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An argument I often see in discussion forums on the internet is that everybody is created equal, or that everybody IS equal. Or that, well, maybe everybody is not an Einstein or a Mozart, but Einstein or Mozart wouldn’t have gone far if they had been the only people alive on Earth.

Meaning that any large company is equally reliant on all its employees, from the lady at the checkout line right up to the CEO, and that therefore they ought to receive the same salary, or at least almost the same.

Consider this scenario: You are setting up a concert with an orchestra performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, generally recognized as one of the finest violin concertos ever.

You have everything in place. Mendelssohn’s concerto is scored for:

  • Two Flutes
  • Two Oboes
  • Two Clarinets
  • Two Bassoons
  • Two French Horns
  • Two Trumpets
  • Timpani
  • Strings
  • And of course, Solo Violin
  • And don’t forget: A conducter to arrange the concert!

So, do you notice anybody indispensable above? Not if you want to conduct the concert the way it was written. So far, it looks like everybody is equally important.

Now, let’s say one of the members of the orchestra falls seriously ill and can’t play at the concert. Naturally you would want to replace them. Ah, but there’s the rub – you don’t just replace people. Whoever has to be replaced, must be replaced with somebody who can take over their role and play their part without ruining the concert.

It is reasonably easy to find a replacement if one of the violins in the orchestra becomes ill. There are plenty of people who can play a violon. But it is considerably harder to replace the soloist. Any violin virtuoso can play in an orchestra but far from all violinists are virtuosi. Mendelssohn’s concerto is said to be devillishly difficult for the soloist.

The conducter may be just as hard to replace. His or her job is not just to stand in front of the orchestra and wave a wand, it is also to instruct the orchestra before the concert.

And that is the reason why the conducter or the soloist are more famous and better paid than the members of the orchestra: They are much harder to replace!

If one of the violas in the orchestra falls ill, you find another viola and have them rehearse their Mendelssohn. A bit fast, if the concert is to take place the same night.

If the conductor falls ill, you find another conducter and start over with the rehearsals! If necessary, you postpone the concert.

If the soloist falls ill, you postpone the concert and search desperately for a violin virtuoso who knows Mendelssohn’s violin concerto or can learn it within a reasonable time frame.

Have I forgotten something?

Yes. I have forgotten one man: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. Without him there wouldn’t have been a violin concerto to perform! (Well, there are plenty of other violin concertos but so far I haven’t heard one I liked better than Mendelssohn’s.)

So no, all men and women are NOT created equal. They are created with equal rights, and these rights should be respected at all times, but they are not created with equal abilities.