Equity and Identity Politics: The Real Meanings

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Equity and Identity Politics

What do the terms “equity” and “identity politics” really mean? Former CIA Analyst Martin Gurri has some thoughts on both terms, but there’s a point I think he’s missing, and that is how both ideas fly in the face of a founding principle of the republic: Equal treatment under the law.

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Equity Defined

Identity is the ruling orthodoxy of the day. Wesley Yang calls it the “successor ideology”, but it is less an ideology than a cockpit of grinding, wounding grievances contradicting one another: a perpetual conflict machine. Any piece of it, such as racial justice, can make perfect sense, but the whole dissolves into incoherence when it becomes clear that the highest ideal, equity, is a weasel word used to mask an inability to reconcile opposites.

That’s the key phrase: The inability to reconcile opposites. That is a primary goal of identity politics, and it’s a canard; the opposites they are concerned with, specifically the productive vs. the non-productive, cannot be reconciled—not in the way the advocates for identity politics wish.

Definitions of equity, whether provided by the White House or by elite universities, are baffling, I suspect intentionally so. Terms such as “fairness” and “anti-racist” are thrown around — but somehow this adds up to “investment” and “allocating resources” favouring designated grievance groups. Equity, in practice, means absolute equality of outcomes in all transactions, measured not in the liberal tradition, between individuals, but harking back to a more primitive outlook: between castes to which we have been assigned by birth and fate.

Let me define the latter two terms: “Investment” means “spending taxpayer dollars,” while “allocating resources” means “taking wealth away from people who produce it and giving it to people who have not.” Honesty in the language used is a rare thing in this area of discourse, but with a bit of thought, one can interpret it. But here’s the onion:

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How does this work? The first step is simple enough. Government must intervene in every transaction to assure equal outcomes. If white males have an average “privilege value” of 100 and black males have an average of, say, 50, the government must take from one and give to the other until both share the identical value of 75. But what of black women — shouldn’t they receive a higher multiple than black men? And what of many Asian-American groups that have achieved a higher average than white males — should they be downranked and de-grievanced? And what of more intangible factors such as education, a good marriage and family life, raw ability at work and play, a sense of humour, happiness? Can government make the “historically underserved” laugh and the overserved cry?

Equity and Liberty

The biggest thing is that there is a fundamental founding principle that is being violated in endeavors such as this, and that is equal treatment under the law. As Gurri notes above, the first step is a doozy; literally the first three words are “government must intervene.” That always seems to be the answer from the political left, doesn’t it? “Government must intervene.” How must government intervene? The answer always comes down to one thing: taking money — wealth — away from those who earned it and giving it to those who have not. And when you start implementing gradations of justice based on characteristics either mutable or immutable, you have thrown equal treatment under the law right out the window; the very notion is incompatible with liberty. And we have recently seen advocacy for such “justice” at the highest levels of our national government.

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And yet the various levels of government are leaping into identity politics and equity with both feet, from the schools to the IRS.

Advocates of identity politics and equity seek to guarantee equality of outcomes. The Founders, in the Constitution, sought to guarantee equality of opportunity, and yes, the full realization of that took some time, but I would argue we have that now. Equality of opportunity is compatible with a free society — with liberty. Equality of outcome can only be achieved through the use of force by government. That’s the key. That’s the only thing one needs to understand about this issue.

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