Equality and Equity

Yves here. I must say I like seeing Matt Breunig patiently and clearly unpack issues of terminology and usage, since they regularly incorporate hidden assumptions that can’t be easily picked apart in routine discussions. The problem with terms like both equity and equality is they have become unduly plastic.

By Matt Bruenig. Originally published at his website

Over the last decade or so, a confused idea that started in the nonprofit sector has gradually seeped into liberal discourse more generally. According to this idea, “equality” is bad or inadequate and what we need instead is something called “equity.”

Bernie Sanders was asked to explain the difference between them on Real Time this weekend and he didn’t really know what to say.

This exchange lit up both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives lit up because they associate the word “equity” with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) trainings, which have proliferated across the corporate sector despite being pretty obviously stupid. Liberals lit up because they have adopted this word very vigorously and think it reflects badly on Sanders that he doesn’t have a spiel about it ready to go.

In the meta-discourse about the exchange, the debate has devolved into whether it is good or bad for politicians to use the linguistic innovations of the nonprofit or academic sectors, which at this point is a fairly well-rehearsed kind of affair where one side says that language is very key to oppressed peoples and the other side saying that it is not key to them and alienates others.

But missing in this discourse is an actual answer to the question presented to Sanders: how does equity differ from equality?

In my early 20s, I spent much of my time reading and thinking about egalitarian political philosophy of both leftist and liberal varieties. And so when people started saying they were against “equality” but for “equity” shortly after that, I was well-positioned to integrate that claim into my understanding of existing egalitarian philosophy. And it was clear then as it is now that “equity” is being used to mean “equality of the correct unit of equality.”

To understand what I mean, let’s look at the foundational philosophical text of the “equity” revolution, which is actually just a two-panel cartoon meme.

In the “equality” panel, there is an equal distribution of boxes. In the “equity” panel, there is an equal distribution of sightlines. So it’s equality in both cases. To the extent that you are supposed to glean anything from the panel, it’s that, in the case of watching a baseball game, the correct unit of equality is sightlines not boxes.

At times, people try to boil this move down into just being a linguistically novel way to advocate for equality of outcomes over equality of opportunity. Proponents of “equity” consistently reject this simplification and, from what I can tell, those proponents are actually correct to reject it. “Equity” is not used to promote any particular unit of equality — whether outcomes, opportunities, boxes, sightlines, luck-adjusted outcomes, primary goods, income, wealth, or capabilities — but is instead a word that you invoke any time you object to the unit of equality someone else is using, regardless of what, if any, your preferred alternative unit of equality is.

A good case of this I saw recently was when, back in COVID days, the USPS announced that it would be sending four COVID tests to each household in the mail. In a wildly popular tweet, a prominent “equity” advocate said that this was a perfect case to illustrate why “equality” is so inferior to “equity.” They elaborated that this program was “equal” because it sent the same number of COVID tests to each household but “inequitable” because different households have different numbers of people in them.

Of course, in more natural language where we don’t keep flipping back and forth between two words, what you would say, using just “equality,” is that the USPS program was equal on a per-household basis but unequal on a per-person basis, and that, in the case of distributing diagnostic tests, the per-person basis is the more appropriate one.

The point that whether something is considered “equal” or not is sensitive to what unit you use to measure equality is a pretty introductory concept in egalitarian thought. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy spends a huge chunk of its article on egalitarianism detailing the issue. In egalitarian thought, it’s generally referred to as the “equality of what” question, which is also the title of a famous Amartya Sen lecture on the question from 1979. In the lecture, Sen rejects “utility” and Rawlsian “primary goods” in favor of his own “basic capabilities” as the best unit of equality.

If the advocates of “equity” had a specific unit of equality that they were consistently pushing, then it would be fairly easy to explain what it is. You’d just say “equity means equality of X” as contrasted with other units of equality like Senian capabilities, Rawlsian primary goods, Dworkinian resources, etc.

But advocates of “equity” instead use the word to mean “equality of the correct unit of equality” where “the correct unit of equality” changes speaker to speaker and case to case and is sometimes not actually defined at all. And given this reality, it’s genuinely difficult to answer the question “how does equity differ from equality” when asked in the general way Maher did.

