Equality is notion people and corporations are chanting about passionately. There seems to be a perceived nobility in the pursuit of equality. But few people understand the implications of it. Most do not know what type of equality they want. And few seem to care about the intense burden weighing on organizations while they wrestle with the complexity of equality.
There are two things we need to comprehend before we start demanding equality. The first is that equality comes at a cost of discrimination. Now, before you go high and right on that statement, consider Noah Webster’s definition of discrimination: “The act of distinguishing [or discriminating]…between right and wrong.”
- The act of distinguishing; the act of making or observing a difference; distinction; as the discriminationbetween right and wrong.
- The state of being distinguished.
- Mark of distinction.
Unfortunately, in our current society, discrimination is the term used to dominate issues that insinuate privilege against minorities. It has been hijacked to bring attention to a singular abuse of decision making at the expense of intellectual integrity. The repeated misuse of the term skews the hearer into severely limiting their ability to acknowledge that every decision they make is an act of discrimination. Every law that governs society is discriminatory. Freedom requires discrimination.
Next time you strike up a conversation with a friend, maybe you can break the ice with a statement like, “Discrimination is legal” then, sit back, and see how they react. Every day, we make discriminatory decisions as we go about our life, enjoy our liberties, and pursue happiness. The foods you choose to eat require discrimination. Companies that wish to stay in business hire qualified people, and in effect, discriminate against those they do not hire. All of these discriminations occur on a daily basis, and none of them have to do with the color of our skin, or anyone else’s for that matter.
What does this have to do with equality? Simple. Equality has to be decided and defined in order to exist in practice or in theory. Established criteria must be met in order to achieve equality. Establishing these criteria requires discrimination.
The second thing we need to understand are the tradeoffs involved in achieving equality. Even in our society of indulgence, we have to give certain things up to obtain others. There are two tradeoffs that invariably occur every time we pursue equality.
The first tradeoff that occurs is between freedom and security.
The second tradeoff that occurs is between opportunity and outcome. A necessary discrimination must be made to determine what kind of equality is desired. Equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are mutually exclusive. Just like freedom and security, one exists at the expense of the other. In other words, to say you are an equal opportunity employer, while having a quota of any kind, is hypocritical. You either are an equal opportunity employer or you are not, in which case you may prefer a male or a female leader, or a greater number of black or white employees, or graduates of a certain school. Quite the dilemma, huh? Everyone wants to be equal opportunity, but the same people look at demographics within the company as indicators of equality. But equality of opportunity is binary in nature. You either are or you are not. Everyone is afforded the opportunity to join, work, play, etc., or they are not. However, equality of outcome is not binary—instead, it is subjective and thereby discriminatory in nature.
A Strolling Chuckle
It was a beautiful evening with the temperature in the mid-seventies, a light breeze, and a few puffy clouds in the sky. My little one-year-old was riding a little plastic toy car as I pushed her down the sidewalk. It quickly became one of our favorite things to do together. Minutes earlier, her little eyes lit up, and her face took on a hopeful excitement when I buckled her into her little car. That is all I needed to see. It was a perfect way to wrap up my day. After a few minutes of retracing the same section of sidewalk, back-and-forth, a thought crossed my mind that made me chuckle. I saw my life from an almost out-of-body perspective and contrasted it with my life five years earlier.
At the time of this writing, I am nearing my thirty-eighth birthday. Five years ago would put me at, well, you guessed it…a healthy thirty-two and strong. Was I married? No. Was I engaged? Not a chance. In fact, I was in my prime! I was dating as I pleased, traveling the world, and thinking I wanted to keep it that way for the rest of my life. Yes, there was a little nagging though in the back of my mind that said, “When you retire on your ranch, who’s kids are you going to teach to ride horses, or to work on cars, or to fish or hunt? Who are you going to entertain? At this rate, they won’t be your own.” And I would dismiss it with, “All your friends will have kids and grandkids, but you will be the cool uncle or something, financially independent, you know. Heck! You will be independent in every way! I am single. I am free!”
