Equity — another Bad Idea

From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #47
July 30, 2021
How Self-Actualization
Can Save Politics #8


In thinking about bad ideas in politics, ideas that are having a field day these days, the idea of equalizing out everything is one of the worst. Equal opportunities— sure. Equal access— yes, definitely! Equal in the eyes of the law— of course! But trying to control things so that all get the same thing— equal outcome— that’s a really bad idea.

Why? The first reason is the simplest one. Namely, given human nature,it is not possible. Given differences in talents, intelligence, creativity, interests, desires, energy, motivation and on and on, the socialist/communistic idea of equity, of equalizing out everything, is an utopian hope. And historically, it has always turned out to be a nightmare, rather than a dream. Even for parents in a home with just two or three children, it is not even possible to do this! While the kids want things to be fair, they don’t want to be treated as if they were all the same. And if we go to communist regimes around the world who purportedly believe in this bad idea, none of them have created economic equality. In spite of a hundred years of trying communism, what country has actually achieved economic equality? None. Actually, the separation between the rich and the poor is much more extreme in those countries.

It’s a bad idea also the consequence of trying to force equity (equal outcome) leads to forcing conformity upon people, banishing true diversity, and lowering standards. People are not the same in scores and scores of ways— they don’t want the same thing, aren’t interested in the same outcomes, don’t prioritize values in the same way. So trying to get everyone to conform is another impossible dream and one that fails to respect diversity and uniqueness.

Pursuing equity puts all the focus on the result or the end and to do that means unequal treatment of the individual or group. Of course, to do that is to construct a structure that is inherently unequal. That’s a bad idea because it is a step backward. By contrast, legal equality means treating people as equal in the eyes of the law and being color-blind to skin color so that each person is gien an equality of opportunity. Something that is very different from equity.

A much better idea is to believe in people, to validate and embrace diversity, and to let people choose to create the kind and quality of lives that they want. Some will strive an entrepreneurs to create new enterprises and build businesses and become wealthier than most people. They will work 12 to 16 hours a day and love every minute of it. Others would utterly hate that way of living. They want to find a good secure job, work at it from 9 to 5 and then leave work so that they can focus on something that they care about— perhaps family, or sport, or recreation, or some hobby. They don’t care about how much money they accumulate. They spend whatever they get. Others do not even want a full-time job. They would prefer to work as little as possible— just enough to have the lifestyle they want.

The bad idea of equality of outcome would deny people the right to set their own values and to live by those values. It would rob them of their basic freedom of choice and impose on them a false promise and an impossible dream. In terms of self-actualization, equity doesn’t work. What works is equality of persons and opportunity which is why it is a much better idea.