As a final note, I will say that there is one thing that slightly annoys me about the meta-discourse on this exchange that focuses on the value of academic language. This is a worthwhile discourse generally, but it actually has it slightly backwards in this case. The academic discourse on egalitarianism is both interesting and clear in tackling the “equality of what” question. What we have with “equity” is non-academics who clearly have no familiarity with the relevant academic discourse coming up with a half-baked and badly-theorized version of it.

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  1. Terry Flynn

    As someone who is first author on a bunch of papers that rely on Sen’s Capabilities Approach as the “metric of equity” I’ll be the first to say I understand why he got VERY annoyed….. My academic group wanted to use his ideas to buttress neoclassical ideas of cost-effectiveness. I wanted to use survey data to “concentrate resources on those with minimum capabilities”. Didn’t make me popular with colleagues….

    As you’ll guess, I’m very impressed by his ideas. However I tend to mix and match various approaches and, for instance, think classical ideas of land fairness are just as important in ensuring “we all stand on appropriate sized boxes to start with via LVT” ….. Make of that what you will.

  2. Karen's hubby

    Looking at the cartoon in the article one gets the impression that equity is but equality of outcome.
    There is no need or shame for obfuscation through difficult linguistics. Its a nobel enterprise.
    Imho any such undertakings will end up in a worse society as in the end it boils down to the bureaucracy required to regulate and decide the outcomes. It will end up being no different than the totalitarian systems of the past with the bureaucrats being the overlords.
    Even if we assume that wealth creation is not an issue, the distribution of wealth will always involve such bureaucracy. They will in fact be the people having the power in the society.
    The focus on economic grievances is not without merit as all marxist movements are, but its not our main problem I think, rather the equity of power is where the devil lies but that is much more taboo subject.

    1. Mikel

      If the outcome that is being sought is for everybody who wants to see the game to be able to see it, remove the fence or that particular kind of fence.

      1. juno mas

        Well, if the fence is intended to encourage payment to see the game, are all three of the subjects free-loaders?

    2. Terry Flynn

      The cartoon is potentially misleading for the following reason: Sen talks about equality of capability (ability to see as much as one is interested in with a basic “minimum” that everyone should be able to “see” the basics).

      The cartoon assumes everyone should want to see the same amount. Sen doesn’t advocate that. Thus the graphic is misleading, but better than many others.

  3. Nameful

    I keep trying to find an answer to what “equity” prescribes for achieving the “equality of outcomes” in the case of a panel with no boxes, with little success. Break the adult’s legs, perhaps?

    After all, people are not identical, so even with identical starting points they’ll reach different outcomes, unless you preprocess them first Procrustes style.

    1. Mikel

      “in the case of a panel with no boxes, with little success. Break the adult’s legs, perhaps?”

      The cartoon pic in the article? It’s a fence, a barrier …not a panel. And a pretty good choice for the analogy.
      In a case with of a barrier with no way way over, they could also break that down instead of the legs of the person next to them. Or help each other climb or sneak over.
      That’s what I immediately think of in a situation with no boxes to stand on.

      1. Retired Carpenter

        As someone who has built many fences and many crates over the years, I have some questions:
        1-Why is there a fence?
        2-Who built those crates?
        3-Who paid for those crates; who do they belong to?
        4-Who allocates crates for various uses; where do they get the authority to do so?
        Some answers might be found in Ardrey’s book “The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations“. An example quote: “The dog barking at you from behind his master’s fence acts for a motive indistinguishable from that of his master when the fence was built.”
        Wormwood & Co. are in the details of all non-trivial solutions.

          1. mrsyk

            In fairness, I believe “panel” here is a cartoon panel and does not refer to the fence.
            The only question that matters is “where’s my cheeseburger?”.

          2. Retired Carpenter

            If the fence cost can be depreciated per tax code, and the amount used to offset any revenues; yes, the folks who pay for the seats will pay for the fence, the upkeep of the field, the bats…
            IMO the solution provided by cartoon fits Mencken’s rule: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

  4. Roger Blakely

    Richard Reeves, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has a new book out (Sept. 2022) called Of Boys and Men (Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It). He is making the rounds. Two weeks ago while in Las Vegas to give a talk at UNLV, he sat down with Rollo Tomassi and Michael Sartain (Manosphere podcasters) for a YouTube interview.

    I have heard two interesting clips from Reeves. In one clip he said that the gender imbalance in American colleges and universities is worse than it was in the 1950s but the other way around.

    In another clip during his interview with Tomassi and Sartain Reeves said that people are generally willing to have the conversation so long as there is no sum-zero game between males and females and, to that the extent that there is a sum-zero game, women and girls always come out on top. So much for equality.

