Equity vs. equality: a cartoon

September 7, 2021 • 10:45 am

The cartoon below, whose URL is linked to the drawing, has now appeared in a gazillion places (for examples, see the results of an image search). It clearly implies that there’s a difference between the outcomes of equality an equity. But of course that depends on how you define them. (The cartoon also appears on the Peace Corps site, and is credited this way: “Equality vs. Equity – by the Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.” Image Found: interactioninstitute.org)

To me, “equality” means “equality of opportunity”: everyone from the moment of birth has the same possibilities open to them. Given income and class inequality, however, that’s a practical impossibility. All we can do is try to ensure that nobody is discriminated against when making important decisions based on factors over which they have no control. Upper-class kids will have opportunities, like tutoring, vacations, and private schools, that simply aren’t available to those with less money.

“Equity” means the same thing to almost everyone: groups are represented in schools, in companies, and in various trades in the same proportion they occur in the general population. Achieving that may be impossible as well given group differences in culture and preferences (as a reader mentioned the other day, there are few blacks in hockey, but many in basketball). Many people, however, think that “equality” and “equity” mean the same thing. Not to me, or, I suspect, to most of us.

The cartoon implies that equality is unfair, and what we must strive for is equity. Now I could argue that the cartoon’s literal interpretation is wrong: there is in the left panel no “equality of opportunity to see the game.” The goal of equal outcomes in everything is what Ibram Kendi sees as the only evidence that racism has been eliminated, and I think that goal—equity—is what’s instantiated in this cartoon. On the other hand, you could argue that giving everybody the same thing (the box) does not seem fair when people start from different places (the different heights of the three people).

You might agree with the cartoon (I think it’s a tad misleading), or even with the striving for equity. This is really a discussion starter, so weigh in below.

h/t: Paul

89 thoughts on “Equity vs. equality: a cartoon

  1. The interesting thing about the cartoon is that equity for the spectators is correct outcome. Everyone should be accommodated so they can watch and enjoy the game. However, what they are watching is a baseball game; where the players are chosen entirely on merit! There is no equity for someone who cannot pitch, catch or hit the ball. Thus, the true message of the cartoon (unintended I think) is that sometimes equity should be the desired outcome, and sometimes not!

    1. Agree. However, I think today’s US GOP would argue in opposition to even the mixed position of “sometimes equity is best, sometimes equality is best.” Their position is more like; “never equity, for the involuntary and inequal distribution of resources is prima facie unfair.”

      Thus even your nuanced position is more “left” than it is middle or right.

      .

    2. I think merit needs to factor into equity. To me the ideal egalitarian society removes barriers for those that are able to contribute. So if you are really smart but really poor, you are able to go to university and use your abilities as easily as someone who is really smart and really rich.

        1. My issue with the cartoon is that not everyone wants to watch baseball (I’d rather watch cricket), but in this equity paradise no doubt we shall all have to watch it. And enjoy it. Or else.

          Surely even the dumbest of utopian engineers can see equity of outcome implies precisely the same starting conditions for all, and precisely the same process? And on the day when all humans are exactly the same I shall know we have lost the essence of our humanity; individuality.

      1. I think that your comment about removing barriers is spot on. In the version of that cartoon I saw *years* ago, there is a third panel, in which the opaque wooden fence is replaced by a chainlink fence. My take-away from that image is that we shouldn’t be giving certain people something extra, but that we should instead be looking for ways to remove potential hurdles for everyone.

        A favorite example is curb-cuts (sloped cutouts in the sidewalks around intersections) which were originally conceived as a way of giving wheelchairs better access to the sidewalks, but turn out to be good for almost everyone (folks pushing strollers, people with limited mobility who have difficulty with stairs, etc). In this case, a real physical barrier is removed, and *everyone* benefits.

  2. For people to all see the game unobstructed requires only something to address their specific need with little to no cost from anyone else. In all scenarios where the cost to others is negligible- equity is a perfectly fine thing to strive for.

    What changes is when anyone else is held back or has things/opportunities taken from them so that someone else (based purely on demographic) is brought to the same level as everyone else. Deciding that demographics matter more than academic success to get in school, or that standards for certain things be lowered (ostensibly for inclusiveness) with demographics replacing competency.

    To revisit the cartoon – we can imagine one of the figures as blind. Perhaps a good radio announcer in their ears, or even imagining a technological advance that would give them sight are all great possibilities. Deciding that the others should have their eyes closed so that they’re all seeing the same thing is where it becomes wrong.