So, there I was, chuckling as I strolled down the sidewalk, blessed with a beautiful wife and a little princess. On the surface, you might assume I am chuckling at my change in social status—single to married with a kid. But I was thinking about something under the surface. I was thinking about the conflict between freedom and security. Everyone struggles with insecurities. A single bachelor may never admit to this in a million years, especially one who has spent the last fifteen years training men for combat, but I was insecure.
Anyone that knows me might be surprised to read this, as I often heard things like, “Watch that guy…he’s going places!” or “Wow! You flew Cobra attack helicopters?!” or “How are you so resourceful knowing how to build, weld, ride, fight, plumb, build motors, etc.” Then again, maybe they would not be surprised. Maybe they knew something I did not. I would have never thought I was insecure. I could not see it. But I was observant, and I did notice a certain stability and security in fathers that was different than my own. Sounds strange? I am sure it does, especially if you are not a father. Imagine leading men in and out of combat , a task that requires stability and maturity, and still seeing a distinct maturity in the men I was leading that were fathers. There was something different about them.
I was chuckling because I realized that I had no idea of my insecurity. My confidence in myself and in life has increased dramatically since my little girl was born. I guess the same thing happened, to an extent, when I got married. Was it a feeling of accomplishment? Was it security in having someone to love you? I knew I was getting warmer. The feeling that welled up inside my heart when my little girl calmly looked up at me, smiled, and giggled was a degree of joy far beyond any earthly joy I had ever known. I say “earthly,” because there is an aspect of spiritual joy that I will get to in a moment. My mother used to say something like, “You will never understand until you have kids of your own.” Well, that phrase can be used for anything, but it definitely applied in this case.
There is security in love. There is ultimate security in unconditional love. I feel like I have everything I could ever want when my wife and daughter simply love me for who I am. When I see them tolerating my shortfalls and loving me through my own personal difficulties, I find security. It is stabilizing. I have heard many men say their wife and kids are their “true north.” I would caution against that, but I do see metaphor akin to it. In my case, my wife and daughter are the hands that stabilize my moral compass, but they are not my true north. In my case, God is my “true North.” God is our family’s “true North.” Our vision for our family is our magnetic north.
Geographically, there is a difference between true north and magnetic north and is referred to as magnetic declination. Declination is something we want to minimize in our life. We want our magnetic north to be as close to our true North as possible. Every day, I pray for wisdom to make this alignment. That is where my ultimate security comes from. You see, I get a glimpse of this true North at times through my daughter’s innocent eyes, but it was on full display when God gave his Son to die for me at Calvary. Now, if God loves me and my girls that much, all we have to do is follow Him, and make sure our vision aligns with what He wants.
Five years ago, I was free. I was free to see people, date, travel on a whim, work, not work, and anything I felt like doing. But with that freedom came the insecurity I was not able to pick up on. I cared more about what people thought of me, the image I projected, and how people saw me. Now, I care more about how my wife and daughter see me. I care about the example I am setting for them to follow. There is a noticeable difference between projecting confidence and having confidence. I had every reason to be confident, and I was, to an extent. But, one day, I asked Liz to marry me and gladly paid a price of freedom to have the security I now enjoy. Today, I am not free to see people, date, travel on a whim, or decide whether I want to work, yet it was an honorable trade off. You could say that I used my freedom carefully and invested it wisely.
The freedoms that I had before committing to a family, I am content to pass on to my daughter. As a Christian, I wholeheartedly believe that Christ did the same for me. He passed on His freedom by sacrificing His life on the cross, so that I would have the freedom to choose to accept His sacrifice as atonement for my sins or to reject it. But when I chose to accept it, I also paid with my freedom. Scripture says I was bought with a price, so my life is not my own, but it belongs to Christ. He paid for it. In exchange, I have the security of being accepted as His child. You see, everything has a price.
For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. –1 Corinthians 6:20
Concept: Freedom vs. security. One exists at the expense of the other. They are mutually exclusive. Where one strengthens, the other wanes.
