The third person of the unholy triad of the new religion is siamese and it is worth distinguishing between these twins since it may appear, considering that they are conjoined, that they are interchangeable or identical. Equity and equality will be treated generally although the arguments presented will apply similarly in the special case of “‘gender’ equality”, but the concept of “gender” and its alleged equality and equity are not treated herein.
Equality or equalness suggests evenness, uniformity, likeness and even sameness. When equality’s moral attributes are to be considered, clarity is critical as to what property or factor this equality is possessive of, and in what contexts such considerations are made, because an equality on its own is neither good nor bad, just nor unjust.
A memorable elevation of Equality as an absolute value, together with two other members in an earlier divinised trifecta, occurred at the time of the French revolution, with this ascent rooted in humanism and nourished during the so-called Enlightenment. This equality, ou mort, was to be achieved by taking from those who had more and distributing it among those who had less, and they saw that it was good.
All Else Unequal
In cultures historically or currently influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, all human beings are willingly or abstractedly believed to be equal in dignity by virtue of being human beings. Acceptance of such a conscious or subconsciously presumed perspective on the worth of humanity may appear ludicrous in living memory of apartheid, segregation, serfdom, caste systems, overt eugenics, slavery, abortion and other versions of institutionalized practices predicated on the superiority of the value of the lives of some over the untouchable eradicable unwanted unfit overpopulating carbon-emitting-useless-eating lives of others. The presumption or assertion of the fundamental and intrinsic dignity of human beings, often codified in laws, conventions, charters and constitutions, does yet prevail despite the multitudinous inequalities that exist between human beings naturally, willfully and circumstantially.
The equality of worth among human beings, while apparently universally and traditionally accepted, has been almost inexplicable and nearly incomprehensible in cultures geographically and chronologically disconnected with Genesis 1 and 2 – and the “West” has perhaps forgotten why such a maxim was found acceptable by the Founding Fathers and Declaration drafters. The manipulation of the definition of personhood to justify inequality of dignity between persons and non-persons and the consequent different treatment of de-personified human beings is not addressed here.
Treatment and Actuality
The concept of equality is often applied in considerations of the treatment of people. One may generally suppose that equal treatment is due to those similarly situated in morally relevant aspects.
Democracy means rule, power or strength of the people, and all citizens participate, usually via representatives, in creating policy. Whether democracy, even in theory, is a good means of government is a separate question, but implied within the concept is the equality of political power among citizens. It does not follow that every citizen should have an equal share of the wealth of the state, nor that it would be unfair if everyone was not in the cabinet. The immunity of a country’s president from the law, when another citizen would receive penalties for the same crime, might be considered inequality of treatment. Likewise, a judge handing down the same sentence to the guilty and guiltless would be equality of treatment. It would seem reasonable that citizens should have the same basic political opportunities within the context of a democratic political system, and be treated equally before the law. It is also not unreasonable that the farm girl has the opportunity to ride horses every day, while the city boy travels to work in a bus.
It follows from the very fact of the existence of real and inevitable inequalities between people who are assumed equal in dignity, that even when there is equality of opportunity or available resources, different peoples’ inequalities of ability, passion, temperament, inclinations, biography and environment lead to unequal outcomes. That a crooked adult who worked out in the morning and skipped breakfast could eat more hotdogs than an innocent child who had just drunk a bottle of milk, is no surprise even if they both had available an equal number of hotdogs on the plate, or bucket – and this inequality of outcome isn’t necessarily bad, and forcible stuffing of the child with as many hotdogs as the man ate would be, at least, unhealthy. Neither is it necessarily systemic injustice if a woman joined an airline as a flight attendant where female flight attendants were the majority, even though there was a vacancy at the institute of mechanical engineers – and also at the Dukdipandenjeroos coal mine.
Likewise, in organizational contexts, employees could be provided with equal opportunities for career advancement, and equal reward for equal performance, supposing that these equalities can be and would be fairly assessed. However it would be unreasonable to provide an equal pay rise to those whose performances are not equal, or to make every team member the boss. It might appear ridiculous to attempt to compose a team of balls whose purpose is to roll, with an equal number of cubes, pyramids, octahedra, cones and prisms, even if cuboids had as a group suffered historic marginalisation.
If equality is a status to work towards or to achieve by force, it would follow that celebration would be due when everyone became equally poor, equally sick or equally sad, the opportunities for advancement were equally absent, and available healthcare professionals equally incompetent. The problems that require addressing are poverty, disease and despair– and not an overarching inequality. It would be a responsibility to uplift one’s neighbours when they are suffering. It might well be injustice to refuse succour to the needy, but the distinction between duty to help and the achievement or enforcement of equality needs to be recognised. It is good to reach out and give, particularly to those at the bottom of hierarchies and who do not desire to remain there – but this does not translate into the goodness of eliminating hierarchies.
It is evident that equality is not an absolute value, and can only be valuable depending on the context and the factors whose equality is being considered. Having realised this, we may consequently grapple with the dominant twin equity.