What is equality as it applies to people? There are different types. One type of equality is equality in identity where two items are said to be equal only if they are identical. Such a form of equality, when applied to humans, would mean that everyone looks exactly alike, has the same strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. There’s not even room for gender. It is really quite boring and obviously not the case. Humans embody variety. As such, they cannot be considered identically equal.
Another form of equality is equality in treatment. This is basically an exhortation on how humans relate to one another. Basically, they should treat everyone the same. This is a more interesting definition of equality. It can apply to one-on-one relationships, in which it morphs into the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is essentially a religious maxim. It requires a conscious and deliberate decision of the individual; and it is not a government thing. In fact, it would be bad for the government to try to impose a religious maxim like the Golden Rule on its population; such would violate the first amendment.
The next form of equality to be discussed concerns how the government treats different individuals of its population. In this case, we have Equality Before the Law. The rich man is treated the same as the poor man (the Founders believed in this). According to this approach, if you take 20% of the income of a rich man for taxes, you should do the same for the poor. We don’t do this anymore, having opted for a more progressive tax structure. There is more to this, of course, than money. For example, legal penalties. If the penalty for murder is a life sentence, it should not matter if the murderer is rich or poor, black or white, male or female, or what-have-you. Lately, our society seems to be more concerned with equality as it applies to economics. The terms income equality and income inequality are tossed about. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, related to income equality is the Equality of Economic Opportunity. This is an ideal that can’t be realized. Life is too full of chance and strange occurrences for this to occur. Rich parents implies better opportunities. Medical mishap implies poorer opportunities. Etc…. I think equality of economic opportunity is a goal worth striving for, but one should never make the mistake of thinking you will ever be able to achieve this and thereby sacrifice rights and freedoms in your pursuit.
Lastly, is the Equality of Economic Equality (that’s kind of repetitive, isn’t it?). In this case, everyone’s income is controlled by the government and is precisely the same. This is a species of socialism (or maybe communism) which has been tried in the past (and currently) usually with disastrous results. In a world of individuals, needs and wants vary. One man might be fine with $1000 a month, another might require $10,000. Variety is necessary for a healthy society. I’m not a fan of governments controlling incomes, for a number of reasons.
Anyway, those are my brief thoughts on the various species of equality.