    Isn’t the Brookings Institution part of the national security establishment? Is the fact that the Brooking Institution is publishing this book a sign that the lack of attention given to men and boys is becoming a national security issue? I saw some statistic that said that two-thirds of men between 18 and 24 years of age would be unfit for military duty.

  5. KD

    Equity is to each according to their station, and equality is to each the same. What you witness is an enormous proliferation of double-standards and the construction of new neo-feudal estates, and equity language is pulled out to legitimate it.

    1. semper loquitur

      Yes, I’ve always thought of it this way as well. Equity, at least as it is proposed by it’s popular advocates, isn’t about everyone seeing the game. It’s about a few more people being allowed to see the game while others still cannot or are displaced by the favored few. It’s about more black CEOs, more black slave owners.

      1. Karl

        It’s about more … black slave owners.

        Consider a plantation where the owner is black and the slaves are white.

        Perhaps Hollywood will get around to making that movie. Planet of the Apes came close — where apes are on top and humans on the bottom. Seeing human vs. human, but with roles reversed, would perhaps be too unsettling for many.

  6. Alice X

    From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.

    Except for power. Anyone who aspires to power should not have it. Of course, there are potential problems in any simplification.

    1. LifelongLib

      LBJ didn’t get the Civil Rights Act or Medicare through Congress by asking. He got them because various members of Congress knew bad things would happen to them if they didn’t do what he asked. That’s power. I agree there are probably better systems for getting things done, but in the one we have power is essential.

  7. AllTheVerbsofLife

    Forgive me, but tell me (really) is not the outcome on ‘equity’: 1. In the end to least provide the opportunity of equality? Ya, I’m saying ‘equity’ is a method to achieve something in having a decent life. 2. I’m not sure what equality even means. Clearly, everyone is not equal in terms of the genetics or the environment they are brought in. The balance between a really negative environment or positive one that gene expression occurs (sounds like a word salad. Sorry.) But read the MIT book on the “Case Against ‘family blog]” R**e.

    I do believe all poor people are exactly equalin how they suffer. And the only answer to that is money, being able to get it, have it & use effectively. Whether one likes Marx or not, class analysis, sociological is the best method of analysis.

  8. You're soaking in it!

    Well, like Lambert likes to point out, the most important thing is not to talk about the fence.

    1. Terry Flynn

      No. This is an example where someone isn’t interested in the game and the fence is irrelevant…… A DIFFERENT fence for other things matters…..

      Everyone should be able to peek above the fence in all key areas. THAT is what Sen’s Capability Approach is about.

      1. Terry Flynn

        No it doesn’t. The text says a fair amount of the important stuff however..

        Stop being influenced by pictures and read.

  9. David

    I read the article yesterday, I think, and I was (further) confused rather than enlightened. The distinction between the two terms comes down in the end to the difference between input and output, in the sense that you can fiddle with the initial variables of a situation so that as far as possible nobody is disadvantaged, or you can decide that you don’t like the results of a given process, and then change the results. The first, broadly, is equality whereas the second is equity. A good example of this is the policy of the British government for some years to give students at university maintenance grants to live on. This enabled people like me, whose families had absolutely no money, to go to university. That’s essential equality of (in this case) opportunity. On the other hand, it would have been theoretically possible to take the graduation results of students and “adjust” them to reflect parental income. That would have been equity, I suppose, though it would also have been pointless.

    And indeed, this really is a question of what you want to achieve, not of some abstract measure of something. That’s why the cartoon is so confusing. The equality in this case is not an equal number of boxes (what would be the point?) but an equal opportunity to see the sports match. The second panel represents equality in action.

    1. Terry Flynn

      Similar background to you….. I got to advise national Decisions…..

      I got to make individual choices.

      This is why free markets fail.

