Quantitative equality is not possible but proportional equality is and social equality informs us about what our human rights are when we are living in a democracy (especially where universal suffrage is concern).
Before we go ahead to discuss about the various meanings of equality that I mentioned, I shall begin with the word ‘equality‘. I shall use Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech, which reads,
We know that Abraham Lincoln was fighting for the freedom of the slaves, the civil war that ended the slavery of black men and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. ‘Equal‘ here seems to suggest that when a person is born unto this earth, this person, regardless of gender, race, religion, language, and social class will have equal opportunity in the place he or she is born in. The opportunities include equal rights under the law (security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, property rights, and equal access to social goods and services). This equality, in the 21st century, further extends to concepts of economic equity, such as, access to education, healthcare and other social securities. It also includes equal opportunities and obligations, and so also involves society. This idea of Lincoln relates to the great democratic nation of America that was conceived due to the notion of liberty.
The speech was in November 19, 1863. Liberty won the war. Men were freed from slaved labour. Liberty has set free men and equality had prevailed. Over time, this idea of equality slowly evolved to be social equality, at least for a democratic society. Social equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects. At the very least, it includes those opportunities as discussed in the previous paragraph.
In the ideal case, social equality requires the absence of legally enforced social class or caste boundaries and the absence of discrimination motivated by an inalienable part of a person’s identity. For example, sex, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, origin, caste or class, income or property, language, religion, convictions, opinions, health or disability must not result in unequal treatment under the law and should not reduce opportunities unjustifiably. In actuality, we know that equality is far from ideal. Social equality does not refer to economic or income equality. In the cases of economic and income equality, ‘equal opportunities‘ is interpreted as being judged by ability, which is compatible with a free-market economy. This results in horizontal inequality arising – the inequality of two persons of the same origin and ability. With horizontal inequality, perfect social equality stop to prevail because in a complex economic system, economic and income inequality will always be present as everyone is assessed by their qualifications and abilities.
This is when quantitative equality is not possible. Yes, all men are created equal. This also applies, among other attributes, to race, gender as well as sexual orientation (as long as the laws allow it). Social equality is possible. Perfect social equality seems too idealistic because economic and income inequality persist. So what is quantitative equality?
Quantitative equality suggests that in the totality of the word equality, social equality is possible but when it comes to economic and income equality, no one is equal because it takes good IQ (intelligence quotient) to at least have good income. Income is assessed by qualifications and abilities (as well as experience). Furthermore in a complex economic system of the free market, it takes good innovations (and ideas) to separate one from the competition to earn good profits. Only when there is good profits, there is a justification for high income. Therefore income inequality will always be present. Economic activity requires various disciplines and thus different knowledge. This means that the same knowledge will not be relevant in another industry, resulting in economic inequality. Where management is concern, it does not seem to be the case of equality as well. Depending on the ethics of the company and the higher management, in my experience, information is not shared equally among staff (well, the company is simply protecting itself from unethical staff). There seems to be favouritism and bias towards those that are more manageable than those who are able to speak up rationally and independently (regardless of whether it is official business). Management does not seem to want clever staff but also staff that are obedient. In any case, obedient does not seem to suggest an ethical behaviour but a bias towards something that is emotionally irrational – provided everyone is treated with equality (as with the case of social equality and having equal opportunities). This irrationality seems so widespread in some places that to survive in a competitive environment, the behaviour of the people in the company are incentivized to favour the employer and not employees (refer to my earlier blog on leadership, ‘Connect, Then Lead’, by the Harvard Business Review). This is when economic and income inequality causes a change in social equality. All men are created equal. They have access to healthcare, education, social securities and equal rights under the law (security, voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, property rights, and equal access to social goods and services). However, there is discrimination when it comes to free speech and opinions. Because free speech belongs to those who are responsible, intelligent, wise, knowledgable and ethical and not to those that have a low self-esteem, having a superiority complex or having an inferiority complex to utter words that do not comply with the facts of life; facts of life in general and facts of life belonging to subjective truths of people in the society). Thus quantitative equality is not possible. This is because we do not have the same IQ (intelligence quotient), EQ (emotional quotient), AQ (adversity quotient), the quality of our virtues, different talent/skills, and the different qualities of relationships we have in the three planes of reality (private, public and professional) of the social milieu. I guess this applies to race and gender discrimination, and sometimes even those who are less fortunate (in terms of family backgrounds and those who are mentally and physically impaired.)
On the bright side of things, if my social philosophy is able to give more, I shall optimistically share my knowledge with those who are willing to embrace it and for them to carry out wisely in their social milieu. All races, religions and gender are able to get access to my social philosophy as long as they have the intellectual and moral ability to comprehend and practice. Therefore in the true sense of the word social equality, my social philosophy at least applies to racial equality and gender equality (with regards to sexual orientation, my book is for gay marriage but do not have a political agenda for it since all men are created equal).
