One of the more popular buzzwords in Washington, DC, and state capitols is “equity.” To most people, it sounds a lot like “equality,” a term that in the popular consciousness means equal treatment under the law.

But equity doesn’t mean equality. As Prof. Charles Lipson writes, the wide difference between the two concepts has been intentionally blurred to cover a profoundly anti-equality political agenda:

It’s the difference between equal treatment and equal outcomes. Equality means equal treatment, unbiased competition and impartially judged outcomes. Equity means equal outcomes, achieved if necessary by unequal treatment, biased competition and preferential judging.

Those who push for equity have hidden these crucial differences for a reason. They aren’t merely unpopular; they challenge America’s bedrock principle that people should be treated equally and judged as individuals, not as members of groups.

The demand for equal outcomes contradicts a millennium of Anglo-Saxon law and political evolution. It undermines the Enlightenment principle of equal treatment for individuals of different social rank and religion. America’s Founders drew on those roots when they declared independence, saying it was “self-evident” that “all men are created equal.”

That heritage, along with the lack of a hereditary aristocracy, is why claims for equal treatment are so deeply rooted in U.S. history. It is why radical claims for unequal treatment must be carefully buried in word salads praising equity and social justice.

Or more simply, Lipson says, “equity” is just another way to say “quotas:”

“Quotas” were restyled as “affirmative action.” The goal was still to give special benefits to some groups to achieve desired outcomes. Now “affirmative action” has also become toxic, rejected most recently by voters in deep-blue California. Hence, the new name, “equity.”

George Orwell’s classic essay on “Politics and the English Language” is an excellent way to see how words have long been corrupted to suit political ends.

Image Credit: Brian Turner / CC BY (