    2. CanCyn

      The cartoon needs a third panel to start it off. In that panel someone would be handing out boxes and indicating 1 per person, in and of itself that seems fair. Then the second panel makes sense in explaining that an equal number of boxes given out to each person does not create equity, some people still can’t watch the game. Only when the number of boxes needed to do the job are given to each person do you get equity of outcome, thus making things equal. I learned the concept from my Grandfather who once spent more money on my older brother than me when we were at a fair with carnival rides. I was small enough that I could only go on the kiddie rides and they were less expensive than the rides my brother could on. We both enjoyed the same number of rides that day.
      I agree that the article doesn’t really explain the two terms all that well but it does explain why Bernie couldn’t easily explain the difference, the idea has been overly complicated by academia there is no doubt about that. Not to mention politics. Think about the bloody Democrats and their bloody complicated means testing – they’ll tell you it is to ensure equality of access or equity of outcome.
      In the end it is true that not everyone needs the same hand up or the same amount of any particular thing in order to have similar or equal outcomes to others. Perhaps it is just something that isn’t to easily simplified ;)

    3. hk

      I think the problem is that what they call “equity” is highly circumstancial/conditional, but they want to define it formulaically?

      1. CanCyn

        Indeed, you said quite succinctly what I was trying to say! Helping people out of poverty or to get legal help or healthcare or a job is indeed very circumstantial. But we long ago decided that all of our institutions could be run with efficiency and using factory models. Now we need data for everything. I can honestly say that in all the years of my career (community college librarian) I was never surprised by the results of any library survey of students or faculty that we did. But we had to have numbers for the bigwigs if we wanted funding for anything. A bit off track of the subject at hand I know, but hk, you are correct. No universally applied formula is going to help everyone.

  10. Revenant

    I don’t find the distinction so startling. In English commonlaw, equity was the court and civil jurisprudence of the Church which aimed at a just outcome.

    Equity is full of maxims, starting with “let he who comes to Equity come with clean hands”. That alone shows that a just outcome may not be an equal one, if one party has forfeited its right to aid.

    All of the legal innovation in English law, with the exception of negligence, comes from equity. The judges have used its teleology and its concepts to find new principles or distinctions. The doctrines of estoppel giving people rights in property where they do not have ownership or in contract where the other party is acting in the letter but not the spirit of the agreement.

    If you replaced equity with justice then the implication might be clearer. Social justice is not necessarily social equality.

    1. JBird4049

      I think that equity, today under neoliberal ideology, is being used as one might use the allocation of rights, privileges, responsibilities, and even taxes in a multi ethnic empire. It becomes a system of bargaining between the subject groups and the central government. Everything from a yearly draft of slaves from a particular religious group, the required regular tribute from a particular kingdom turned province, to what legal system yet another religious, or tribal, or ethnic, group, or even class. The Roman, Ottoman, and Mogul empires were all patchworks like this. There might have been some ideas of justice, maybe fairness, but of equality not so much. Universal obedience to the state, yes.

      The United States, even though a republic, still has a government, legal system, and society where there is supposed to be universal rights and, yes, responsibilities that are for ever individual. The Enlightenment idea of universality.

      While equity might rightly refer to fairness, in our corrupted society, it has been used as a replacement for fairness and as a replacement for rights especially in the Bill of Rights. Arguments for reparations for the descendants of slaves instead of equality under the law, or justice for all, or even fighting the growing poverty growing in all races in the United States.

      Restated, some people want to use the debate on equity to shift from the universal rights and responsibilities of all individual to privileges and responsibilities of individual groups. It would be way to change a country to an empire. Or is that finishing the process?

      Anyways, just look at how the idea of intersectionality in the 1970s was created to see, understand, and maintain the interconnections we all have was instead slanted and repurposed to hide, distort, and break those connections; I believe that the same process is being done on the idea of equity.

  11. Gulag

    It should also be kept in mind that with the idea of equity came the inevitable bureaucratic structure.

    You begin seeing more and more articles like “The Sudden Dominance of the Diversity Industrial Complex,” (Feb. 14, 2023) which points out that the terms diversity, equity and inclusion weren’t initially being used in the singular, as one all-inclusive, non-negotiable moral imperative.”

    “Seemingly in unison, and with almost no debate, nearly every major American institution–including federal, state, and local governments, universities, and public schools, hospitals, insurance, media and technology companies and major retail brands–has agreed that the DEI infrastructure is essential to the nation’s proper functioning. From Amazon to Walmart, most major corporations have created and staffed DEI offices within their human resources bureaucracy. So have sanitation departments, police departments, physics departments and the departments of agriculture, commerce, defense, education and energy.”

    “Managerialism requires intermediation and intermediation requires a justifying ideology.”