    1. I’d argue that most Unis have gone well beyond merit criteria for the simple reason that there are far more meritorious applicants than there are spots…and that most of the ‘extra’ criteria are things that favor the wealthy. My kid has to work after school, your kid doesn’t and instead gets primo singing lessons. Guess whose college application looks better? But does singing matter for 90% of degree candidates? Does it predict who will graduate with a BS in 4 years? No. Your kid’s singing competence is absolutely a merit criteria if you’re applying to Juilliard or specifically to some music program at a school, but not a merit criteria just to get in with an undeclared major at Generic State Tech or University of Wherever. But yet, for the top tier schools, at this point all the real academic merit criteria are treated as minimal requirements, and those wealth-favoring extra-curriculars like your kid’s singing lessons are really what distinguishes you from the other candidates.

      So to your demographics comment – I’d say that the “competency” ship has already sailed. Our culture decided decades ago that non-competency measures were going to be included in the selection. We did that when those non-competency factors favored our kids, and we liked the result. We agreed to play that game. Now it’s time to put on our big boy pants and let the non-competency factors that don’t favor our kids be fairly included too. Or we scrap the whole “yes you have A’s, but what else do you have to distinguish you from everyone else?” notion and come up with something different.

      1. Just a brief point on your initial example. My experience with admissions is that a student who succeeded academically while having to hold down a job, too, would actually rank higher on the ‘extra merit’ than someone who just took some singing lessons. Those who rank low would be someone like me when I was a kid. Great academically, but fortunate in not having to hold a job, and having parents than basically just me be. So, in all my free time I just goofed around being a kid; playing and having fun with friends and my dog. Doing nothing that looked good on or added to a resume. Did I waste my childhood/life by having an application that got me rejected from an Ivy League university? Who knows?

  3. In my context (academia in Canada), equality is generally taken to be equal opportunity without accounting individuals’ circumstances, whereas equity is equal opportunity AND accounting for individuals’ circumstances (limited by practical constraints).

    There’s a variation that includes a 3rd panel, “liberation” (e.g., https://engage2learn.org/wp-content/uploads/Screen-Shot-2019-04-02-at-3.59.23-PM-1024×328.png), in which the fence is removed entirely.
    As an engineer, this one bothers me because (a) it removes the boundary of the “field”, undermining rules of the game being played, and (b) puts the spectators at greater risk of physical injury.

    There’s yet another variation in which the 3rd panel shows the wooden fence replaced with a chicken wire fence and the crates gone (e.g., https://i.redd.it/tn3468quc48y.jpg). I like this one more because it clearly marks the boundary of the field yet provides a reasonable *and safe* view for the spectators without the “augmentation” of the crates.

    Unfortunately, in this variant, the three people watching the game all appear to be white-skinned, which has created distracting objections from certain anti-racist elements of society. A simpler solution would be to photoshop the image to show three people of various skin colours rather than to just rage about racism….

  4. I like the other version where it juxtaposes ‘equity in theory’ and ‘equity in practice’, with the left and middle with their legs chopped off. A bit harsh, but fair.

    Because even though there is much room for a better, more equitable, society, their definition implies a procrustean bed of almost totalitarian intervention.

    By the way, how is this cartoon the epitomy of justice when all three sneakily watch a game without paying?

  5. I think the interesting part of the cartoon is that it leaves race out of the comparison. And who moved the boxes? Perhaps the white guy just outside the frame does that. And why does the middle guy never cheer for the team? Just joking.

    1. Maybe middle guy isn’t cheering because his team is losing. But he’s polite and doesn’t distract the others whose team is winning. 🙂

      1. I once went to a bseball game while on a business trip to Toronto when my hometown team – the Milwaukee Brewers – was playing. When the Brewers lost, the fans sitting near me actually apologized for their team winning.

    1. I’m imagining a cartoon where all three are sitting on crates but with their backs to the game, occupied with other activities (reading an engaging book, practicing a musical instrument, painting, mastering calculus, gazing at the stars). I.e., under-representation in a given area may reasonably be a matter of interest in other areas.

  6. I’ve seen another version of the cartoon where on the Equity side there are no boxes and no people. The issue with calls for equity is that they assume that what is iniquitous is not only wrong, but purposefully so. People have different talents and different characters. Some people, regardless of their advantages, are just not able to succeed. As Glenn Loury repeatedly points out, the only way to make all outcomes the same is to have a totalitarian government. Equity is a blind. The goal is to destroy free society.

