Saturday, 20 January 2018

Equality versus Equity

In our reading of King (1964) this morning, King was arguing not simply for justice but for additional support to give the African Americans the opportunity to gain equality. In effect, he is arguing that it is not equality unless you have equality of outcomes. Simply removing desegregation was not going to give justice unless the African Americans had the opportunity to take advantage of the new opportunities. Is it justice that you can go into a lunch bar and sit with white people if you cannot afford to buy a lunch? Is it justice if you can apply for jobs but you will not get them because you have not had the educational opportunities to gain the qualifications required? Is it justice if you have the qualifications and skills but you cannot get the position because the focus of your qualifications or skills does not match with the dominant framing story of society or the institutions that would normally employ you?
King was fighting for civil rights but he recognised that it was not simply the African Americans who were disadvantaged by the nature of capitalism. The poor whites suffered from the same disadvantages that segregation caused for the African American. He therefore argues that a bill of rights for the disadvantaged should not simply be for African Americans but should be for all disadvantaged people.
I see King’s argument as promoting the different between the argument for equality of opportunity or what I refer to as equality of outcome (equity). Equality of opportunity simply says anyone has the opportunity to participate but it does not take into consideration the disadvantages that some people have that actually hinders there ability to take those equality of opportunity. Equity recognises the those disadvantages and endeavours to overcome them so that all have the same outcome. An example of equity is were you have different height people and seeking to look over a fence. Giving them the same height box is equality but if those boxes do not allow all to see over the fence then there is no equality of outcome. If instead, they are given different height boxes to ensure that they all have the same view then you have equality of outcome or equity.
Some would contend that equity exists in our society but I see on a daily basis how some are disadvantaged because of attitudes of others or the competitive nature of funding gives advantages to others. If what you seek to achieve does not match the dominant themes then you are not likely to have the opportunities given to you. If the roles that you are able to obtain do not enable you to take opportunities to advance then you simply become enslaved to the system. Our society tends to reward those who already have the advantage and to restrict the opportunities for those who are disadvantaged.
I see the UK education system as failing to provide equity. It does nothing to help people find their strengths but instead forces students to conform and if they fail to conform then they are spat out as of no value to society. The opportunities to recognise that you have made the wrong choice and to restart are not there. Instead the system leaves them with a huge debt that locks them into a path that they possibly chose before they recognised what it was that they were interested in or that they were good at. That debt becomes a noose around their neck limiting their future opportunities.
However, it is not only students who are disadvantaged by the system. I see staff locked in because they need the work but cannot afford to move to another location. I see it in others that I meet who are locked into low paying occupations with no opportunity to advance. Capitalism inherently encourages inequality. Capitalism encourages conformity to its story. Capitalism requires competition and if you cannot commit or prefer not to compete then you have no future.
Like King, we need to be calling for reform of an unjust system. Like king through nonviolent action or protest, we need expose the injustice. We have to expose it in such a way that there becomes a real drive for reform. We need to continue the reforms of the civil rights movement so that real justice prevails.

Reference


 Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964) Why we can’t wait. Boston: Beacon Press.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Inequality and economic slavery

We have been working our way through King (1964) “Why we can’t wait” on the civil rights actions in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. King describes how the authorities fought to hold on to their segregated society in the face of nonviolent direct action. However, in today’s reading, it was comment that he made about a company who had major operations in the Birmingham area but whose headquarters were in New York that prompted this post. King says “Profits were not affected by racial injustice; indeed, they were benefited. Only people were hurt, and the greatest single power in Birmingham turned its back” (p 133).
As I reflect on inequality and economic slavery, I can see that I could adapt this statement to apply to many of the decisions being made by governments and business leaders. The company had said that it had “fulfilled” its “responsibility in the Birmingham area” (p 133) when in reality they had changed nothing and only benefitted from the segregationist policies.
Our capitalist system says that things are alright provided the “profit” is not impacted. Change only came in Birmingham, Alabama when the nonviolent direct action began to impact the profits of companies and even then the authorities sought to apply force to coerce the protesters to accept existing policy.
In the British media, the gender pay disparity has again hit the headlines in part because high profile females are protesting to not being paid as much as men for the same job. I agree with their claims, they should receive the same pay but I would contend that there is a more uneven pay differential that is being completely ignored and it is this second pay differential that leads to inequality. I no longer believe that we should be judging the value of skills as a way of differentiating how much we should pay people. The argument for the skills pay differentiation is “market forces”. Supposedly it is easy to recruit workers for low skilled jobs. There are more people competing for these jobs so the pay is low. If I listen to some of the anti-Brexit discussion, this appears not to be true. People do not want the low paid jobs and avoid taking them on. The low paid jobs have no future and do not guarantee security. They lock you in as a slave for life. As a result employers are looking to immigrants who will just about take any job to fill these lowed paid positions. If market forces were at play then the pay would rise to attract local workers to take up this work but that doesn’t happen. The market doesn’t work. Pressurising the low paid to take lower wages in order to maintain profit is what drives the economy.
However, the pay disparity between the low paid and the high paid ensures the unequal distribution of wealth. It ensures that a proportion of the population stay enslaved to the economic system. With government policies being made based on the average or above average income, a large percentage of the population are unable to achieve a viable living standard and they are certainly unable to put aside what is needed for a pension. I am sure this claim could easily be verified from the national statistical databases. The end result is that a large proportion of the population is enslaved to the work that they can obtain or they remain locked in to receiving government handouts.
I believe that it is not simply time that the gender pay gap was resolved. It is time that we overcame pay prejudice and rewarded everyone equally for the time that the put in. It is also time that we implemented a basic income for all and to get rid of the discriminatory social security systems that are implemented around the world. Inequality is not the result of people failing to put in the effort. Inequality has its roots in pay inequality and the basic operation of a market driven economy.
Profits are not affected by pay disparity; indeed, they are benefited. Only people are hurt, and the greatest single power for achieving equality has turned its back.” This power is governments and business owners. We could have a completely different system if the focus was on greater equality and not difference.
Yes, I can hear the cries that we cannot afford to do this but a lot of these cries show a complete lack of understanding of money and its creation. We do not have enough money because we have turned money creation into private debt and focussed on being able to pay. Governments ability to create money for essential works is being hampered by attempting to treat governments like companies and declaring that they have to live within their income (i.e. tax). If you want growth in the system then there needs to be an expansion in the money supply and that expansion has to be without the debt risk. The only entity that can expand the money supply without the debt risk is the government through its central bank but that is for another blog.

Reference


 Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964) Why we can’t wait. Boston: Beacon Press.