The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.Aristotle

All over the world, girls chat and boys play in mud. Didn't you?

What does that mean?
For those who never had two or more dogs, this might not make much sense. But if you ever had more than one dog at the same time, you know that there is no such thing as equal dogs. One is always first. If you try to greet any other dog first, there will be trouble. You cannot make unequal things equal no matter how much you might want the to be.

While humans have this idea of equality, in the real world, equality is rare. Have you ever found two rocks that were the same size? Same weight? Same composition? Not all that common, is it? While it’s in our best nature to try to make people equal, they are all unique and, by definition, unequal.

Why is inequality important?  
While the thought of inequality may cause us some emotional discomfort, it is true. How would you make a professional athlete and a couch potato equal in sports? You can only try to pull the athlete down to the level of the weakest person. This is the basis of the Kurt Vonnegut short story “Harrison Bergeron“. Even the cursory synopsis on the Wikipedia page can make you revile the idea of forcing everyone down to the same level, just to make them all equal.

There is beauty in symmetry, and we use it in art and buildings. We try to make things equal, but it doesn’t always work. Especially not with living things in general, and humans in particular. We can all start from an equal starting point, but some will work harder, some will work smarter, others will find short cuts, or just get lucky.

Equality of opportunity is difficult to achieve, but it is (in my belief) a worthy goal. Equality of outcome is impossible to achieve without reducing everyone to the level of the least successful person. Equality of misery is all that will be achieved in this manner. Inequality is a necessary part of life.

Where can I apply this in my life?
In the past week or two, there have been a number of stories about how the holiday season toy sales have prompted a number of manufacturers and sales organizations to adjust their methods. Some are trying to make gender neutral toys and toy areas, while others are working on separate lines for boys and girls.

I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s not much in the world that is as different as little boys and little girls. When my brother and I were young, my parents got concerned about all the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ games we were playing. So they got us a farm set, complete with cows, horses, fences, and buildings. Before the day was out, the cows had declared war on the horses and the fight was on!

While my daughter is quite the tomboy, there are things that are too ‘boy’ for her to be interested in. There are factual and documented differences between the male and female of the human species. Trying to make them equal, well that’s just not going to work. Each of us is an individual, each with different wants and needs.

For those who have kids, do all your kids have the same bedtime? The same chores? The same privileges? If you don’t have kids, apply the same questions to when you were a kid. How unequal was that? Even kids that are the same age can have unequal levels of responsibility. What is the proper way to deal with that inequality?

Where in your life to you try to make unequal things equal, and how can you best deal with the inequality? That’s the hard part, at least with people. You will have to try to balance the needs of each person with your abilities. It sounds difficult, especially with children, but you probably already do it quite well.

Consider your friends. Are they all equal, or do you have a best friend, some almost best friends and other friends? How do you treat them when you are together? Are they equal, or do you treat them unequally? You give each the attention the relationship requires, and you give what you can to each in an unequal manner. Somehow, it works, as they are still all friends, right?

There isn’t any exercise with this post, but there is time for plenty of introspection. That is the true purpose of this blog, to get you thinking, to examine how you live your life. To consider what you think is best for you and for those around you, then live the best life you can.

From: Twitter, @AncientProverbs
confirmed at :
Photo by  ePi.Longo

, , , ,

11 Responses to The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal

  1. philosiblog 8 July 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Turns out this is another misattributed quote. See 3rd entry at for details.

  2. Lrn2Equality 9 November 2013 at 8:13 am #

    This is the stupidest shit I’ve ever read. I don’t think you know what people mean by equality.

    • philosiblog 10 November 2013 at 1:19 am #

      An interesting, if vulgar, comment.

      I think I stated what I believe. What is it you believe? What is it that I don’t get about equality?

  3. bhagat singh 20 June 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    As far I understand this statement,
    What is inequality ,it is not having equal things at the same time.
    There can be many types of inequality, social ,economic,physical ,psychological.
    Its natural to have inequality ,even if u take one person ,he will be having different types of characters or qualities in different proportion,that means inequality within himself.

    Now can I make my all character equal in proportion????
    Is it possible????what can be the side effects of it???