  7. So why don’t those arguing for ‘equity’ apply the concept also to the players on the team? This would mean that factors other than ability to play baseball should be considered, but they don’t seem to be arguing for that. The ‘equity’ solution is made only in a racial context, the presupposition being that the lack of equality is caused by racism, so ‘equity’ adjustments are appropriate adjustments to undo the effects of this previous wrongdoing. The problem is that they fail to provide any evidence showing how racism keeps non-impoverished black children from being as successful as white kids in lavishly funded school systems such as D.C. And they utterly reject the notion that anything in culture of lower-performing groups could be at fault.

  8. To make that cartoon reflect my understanding of what equality would look like, the three people in the left hand panel would be looking at a pile of boxes they had equal access to and could therefore build their pile as high as they were able or wished.

    1. Right. But the fence to keep them out of the game does not exclude tall people from seeing the game, which gives that person an opportunity that the other two freeloaders don’t have. Equity and equality would both be served here by building a taller fence.

      In the U.S. we have a history of barriers built to exclude people based on race (fairly called systemic racism) while not excluding others. These are redlines, gerrymandered congressional districts, laws about mail in ballots (which create barriers on Reservations,) and historical barriers such as segregation. The way to provide equity is to tear down those fences, or build them in a way that no one can see the game.

      1. …redlines, gerrymandered congressional districts, laws about mail in ballots (which create barriers on Reservations,) and historical barriers such as segregation.

        If these describe “systemic racism” explain how they keep modern-day non-impoverished black kids from being as successful as white kids in lavishly funded school systems such as D.C. Kids who don’t progress academically are not going to progress financially. Doesn’t the problem of academic disengagement have to be addressed to solve this problem?

          1. What’s the non sequitur? How do your “systemic racism” items keep kids from being academically successful?

            1. Are you denying the examples I listed? Any observer of American history can observe what I mentioned, and they are only a few of the examples. And I never said that they were preventing kids from being academically successful, and you’re begging the question on whether or not they are academically successful. You brought it in, not me. But are you aslo suggesting that the sole reason that black kids are not successful (assumed for argument) is because they are black, and incapable of being engaged on their own?

              Ted Nugent, the draft dodger, said that blacks should get alarm clocks. Are you suggesting that as a race, black people are lazy, and that this is the reason that they aren’t successful?

              1. And I never said that they were preventing kids from being academically successful

                This is the problem – that the black kids are not as academically successful as the white kids. We’re trying to uncover the reasons. People say “systemic racism.” You give me examples of “systemic racism” and I ask you how those things keep the black kids from being as successful academically. What is your answer?

                and you’re begging the question on whether or not they are academically successful

                Do you question whether or not they are? The link I gave provided an example of it. There are many others. Do you need to have them cited?

                But are you aslo suggesting that the sole reason that black kids are not successful (assumed for argument) is because they are black, and incapable of being engaged on their own?

                I’m suggesting, as the study did, that the lack of engagement with school work is a problem is black culture. How do you account for the lower level of academic success in situations like the one studied – where poverty and an inadequately-funded school system are not at issue?

  9. To me, “equity” will always mean how much your home’s current market value exceeds the amount still to be paid on your mortgage, and thus can be available for you as a home equity loan.

    With respect to the cartoon: what we’re really missing is the fact that ALL of these people are watching the game illegally!! They clearly don’t have tickets. (^_^) It’s the players and paying fans who are being cheated.

    Also, given their locations, in first picture, the taller individual has a much higher chance of being hit by a home run, given where they are placed relative to the plate and the mound. In the “equity” picture, they all have equal risk, which I guess is appropriate.

    “True equity is achieved only in death.”

        1. I don’t know if it’s still true, but the bleachers across the street were once more expensive than the bleacher seats in the park. Tourists, I think.

          1. I dunno either, Michael, but I’ve heard the seats across the street have become even more commercialized, almost like stadium loges, with catering, that have to be reserved in advance.

        1. If they’re on property owned by the ballpark or team, they could be prosecuted for trespass if they refuse to leave after warning. Otherwise, I think they’re out of legal harm’s way — analogous to the “public domain” exception in copywrite law.