I find it interesting that we can apply this concept many ways. Thanks to so many American patriots who have sacrificed for our country’s freedom, and the freedoms of other countries—most of whom share or used to share our values—we live in a free country. In fact, we have become so accustomed to them, that we take them for granted. As a country, we are approaching a precipice where many Americans are willing to cast our freedoms over the edge in exchange for perceived security. Security comes in a variety of flavors, so you may hear it called different things from time to time. What is the word being used today? I spoke about it on social media a few weeks back:
“Equality! Equality!” The familiar tune is seen across all forms of media, ignorantly laced with amorphous contempt against authority. The crowds refuse to define equality in fear of narrowing or discrediting their position. Chaos, rebellion, and victimhood drown out intellectual discussions and opposing viewpoints. Ironic how they do so by yelling, “Equality!”
There is something missing in the demand for equality. There is no discussion on the type of equality desired–equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. One stands in contrast to the other. Again, drowning this discussion is in their best interest as any intellectual discussion would draw out the true nature of the argument.
Equality of opportunity could be considered an American ideal, although none of the sacred political documents contain any reference to equality. Individual freedoms and their corresponding responsibilities are a theme strongly desired and historically documented dating back to the Declaration of Independence which stated, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Happiness.” These are considered sacred words by most Americans, including myself.
Equality of outcome has more closely been a French ideal. This demand for equality is historically strong in the Seine basin, where Paris is located. French egalitarianism is embodied in their national motto, “Liberté, Egalité, Franternité” which is translated “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood.”
The difference between these two ideals are clear. Because Americans have a uniquely strong concept of individualism, freedom, and responsibility, any attempt to create a France in America would fail. Similarly, any attempt to create America in France would fail. (Americans would probably start by improving and straightening the Eiffel Tower. That probably would not bode well, yet the alternative is grim as the foundation is rumored to be crumbling under its own weight making the parallels between the entitlement society and the tower uncanny.)
American exceptionalism is rooted in that Americans hold that God Himself has allowed each of us to participate in a “pursuit” with no promise of an outcome. The alternative would leave us looking to a body of governing bureaucrats to determine, against their own interest, equality of outcome. We tried that. We also beat it when God, through his [also] well-documented interventions, sided with the American cause during the Revolutionary War. The result was a melded country that fiercely believed that freedoms are not granted by institutions or governing bodies, but by God Himself, and a realization that any departure from this belief would lead us down the historical path of dependence.
Our Constitution established specific powers of the federal government, powers that are limited and enumerated. The founders believed that the government exists to perform only those services that the people cannot provide for themselves, such as the national defense. Local and state government powers were also to be limited and enumerated with the people self-governing in all other areas. The founders held that only a moral people – a nation of godly people with common spiritual and social values – were capable of self-government.
Thomas Jefferson was fearful that American’s commitment to God would wane over time. This erosion would soon deteriorate the values upon which America achieved its independence, the values upon which it was founded. He feared that once Americans forgot that God was the originator of freedom, then it will come within reach of man’s corrupt interests.
God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
Concept: American belief in God, and His providential gift of freedom, determines whether its freedom is within grasp of being taken or not.
Equality is a good thing, right? Well, it clearly depends on the deciding authority and his or her bias. Everyone has a bias. Those who say they do not, typically have the strongest bias, clearly toward themselves. What I decide is equal may not coincide with what you decide is equal, so we typically default to quantifying it. Unfortunately, it is difficult to quantify the front-end of equality (equality of opportunity). There either is or is not opportunity. But you can quantify its output or the result (equality of outcome). Therefore, in ignorance, we literally jump to conclusions, both in assumptions and expectations, and make our determination for equality based on the outcomes; only, we give no consideration to all of the variables on the front-end. What results is a classic justification of the ends justifying the means. Let me give an example.
Between 2015-2017, I attended the University of Colorado, Boulder and graduated from the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management Masters Program. Again, from 2020-2022, I enrolled to graduate a second time for a dual masters—MBA and STEM. On both occasions, I ran into a number of veterans, both male and female, who welcomed me into the Student Veterans Association (SVA). However, between my two visits to the school, there arose complaints about the SVA being a “boys club.” What became clear was not that it was exclusive to males, but that participation was not proportional between both sexes. Both were invited. Both participated. Naturally, the majority of the males who were combat arms veterans had more in common than those who did not, or those who were female. It was not a forced thing. It was natural. All were welcoming, professional, and polite as should be expected, especially from veterans.
