In Part I of this essay, we discussed the origins of the term “equity,” its original meaning of fairness, its degeneration into forced equality of outcome, and its eventual inversion into unfair repression of some groups as a necessary means to bring about successful outcomes for others.
In this second part, we describe how equity—equality of outcome—is implemented in various socio-political models. Our point is that equity as fairness brought about voluntarily through love for neighbor is good, true, and beautiful, but that “equity” as involuntarily forced equality of outcome is inconsistent with human freedom and dignity, and is therefore an unnecessary and intolerable evil.
V. Equity Implemented Voluntarily Through Love of Neighbor
When equity, generously (or originally defined), is implemented within a social group freely and voluntarily by the members of the group, it may result in equality. This form of equity is unique in that it is the only kind that not only meets the material needs of the members of the community but also their needs to be respected, appreciated, and loved as they are helped with material support of their rational nature. Such a form of equity is consistent with the dignity and freedom of the human person.
This manner of equity implementation is historically proven to work, more than once, most famously in the New Testament book of Acts: “And all who shared the faith owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. Each day, with one heart, they regularly went to the Temple but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone.”
Josef Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, advocated for this “Civilization of Love” and offered it as a model for every country, rejecting the notion that the ideal society can be attained through any arrangement of State-centered bureaucracy:
There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable…The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. (Pope Benedict XVI. God Is Love (Deus Caritas Est) (pp. 36-37). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Kindle Edition.)
In principle, the best way to implement equity as fairness would be freely, voluntarily, with the colleges acting as “nurturing mothers” (the plural meaning of “alma mater”), and with the college professional community doing voluntarily whatever it takes to support our students.
Many faculty members have been acting under this model for years. For just one example, many years ago one of our mentors, long retired, would announce to his classes during the first week instruction that if they didn’t have money to buy their books they could meet him at the campus bookstore at 5:00pm. He took them inside and bought their books for them—willingly, not through taxation, involuntary redistribution, or force. Similarly, the whole nursing faculty and student body at Madera Community College work with the community—volunteering freely to provide students with food, including hot, prepared meals, clothing, and even freedom from sex-trafficking. They work with the local “soup kitchen,” a term they use to disguise the “religious” name of the facility, which may offend if uttered on a public college campus. These nursing instructors and trainees would not want to (appear to) violate the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment.
Our campus has a food pantry through which college personnel distribute (freely donated) food to our students and their families. None of the efforts of these college professionals are required by their professional job descriptions. They are doing significant work toward the implementation of equitable outcomes and are contributing to the formation of a civilization of love.
VI. Equity as Implemented Through State-Managed Capitalism
When voluntary implementation of equity out of love of neighbor fails to work well enough to bring about equitable outcomes—in the sense of providing for everyone’s basic needs—then those who value equity will support pursuing it through law. Such proponents of equity are capitalists, in the sense that they realize that capitalism can produce sufficient wealth to distribute, according to laws that require distribution in a manner which reduces income gaps within a society, taking from the wealthiest and redistributing that wealth to the poor and to the still-needy parts of the middle class.
Since this step crosses the line from voluntary material support to the redistribution of wealth through law and taxation, and since “behind every law is the barrel of a gun,” it replaces love with the force of law and fails to fully meet the needs of its beneficiaries to be respected, appreciated, and loved as human persons. In fact, those whose “surplus value” is seized through taxation will often resent or hate those to whom their money and property are given. Forced redistribution of wealth through law may indeed decrease economic inequality, but it does not tend to create a civilization of love.
Nevertheless, this system of equitable redistribution is necessary for any society that falls short of an ideal civilization of love, if only because involuntary redistribution in such a society is the only way to protect its most vulnerable subpopulation from absolute poverty, which is morally intolerable in any social system in which it is at all possible to prevent.
State-Managed Capitalism, also called “The Welfare State,” is a step toward socialism, and in fact constitutes a partial implementation of socialism. According to the political philosopher Robert Paul Wolff, “The Welfare State” is what we have in the United States at present, although it has gone by many names such as “The New Deal” or “The Great Society.”
VII. Equity Implemented Through Social Democracy and Socialism
Equity implemented through social democracy is attained when the wealth produced by the highest income earners is so heavily taxed that people receive less than half of their earned pay. Many are taxed at rates of 70-90%, with the tax revenues redistributed throughout society through government and government-sponsored services.
Social democracy requires a highly empowered state-bureaucracy to impose the value of equity though law, tax code enforcement, and various apparatuses of redistribution in a way that meets the basic material needs of the members of the society, greatly reduces wealth gaps among the various socio-economic strata of society, and effectively prevents absolute poverty.
Social democracy—and socialism much more—falls far short of attaining a civilization of love because the intense and extensive state management required for both socialism-lite and socialism-totalitarianism is inconsistent with the freedom required to freely respect and appreciate others enough to constitute love for neighbor. Social democracy’s limited (or apparent) moral power is that it does reduce resentment between socio-economic classes: those who would have the highest incomes pay their taxes, and thereby semi-voluntarily support the system which requires them to give to their neighbors and fellow-citizens. The poorest members of society are protected from absolute poverty. They understand that those who would have higher incomes generally support a system that has an effective “safety net.” That part is much to the good, and that is good enough for people who value (nearly) equal outcomes over a liberal set of freedoms provided under classically liberal capitalism.
Socialism-lite, at least, does have that much moral power and seems to work well in certain high-functioning European countries in a hybrid socialist-capitalist model. These countries, such as Norway and Finland, are the “social democracies,” and the balance between state-mandated equity and freedom is maintained by parliamentary systems of representative government and regular elections. If the state overreaches and seeks to control the people beyond its moral mandate, there is a backlash in favor of freedom, and this back-and-forth interplay between state power and freedom of the people is healthy and stabilizing.