    Can I do equal anger ,equal empathy,equl honest ,equally corrupt????equally good and equally bad???
    Ni ,no way,it is simply not possible to have all trait existing equally in a person , then how can we talk of establishing equality in different human being???

    Let’s say government want to treat weaker section differently, but have u ever considered on what grounds they different from upper section????
    Mostly we take one criteria for all person and apply it to all,like they are economically weak,so we try to establish economic equality.
    Now what about physical inequality???? Psychological aspect??? What about health???what about life expectancy ??? What about other many aspects ???? Will they be equal if you establish economic equality???religious aspects ??
    What about the way they taken into account , are they equally represented ???
    Are rich people treated like poor people when they go to poor’s house,why are they treated unequally ???
    So it is very difficult to even come to an equally good conclusion about what is inequality to be taken care off,?
    It is natural to have inequality, if we want to balance it,we are doing inequal treatment to inequality, how will you justify it???

    • philosiblog 22 June 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      Your post is a bit hard to follow, but starting at the beginning, I would say that the flaw is in your premise. You have only addressed the first part, but not the second. The first part of the quote says that the worst way to screw up equality… The second part finishes the sentence. How do you get things that messed up? By declaring things which are not equal to be equal, a grave injustice is done.

      To the lesser, made mighty by decree, the injustice is twofold: first, they have not had the opportunity to enjoy the triumph of their efforts; and secondly, they don’t have the ability, and will fail when called on to do what the others can do.

      To those whom the lesser have been made equal, the injustice is also twofold: first, they have their joy of triumph reduced by having others declared their equal who have not worked to earn that designation; secondly, they see things they could accomplish handed to those who cannot, and are made to feel like they are failures by association when the lesser are unable to accomplish the task.

      It is rare that anything is equal. Even the world’s Kilograms are not equal: see LeGrand K (

      Anyone who has worked with children, or even animals, know that they are not equal, and trying to treat them as equals has repercussions.

      Did that help? If I misunderstood your point (almost guaranteed), please write back, so that I might better understand.

  4. T 12 October 2014 at 1:15 am #

    Your explanation is interesting. I believe just because all things can never be equal, it does not mean that we should stop trying to make some things equal. For example basic human rights should apply to all people, access to clean water, food and the right to feel safe. Equality regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or disability. These are things that, although it seems unlikely that there will equality, it does not mean it is impossible. Equality should never be achieved by someone else being dragged down, but by educating, training, or otherwise aiding a person who needs help to be brought up to the same level. Humans that accept a challenge can achieve amazing feats in the face of diversity. I have probably veered from the initial topic or point of view, there is always one idealist.

    • philosiblog 14 October 2014 at 5:40 am #

      Exactly. One cannot make all pets equal. At least I wouldn’t want to try to put a fish on a leash. Yet governments keep trying to make everything equal, despite the impossibility of doing so in this reality.

      That said, I believe in idealism. The quote, and I believe both of our points, is that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Theory and reality often do not coexist in our world. We must do our best to stop injustice, but not by making more injustice.

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a thoughtful comment. It’s even better that we agree (although agreement is not required for a comment to be either thoughtful or interesting).

      • T 15 October 2014 at 12:13 am #

        That really sums it up, “we must do our best to stop injustice, but not by making more injustice.”
        Thank you for your post. It was thought provoking.

      • philosiblog 15 October 2014 at 6:30 am #

        Thanks for such a kind comment. I am glad you found it to be of some use. I hope to hear from you again.

        In the mean time, I hope that you take the time to search through the 1200 older posts on this site, for your favorite author or favorite quote.


  1. In our quest for happiness and the avoidance of suffering, I believe we are all fundamentally the same, and therefore equal. | philosiblog - 15 January 2012

    […] I would like to focus on the things that make us the same. Recently, I talked about the necessity of inequality  in life, and the many ways that we are unequal. I still stand by that post, but I acknowledge […]

  2. The Birth of a Nation and the Seeds of Liberalism | Invisibilis Lux - 6 July 2014

    […] 4.  Further reading: The Worst Form of Inequality is to Make Unequal Things Equal […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: