The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Clamor for ‘Equity’ Is Dangerous

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For the last year or two, the big buzzword among leftists has been “equity.” Joe Biden yammers away about how he’s dedicated to it. Colleges and universities create more jobs for “diversity, inclusion, and equity” administrators. What’s behind it?

I highly recommend reading this Law & Liberty essay by Caroline Breashears to find out. She observes that the demand for “equity” boils down to a demand for group equality.  Not the legal equality that permits each person to strive for his goals, but an enforced equality of result — just as in Kurt Vonnegut’s famous story, “Harrison Bergeron.”

“Vonnegut’s tale,” Breshears writes,  “remains a classic because, as others have observed, it illustrates the consequences of totalitarian attempts to impose “equality”: they limit individual rights, impose unfair rules, and undermine productivity, which leads to greater poverty and even death. Defy the rules, like Harrison, and risk execution by the Handicapper General.”

The “equity” crusade creates lots and lots of jobs for minor handicapper general positions — comfortable government, university, and business jobs where you don’t actually have to accomplish anything other than to rail about how terrible our society is. And the more people who become convinced that they can’t succeed on their own, the more the demand for others to set things right with “equity” policies.

Breashears puts her finger on the danger to society: “In reality, Vonnegut shows that forced ‘equality’ leads to the very cultural and economic decline George fears. In ‘Harrison Bergeron,’ the lack of competition has not only leveled the playing field but flattened the entire society.”

Of course, once we have that “flattened society,” there won’t be much for the handicappers and other government minions to live off of, but that’s in the distant future. Many would rather enjoy power and pelf now.

Breashears get a ten for sticking the landing with her conclusion: “If Vonnegut’s tale teaches us anything, it is to protect our future Harrison Bergerons by rejecting government attempts to engineer equity, even when our leaders insist it is what ‘faith and morality call us to do.’ Betraying the next generation into mediocrity while limiting their freedom can never be ‘moral.’ Like Harrison, they deserve a chance to become what they can become.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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