Coincidentally, Althouse had a few thoughts about the “leveling spirit” and the seemingly natural human inclination to “rebel” against societal inequalities (in this case, those of an economic nature), a subject I planned on touching upon later.
The leveling spirit, as defined through Althouse’s citation is, in James Madison’s words from the Constitutional Convention debates:
In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we shd. not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce. An increase of population will of necessity increase the proportion of those who will labour under all the hardships of life, & secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessings. These may in time outnumber those who are placed above the feelings of indigence. According to the equal laws of suffrage, the power will slide into the hands of the former. No agrarian attempts have yet been made in in this Country, but symtoms, of a leveling spirit, as we have understood, have sufficiently appeared in a certain quarters to give notice of the future danger. How is this danger to be guarded agst. on republican principles?
Madison, in framing the dichotomy from his Republican perspective, saw the leveling spirit as a tendency and inevitable consequence of sociocultural evolution writ upon emerging and growing populations. His opinion was that this leveling spirit would be fraught with misfortune and regrettable consequences.
One might wonder how entire spans of ideological groups of similarly intelligent 21st Century dwellers might justify siding with an archaic founding father in doubting the commonly-held and accepted view that “all men are created equal?”
The reactive acceptance that the poor are a special class of people who should not do without seems ghastly to most people today, and even those who believe so are hesitant to frame the opinion in such openly-held scurrilous terms.
But the question runs deeper.
Which is man’s innate drive: to be treated fairly and equally, or to thrive?