Biden’s Executive Order On Equity Will Create Greater Inequality – OpEd
By Dan De La Vega*
On February 16, 2023, President Joe Biden issued his second executive order to strengthen equity within federal agencies. Among other things, it ordered them to install equity officers and implement action plans with the superficial aim of making it easier for “underserved communities” to access federal resources.
Although there is plenty of commentary on the specific content of the new order, that is not what this article is about. Rather, the purpose of this article is to familiarize readers with the ideology behind equity. I do not intend, however, to come across as a doomsayer who believes all is lost. There are, after all, signs of improvement.
To begin with, it should be noted that equity isn’t unique to government. I am only highlighting the Biden administration because the executive branch is one of the most powerful institutions in the United States. Schools are another institution that consecrate equity. And although equity is usually referenced through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I will only focus on equity because it is the ultimate objective that the other letters are meant to serve.
First, let’s look at how the Biden administration defines equity. It is defined in section ten as, “The consistent and systematic treatment of all individuals in a fair, just, and impartial manner, including individuals who belong to communities that often have been denied such treatment.”
That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But one must ask: why is the word “just” there? Federal agencies should certainly be fair and impartial in carrying out their duties, but what does it mean for an office bureaucrat to do their duties in a just manner when, say, reviewing a student loan application? Moreover, why are community affiliations at the center of analysis? One would think that in disaster situations, such as the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, the primary metric for obtaining aid is individual need. Alas, no.
Despite the inoffensive sentiment, the words do not mean what the average person thinks they mean. Rather, words like fair and just have special meaning to equity officers. You see, equity is informed by neo-Marxist thoughts, such as critical race theory (CRT) among others. These theories seek to draw a straight line from observed injustices to the institutions of society itself. That is, they argue that oppression is not only ordinary but emerges directly from society’s structure. Thus, correcting injustices becomes an exercise in changing all of society, hence Biden’s call for a whole-of-government solution.
In his writings, Karl Marx articulated structurally determined oppression by linking it to the division of labor under capitalism. Today, Marx’s division of labor has been updated and repackaged as systemic racism, which makes an appearance in the first sentence of the new executive order. In this context, systemic racism is posited as the ordinary state of affairs that structures and determines all social relations. Additionally, Marx’s concept of the proletariat has been replaced by “people of color,” or “marginalized communities.” Indeed, as the name suggests, many strains of neo-Marxism lazily recycle legacy code and give it new names.
In short, the relevant point is that words like fairness or justice take on unique meanings in the Marxist worldview. To see how these words change meaning, it will be helpful to use a case study.
In June 2021, a federal judge halted the Biden administration’s policy of issuing aid to farmers based on race. The judge ruled that the policy was likely a violation of the plaintiff’s equal protection rights. However, Biden’s agricultural secretary, Tom Vilsack, defended the policy: “We know for a fact that socially disadvantaged producers were discriminated against by the United States . . . We have reimbursed people in the past for those acts of discrimination, but we’ve never absolutely dealt with the cumulative effect.” (italics added)
What Vilsack is saying is that violating equal protection today is equitable if it corrects past injustices. Notice also that past injustices include insufficient restitution. And of course, sufficiency is subjective. Moreover, given the “cumulative effect” of injustice, author James Lindsay shows that equitable correction means going beyond parity and creating a deliberate imbalance in favor of marginalized identity groups, hence the overt racism. That is, justice cannot be realized until the oppressed have been uplifted and the oppressor has seen the world from the standpoint of the oppressed, a task that requires coercion.
Relatedly, this belief in asymmetric redistribution is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg was referring to when she called for an all-female supreme court. It also helps explain why California’s proposed reparations plan is so gratuitous, despite the fact that California was never a slave state.
CRT celebrity Ibram Kendi puts the matter more bluntly: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
This ugly conclusion flows from the belief that there is no such thing as a neutral application of law or policy. There are only racist or antiracist ways of running society. There are no gray areas. As a result, this radically changes the meaning of terms like fairness and justice.
To you or me, fairness and justice gain meaning when we adopt the rule of law to settle our conflicts where we face one another as dignified equals. But in CRT, the rule of law is racist because it has a hidden purpose of granting a special type of property called whiteness (capital under Marx) to white people. To solve this perceived problem, rule by discretion must be implemented where self-anointed mandarins like Kendi are empowered to reorder society. Consequently, concepts like justice are no longer impartial processes, but are instead an engineered state of affairs crafted by our enlightened betters.
To summarize, the ideology behind equity seeks to weaken the rule of law in favor of arbitrary discretion where you don’t get what you need. Instead, you get what is deserved, according to the haruspicy of a mystic council. Historically, the high priests have deemed the bourgeois to be deserving of privation and retribution.
Equity is better understood as a perpetual process of modifying societal “shares” between identity groups such that power is rebalanced to achieve justice. This process requires a system of top-down political economy where authority is centralized within a council of experts that don’t have skin in the game; the Russian word is soviet. Equity, therefore, can never be a positive-sum game because the centralized authority only reallocates existing shares, not create new ones. Thus, we must conclude that equity only equalizes downward. This description also holds outside the government context and explains discrimination against minorities like Asian-American students.
Although Biden’s order is a far cry from a Soviet-style central committee, the key takeaway is that equity constitutes a threat to the rule of law, especially the fourteenth amendment. We will have to see how the judiciary handles this challenge. However, the problem in the interim is that equity is moving ahead at full speed and lawsuits take time to bear fruit. In other words, the span of time between harm now and future restitution is sufficiently large enough for many people to be needlessly injured in the name of a pestilent ideology.
About the author: Dan De La Vega is a research analyst in Northern Virginia.
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute