Friday, December 23, 2011

What does Equity mean today?

Equity (from latin aequus which means equal) is often used as a synonym of justice. We should start making a distinction between these two notions. The principle of justice applies to individuals and consists of treating equal things in equal manner and unequal things in an unequal manner.  Equity has to do with social and moral righteousness and suggests that people share a common human dignity, and as such should be treated as equals with equal concern and respect. This matters for public policy because citizens can hold the State responsible for ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals and for influencing how things are distributed, i.e. goods and resources (for instance access to healthcare, pensions ) are allocated according to need, not power.  

In current times of crisis, Equity implies that those being responsible for financial speculation - individuals, structures and mechanisms - which to a varying degree  caused the current global crisis are identified and punished so they should not be able to cause any more damage. Their privileged situations of impunity which offend gravely the innate sense of justice among human beings should be brought to an end. Equity also means that everyone should pay its share on its own income and wealth, and that,   the burden is not put only on workers but extends to hidden wealth and tax evasion. Finally, Equity means  that we should not tolerate that opacity persists on the responsibility of the crisis. This means, in substance that those who have more should pay more, but also those who never paid taxes (or very little) should start paying their contribution. 

Citizenship is often an empty word in contemporary democracies. It cannot be a feast for some and a malediction for others, but a commitment for mutual solidarity and aid. Carlo Maria Martini, a former archbishop of Milan and probably the most (intellectually) authoritative voice of the Catholic Church reminded us that  the crisis should be fought with civil courage and that helping the poor is not just a moral obligation. It means helping ourselves as a community of men. 

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