By Rev. Ben Johnson*
With 48 hours to go before the 2020 election, the Biden campaign unveiled a rare, cogent glimpse into its philosophy and plans should it prevail. Naturally, it did not come from Joe Biden but from an animated video narrated by Kamala Harris titled “Equality vs. Equity.” The ticket made the unusual decision to close its campaign by taking a firm stance against equality.
On Sunday, Harris tweeted out a video showing a white mountain climber beginning well above a black mountain climber, as Harris explains:
So, there’s a big difference between equality and equity. Equality suggests, “Oh, everyone should get the same amount.” The problem with that: Not everybody’s starting out from the same place. So, if we’re all getting the same amount, but you started out back there and I started out over here, we could get the same amount, but you’re still going to be that far back behind me. It’s about giving people the resources and the support they need so that everyone can be on equal footing, and then compete on equal footing. Equitable treatment means we all end up at the same place.
Everything is wrong with that summary, including the grating choice to begin a sentence with the conjunction “so.” Harris explicitly endorses equality of outcome over equality of opportunity, mangling the definition of the term along the way. Equality does not mean giving every person “the same amount.” Senior citizens do not receive the same amount of Social Security. In a just society, each person receives precisely what his or her actions deserve. Harris’ view of equity erases the human person from the equation, drowning him in an impersonal, impermeable, and all-encompassing group identity.
Harris’ discourse also leaves another reality unspoken: To bring people of two different levels to the same result, you must treat them unequally. You must apply different standards to their actions. You must disregard justice and believe that the ends justify any means. Others have said this explicitly. Much of Harris’ definition of equity is plagiarized from the popularizers of critical theory. Chief among these is Ibram X. Kendi, who explained his vision for creating “equity” in his bestseller, How to be an Antiracist:
[R]acial discrimination is not inherently racist. The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist. Someone reproducing inequity through permanently assisting an overrepresented racial group into wealth and power is entirely different than someone challenging that inequity by temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached. The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.
This is the concrete reality hidden within Harris’ theoretical musings. Kamala Harris’ view of “equity” over “equality” necessarily entails “future discrimination.”
There are at least three problems with the Harris/Kendi promise of George Wallace-style discrimination forever. First, people innately reject unfair means, not unequal outcomes. Second, it would transform the U.S. form of government without putting the notion to a referendum before the voters. Third, it violates the Bible’s definition of justice.
Studies have shown that people do not object if individuals “end up at the same place,” provided thta they decided to walk a different path. A study published in Nature Human Behavior in April 2017 found “that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality.” Children as young as six responded that if two children both clean their room, they should receive identical rewards – unless they did not make an identical effort. “[W]hen one recipient has done more work, six-year-olds believe that he or she should receive more resources, even if equal pay is an option,” researchers found. In fact, “when faced with the communist ideals of the former USSR,” widespread “concerns about fairness lead to anger about too much equality.” They concluded that “policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.”
Second, institutionalizing equality of outcome would necessarily transform America from a limited government dedicated to preserving unalienable rights into an omniscient numbers-cruncher. It would replace blind justice with a statue of lady justice constantly peeking over her mask to observe the parties’ race, sex, sexuality, gender identity, income, and membership in an ever-growing host of protected (read: favored) cohorts. As Thomas Klingenstein, who is president of the Claremont Institute, has said in a viral speech, any government based on the views of the Black Lives Matter organization:
is built on group rights and identity politics. Government’s role is to ensure that all groups have equal wealth and power. This requires both a massive redistribution of wealth and power and new principles and values. As is patently clear, this new society can only be imposed by a tyrannical government.
Kamala Harris would replace the U.S. Constitution with a bureaucratic system of racialized Rawlsianism.
Finally, the idea of jettisoning equality should disturb religious believers at a deeper and more profound level. The Judeo-Christian tradition, which forms the bedrock of Western civilization, holds that God ordained equal justice based on an individual’s behavior, not his or her victim status or affiliation. Scripture rings with God’s instructions to judges not to be respecters of persons when wielding the gavel.
This wisdom became fused into the West’s DNA. “Justice by its name implies equality,” wrote Thomas Aquinas, who ranked justice as the “foremost among all the moral virtues.” That equality demands equal justice under law.
Roman Catholic social teaching defines true equality as equal dignity, equal standards – and unequal outcomes. “In accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God,” wrote Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical “On Socialism” (Quod Apostolici Muneris, 1878). “[E]ach one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts.” While proponents of wealth redistribution may “argue that … the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind – inequality in actual possession, also – and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate.”
The Western tradition chooses equality of opportunity over equality of outcome. Setting the wisdom of thousands of years aside is a revolutionary act and deserves to be acknowledged as such.
*About the author: Rev. Ben Johnson is Executive Editor of the Acton Institute’s flagship journal Religion & Liberty and edits its transatlantic website.
Source: This article was published by the Acton Institute