    1. flora

      Ah ha! It’s a job’s program for the PMC and academics crowd! Now it makes sense. Really. / ;)

      1. semper loquitur

        Understanding Wokeness as a Make-Work Strategy for the Privileged Class

        Quillette podcast host Jonathan Kay speaks with Swedish Marxist Malcom Kyeyune, who argues that nominally progressive theories of race and gender are actually aimed at securing influence, employment, and prestige for underemployed university graduates.


        1. flora

          Thanks for the link.
          Here’s a link to the City Journal article by Kyeyune mentioned in the introduction.

          Wokeness, the Highest Stage of Managerialism

          “Burnham saw America in the early 1940s as being in a somewhat transitory phase. The old, capitalist order was clearly ailing, and managers were steadily growing their power at the owners’ expense. Still, the process of forming a new rulership class was by no means complete. While “control over the instruments of production is everywhere undergoing a shift” toward managers, wrote Burnham, “the big bourgeoisie, the finance-capitalists, are still the ruling class in the United States.” New Dealism was not yet a “developed, systematized managerial ideology” that was capable of fully replacing capitalism.

          But if Burnham were alive today, he might see wokeness as exactly that: a systematized, managerial ideology capable of standing on its own as a claim to rulership over society on behalf of the new class of managers. Indeed, many of the dynamics that worried or fascinated thinkers like Burnham during the interwar and New Deal era seem to reappear today in hypertrophied form.”


        2. notabanker

          I don’t quite see it that way.
          True, jobs are a by product, but it really is a capitalists concession to the lack of trust in the system that would require change so fundamental that it threatens the system.
          DEI is a concession that meritocracy is crap. Instead of doing away with meritocracy, we inject more checkers and oversight to change the type of people that are highly compensated.
          Instead of putting executives in jail for wrecking the financial system, we inject more ‘risk management’ practices which are nothing more than more checkers checking the checkers. It doesn’t stop speculative gambling on the economy, it just ensures that it is done in a way that is seen as more socially acceptable.
          Instead of making real reforms on burning fossil fuels, we invent ESG so we can say we are now burning them faster than ever before, but more responsibly.
          Instead of writing down useless corporate real estate, we make people come into the office 3 days a week to keep the the ponzi going and we hire more people and buy more technology to make sure they adhere.
          Sure, the by product of all of those things are more people to provide “consulting and oversight” but very little of it adds any value, it is an overhead concession because the spice must flow.

          The real issue is, it is not fixing the fundamental problems and eventually they will manifest themselves. The longer they are painted over with the new hues admired, the worse the fundamental underlying issue becomes and the more devastating the eventual equal and opposite reaction will be. But hey, what do I know…….

    2. Milton

      Time to start a new line of letters beginning with E(quality) D(iversity) J(ustice) E(quity)…

  12. GramSci

    IMHO, in the final analysis the only equity/equality that matters is equity/equality of power — which is to say equity/equality of money. Get that in reasonable balance and the rest will follow. Easier said than done, perhaps, but it’s a sine qua non.

    A meaningfully progressive income tax would be a good start.

    1. Karl

      A meaningfully progressive income tax would be a good start.

      I agree.

      Remember the debates about the negative income tax in the ’60’s? This would give citizens below a certain minimum income a “tax refund” every year, because the tax due would be negative, i.e. you get a check from the IRS. This could be quite progressive (more “negative” in percentage tax terms) to combat extreme poverty, and very progressive (as during WW II. ~90% or so) on the positive end. That’s the kind of progressive tax code I’d like to see.

      I guess that’s a variation on the Universal Basic Income, but with a sliding scale.

      1. GramSci

        We see what happens when a small number of people become rich enough to suborn journalists and elected officials, but we do not learn.

  13. Chris Owen

    Equity vs. Equality analogies are interesting to think about, but beware of any analogy to be effective for actual problem solving. For example in the case of health equity using the analogy of the bicycle given to each patient (equal they all get the same bike, equality they get a bike that fits the patient, like a trike or a big wheel etc…). Based on this picture you solve health equity (good luck). But you still have a system that’s too expensive, not sustainable, and our lifespans are lower than every other developed country. Analogies are too simple and insular to be effective.

  14. Terry Flynn

    OK I don’t want to sound like a dick….. But there is plenty of easily accessible stuff concerning wellbeing in the Sennnian model.

    You can legitimately reject his ideas….. But please give an alternative.

    This posting by nakedcapitalism.com is far from perfect but is sooooo much better than others.

  15. David in Santa Cruz

    What a terrific discussion!

