It’s a word that just about everyone hates these days, like every other word that has become politically charged through the actions of one group who has decided something is bad. Some people hate what the word represents, railing against a system they see as unfair and exclusionary. Others hate it because it assaults what they have, a threat to their livelihoods from groups of people who can’t seem to get things together. Whichever side you land on, it’s unlikely that the word inequity doesn’t affect you in one way or another.
Many times it’s difficult to come up with a clear and logical answer to the problems our societies face. There are so many moral and ethical dilemmas that come with trying to answer questions that apply to large groups of people, especially in world power nations with hundreds of millions of people. For most things, it is impossible to define one clear rule that everyone should follow, and even some of the rules that we see as universal aren’t agreed upon by some. There are always outliers, and they are the ones who end up being forced to either conform or live as outcasts.
When it comes to the concept of inequity, however, it becomes very difficult to argue the idea as something that is either moral or ethical. It sounds great when you just say it out loud, the assumption that everyone should have a basic quality of life and no one should have more than anyone else. The reality, though, is that equity is one of the absolute worst forms of human oppression that one can imagine. It flies in the the face of the laws of nature and completely disregards what makes us human beings in the first place.
Inequity exists as part of the natural world. Some animals are born with advantages that allow them to hunt more food or find more mates or secure a better home. This lack of perfect balance weeds out those who can’t find a way to survive, pooling resources for those more fit and capable while leaving the weak to starve or succumb to the elements. Nature cares little for our ideals of equity, and it is only because we have advanced to the point that we can ignore it that the idea has any kind of meaning at all.
We obviously can’t live by the same rules as animals because our society is built on the strength that comes from community. Human beings are the epitome of natural inequity, blessed with an intelligence and physical form that allows us to create technologies and cultures that place us far outside the typical realms of most of the animal kingdom. By our very nature, we exude inequity on a daily basis as we drive around in our cars and live in our huge houses and fly around in our airplanes.
Still, comparing human inequity to animal inequity doesn’t really resonate, regardless of how logical it is. We will always place far more importance on our own lives than that of any animal. It doesn’t matter how much evidence we see that inequity is the default in the natural world because we don’t really live in that world anymore. The argument can and has been made over and over it is in our nature to be selfish and place our own survival ahead of others, but that doesn’t satisfy our emotional need for justice, so the argument ends up falling on deaf ears.
One argument that can’t be reasonably argued against is the law of supply and demand. It is an immutable part of our everyday lives, determining the value of resources and who has access to them. In a world where everything is finite, not everyone is going to get everything they want. Either some people are going to realize their dreams while others struggle to get by, or no one ends up getting where they want to be and the hope for the future is crushed.
From what I’ve experienced in life so far, it seems like people need hope far more than comfort. It is the drive to realize the dream of “making it” that propels the human race forward. A sense of progressing toward something more is what causes us to yearn to create something new, even if it is perverted by our own greed more often than not. Without the hope that we can rise to new heights, how can we find the drive to do more than just sit around in the status quo? How much farther can our species go if we force ourselves to be content with what we have?
This is the dilemma of the human species. It is a fantasy to believe that in our current situation we can somehow find a way to provide equality of outcome for everyone. People simply want far more than what life can be extracted from the currently available pool of resources. Large portions of society might be content with simply having their needs met, but history has shown us that some will not and they will acquire what they want through force if there is no other way. We can’t escape the laws of nature, not yet.
So what do we do with this information? Are we doomed to forever live in a world where some people live far beyond the means of others? Not forever, but for a while yet. Until we come up with a way to provide everyone everything they desire, there will always be inequity. When we have perfect robots who roam our planet and the solar system harvesting resources and providing everything we need with no requirement for human labor, that will be the time when inequity can be abolished. Until then, the correct path forward is focusing on the word “equality”, because in a world of finite resources, equality of opportunity is the only truly fair way.