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Equality should be something that every society must strive for. We as humans have formed a society with numerous underlying rules that govern our very lives. We share resources and build up our lives with innumerable decisions that lead us to branching paths. Some people will always be more successful than others. But success itself is such a vague concept, and if anything is subjective, and differs from person to person. Some might find success in finding money. Some might find success in love, and some might find success in power.
Some might believe that success might be attributed to luck, and this may be true, but if it is truly luck, then the only luck you are getting is being born to your parents. Everything after you are born is due to opportunities that come to you in life.
It is hard to find anyone who would disagree when we say that we need equality. The disagreement arrives when we ask questions such as “Equality between whom” or “equality of what?”.
In political ideologies, there are two main approaches to equality. A majority of liberals believe in Equality of Outcome. This concept describes a state in which individuals have the same resources and income, and their general economic conditions are alike. Achieving equality of outcome generally involves elimination of material inequalities between individuals based on any demography that they see fit, be it race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or ability. This almost always involved the transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals.
Equality of Opportunity on the other hand describes a state where you have similar treatment of all people regardless of artificial barriers, prejudices and preferences. This means that any job would go to the person most qualified to do that job, and that everyone is rewarded based on their success rather than everyone being rewarded equally regardless of their results. This concept assumes that society has certain roles which are more desirable than others, and it brings fairness into the selection process such that those with better genetics, or better education or better parents will have the same opportunities as those without, and allows them to squander those opportunities as they see fit.
But there is a third concept that we really must strive for that neither of these encapsulates, and this is equality under law. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that required government employers to “not discriminate against any employee for employment because of race, creed, color or national origin.” But since then it has come to mean that underrepresented groups must be treated better than those that have sufficient representation. Just today, Harvard University has come under fire for reportedly treating some applicants better than others. In fact, African American applicant were accepted nearly 70% more than average, while Asian Americans were accepted nearly 30% less than average. Children of donors were also accepted at 238% higher than average.
The case alleges that Harvard is relying on race too heavily, and that they discriminate against Asian-Americans while discriminating towards African Americans and Hispanics.
Even with programs such as affirmative action, it is nearly impossible to achieve equality of outcome or opportunity. At the end of the day, to achieve equality of outcome, you would need to live in a dystopian, totalitarian world where a person’s choices wouldn’t matter and their results would be chosen for them, and to achieve equality of opportunity you would need a world without any economic inequalities stemming from parentage.
The true goal must be equality under law. It is the only form of equality that should concern any government. This way nobody loses anything. Nobody is second guessing the free market or regulating family life, or infringing on people’s property rights, or forcefully redistributing wealth. I believe that this is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the words “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”.
The proper role of a government is not to produce equality. In fact, they cannot produce true equality of outcome or opportunity in a democratic country. The governments duty, first and foremost, must be to its citizens. It must treat every citizen equally under the country’s laws. When we were given the right to life, liberty and property by the founding fathers, we were promised that our property would not be taken from us. Both Liberty and prosperity require inequality, because if everyone was prosperous, then no one would be.
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