    I agree with the commenters who frame this silly equity/equality debate in terms of the power relations of the Professional-Managerial Class (PMC).

    Why should there even be a fence that prevents anyone from watching a bunch of grown-up men engage in a silly stick-and-ball game that children play every day? That fence exists so that sellers of beer, pick-up trucks, and boner-pills can broadcast their annoying commercials into my living room, on that rare day when I have nothing better to do than watch their meaningless games.

    In terms of needing more Black slave-owners: I asked a Ghanaian friend why Ghanaians of both genders were as a rule such self-assured and intelligent persons. He replied: “Because we’re the ones who sold the slaves!”

  16. digi_owl

    Frankly it is not much more than a game of musical chair lingo.

    They know the fashionable lingo of the day, so they get to grab a chair. The rest of us don’t so we are left without a seat where decisions are made.

    It is a power game, and has pretty much been that way since Occupy was fragmented by people bullying their way to the people’s megaphone using the lingo at the time (since then having lost much of its mojo from overuse).

  17. The Rev Kev

    Late to comment here but here goes. I think that trying to equate equality and equity is a false premise as the first is a principle while the later is a strategy. Let me demonstrate. The word equality is like justice and freedom and most people would know exactly what you mean. So with equality you know that everybody should be treated the same regardless of race creed or colour. You don’t have to go to university to know the practical applications of that word. It is a function of character.

    So let me turn my attention to equity. Equity is a strategy to level the playing field. For example, speeding fines in Finland depend on your salary and the higher it is, the higher the fine which can be bad if you are a top executive. But how do apply it across the board? The only way that I can see is if eventually everybody is assessed in an “equity score”. Blacks would get more than whites, healthy would get less than disabled, etc. So nothing about character at all is assessed.

    We see how this works when you get a Kamala Harris is selected as Vice President using the same criteria. The thing can be gamed to hell. Personally I can see no finer tool to divide the bulk majority into many tiny segments fighting with each other and not fighting their true enemies – the top elite.

    1. Cetra Ess

      Indeed, and I would also add, the general thrust of any government Equity act or corporate Equity policy is to acknowledge that discrimination is an actual thing, proven to exist, and it is declared to be not a good thing, and here are the steps we shall take to reverse a discriminatory practice.

      In the case of corporate pay equity policies, the steps generally take the form of:

      – Identifying the various job classes and determining their gender predominance;
      – Establishing the value of work and compensation associated with each job class to compare the compensation received by predominantly male and female job classes; and
      – Calculating any compensation increases that may be needed to establish and maintain pay equity.

      Thus, once gender pay equity is addressed, the particular form of discrimination is considered to have been ended, is no longer the active or common practice, and gender pay can be said to be equalized.

      The same general principles apply to any kind of discrimination on the basis of seriously stupid things – like race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

      And the argument can be made that this concept of applied fairness comes to us from sports, where it’s long been rather easily understood that sportsmanship is where you can have a good and fair game between players of unequal skill and ability if you put in place some form of handicapping. I would argue that if people consider DEI efforts to be wrong or bad, on fear of contradiction they’d better not be golfers.

  18. Bobby Gladd

    George Packer’s recent article about “equity language guides” was a hoot. We can no longer say “take a stand“ for or against something because it might be offensive to people in wheelchairs.

    And, Woe Be Unto You should you call the person in the wheelchair “disabled.“

    “Inmates“ are properly “persons experiencing the criminal justice system.”

  19. Scramjett

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me as if “equity,” as it’s being discussed in the discourse, is being used to promote mean’s testing and bludgeon any talk of universal programs like Medicare for All, universal education, etc. I think the author is right to ask the question “what is the correct unit of equality?” In that vein, what is the correct unit of equality for universal programs? I’ve always thought it should be the taxes, or who pays for it.

    Take “free university for all” as an example (setting aside the question of whether or not everyone can or should go to a university). I’ve heard/read people who push hard for means testing before going to university rather than allowing free tuition because, you see, if we don’t use means testing, then all of those rich spoiled brats will just waste taxpayer money going to university forever! Curiously, they skipped over the whole academic performance thing. But, in any case, I see the “equity” argument as an evolution of this notion of pushing means testing to stop the rich from “taking advantage of free stuff.”

    And yet, these same people are oblivious to the real shame, anger and frustration that the poor and working class people and POC feel when subjected to the bureaucratic BS that means testing creates.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents. Maybe I’m way off as it relates to this discussion.

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