#90 Equality or Equity

The Christian Economist

#90 Equality or Equity?

Christians believe in equality of opportunity, not equity of outcomes.  This comes from our belief about salvation. 

The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.  The Inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.  Winston Churchill

Here’s the difference between equality and equity.  Equality means equal opportunity.  Equity means equal outcomes, achieved if necessary by unequal treatment, biased competition and preferential judging.

In the article “The Temptation of Equity,” in the Epoch Times, Mark Bauerlein explains it, “This is what is meant by “equity.” Because of racial discrimination in the past, we must practice it in the present, but change its direction. Blacks underwent inequality before, and a reverse inequality now will balance the accounts, pay a debt, produce equity. Yes, it’s illegal, but to people on the left it’s right and just.

Christians believe that common grace provides everyone the opportunity of salvation.  Some accept, and have the outcome of a life in Christ.  Others reject it.  It seems like this Christian understanding of salvation should teach us something about economics.  We believe in equality of opportunity, but not equity of outcome.

“Since the reduction of poverty and the closing of economic gaps are competing goals, on what basis can we choose between them?”  writes Thomas Sowell, in Wealth, Poverty, and Politics.

Christians care about the means, economists about the ends.  So I am continually frustrated by my fellow Christians who want things to come out equal.  I understand that thinking among economists, because they measure the outcome.  Christians are more concerned about the input, and less concerned about the outcome.  That’s why the Bible has so much to say about justice – the input, but almost nothing about the equity – which is a measure of outcomes.  

In his book Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism’s Looming Catastrophe, Voddie Bauchum states clearly that the term Social Justice means equality of outcomes.  Here’s a more complete quote by Rev. Bauchum, “If the social justice movement went by its actual name, young Christians would not have been lured into it.  Because the social justice movement is actually cultural Marxism.  There’s no such thing as social justice, people.  In fact, in the Bible, justice never has an adjective.  There’s justice and there’s injustice, but there’s not different kinds of justice.”

Choices

Fair is an annual celebratory event.  Life is not fair.  It’s a junior-high level philosophy.  My grandkids think that if they shout “That’s not fair,” somehow I have a duty to make things “fair.”  I don’t.

Jesus Distributed the Gospel Unequally.  I explain this in Podcast #6 which is titled Jesus distributed the gospel unequally.  During His time, there were 45 million people in the world, 3 million in the Roman Empire.  He talked to about 30,000, which is 1% of the population of the Roman Empire.  He unequally distributed his information to 12, and within the 12 to three, and within the three to one.  He said, “You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my church.”  This rock.  One.  That’s inequality.

Politicians don’t redistribute votes, nor their power equally.  Just about everyone who calls for more equality is not practicing it: In their speaking, writing, and power. 

Choices.  This is where Christianity aligns with economics.  We are given choices.  In religion: We choose to accept or reject the invitation of salvation.  In economics, we choose to be rich or poor.  I know this sounds simplistic, but podcast #68 is titled Poor by Choice, where I demonstrate, using an individual case, how a person became poor. 

In his book Discrimination and Disparities, Thomas Sowell writes, “One can read reams of arguments that statistical disparities imply biased treatment without finding a single empirical example of the even distribution of social groups in any endeavor, in any country or in any period of history.  We should not be surprised if economic or social advances are not evenly or randomly distributed among individuals, groups, institutions or nations at any given time.”

It’s behavior, not skin color.   Sowell writes, The poverty rate of married blacks is not only lower than that of blacks as a whole, but in some years has also been lower than that of whites as a whole.  In 2016, for example, the poverty rate for blacks was 22 percent, for whites it was 11 percent, and for black married couples was 7.5%. 

Dennis Prager writes about equity being “sugar coated Socialism”  More from him, “Trying to achieve equity is like running toward the horizon. You never catch it.  But chasing the equity lie offers the government something it desperately craves…ever-increasing control over your life.”  So equity reduces individual choice.  

Yes, I’m using lots of quotes today, because the measure of an educated person is not what you think, it’s knowing what others think.  Here’s another

A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.  Frederick Von Hayek, yea, that guy.

This is the difference between the conservative and the liberal.  The conservative believes in the individual.  That’s how Christians believe we receive salvation.  The liberal believes in the group.  But Christians don’t believe in group salvation. 

Enlightenment Religion

From Thomas Sowell again, this time writing about religion during the Scottish Enlightenment, “Among the changes that has occurred among the Scots was their Protestant churches’ crusade promoting the idea that everyone should learn to read, so as to be able to  read the Bible personally, rather than have priests tell them what it says and means.  Another change was a more secular, but sill fervent, crusade to learn the English language, which replaced Gaelic among the Scottish lowlanders, and thereby opened up far more fields of written knowledge to the Scots.”  My name, Arnott, is Gaelic.  More on that in a future podcast. 

In Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Benjamin Friedman writes about how the strict Calvinist doctrine was being changed by the Scottish Enlightenment that informed David Hume, Francis Hutcheson, and his famous pupil, Adam Smith.  Yea, that guy.  This transferred the power of religion from the clergy to the masses, enticing Adam Smith to do the same with the economy.  This tight connection between how we see God and how we see our fellow man – yes, a Baptist just crossed himself – is the key to how his first book The Theory of Moral Sentiments is about the individual, and his second book The Wealth of Nations, is about groups. 

Why do Christian Economists place so much emphasis on the individual, and Secular Economists place so much emphasis on the group?  Clearly, our belief system is based in the philosophy that only individuals can accept the offer of redemption through the invitation of Jesus.  

So, Christian education disperses the opportunity for advancement, not the outcome.  In an enlightened society with a religion that believes in equality of the image of God, more people have the chance to love their neighbor by producing and distributing goods that enrich their lives. 

In 30 years as a College Professor, I have offered to more than 5000 students to redistribute their grades.  As of today, none have accepted.  They are fallen, they want others grades redistributed to them, but not their grade redistributed to someone else.  

Competition

This produces different levels of outcome. 

In a competitive environment, people get rich by making consumer surplus.  I don’t have time to unpack that today, but I’ve explained it in podcast # 54 Equal is not Fair.  Also, you would think that people who want more equity want to eliminate discrimination.  I explain how that cannot exist in a competitive market in podcast #33.  

If you made everyone economically equal today, by tomorrow, they would be unequal.  

At an international level this is interesting.  I heard a presentation this week by Andrew Firman of Faith Driven Investors.  He asked about the effect of Columbus sailing under the flag of Spain and how that spread the religion of Catholicism to central and South America.  If America strives for equity today, we will have less to invest in the future. That means that the gospel that is contained in our free-market capitalist system will spread less.  Meanwhile the Chinese spread their combination of Buddhism and Doaism that’s contained in their economic system.  There is alot packed into one that idea, and it deserves a podcast of its own.  Look for that in the future. 

Think about why there’s a crises at the Southern US border.  Central Americans – and those from many other countries – want to get into the US because we DON’T have the equity-based policies that have killed the economy in their countries.  

Dan Henninger, writing in the Wall Street Journal this week makes this observation, “Equity is an economic concept. It posits that some have more economic wealth, and some have less. The “some” may be individuals or nations. Equity’s goal is to impose policies by fiat intended to close “disparities.” It is wealth redistribution, or soft socialism, repackaged as happy talk.

Ten Biblical Commandments of Economics

Here’s a quick review of equality vs equity based on the Ten Biblical Commandments of Economics, from the book I wrote with Sergiy Saydometov titled Biblical Economic Policy.

  1. People should be free:  To be unequal.  If people are forced to be 
  2. Work is good: If there’s going to be equal outcome, why work?
  3. Don’t steal: The Government has no money.  There are many Biblical commands to give, but there are no commands to take.  The Government must take before it can give.  To make things equal, you have to steal from one person to give to another.  Are taxes stealing?  Sergiy Saydometov and I unpack this in  chapter 6 of Biblical Economic Policy.
  4. Don’t covet: When a poor person wants equality, she is coveting.  Almost all claims of inequality are violations of the tenth commandment, that says “don’t covet.”  
  5. Honest measures:
  6. Trade is good: If you trade what you have for what you don’t have, you will either get richer or poorer.  That produces different economic outcomes. 
  7. Love your neighbor as yourself:
  8. Take care of widows and orphans:  The Bible orders us to take care of them, not to make them equal.
  9. Be a good Samaritan:  The Samaritan helped someone who was unequal.  He didn’t make the injured man equal.  He helped him improve his position in life, but it had nothing to do with equality. 
  10. Honor those in power: If they’re in power, that means power has been distributed unequally, or they wouldn’t have power over us.  Authority is good.  This is pretty much a uniquely Christian idea, that giving authority over yourself is a good thing.  

Conservatives think, Liberals feel.  Equality thinks good, equity feels good.

 

Read Along with Dr. Arnott:

Wealth, Poverty, and Politics

Faultlines 

Discrimination and Disparities 

Religion & the Rise of Capitalism 

The Wealth of Nations 

The Theory of Moral Sentiments 

 

Watch the full Podcast Here