    1. Sub, though IMO we can’t assume that the three are watching illegally. They might be watching a Little League game. In my neck of the woods there are several Little League ballparks, and sometimes, as I’m going by one on one of my constitutionals, I might linger and watch the kids play for a while. And I watch through the fence, which, as another commenter wrote, is a chain-link fence.⚾

    1. That’s quite a perceptive cartoon. When you see some of the proposals that are made to ensure equal outcomes (e.g. hiring in orchestras based on ethnicity) you understand that the people making the suggestion/demand don’t actually care about its impact on the activity in question. They *only* care about representation. To my mind, this is what disqualifies their opinion from being taken seriously.

      1. 69% of NFL professional football players are African Americans. African Americans are only 13% of the USA population (5.3 times their percentage in the population).

        Clearly, there is systemic racism at work in the NFL.

        I’m sure Mr. Kendi will want to rectify this egregious racism.

  10. Why don’t they all just get seats in the stadium? Behind the catcher? In the outfield? At first base? At third? In the higher second level? Box seats? The cartoon actually doesn’t deal with the problem at all. It oversimplifies the situation and pretends to offer an answer.

  11. I have also seen this cartoon provided as the reason every baseball game begins with everyone singing “Jose, can you see?” Seriously though, an equal measure of equity would be if the shortest person chose not to watch but the boxes were there if he wanted them. Would appear to the outside observer that the outcomes were different but the opportunities were there

  12. Regardless of either ‘equality’ or ‘equity’ … anyone inclined to favor any form of helping, accommodation, augmentation, leveling, etc., must face this bright line: If the effort requires force, its implementation is a violation of individual rights. If accomplished by persuasion and volitional action, not.

    1. All laws are a violation of individual freedoms (not necessarily rights) because they limit what an individual can do usually for the greater good. I don’t think it matters the method.

      1. No, all laws are not a violation of individual freedom or rights.

        A law that makes theft a crime does not “limit what an individual can do” since as soon as the thief steals, he has attempted to contradict the universality of the right to property.

        A law that forbids, constrains, or criminalizes an action by an individual that does not violate another? That law is immoral — wrong — and ought to be unconstitutional.

        1. A law against theft does limit what an individual can do: It limits their freedom to take something from someone else. This is a societal norm. And it generally only applies to “the people”: One’s own tribe or nation. In the past, stealing from “the others” was almost universal. Societies define us and them.

          1. You have no problem with theft, as long as ‘society’ condones it. Got it. You are on record.

            How do you feel about murder, extortion, rape, child abuse?

            1. You have no problem with theft, as long as ‘society’ condones it.

              Are those Thatcherite scare-quotes?

              How do you feel about murder,

              Most societies condone war, and some also practice capital punishment.

              extortion,

              Sanctions, Realpolitik

              rape,

              Prisons

              child abuse?

              “Spare the rod….”

            2. There is no such thing as theft unless there is a law defining it, and the law presumably is a codification of societal norms. Society doesn’t condone “theft”, it fundamentally defines what theft is, and what it is not.

              I suppose you can imagine some kind of God in the abstract who decries laws, and the people down on the ground are just the scriveners ala Islam, and then you can have “theft” as defined by God and the Mullahs, but it wouldn’t change anything actually if the Mullahs made it all up.

              The West confiscated Venezuela’s gold stocks in the London banks, leading the Venezuelan people to suffer. They are holding Afghanistan’s foreign exchanges from the Taliban, which everyone views as the legitimate government now, which will probably have humanitarian consequences. Is this theft?

              Its very clever to take your own social norms and impose them on the rest of the world, but the lines on a map represent more than territorial boundaries. What constitutes murder, extortion, rape or child abuse changes when you cross a river.

              In Iran, the age of marriage is 9 years old. In the West, relations with a 9 year old will get you imprisoned. This is not to say I am a moral relativist-I’m probably closer to natural law-or that I don’t have my preference for societal norms (e.g. for those I was raised with). Norms are arbitrary, but the consequences that flow from established norms are not.

              1. As evidenced by the replies to me above, the arbitrariness and relativist credo is in full control. The point missed is: there is such a thing as objective law not founded on God or any mystical creature, nor on a default axiom of “the good of all.”

                It is shocking how quickly and absolutely people attempt to cancel that idea, and with no shame to play the “freedom is toxic because it means having license to un-free others by force” card.