We now know that quantitative equality is not possible because, narrowly speaking, even if we have the same IQ, we will not have the same kind of knowledge acquired (though we can learn ourselves without actually getting a certificate for it). We may experience the same emotions but we are not the same stable disposition all the time. We may have the same knowledge at work but we have different experience of the work (as with the case of someone who just joined the industry as opposed to those that are in the industry for thirty years). However different races and gender can have the same IQ, EQ, morals, quality of virtues, talents or even the same kinds of relationships (with the same or different persons). This will then lead us to defining what is proportional equality?
I would assert that proportional equality will allow social equality to fully function in a democratic constitution. Why is it so? Proportional equality allows social equality to take place smoothly when everyone has equal opportunities based on the understanding that we are not born with equal abilities. It becomes proportional when someone lacking in certain abilities is having a superficial relationship with someone of higher ability, IQ or particular talent. By superficial I meant that the relationship is not biological and lacking in deeper emotional connections (it is not fake in the other meaning of ‘superficial’). There is still a genuine emotional relation but because when you are lacking in certain talent or intellectual ability you are subject to the admiration of another through his or her abilities. In the case of Abraham Lincoln who believes that all men are created equal. He was fighting for the liberty of the black slaves, had he not believed in that idea of freedom and that the slaves are as equal as he is, he would not have fought for their rights to freedom! Because Abraham Lincoln was of a higher stature (he was the President of the United States of America) the kind of equality that he provided to the black people was proportional in that the relationship between the slaves and the President was one of proportional equality. What is proportional?
I shall illustrate this using algebra. In mathematics, we can have variable A and B. A is equal to B when they are of the same value, i.e.
A is two and B is two, hence A = B. (Quantitative equality)
However when A is two and B is four, the equation A = B is no longer valid, since two is not equal to four. But two is proportionally equal to four when we consider that there is a constant, k, having the value of two, i.e.
A = kB, where B is four, when k is two and A is two. Hence 4 = (2) x 2. (Proportional equality)
A is also proportionally equal to six, eight, ten, etc when we have the same value of k (k=2), and B has the value of three, four and five, etc, i.e.
6 = (2) x 3, (Proportional equality)
8 = (2) x 4, (Proportional equality)
10 = (2) x 5. (Proportional equality)
We are now about to see the proportional relationship in the above mathematical equations. With this, we return to Abraham Lincoln. The kind of equality that exists between Abraham Lincoln the President and the black slaves would belong to that of proportional equality. They are not equal when the black people is a slave and the other is a President (or any person of higher social status or intellectual abilities). They are proportionally equal because there is an imbalance of abilities. If we replace the numeric value of k in the algebra equation with Lincoln’s liberty, the relationship between them would be
Black slaves = (Liberty) x Abraham Lincoln the President.
This is what I meant by someone lacking in certain abilities is having a superficial relationship with someone of higher ability, IQ or particular talent. The black slaves are not able to free themselves because they are not equal (they are slaves). Therefore they are lacking in the ability to be free (from slavery). Abraham Lincoln, who believes in freedom, decides to fight against slavery. The idea of liberty was Lincoln’s sense of being equal with the slaves and it is this idea of liberty that the black slaves are being proportionally equal to Abraham Lincoln. Before freedom, the slaves are not equal at all, but after they are free during the civil war, the admiration (and respect) for Lincoln becomes that of proportional equality. Abraham Lincoln is not more equal than the black slaves simply because he freed them, but because he is of a higher stature (in terms of intellectual and moral virtues and as a President believing in freedom) that he freed them. And when he freed them, the slaves become proportionally equal to him. This is what proportional equality means and that it is only with proportional equality that social equality can fully function in a democratic constitution since quantitative equality is not possible and that horizontal inequality cannot be solved due to the different abilities that we have.
My book presents another less political example of proportional equality and illustrated the quantitative equality and proportional equality in the city. In addition my book also demonstrated what is quantitative love and proportional love, in and outside the workplace.
Despite touching on the various meanings of equality, it is imperative to say that equality is not justice but without a sense of what equality is, justice cannot be served. My paper ‘Infusing excellence in daily life‘, discusses justice in more detail. To me, proportional equality provides the basis for social equality to work fully in a democratic constitution. It is in the universal declaration of human rights, which decreed that universal suffrage is having the right to vote and having the right to vote is not restricted by race, gender, belief, wealth, or social status.
If Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech is still having the same resolve by the American people or anyone now, those who died in the civil war shall not have died in vain and that the nation known as the United States of America or any democratic nations shall continue to have freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.