortune of their poorer and more honest colleagues. About the only glimmer of hope was that by the fourth century the police and state apparatus had become so inept that it was fairly easy to hide and to return from exile.
The state used the army, increasingly composed of half-barbarian peasants, to crack down on the urban, entrepreneurial class which was responsible for much of the economic productivity. Unfortunately, however, the egalitarian army itself became difficult to manage. The driving forces, Rostovtzeff held, were envy [italics added] and hatred, but the army had no positive programme. The army came to feel it shared little in the wealth often acquired and defended through its efforts and the deaths of many of its soldiers. As a result, the dull submissiveness which had for centuries been the typical mood of the peasant-soldier was gradually transformed into a sharp feeling of hatred and envy toward the urban inhabitants. When brought in to quell an urban riot, the army often created more havoc than it prevented.
Envy and hatred of the city were the ultimate causal factors in Rostovtzeffs thesis that [the antagonism between the city and the country was the main driving force of the social revolution of the third century, which destroyed the internal structure of the empire. Such an analysis, minus any reference to envy and favoring a victory of the forces of the countryside, is put forward today by many revolutionaries in the poor nations and was especially evident in a well-publicized speech of some years ago by the Chinese leader, Marshal Lin Piao.
The excesses of the Roman peasant-soldiery did not lead to the triumph of that inchoate group. The system established by the Emperor Diocletian, who raised himself from slavery to the purple at thirty-nine, returned some semblance of order. If, however, the republic was the first act in the Roman drama, and the empire the second, although the term empire was still employed, this third act was structurally different, and can perhaps best be described as an oriental despotism. The new ruling bureaucracy very soon established close relations with the strongest and richest part of the upper class. The class that was disappearing was the middle class, the active and thrifty citizens of the thousand cities in the empire, who formed the link between the upper and lower classes. Little else is heard of this class except that [i]t became more and more oppressed and steadily reduced in numbers. Thus, [a] movement which was started by envy and hatred and carried on by murder and destruction, Rostovtzeff concluded, ended in such depression of spirit that any stable conditions seemed to the people preferable to unending anarchy. There were many who accepted the final collapse of the empire without heartfelt regret, and others who had visited among the Huns and considered their society far better than that of Rome.
Even China, a society some have thought devoid of such notions as equality and egalitarianism, was not exempt from the development of the E factor syndrome. By the time of the Chin dynasty the old feudal aristocracy had been eliminated. Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism were all efforts to cope with the breakdown of the old order.
The pressure for equality of opportunity and before the law was a factor in this process. While both Confucianism and Legalism accepted the state, they disagreed . . . on the question of raising the law to universality [the Legalist view]. . . . It was not legality itself which divided the two parties, but equality before the law. Both systems had moved beyond a value orientation based upon supernatural law. Confucianism was close to natural law in its emphasis on living in harmony with nature, while Legalism was the epitome of positive law. Both these statist philosophies were opposed to Taoism which, although it also functioned within a framework of natural law in stressing the idea of the way, rejected the idea of the state. Etienne Balazs has described the thinking of Taoists like Pao Ching-yen as libertarian anarchism. Unfortunately, the enormous power exerted by the state pushed the best of the Taoist thinkers toward an increasingly nihilistic outlook.
The equality before the law promised by the Legalists was an important factor in the triumph of that idea and the unification of the country and establishment of the empire under Shih Huang Ti. A constant demand at the founding of a new dynasty, as the cycle was repeated over the centuries was that the land be redistributed to the farmers.
To whatever extent this redistribution was carried out, differences soon became apparent as some men managed to accumulate more wealth than others, either through their own efforts or through access to the state apparatus. The resulting envy also reflected the tension between the city and the countryside, which can be seen in other civilizations as well. The agrarian orientation of the Confucian emphasized his gentlemanly dislike for a free-market economy. This dislike was especially true of a radical reformer such as Wang An Shih, whose massive program of state regulation was a response to the urbanization and growing market economy of the eleventh century.
In his famous Ten Thousand Word Memorial, Wang attacked the increasing materialism and affluence of the society. Unfortunately, not only did the poor envy the rich, but they also sought to emulate them. His solution, which was never fully carried out, would have meant a managed economy far beyond the already extensive state control, monopolies, and ownership. In a massive plan for egalitarian leveling, Wang wanted to inspect all goods and to punish those persons producing articles of a useless, extravagant or immoral character. Through increased taxation, many artisans and merchants engaged in making and exchanging such articles would be forced into the fields, and there would thus be no lack of food.
