On the one hand, the conflict between formal justice and formal equality before the law, and on the other hand, the attempt to realize the various ideals of substantial justice and equality is responsible for the concept of “advantage” and the consequent widespread confusion. Abuse To mention only the most important example of this abuse – the use of the word “advantage” in property. It would actually be a privilege if, for example, as has sometimes been the case in the past, land property was reserved for members of the aristocracy. And if it is a privilege, as is true in our time, the right to produce or sell certain things is reserved for certain persons nominated by the authorities. But to call private property that everyone can acquire under the same rules is a privilege, because only a few succeed in acquiring it, depriving the word “benefit” of its meaning.
This is from Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Surfdom1944, p. 88-89.
I said in my previous post on privilege that I would give my own opinion. My view of privilege is similar to that of Hayek. The bottom line is that the government gives some items or permits that keep it from others.
To take an example from present-day America, very few people in New York City are allowed to carry hidden handguns or even handguns. Among them is Michael Bloomberg’s bodyguard. Bloomberg and they are particularly privileged. You could argue that because if he is unprotected, he is at risk of being killed because he is a high-profile person. But there are probably some people in Harlem who you and I have never heard of who are more or less at risk of being killed but who are not allowed to carry handguns.
There is a very important way that I am privileged and many readers are privileged: we have US citizenship. Now I have the hard work of my citizenship that the vast majority of Americans. But still, they and I are privileged. Although we can stop at the border, once we answer some questions, we can enter the United States. Most people in the world are not free to enter the United States and look for work. My US citizenship is probably my most important privilege.
Reading through the above, I realize that there Is In a sense where my holding property in coastal California is a privilege in the Hayekian sense. My wife and I bought a small house in 1986. Due to the increasing restrictions on construction, it has become quite popular in the real sense. So we’ve got something that other people starting today aren’t able to get so easily – because the government has made it harder for them than it was for us.