WSJ on the Pathology of Equality Projects

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The left is obsessed with inequality, according to Professor Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Administration. Writing for the Wall Street Journal (link here requires registration) on July 19, 2007, Brooks says:

The general view among liberals is that economic inequality is socially undesirable because it makes people miserable; they propose to solve the problem through redistributive policies such as higher income taxes….[E]vidence reveals that it is not economic inequality that frustrates Americans. Rather it is perceived lack of opportunity.

Brooks has not written about feminism, to my knowledge. But what application would his claim have to feminism? Presumably Brooks would argue that feminists improperly focus on actual inequality between men and women, instead of equality of opportunity for men and women. In other words, feminists should not ask whether men and women are in substance treated equally to men, but whether they have the chance to be treated equally. This is a version of the formal equality (Reed, Frontiero) vs. substantive equality (Cal. Fed. v. Guerra) analysis that runs throughout much of feminist jurisprudence.

The formal/substantive binary is misleading in both Brooks’ economic analysis and in feminist theory. Economic inequality and inequality of opportunity intertwine. Those who have more opportunities typically have greater earnings. Those who have fewer opportunities typically have less earnings. So, too, are women’s formal equality and substantive equality linked. Without one, the other is meaningless.

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0 Responses to WSJ on the Pathology of Equality Projects

  1. bob coley jr says:

    If two people are thirsty but only one has the funds to secure a drink, the person without funds will stay thirsty most of the time. If the provider gives both a drink and asks the one with funds to relinquish a payment the payer feels cheated. Money does afect the perseption of equality. If this study were true, both drinkers should be happy. Money is percieved as opertunity, but keeping the opertunity is of a higher value. If the provider simply refuses to serve one of those that seek a drink because of a bias we have real inequality regardless of the perception or the money of the seeker since opertunity has been denied. Having money in ones hand would give one the perception of equality so the conclusion is flawed since percieved opertunity may not be the deciding factor. Perception of opertunity is only perception, reality is the final opertunity factor. Therefore the reality of the situation is the final determinater of equality. This is only valid with regard to equality, not happiness. What this study seems to say is “what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you.” …Wrong!…