People mistake equality for equity, thinking that, by giving everyone equal resources we are on a ‘level playing field.’ The fact is though that, without equity, equality cannot exist.
Equality essentially means providing everyone with the same amount of resources regardless of whether everyone needs them. In other words, each person receives an equal share of resources despite what they already have, or don’t have.
Equity, on the other hand, means distributing resources based on what each person needs in order to adequately level the playing field.
You go into two schools to give students reading material on how to set up a business. The first school is a state school in a working-class town, the second is a private school in a predominantly middle-class area. Because the second school is fee paying, it can be assumed that the students will have parents who are relatively ‘well off’, for they can afford to pay for their schooling when they could’ve got it for free, as the students in the state school did. Whilst you give the students in the two schools identitical reading material on how to set up a business, and so you assume that they must therefore now have an equal opportunity to become an entrepreneur, the fact is that, by virtue of being from a fee paying school, the students from the private school will have significantly better chances of succeeding than the students in the state school. This is because they will be more likely to have the funding needed and the support needed to make it happen. In contrast, the students from the state school most likely will not have the funding needed to set up a business. They might have the knowledge as the reading material has equipped them with, but, without having the money to do anything with that knowledge, well, they don’t have an equal opportunity to succeed…
Equality can only exist where equity exists. To achieve equity, you would go into the first school, the state school with, as well as reading material on how to set up a business, grants to be awarded to assist the students in setting up a business, so as to ensure that they truly are on a ‘level playing field’ with the students in the second school, who already have the money needed…
One counterargument that exists against socialism and the idea of equity is that ‘people work hard to be successful and therefore they should get to keep what they earn, it shouldn’t be distributed so that everyone gets the same when not everyone contributes the same.’ The issue I have with this line of thought, however, is that, in children, this makes no sense. The ability to go to a private school vs a state school is not dependent on how hard the child works, but on how much money their parents have. And, we know that children with parents who have more disposable income have a head start in life, and are more likely to end up in better paid jobs themselves as a result. Again, this can’t be said to be the case because they just ‘work harder’ than other children (they might do but this would be purely coincidental in most cases) but more so because they were born into it. Equity then would ensure that, no matter what you’re born into, you will have the same opportunities to succeed as the next person…
Another example highlighting the difference between equality and equity can be seen in the cartoon below.
Equality would be giving everyone a bike, as in the first image. Equity would be recognising that the person in the wheelchair will be unable to ride the bike, so giving them an alternative that will still allow them to keep up with everyone else, thus ensuring that they are all given a chance to achieve the same outcome no matter what their circumstances.
It can be said that conservative/right wing policies very much take the approach of ‘tokenistic’ equality, as in the first image, offering everyone equal opportunities, but failing to recognise (/choosing to ignore) the fact that some people have a head start in life. A more liberal approach however is recognising the existence of inequality and ensuring that we have equity to combat that, as is shown in the second image…
The basic thing that we must remember lies in accessibility, inclusion, equity- whatever you want to call it- just make sure that it’s there, so that we all have access to opportunities that are genuinely equal.
Equality for the people, to improve their outcomes, not equality for the policy makers, to improve their conscience.
We shouldn’t just do things because in doing them we feel better about ourselves, as a ‘box ticking’ exercise, we should be doing them because we genuinely care,
because social justice genuinely matters to us,
because we want to see everyone succeeding in life, regardless of their circumstances.
We should be ensuring that equity exists because we are good people, not just because we want other people to perceive us as being good people…
We should be living our lives with authenticity and genuineness,
Even better though, we should be striving for justice, so that there is no discrepancy in opportunities in the first place…
We should be stripping away with capitalism, so that we don’t need to give the working-class children more than the middle-class children just so they can start from the same place.
We should be stripping away with capitalism so that wealth is shared as opposed to ‘hauled’ by the people who are born into it.
We should be removing the fence (capitalism) so that we can all see clearly.
We should but, unfortunately, whilever the conservatives are in power, we won’t.