The problem with even the best (that is, mildest) forms of socialism is that, if social democracies cannot maintain their interplay and compromise between freedom and the (near) economic equality of its people, the state seeks to expand its power to reduce freedom and impose “equity” by reference to its own exaggerated moral mandate. The state presumes to a “magisterial authority” of its own, demands assent from its population, and comes down hard on the side of equity over freedom. The more the state imposes equity, the more it expands itself to attain the necessary power to do so. The more state power expands, the more it tends toward totalitarian imposition of its own values on a decreasingly free population. The highest value of a totalitarian state is Itself. Thus, the normative balance between freedom and equality is imbalanced by the undervaluing of freedom, and the State fully imposes itself on the people.
A decreasingly free population is a less flourishing population because freedom is a necessary condition for human flourishing. Not to mention that many who embrace socialism do not seek to maintain any balance between freedom and equality at all, and only see social democracy as a necessary stepping stone toward an unfree but fully “equitable” secular, socialist, totalitarian state: these sorts are convinced that absolute social and economic equity will not be attained without maximal state imposition. They choose equity over freedom, make an idol of equity, and repress freedom as a competing but morally worthless concept. These sorts of socialists use the terms “socialist” and “communist” interchangeably and want to move as quickly as possible past social-democratic government and toward totalitarian socialism, with the (false) promise of eventual “true” communism.
VIII. Equity Imposed Through Communism
“The goal of socialism is communism,” according to Lenin, and communism represents an attempt to remove all social and economic inequalities in a country through pure force and to bring about equitable outcomes at all costs, even if doing so necessitates so much destruction, starvation, and mass murder that everyone in the country (except the revolutionary “leaders,” of course) are either dead or left in absolute poverty.
Communism ironically promises that the state will “wither away” once the police are defunded, the justice system is overturned, and “equity” is attained, while at the same time requiring a totalitarian state that is powerful enough to enforce such absolute “equity” as a means to the end of the ideal commune. Communism, therefore, represents an inversion of the early church’s equity though love of neighbor by promising that the same ideal state can be brought about without freedom or love and purely through state-sponsored force. It can tolerate no other views and must ruthlessly eliminate any idea or person who dares to question the immutable characteristics of the “common good” as defined by the totalitarian State. Cancel culture, safe spaces, and blacklists are the beginnings of a society committed to eliminating all opinions deemed “dangerous” by the State: The State is a jealous god.
At worst, communism produces murderous states like the Soviet Union, and at best produces states like Cuba and Venezuela, which are not as bad as the old USSR, but are so bad as to be almost unlivable given the lack of freedom and repression of all diversity of thought.
IX. Anti-Racism has Evolved from Equity
From a soft, voluntary love framework to a hard, demanding communism framework, we have attempted to show how equity can be lovingly advanced or harshly exacted — whatever happens to be one’s operational definition. But equity’s latest metamorphosis may just make this written exercise futile, for anti-racism has already evolved from equity.
Just as equity evolved from diversity—and eventually overrode and undermine equality—anti-racism is a furtherance of the doctrine of equity. Writers on anti-racism such as Ibram X. Kendi so utterly despise the inequalities allowed by (what we call above) state-managed capitalism that they are determined to bring about full equity in every aspect of society, and without delay. Kendi in particular writes in the tradition of W.E.B. Dubois, a secularist and admirer of the USSR, more so than according to the values and legacy of the 1960s Civil Rights Era, typified by the work and words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X (after his return from Mecca).
Martin Luther King sought equity through love and leaned toward socialism as the practical way to make the United States a civilization of love. In short, he wanted the motivations appropriate to a civilization of love to “settle” for socialist re-distribution as the only practical way to move America away from its racist and inequitable past. MLK was “invited” to communism by his communist contemporaries, but declined the invitation and rejected communism, understanding better than contemporary anti-racists just what and how bad communism was and still can be. MLK wanted more balance between freedom and equitable social outcomes, not complete removal of freedom from American society, and he seemed to have faith that such an improved balance could be attained and maintained. His faith and love-based advocacy of a more just and equitable society would never make him a proponent of replacing faith, family, and community with a secular totalitarian state, implemented through force and fear.
Whatever moral power voices like Professor Kendi’s have, inasmuch as they quote Marx approvingly and advocate that anti-racists “seize power,” they move us away, not toward, a free and equitable civilization of love. Indeed, they push us to the worst of “civilization”—Marxist starvation of peasants or killing fields—a civilization so unworthy of the term “equity” that it would create nothing more than an “equitable” hell on Earth. Unless they were the highest members of this new communist “equity” party, these anti-racists would not want to live in such a society themselves. Their brave new world only works as long as they themselves are in charge and their secular “enlightened” views hold sway. Such a society would be no different from the thousands of other totalitarian oligarchies, big and small, that have existed since the world began.
And there is no guarantee that anti-racists like Kendi would be able to outmaneuver and out-murder other revolutionary leaders efficiently enough to ensure that they themselves would escape being killed or enslaved. Just ask Leon Trotsky! Kendi himself doesn’t seem sufficiently vicious to ensure his ascendency during and after the Great Revolution toward “equity.” This may be because he and his comrades fail to see—or willfully ignore—the totalitarian telos of their desires.
That said, Kendian antiracism must be rejected, and the term “antiracism” must be rectified to mean movement toward a civilization of equality based on love, and implemented voluntarily by a people who live by a free and well-formed moral conscience.