One is impressed not only by the sheer time span of the Chinese empire, but the manner in which the Confucian bureaucracy kept control, despite the cyclical rise and fall of dynasties and barbarian incursions. The complexity of Chinas riverine civilization was one factor in this continuity, and the examination system was another. In theory, the examination system offered equality of opportunity for all those with sufficient ability to enter into the ruling hierarchy. In practice, this was not true because it took years of subsidized study to master the literary classics that formed the core of the examination. Egalitarian pressure was probably the major factor in the gradual watering down of standards and the eventual introduction of a procedure whereby degrees could simply be purchased.
The Confucian leadership, however, was not without its divisions, which approximate views in the West. Radicals such as Wang used the envy and egalitarianism present in the society as a means to move toward a virtually complete state socialism. A second element reflected a typically mercantilist desire to control the economy for the good of the bureaucracy itself. A third group resembled the corporate syndicalist politician as the representative of an economic interest: Its members sought to use their positions to advance the fortune of the larger family clan that had supported the study necessary for the examination.
Balazs has demonstrated the extent to which, beneath a rhetoric of humanism, the Confucian bureaucracy functioned as a system of power. The bureaucracy took a large portion of the economic wealth produced from an essentially agrarian base and, in the process, helped to hasten the crisis that usually resulted in the establishment of a new dynasty and a new cycle. An enormous network of informers and police was necessary to control the society. Under such conditions, as in Rome, freedom and creativity languished. In despair, the great historian, Ssu-ma Chien, in his last will and testament, denounced the autocratic state for the humiliations inflicted upon its subjects, and discussed with great lucidity the problem of whether to commit suicide under a despotism.
From this perspective of the history of China, the present regime is not a departure from the past, but rather a continuation with heavier emphasis upon the Legalist tradition.
The contours of Western Civilization demonstrate this same tendency. The society began its development around a value system based upon Christianity and supernatural law. The gradual rise of cities and a market economy offered an increased equality of opportunity and before the law. Such changes were uneven, and did not extend into the countryside where feudalism continued, as is evidenced in the numerous peasant uprisings of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, many of which were fomented by religious leaders who advocated a program of egalitarian leveling. Within the Church, men such as Thomas Aquinas developed a synthesis of natural law and supernatural law. The rise of science greatly stimulated the development of a secular natural law, while the emergency of the national state aided the growth of positive law, and the three sources were found in various combinations.
Both a desire for equality and egalitarianism can be observed among the groups pressing for social change from the peasant rebellions of the late medieval period to the revolutions of the modern era. To some extent the crisis was postponed by the discovery of America, and what Walter Prescott Webb called, the great frontier. Land and opportunity were thus available to those motivated to avail themselves of the chance to better their situation. Henry Bamford Parkes has pointed out that the common denominator of all those who came to the New World was a psychological one: their willingness to leave the Old World rather than accept the existing system of continued inequalities, attempt to reform it, or revolt against it. Elsewhere I have suggested that within America those who chose the safety-valve of the frontier were representative of the types of persons and groups who, according to theories of the sociology of revolution, would be most likely to revolt if no frontier of opportunity were open to them.
Tocquevilles major insight was the recognition that equality was the central feature of American life. The abundance of land and the relative inability of the European states to recreate feudalism in America opened up considerable opportunity. The vast wealth flowing in from the New World also opened up some measure of equality of opportunity in the Old World, but it did so within the existing system of privilege. If a large number of those willing to leave Europe were advocates of equality, among those who remained, apart from the beneficiaries of the system, there was likely a disproportionately large number of proponents of egalitarianism. Thus, a polarization developed in Europe between those who wished to use the state to protect their privileges, and those who wished to use the state to institute an egalitarian socialism. It is within these parameters that the course of modern European history has taken place, culminating in the bureaucratic welfare state or socialism, which now characterizes that continent.
In America, the Revolution eliminated many of the vestiges of feudalism, which had been transported to this side of the Atlantic. The birth of an American state, however, meant there would he a struggle among several groups for control of the state apparatus in order to utilize it for their program. Thus, a number of leaders wished to replace British mercantilism with an American version of that policy. The decentralization, or mercantilism at the level of the individual state, which followed the Revolution, they found not at all to their liking. The adoption of the Constitution greatly facilitated the tendency toward centralization and a number of court decisions also aided the process. The high mark of this early period was reached in the presidency of John Quincy Adams. As William Appleman Williams has noted:
Indeed, by 1826 the government was the largest single economic entrepreneur in the country. It handled more funds, employed more people, purchased more goods, and borrowed more operating and investment capital than any other enterprise. For generations that are reputed to have believed in weak and minimal government, the Founding Fathers and their first offspring created a rather large and active institution. . . . And the principle of government assistance to private companies was to know no greater application than in the pattern of land grants to railroads unless, perhaps, it was in the direct and indirect subsidies to corporation enterprises during World War I and World War II.
