The American ideal of equal rights is being corrupted by a focus on “equity,” argues ARI senior fellow Onkar Ghate in a recent panel discussion, “Equity vs. Equality in American Society,” hosted by the Pacific Legal Foundation.
As enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, Ghate observes, the American ideal has a precise meaning: an individual’s equality in rights and freedom to pursue his own happiness, regardless of his abilities, wealth or social status. But today’s proponents of “equity” claim that people have rights to equal opportunities and outcomes.
This “equity” approach is anti-American, Ghate argues, because governmental programs aimed at equalizing opportunities and outcomes will necessarily lead to unequal and unjust treatment of individuals before the law. For example, individuals born into wealthy families will naturally have greater opportunities for economic well-being and education than those with poor parents. But if the government tries to equalize their chances, it will have to strip well-off individuals of their liberty and property, violating the individual rights venerated in the Declaration.
Ghate traces the modern origins of “equity” advocacy to John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice. Rawls accelerated the shift from equality to “equity” by championing two core ideas: the notion that all institutions should be geared toward the “least advantaged members of society,” and the deterministic view that an individual’s happiness and success are not self-made but are products of external factors such as environment and genetics.
In the Q&A period, Ghate considers whether there is any role for the government in trying to increase opportunities, and whether group differences are relevant for policy-making.
You can watch the recording below: