“Nevada Humanities is committed to equity and inclusion in everything we do. Nevada Humanities believes that diversity, equity, empathy, respect, connection, and participation are the building blocks to a just and thriving society. We are committed to the equitable treatment of all people in every aspect of our organization and its activities, and in our understanding of who participates in – and has access to – the humanities. “
By including equity among diversity, empathy, etc. and referencing participation and access of all people, the statement is clearly political, not academic. And it favors equal outcomes, not the common definition of equity as fairness of process, opportunity, standards, etc. That is, in fact, now the case for many social activist groups and legal and academic usages, not just NH.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines equity primarily as: “justice according to natural law or right[,] specifically: freedom from bias or favoritism.” There are two secondary meanings. First, financial equity related to money, property, risk interest, common stocks, etc. Second, a system of law that supplements, aids or overrides common and statutory law.
Another definition comes from Microsoft’s Bing: “the quality of being fair and impartial.” It also has similar and short versions of the common financial and legal traditions. The financial and legal traditions reflect the primary meaning of justice according to natural law or right and according to freedom from bias or favoritism – that is, fairness..
So, the primary and secondary meanings of the term remain what we thought they were and have been for 700 years. However, progressives, who increasingly have taken over academe (including law schools), jurisprudence, the nonprofit sector and much public policy, have long engaged for their own special-interest purposes in concerted broad efforts to shift the meaning of the term and others ultimately to their opposites.
That’s rhetorical abuse, including terms like “social justice”, “sustainability” and even “the public interest” in the mouths of progressives.
In the legal realm, Robert Longley, with over 30 years in municipal government and urban planning, argues:
“Equality refers to scenarios in which all segments of society have the same levels of opportunity and support. Equity extends the concept of equality to include providing varying levels of support based on individual need or ability.”
This statement shows expressly the propensity of progressives and other leftists to conceive of society, governance and law in terms of identity groups – “segments of society” – plus human activity and transactions as being between such identity groups, not individuals or firms. In short, it’s purely political.
It also focuses on activity, relations and transactions as generally mediated or conducted by government, with the assumption that government should control production, distribution, consumption and nearly everything else. It expressly hints at the Marxist principle of from each according to his ability to each according to his need.
Sadly, with the rot that has taken over academe and the appointment of Clinton and Obama judges, this very perverse mischief and destructive nonsense has gotten traction in academic law and jurisprudence. A 2016 paper from the Stanford Social Innovation Review shows a similar distortion has become endemic in some philanthropy and public health dogma.
Almost all progressive projects have used long-term disingenuous attempts to twist fundamental concepts to support their goals. Their goals are in fact predatory on the real public interest of maximizing aggregate human wellbeing and fairness among individuals.
As I have written before, and contrary to the collectivists, history shows the following promote human wellbeing and fairness: individualism; the rule of law; constitutionally limited government; separation of powers between national, regional and local units; separation of functional powers at each level of government; individual sovereignty and personal liberty; individual rights, not group entitlements; strong property rights; and high levels of economic freedom.
NH’s web site details how its mission evolved over 50 years from a meritorious focus on classical academic subjects of history, philosophy and literature to political activism. Groups like NH are entitled to their views and pursuit of them, but not to public dollars to support their politics, any more than, say, libertarians.
Ron Knecht, MS, JD & PE(CA), has served Nevadans as state controller, a higher education regent, economist, college teacher and legislator. Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.