As the area of the free market diminished, the American political economy, since late in the nineteenth century, has become increasingly corporate syndicalist. Gabriel Kolko, among others, has pointed out that the efforts of the progressive reformers to use government to regulate business (what here would be termed a mercantilist solution) was primarily aided by those segments of business that were threatened by the competition of smaller, more efficient entrepreneurs. The failure of trusts and mergers to create monopolistic protection led to the development of regulation as a means of curtailing competition.
The reformers were frustrated that business came to dominate the regulatory apparatus. Some had hoped to use government to restore competition (equality of opportunity), while others had hoped to use increased governmental intervention for purposes of egalitarian redistribution.
The late nineteenth century was thus a watershed for American reform. It could have been argued from a libertarian standpoint that the worst abuses of the system were the result of governments support or creation of privilege, which regulation would formalize and perpetuate. Such a position would have worked within the natural-law tradition to stress the dynamic aspect of evolution rather than its static qualities. So-called Social Darwinists usually argued for the status quo and the survival of the fittest, when it was clear that progress had come through the evolving unfit; the organism that was not fitted to a given environment and had developed something new for survival. Dynamic change and adaptation rather than the status quo was fundamental. The great body of American reformers, however, rejected the idea of the free market and natural law, and turned instead to government regulation and positive law.
The growth of centralized, bureaucratic government (empire) was aided by parts of three groups: the reformers, the businessmen, and the politicians. To regulation and welfare were added the needs of an increasingly imperial foreign policy. Each new crisis, whether global war or internal economic stress engendered by the system, added to the size of the structure. The present economic crisis is the result of the incredible growth of the government in the 1960s and the expenditures in domestic and foreign policies. Had the government been able to tie most of the world to the dollar, the system might have been able to sustain itself longer, but that effort failed. The United States has begun to realize that the cost of keeping order throughout the world is more than it can afford in money, or in the opposition of the young men who refuse to be drafted for such a cause.
The egalitarian, garrison-welfare state is increasingly characterized by a continuing battle among economic interests, politicians, and the bureaucracy to dominate and benefit from the imperial system. We are witnessing the beginning rounds in the battle that was played out over many years in Rome and China. This has not fundamentally changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the triumph of the United States Super Imperialism.
There is not space here to examine the many ways in which egalitarianism has affected the development of American society. Some of these are quite subtle, as, for example, the relationship of egalitarian thinking to success in business and education, and the increasing violence in our society. Commenting on the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881, Alexander Stephens attributed it to a growing belief that everyone had a right to succeed in business and education. The ambitions of many had been stimulated in excess of their capacity. Failure often resulted in a resort to violence and a desperate search for notoriety as a partial substitute for success. Arthur Bremer, who shot Governor George Wallace of Alabama in 1972, is a rather pathetic example of this frustrated egalitarianism. From his Diary, we learn that it mattered little to Bremer whom he shot; a more important person simply meant more publicity. Throughout the Diary are four-letter words and a constant reference to failure. The degree of self-hatred is overpowering. It seems likely in this epoch of egalitarianism that increasing frustration and violence can only result when many individuals find they cannot achieve the success that egalitarians promised as everyones right.
In an area such as education, failure can be averted by simply lowering standards. This debasement lies at the heart of the present crisis in American education, but is seldom commented upon. At the university level, poor schools, often state-supported and easily subjected to egalitarian political pressure, drive out good schools in a kind of application of Greshams law in the area of education. Egalitarian pressures from students who demand the right to evaluate their teachers, and from peers who evaluate one another, push the system toward bureaucratization in which free thought and creativity are undermined. In the United States, governmental pressure for increased egalitarianism has resulted in quota formulae for various minority groups such as women and blacks. Such policies are a denial of traditional American notions of equality of opportunity and before the law.
The arbitrary power of the centralized governmental bureaucracy permeates American life at all levels, stifling freedom and initiative. The director of the Patent Office, for example, recently reported that for the first time there has been a marked drop in the rate at which Americans are patenting new ideas and inventions. One suspects this decline is not due to Americans suddenly becoming less intelligent, but that the structure of governmental regulation has grown so great it is discouraging the development and application of new ideas. Unfortunately, this trend comes at a time when government has created or exacerbated problems such as pollution, solutions to which will demand freedom and creativity unfettered by a rigid, bureaucratic statism.
