Equality, or fairness?

There’s lots of talk these days about equality. It’s a topic in the 2016 campaign. According to CNN: “Reducing income inequality is at the center of both Democratic presidential frontrunners’ campaigns.”

Equality is not a natural state. Nature abhors equality, just like it abhors a vacuum. Equality is a useful concept for whipping up passions, but not useful when setting public policy or thinking for the long term.

Most people are probably more interested in ‘fairness’; but compared to equality, fairness is elusive and slippery. You can use numbers to identify equality, but what is ‘fair’? You tell me. If someone tries to sell you equality, run. You don’t want equality.

Equality before the law is a fundamental value in a decent society. But equality of treatment in no way guarantees equality of outcomes. On the contrary, equality of treatment makes equality of outcomes unlikely, since virtually nobody is equal to somebody else in the whole range of skills and capabilities required in real life.

Thomas Sowell

Equality? Not Here, Thank You
Here’s a short list of absurdities that make the point we don’t REALLY want equality.

Racial equality? Do we really want racial equality? Then why are there no complaints about the fact that every place kicker and punter in pro football is white; or that most NBA players are black? If racial prejudice causes black poverty in the US, then why is Haiti not a paradise? Haiti is black and self-governing since 1804, and also the poorest and most corrupt country in the western hemisphere.

Earnings equality? Unions and the left like to complain about highly-paid CEOs, but the concern seems to extend only to the finance and manufacturing industries. For example, you don’t hear complaints about salaries in the entertainment industry; and I’m referring here to athletes, musicians, executives, actors and so on. High salaries at Boeing and GE are bad, but not so much in the NBA or at Disney.

Equality of the sexes? The male incarceration rate in the US is 14 times the female rate. Is this the result of sexism? Further, is anyone suggesting we end prison segregation by sex? But, allowing women into combat roles in the military is a good thing? Maybe yes, maybe no; but please don’t tell me it’s for ‘equality’.

Equal economic mobility? Equal opportunity should be a goal, and education is the key; yet poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools, and rich kids are almost always in good schools. How do we fix it? US public schools spend more per student than almost anyone else, while results are worse than almost everywhere else. So what do teachers’ unions and their supporters propose to fix the public school system? They want more money, while at the same time resisting accountability for results.

The Bottom Line

Freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically…

Will and Ariel Durant; The Lessons of History

When the left waves the flag of equality, it’s simply a club used in the course of political argumentation. Equality is unnatural, and only achieved through force. However if it’s really ‘fairness’ we want, that’s something entirely different. Equality might be a component of justice or fairness, but it doesn’t stand on its own.