    2. You can use force in self-defense, and it is not a violation of individual rights. If I have the equity camp correct, they believe that the proposed beneficiaries of equity have been shafted, and had their abilities and inheritance stifled by coercion on behalf of their oppressors, and so equity is remedial, and amounts to self defense or taking back something stolen from you.

      Not that “individual rights” in the abstract is particularly coherent, or the noninterference principle for that matter, but I’m sure you can devise a libertarian defense of equity (being more a set of slogans than a coherent philosophy).

      1. I am diametrically opposed to making a defense of equity*. Implicit and absolute in the meaning of equity is force.

        Unless … can you paint me a picture of how equity would come into practice for 7-9 billion humans completely voluntarily?

        *Equity defined as “every person must obtain the same standard of living, or at least ‘be given’ the opportunity to obtain it on their own with constant action by government to destroy perceived barriers.”

        Your construction of forced equity as ‘self-defense against prior shafting’ is actually quite interesting. I have never heard that justification before from the equity camp. Maybe they should make it. It is void, however.

  13. Removing the fence entirely is, of course, how “equity” is understood by the opponents of honors classes, advanced classes, admissions tests, ranking, and grades. A variant of this was found in the early days of the USSR, when resentment of the old professional expert class was stirred up and used in the Shakhty trial (1928) and the Industrial Party trial (1930). Replacement of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia by a new, ideologically unanimous class was also behind the concocted adulation of such “barefoot scientists” as the simple plant breeder Trofim Lysenko, and his followers. In the USSR, the conflation of equity with perfect uniformity of thought and utterance became even more dramatic in the later 1930s—and today we see a similar trend in the ubiquitous contemporary cancel culture. The Left, unfortunately, seems to go through this same dynamic—equality to equity to uniformity—over and over, like a melody unspooled by a clockwork mechanism on a player-piano.

  14. Change the task from passively watching a game to actively performing surgery, and change the variable from individual height to individual competence. Now choose between equality of opportunity and equity in surgical residencies.

    1. That is a superb comeback. Perfect.

      [change ‘surgery’ to ‘piloting an airliner’ to get the same impact. United Airlines hiring by ‘equity’]

    2. Well said. I strongly agree with eliminating barriers to equality of opportunity, but I want my surgeon to be the best. Unfortunately, many of those pushing for equity really simply mean quotas, regardless of merit.

  15. In this context I’m reminded of Jesse Jackson, perhaps because I’m a Chicagoan who has grown up with him in the news practically my whole life. I’m trying to remember a quotation from him that has to do with equality of opportunity, something I believe I heard him say in the 1970s. He was using the analogy of a footrace and pointing out that, whereas Whites begin the race at the starting line, Blacks start further back and so are at a disadvantage from the outset. I can’t find the exact quotation, but in searching for it I came across this list of his quotes. Reading them, I’m struck by how much closer Jackson is to Glenn Loury than to Ibram Kendi. https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/jesse-jackson-quotes

    1. Lyndon Johnson, 1965
      You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, “you are free to compete with all the others,” and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.

      I was very impressed by that analogy at the time, but its persuasiveness was greatly undermined in my mind by the 1968 Olympics when the winning three 100m sprinters were all black, two representing the US, and in the 200m sprint, first and third places went to two black Americans – memorable for their Black Power salutes.

      The cartoon, like the analogy, vastly oversimplifies matters, as various posters have pointed out.

  16. Equal representation of ethnic groups does not make a just, fair and benevolent society. By that criterion, old feudal southern Germany would count as the epitome of “social justice”, as the ethnicity distribution of the elite was exactly the the same as that of the serf population (both were near 100 % ethnic Germans).

    Equality in a liberal state has always meant equality of individuals under the law, in contrast to older types of law that had different rules for high and low, Saxon or Roman, woman or man, warrior or serf, Jew or non-Jew.
    Equal opportunity means an education system that is free for all and gives all striving and intellectually capable children equal access to elite education if they want it. The existence and large role of for fee schools in the US violates that, the dumbing down of state school curricula does so, too.

    Even with equal opportunity, educational outcomes will never be equal, and why should they be? Society needs people who do all types of work.

    A socially just society is one that has a small GINI coefficient.
    “Equity” just distracts from the fact that GINI (meaning income inequality) has gotten larger since Reagonomics, with the well off and rent seekers getting richer, while the lower echelons who could least afford it becoming poorer in real terms and with poorer life prospects.