Those epochs in other civilizations characterized by the emergence of positive law and the rise of the state have frequently experienced a breakdown of values and the family, and a turn toward drugs and sex in a rather desperate search for meaning. Suicide comes increasingly into prominence, especially among some of the more perceptive thinkers, such as the Stoics in Rome. It is obvious that our own civilization already manifests aspects of this growing cultural sterility and bureaucratic blockage.
Can the historical drift toward egalitarianism and empire, which has plagued other civilizations, be reversed in the West? Ironically, perhaps the best hope lies in the gathering economic crises of advanced nations whose economies are staggering under the heavy weights of subsidy, defense, welfare, and bureaucracy. The continued inability of government to solve such problems may yet lead to a reassessment of the whole situation in which natural law and a free market would take on new relevance in the struggle for human freedom.
 Sanford A. Lakoff, Equality in Political Philosophy (Cambridge, 1964), pp. 1667.
 The references, in order, are to the terms employed by Jose Ortega y Gasset, Friedrich Nietzsche, C. Wright Alills, Pitirim Sorokin, Brooks Adams, Max Weber, and Oswald Spengler.
 Hugo A. Bedau, Radical Egalitarianism, in Bedau (ed.), Justice and Equality (Englewood Cliffs, 1969), pp. 16880; and John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, 1971), section 81.
 Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (London, 1873), p. 201; R. H. Tawney, Equality (London, 1952), p. 35.
 Tocquevilles work becomes clearer if one understands that he is talking about both concepts under the term equality.
 Rawls, Justice, section 81.
 Helmut Sehoeck, Envy, A Theory of Social Behavior (New York, 1969), p. 227.
 I am indebted to Peter T. Bauer of the London School of Economics for pointing out that in many instances an objective observer would use the term difference rather than inequality. See, for example, Christopher Jencks, et. al., Inequality, A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (New York, 1972).
 See especially Sehoeck, Envy, and also George M. Foster, The Anatomy of Envy: A Study in Symbolic Behavior, Current Anthropology, Xlll, No. 2 (April, 1972), pp. 165202.
 Lakoff, Equality ,p. 167.
 Empire, in International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York, 1968), V, p. 41.
 William Langer, The Diplomacy of Imperialism (New York, 1935), 1, p. 67.
 David P. Jordan, Gibbon and his Roman Empire (Urbana, 1971), p. 183 and passim.
 See Richard W. Van Alstyne, The Rising American Empire (Chicago, 1965), especially chapter one.
 In S. E. Morison (ed.), Sources and Documents Illustrating the American Revolution, 17641788 (London, 1962), pp. 131-2.
 See R. W. Van Alstyne, Genesis of American Nationalism (Waltham, 1970), and Edwin A. Miles, The Whig Party and the Menace of Caesar, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, XXVII, No. 4 (1968), pp. 36179.
 Alexander Stephen, A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States (Philadelphia, 1868‑70), 11, p. 669, quoted in Richard M. Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay (New Rochelle 1968), p. 128.
 See William Marina, Opponents of Empire: An Interpretation of American Anti-Imperialism, 1898-1921, doctoral dissertation, University of Denver, 1968.
 Robert A. Nisbet, Alexis de Tocqueville. in Int. Ency. Soc. Sci., XVI, p. 91. Nisbet further noted that: Democracy inevitably has an accelerative influence on bureaucracy. . . . Tocqueville saw the relationship between bureaucratic centralization and social egalitarianism not only as historical but also as functional. All that erodes social hierarchy, regionalism, and localism is bound to intensify centralization in the state. Conversely, all that furthers the development of political centralization-war, dynastic ambition, and revolution-is bound to accelerate social leveling.
 Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (New York, 1972), p. 38.
 John F. Fennelly, Twilight of the Evening Lands. Oswald Spengler, A Half Century Later (New York, 1972), especially the last part.
 Lakoff, Equality, p. 166.
 A succinct example of this view is Stephen Decaturs famous toast, my country, right or wrong. A criticism of that view is in J. Q. Adams to John Adams, August 1, 1816, in J. Q. Adams, Writings (New York, 1913-17), Vl, p.62.
 This is the explanation of success in Jencks, Inequality. Schoeck, Envy, discusses luck as a protective device in societies dominated by envy. This is, of course, the central meaning of the well-known story of Columbus and the Egg.