Unfortunately, in today’s moral relativistic society, we are so sensitive to discrimination that we avoid making any distinction or even accepting any distinction, unless it fits an agenda that often denies nature and common sense. You know, simple things like boys are boys; girls are girls; men should be gentlemen, and women should be ladies. These truths are inconceivably enraging in our most liberal cities. In the same sense, we deny facts such as crooks are crooks, regardless of their party affiliation; right is right, and wrong is wrong, regardless of skin color, social standing, sexual preference, or historical grievance.
The first thing that surprised me about the school’s stance on the SVA, was that an association, designed to provide support to the veterans, relating to veterans, and exclusive to veterans was denied exclusion. Anyone could join the SVA, and the association had no say in it. In other words, all of the anti-military, anti-capitalistic, and pro-communist students could join the SVA just to deny veterans the association. You could not be denied entry if you did not qualify as a veteran. There was no qualification, and none would be allowed.
Still do not see a problem with this? Most probably did not, and the ones that did, dared not saying anything from fear of being labeled. The school stood up a committee that had the authority to grill the SVA leadership on their efforts to make everyone feel welcome. It is unclear to me if they had the authority to shut down the veteran’s organization, but they did have the authority to influence, heavily. This became evident when the “boys club” notion emerged. Whether fabricated or genuine, the SVA was compelled to do something about this male problem that seems to continue to be demonized in our society. And here is where I want to draw your attention.
The acceptable solution to the committee is for the SVA to make a female-veteran’s luncheon, exclusive in nature. It would not take a genius to guess what the participation looked like, but that did not matter. It also did not matter that in the name of inclusivity, an exclusive gathering was made or demanded, disallowing males. Were there any male golf-outings, hikes, camping trips, or anything for that matter? Males hardly get a bathroom in Boulder, Colorado. But males, being males, just do not care. Most will improvise.
In all seriousness, though, the larger issue was that both sexes were allowed to any SVA event (equality of opportunity), but the results seemed disproportionate (equality of outcome); therefore, discrimination became the school’s policy. It was justified, not by the opportunity it would afford a broader audience, but by the exclusivity—the very thing they claim to abhor—afforded a preferred segment of society. In this, and most cases, discrimination language is used to insinuate privilege against minority; however, discrimination is inevitable when the outcomes are controlled.
Here is where most schools, businesses, and organizations go wrong. They want to quantify equality. As we said earlier, it is difficult to quantify equality of opportunity; therefore, they jump to quantifying the outcome and create assumptions about equality of opportunity. One assumption they might make is that everyone wants to participate in the opportunity. That is unlikely and most commonly not the case. If in doubt, the data will, in any case, verify it. Yet, too often, they are not interested in discovery nor do they have the moral integrity to correct the assumption. Another erroneous assumption is that everyone is equally qualified. Without this assumption, the entire discrimination argument is debunked. Why else would whites get more of something, or blacks have higher turnover, or illegals working in this sector, or women not have equal numbers of leadership positions as men?
The truth is often simple as it is in this case. We live in a free society. Freedom bleeds into every aspect of American life—our dreams and aspirations, our opportunities, our choices to live anywhere we want, our lifestyles, and, yes, even the employment sector. The market is a free market which allows demand to dictate supply, not the government or a corrupt interest group. The market being free fuels intense competition between companies and organizations, which helps the consumer by keeping prices at a competitive minimum. This also serves as a natural hedge against inflation. And since the market is full of competition, this freedom to compete even seeps into the company’s autonomy to hire and promote the most competent and qualified employees, thereby discriminating against unqualified employees. It is all possible due to freedom of opportunity, not freedom of outcome.
Concept: Capitalism requires equality of opportunity where unlimited successes and failures are determined by a free and independent market. Socialism implies equality of outcome where limited successes and failures are determined by interest-driven bureaucrats.