    1. A socially just society is one that has a small GINI coefficient.

      How can you say this? Suppose one person invents the i-Phone and risks his money to develop it. He will thereafter have a much higher income than others as he sells phones that people find very useful but is society less just as a result? Does justice require him to give away his income rather than using it to develop the next device that society will find extremely useful?

      1. An iPhone could never be invented by one person. It undoubtedly had many contributors but it is equally likely that those that made the big bucks were only the ones in top management and many of those other contributors were much less compensated.

        It may not be captured well by the one-dimensional GINI coefficient but my issue is that the curve is too steep. It used to be more shallow and society benefitted from it greatly. It isn’t clear exactly what caused the curve to get so steep but clearly pay for top-level executives is way out of line. We hear all the time of CEOs of failing companies get $10m bonuses instead of the $30m they would have gotten if their company had broke even. And don’t get me started about the bonuses for workers in financial services.

        1. those that made the big bucks were only the ones in top management

          Those that made the big bucks were the owners of the company: the shareholders.

          My point is simply that income inequality is not automatically a bad thing. If a person invented a widget that improved the lives of many, and that provided jobs for many, then the fact that he became a lot richer than other people is not a bad thing. Wealth in the hands of people who have shown that they can do things with it beneficial to society is a good thing. Taxing him just to equalize income or wealth kills the goose that laid the golden egg. There are other ways, that do not benefit society, for people to have high incomes, but schemes for taxing the rich are unable to discriminate between the two. Such schemes have the effect of inhibiting highly productive people. (Unless you are a socialist and believe that, for example, there was any chance that the i-Phone would have been developed by a government bureaucracy. It’s obvious that simply the cost of building all the necessary cell towers to make available a luxury item, would be a non-starter.) Furthermore, if we restricted extravagant and unearned salaries in the financial services sector that would benefit the owners, not the low-level workers. The bottom line is that income inequality that makes the pie bigger for everyone is a good thing.

          1. “Those that made the big bucks were the owners of the company: the shareholders.”

            That is how the top management gets the big payoff: stock options. The other kinds of shareholders had to actually invest their own money. I don’t have a problem with that. I assume you don’t either. But that really doesn’t have anything to do with income inequality as they must have already had enough money to make a worthwhile investment and they are risking their capital. Income inequality is where most people never have enough money, after food, rent, etc., to invest. They aren’t able to participate in one of the games that the rich use to make even more money.

          2. Funny to use the I phone as an eg. MOST of the tech in it was invented via gvt funding: Darpa, public universities’ research departments, DoD, etc. Don’t forget the public education/ student loans the entrepreneurs took advantage of coming up.

            D.A.
            NYC

          3. I’m not certain: Should I take your comments to mean that you oppose progressive taxation (entirely)? (Those with higher incomes paying a larger percentage of their income in taxes than those with lower incomes.)

            1. No, you should take my comments to assert that entrepreneurs are to be encouraged by the tax code, not discouraged,

  17. Interesting that there is a hole in the fence in the right panel at the height where the short kid could see the game through it. That might be another way to achieve equity. Without the tall guy having to give up his “hard earned” box. 🙂

  18. The problem with the cartoon is that these people are passively watching the players on the field. Life, and outcomes in life, are attained only through active participation over decades. Further, success creates success and failure creates failure, there is a cumulative effect of life choices on life outcomes.

    Last, since equity is always concerned about where people start, it is clear that how many poker chips you start the poker game with is only one factor in who walks away at the end of the night with the chips.

  19. It’s amazing the number of ways this cartoon is ambiguous. We really have no idea what the author really was trying to say here. Was this deliberate? Perhaps the idea is just to make everyone talk about race, equity, and equality.

  20. I like the version where in the second image, one of the boxes on the right is replaced with the head of the tall guy from the first image.

    1. “Does equity mean that everyone should have a yacht?”
      That is not possible, there are just not enough to go around. Because that is the case, the equity people probably think the best option is to take away yachts from all the people who own them. Lots of people would probably be fine with that, as hedge fund people own a lot of yachts. But people who just love boats own them too. Some people save for years to buy some broken down boat to fix up. Then they spend all their spare time and the bulk of their income getting it just right.
      But equity does not care how hard you worked, or all the things you went without to get yours.

      For us, everything is about the ranch. The question comes up- “how come you people have all the best land in the valley? The answer is pretty simple. There was a time when all the land in the valley was pretty much the same. What we did was spend five generations picking up rocks, planting trees, and clearing brush. My mother, in her mid 80s, is still out there every day.