 I have used the terminology, especially corporate syndicalism, of William Appleman Williams. The concept is similar to Theodore Lowis interest group liberalism, or Gabriel Kolkos political capitalism. The billiard ball idea, much extended here, appears in W. A. Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York, 1962), pp. 712.
 The Greek Commonwealth (London, 1931), pp. 889.
 Werner Jaeger, Paideia (New York, 1945),1, pp. 3234.
 Arnold Toynbce, Greek Civilization and Character (New York, 1953), p. 43.
 S. Ranulf, The Jealousy of the Gods and Criminal Law at Athens (Copenhagen, 1933), 1, p.117, cited in Schoeck, Envy, p. 119.
 Zimmern, Commonwealth, pp. 130-1.
 Stringfellow Barr, The Will of Zeus (Philadelphia, 1961), pp. 57 and 67.
 Jacob Burckhardt, History of Greek Culture (London, 1963), pp. 556.
 Zimmern, Commonwealth, pp. 923.
 Book V, paragraph 89, many editions. The great egalitarian communist experiments, of course, were in the Hellenistic world under such leaders as King Agis IV. These were after leadership in the Ancient World clearly had passed to Rome.
 The quotes are found in Amaury de Riencourt, The Comislg Caesars (New York, 1957), pp. 288-9, 367-8. See also Kinship and Political Power in First Century Rome, in Robert A. Nisbet. Tradition and Revolt, Historical and Sociological Essays (New York, 1968), pp. 203-24.
 Martin P. Nilsson, Imperial Rome (New York, 1966), pp. 2178.
 F. R. Crowell, The Revolutions in Ancient Rome (New York, 1943), p. 83.
 Ibid, pp. 756.
 Quoted in Reincourt, Caesars, p. 249.
 All of the aspects mentioned here are brilliantly discussed in Chester Starr, Civilization and the Caesars (New York, 1965).
 Nilsson, Rome, pp. 2823.
 W. C. Beyer, The Civil Service in the Ancient Worid, in S. N. Eisenstadt, ed., The Decline of Empires (Englelwood Cliffs, 1967), p. 50.
 M. l. Rostovtzeff, Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire (Oxford, 1953),1, pp. 4701.
 Starr, Caesars, p. 368.
 Rostovtzeff, Empire, I, pp. 4957.
 Brooks Adams, The Law of Civilization and Decay (New York, 1955), p. 29.
 Rostovtzeff, Empire,1, p 501.
 Starr, Caesars, p. 365.
 Etienne Balazs. Chinese Civilization and Bureaucracy! (New Haven, 1964), xiv
 Ibid., p.347.
 Quoted in H. R. Williamson, Wang an Shih (London, 1935) 11, pp. 1147.
 Balazs, Bureaucracy, p. 18.
 Ibid., p. 14.
 Amaury de Riencourt, The Soul of China (New York, 1958).
 W. P. Webb, The Great Frontier (New York, 1964), especially chapter one.
 Henry Bamford Parks, The American Experience (New York, 1959), p. 7.
 William Marina, Turner, the Safety Valve, and Social Revolution, in D. Koenig, ed., Historians and History: Essays in Honor of Charleton W. Tebeau (Coral Gables, 1967) pp. 2332.
 Webb, Great Frontier, passim.
 W.A. Williams, The Contours of American History (Chicago, 1966), p. 211.
 Marina, Opponents, passim.
 Gabriel Kolko, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Re-Interpretation of American History, 1900-1916, (Chicago, 1967), conclusion.
 See Sidney Fine, Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State: A Study of Conflict in American Thought, 1865-1901, (Ann ARbor, 1956).
 Michael Hudson, Super Imperialism (New York, 1972).
 Alexander Stephens, A Pictorial History of the United States (New Orleans, 1882), 1, p. 975.
 Arthur H. Bremer, An Assassins Diary. Harpers Magazine , CCXLV (January, 1973, 5266.
 Miami Herald, May 18, 1973. In conjunction with this development on January 27, 1975, NBC news noted that the federal government had announced that American productivity per man hour had declined for the first time since records began to be kept on this statistic.
 Starr, Civilization, pp. 2712.
 A recent, insightful study of some of the problems raised by the end of the great frontier, by one of the students of Walter Prescott Webb, is Forest McDonalds, The Phaeton Ride: The Crisis of American Success (New York,1974).
For further articles and studies, please see OnPower.org.
William Marina was a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University.
Reprinted from Studies in History and Philosophy No. 5. INSTITUTE FOR HUMANE STUDIES, INC. ©1975.