This month’s Bottom Line is an excerpt from Dennis Peacocke’s contribution to Uli Kortsch’s book, The Next Money Crash and a Reconstruction Blueprint, available now on Amazon.
Humanity’s cry for justice and equality has been historic in virtually every people group. The establishment of social customs and laws everywhere attests to this reality. The challenges associated with whatever “justice” and “equality” mean when cast into the reality of laws and policies fall squarely upon the domain of economic theory and policy. In one sense, economics is largely about defining what is “just” and “equal” in terms of resource allocation. The math of economics simply helps us quantify our philosophic policy conclusions.
Let us, therefore, begin with an attempt to sort out what justice has historically meant in the Western world since the development of ancient Greek society. Many dictionaries describe justice as the fair administration of punishments, rewards, and what is just under the law, or some might say, what is due to them. In other words, we should justly receive whatever is commensurate with our investments in a given situation, event, or agreement. If we have invested much, we should receive appropriately much, and if we have invested little, we should receive little. Getting what we deserve does not mean getting what everybody else got unless our investment of resources was the same. Justice is not about equal returns; it is about measured returns. A just decision is about receiving that which exactly fits what one did or did not do under the law.
Equality, on the other hand, is very different than justice. Equality means that everyone receives the same thing or has the same benefits or penalties relative to a common set of laws, agreements, or opportunities. Equal means equal; there is no partiality unless the same partiality applies to everyone. If the return or result of an investment is equal, regardless of uneven inputs, it is equal for all. Equal means no discrimination and equal access to results and opportunities.
The world of economic policy is continuously addressing the application of economic principles and laws in determining what is equal, and the issue of justice is always on the table. For example, any time we intervene in economic results with investments or downgrading, we alter outcomes for various sets of people toward a particular result, benefiting a particular set of people. Some economic policies, by design, are equally applied, and some are defined by justice relative to varying investments of time, differing talents and skill sets, and monetary investment.
Taxation policy, for example, is a cornucopia of just-equal (and God knows what) rationales designed to unequally stimulate or reduce economic activity and, consequently, confuse people. The philosophy around graduating income tax results in little equality, if any, at the differing levels of rate change, other than establishing a baseline to submit deferrals and deductions. The overall challenge, of course, is the hard reality that the lower economic classes have far less discretionary income for basic needs than those in higher income groups. They can never be equal in terms of discretionary spending unless there is a mandatory income set which would be widely unjust due to varying assets, skills, training, and gifting.
The point of this most basic discussion concerning the differences between the concepts of justice and equality is to note the following:
- Most people do not have a solid understanding of these two major, differing concepts.
- The populist politicians play on this ignorance divisively and with duplicity.
- Educated economists are aware of the distinctions but often face contrasting tensions on what principles to apply and when.
God’s principles bring fundamental factors into consideration as we try to refine and bring efficiency to our human decision-making processes. For those of us who understand the value of the Twelve Master Principles, this is all the more reason to become fluent in our comprehension of them and how they may be applied to proposed policies. And that is…
THE BOTTOM LINE.
Questions for Reflection & Discussion:
- Why is equal opportunity critical in discussions regarding unequal levels of wealth?
- Where does the “God factor” come into discussions regarding His purposes, and how do they differ in terms of specific individuals? (Ephesians 2:10)
- Where do extenuating circumstances come into play regarding assessments of equality before the law?