      When achieving equity is your main objective, not only is high-achieving behavior not rewarded, it is de-incentivized. For most people, achievement comes from sacrifice. Often that takes the form of having the discipline to do what you should do instead of what you want to do. Getting up and working instead of sleeping in. studying instead of partying. Saving instead of splurging on things that have no lasting value. Digging a hole in hard ground to plant a tree you will never live to sit in the shade of. A world where the people who don’t bother or lack the self discipline to make those sacrifices, but still reap the rewards quickly becomes a world where very few will chose to make the sacrifices.

      I am going to assume that the taller guy in the cartoon purchased his boxes with his savings, then carried them from home to get a good view of the game. I wonder if he will go to the same effort next week?
      My prediction is no. He shows up empty handed, then the equity people make him dig a hole to stand in. After that, he probably loses interest in baseball.

  21. My general take (which echoes many others above) is that the sentiment makes sense in some cases but not others, and in terms of the practicalities of life can’t really be generalised.

    My most charitable take is that some people truly don’t get the idea that fairness can be needs-dependant rather than in it’s handout. So it’s a go at a certain obstinate take on the internet distribution of resources in achieving a fair society. Resources devoted to people not missing out isn’t a sleight at those who don’t need that same level of support to participate. Yet some (let’s face it, mainly libertarians) treat this as an inequality of another sort – that it takes resources from the haves and gives it to the have-nots.

    The sentiment that society has an obligation to help some more than others is a recognition of differing circumstances and the role luck plays in our lives. How far one takes this logic and under which circumstances it applies, however, is usually where the point of contention in debate lies, and that is where the real arguments about what we owe to each other begin…

  22. Have you had that image on WEIt before? Seems very familiar. When I was still a librarian we considered that treating everyone fairly meant helping according to their need rather than giving the same level of help to everyone.

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his need!

  23. I agree with progressive taxation (and I’m squarely in the demographic paying quite high income taxes). I agree with supporting those in demonstrated need. I think we should have single-payer universal health care coverage in the USA (although I’ve always had private health insurance either through my parents or my employer).

    I do not agree with equality of outcomes.

    Why would anyone work hard and defer gratification (deferring gratification is usually identified as the most important “life skill” required for success in life) if some agency is going to enforce equal outcomes in the end?

    What would someone possibly want to spend their economic force (money) on, if not better food for their family, better housing for their family, better medical care for their family, better schooling for their children, and better security for their family? (Everything else would come after those).

    I hear constantly on NPR/MPR about how things are “unequal”: Housing, food, medical care, schools, crime. No kidding. I live where I live because of those factors. If the ask is for me to work hard and defer gratification so other people can have equally good levels of those things, I’m not in. (I’d really rather go hiking or biking and have a drink afterwards.) Equality of outcomes seems to be the woke agenda. Some are quite open about it.

    Why did the National Museum of African American History and Culture post their list of aspecsts of “Whiteness”? (Such as: Objective, rational thinking, nuclear families, hard work, planning for the future, being on time, etc.)? Because they think people who don’t exhibit those behaviors should be rewarded equally to those who do exhibit those behaviors.

  24. I would like to thank Paul Topping who, with this remark –

    A small GINI coefficient is important to a just society but it obviously isn’t the only thing.

    – has the only comment in this thread to explicitly acknowledge that equality or equity could be a value without being the ONLY value, or the supreme value that trumps all else. Most comments pass over the question of balancing values, which is fine, but all too many exhibit black-and-white thinking on it.

  25. I think generally you can strive for equal opportunity or equal outcomes, but you will never have both. The only way to equity is through unequal treatment. Kendi, I think, states this when he talks about anti-racist discrimination. Discrimination is ok by his theory as long as it leads to greater equity. The thing is those who want equity only want it in certain situations. For example, if blacks are underrepresented as CEOs the reason is simply systemic racism and greater equity is the goal. If blacks are overrepresented as NBA players that’s only because of merit. They are the best. I prefer treating people equally through the eyes of the law and letting outcomes be what they are. Of course some people will have advantages over others. Some people are born to wealthy parents or are 6’8″ or are attractive. Not everyone has these advantages and you could say are disadvantaged. That’s just part of nature. Is it the place of government to treat people unequally to make up for these unequal group outcomes?

Leave a Reply