Equality Just Isn’t Fair

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In modern economic parlance, the terms inequality and inequity are sometimes used interchangeably to mean unfair. This is not good.

Used properly, inequality is a descriptive term, while inequity is normative. So, if the wealth of two people differs, that difference is an inequality. It is a matter of arithmetic. In order to be an inequity, that inequality would also have to be unfair. If it were the case that every inequality were, by its very nature, unfair, things would get tricky very quickly. To illustrate:

President Obama, among many others, is wealthier than I am. This is an inequality. Now, if an inequality is, by its very nature, unfair, then this inequality would have to be considered an inequity, which is to say, an injustice.

Mr. President, if you wish to stamp out this injustice, do as follows: (1) Add together my net worth and yours, (2) divide by two, (3) subtract the quotient from your net worth, (4) write a check for the amount of the remainder, (5) make it payable to me, and (6) hand it over.

But of course I’m kidding. Here’s why. First, it would be unconscionable to take advantage of someone who actually held such an odd notion of injustice. I mean, every kindergartener knows that sometimes equality just isn’t fair. Second, the president made his money through good, old-fashioned hard work, not unlike Lincoln splitting rails. It’s his and he deserves to keep it. Third, the president’s contributions to the soundness and growth of the American economy make my own efforts seem puny.

Hmm. On second thought, if the tax laws of the country were jiggered ever so slightly so as to compel him to hand over the money, I guess I would take it, but only with great reluctance and for the sale purpose of furthering the cause of social justice.

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