Let us revisit the term “equality.” Does it have a role in our society? Absolutely. It is found in our Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Thomas Jefferson went the extra mile to make sure this concept understood. He spoke directly to equality of opportunity. He held that a balanced position would ensure equality of opportunity; hence, the American government was neither chartered to help them nor restrict them. This sentiment negates any merit from manipulation or discrimination of any kind—regardless of agenda, privilege, skin color, nationality, sex, or any other characteristic—to achieve a desired outcome.
“The policy of American government is to leave its citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits.” –Thomas Jefferson
It was a way of saying, “Here, America. Here is freedom. Period. Nothing more. It is delicate. Do not screw with it or you will lose it. If you are willing to exchange even a little of it for security, you will eventually lose it all, along with your security.” James McHenry, a Maryland delegate to the Constitutional Convention, capture a moment where Benjamin Franklin pulled no punches about the fragility of freedom. He wrote,
“A lady asked Dr. Franklin, ‘Well, Doctor, what have we got a republic or a monarchy?’
‘A republic,’ replied the Doctor, ‘if you can keep it.’”
Those great men who envisioned a free country—the first free country in world history to believe in the equality of men under God—were passionate about preserving it, because they understood, firsthand, the cost to attain it. John Adams stated,
“You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make a good use of it.”
His cousin, Samuel Adams, famously added,
“The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.”
If our schools, businesses, groups, ministries, clubs, and associations enjoy their freedom, appreciate its cost, and are interested in preserving it for our children, then we have a choice to make. We can either swim against popular culture and ensure equality of opportunity, which translates to merit-based opportunity and discriminates based on merit and nothing else; or, we can squander it by pursuing equality of outcome, which will leave us chasing our tails, accommodating the most contrarian voices, and sacrificing the competitiveness, effectiveness, and ultimately, the success of our organizations.
“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”—Benjamin Franklin
I continued to ponder these thoughts as it got darker. Approaching her evening routine, I brought my daughter back into the house. A few minutes later, I was feeding her at the dining room table. As she learned how to use a fork, sip from a straw, and eat the foods I put in front of her, she would occasionally slap the table, expressing an emotion of distress or anger. Experience tells us that children do this in search of a boundary. What would be acceptable? What would not be acceptable? How do I use these emotions? She was leveraging her freedom in search of security—a boundary. When I corrected her, she paused, looked pensively at me as she processed the event, and then calmly return to her previously calm demeanor. She found her boundary. Occasionally, her insecurities would drive her to test it again, just to make sure it was still there. When she encountered consistent resistance, she expressed noticeable relief and her confidence increased. However, those times I was inconsistent, sometimes tolerating what I previously had not tolerated, she would get noticeably upset; because, now, she was unsure…she was, once again, insecure.
Organizations run into the same issues. Human nature might drive an employee to resent an overly passive manager. So, they leverage their freedom in search of boundaries. Frustration mounts and the issues escalate. Things that should have been handled at the ground level rise to the Human Resources (HR) level. If the HR advocate does not feel they have leadership support to take appropriate action, they will become passive and let problems to rise to higher levels of insubordination. As a result, a misalignment between the desired culture and the current culture is manifested within the organization. That is putting it kindly. To be candid, a toxic culture emerges. The same can be said regarding a larger society as seen in the 2020 protests across the nation. This leads me to my last point in the tradeoff between freedom and security.
The more responsible we become as individuals, organizations, and society, the less security we require, and the more freedom we are able to pass onto our children. A large part of our responsibility involves continued education—obtaining knowledge and educating our youth. It is far too easy to blame the decline in American education on the government or the institutions; however, education is something that the home is primarily responsible for, not the government. If the parents accepted responsibility for their own continued education and for teaching their children, they would expect nothing less from their schools. Freedom and independence are only possible where education is prioritized. In 1822, James Madison passionately advocated for education and research.
A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
How is your organization educating your employees? Does your organization foster a culture of education and improvement? Is your organization willing to invest in creating such a culture? Many companies are afraid an investment into employee education will walk out the door, to which John Maxwell responded,
You will either invest in your team to learn, and they might leave with your free education, or you do not invest in them to learn and they will remain dumb and stay.
At Rich in Thought Consulting, we are all about educating and investing in partnering businesses, both large and small. Your organization could directly benefit from our expertise in operations, culture, leadership, or education, so contact us today!
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