Equity Explained, Part 3: A Return to Fairness

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

As outlined in part 2 of this essay, equity as part of the EDI agenda represents a thoroughly dishonest and dangerous process of institutional capture, which subverts the historical trend of the rising freedom and empowerment of individuals, but also dissolves the natural bonds of affinity and sociality between individuals in organisations by a subtle enforcement of an uncriticisable moral code, language manipulation and self-policing of opinion, which ultimately only reinforces a hierarchy of compliance, one which, moreover, replaces the natural hierarchy of such things as competence and merit with one of moral worth. It is worth, though, reiterating and summarising the various layers of this deception (or “misdirection” as we termed it) as it illuminates the rather complex psychosocial nature of phenomena such as equity. This in turn will enable a greater insight into what a profoundly different and truly emancipatory theory of equity might look like.

In classic Equity Theory equity is an individual judgment of fairness comparing one’s own input and reward with a comparable other. The postmodern use of the term ‘equity’, however, removes the judgment from the realm of individual assessment and places it in the hands of ideologically motivated advocates of social justice, who are informed by an intersectional perspective of identity politics. Within institutions this is designed to result in actual unequal outcomes, for example in hiring and promotion, for certain groups defined as worthy by identity politics. Perception or potential perception of such inequities is already countered by a victimological narrative and resultant moralizing of identities, as either “oppressed”, with whom one must sympathise and form “allyships”, or “privileged”, who are to be denigrated and engage in self-denunciation, and a parallel narrative of fabricated ‘thought crimes’ applied to those who oppose or might consider opposing the inequities arising from this and the justifications for them, resulting in an environment of threat, intimidation and silencing, which can only be considered a form of coercion. However, it is insufficient that there be a sullen acquiescence to unfairness while harbouring a silent opposition. So various forms of ‘training’, such as ‘unconscious bias training’ must be deployed in an attempt to counter the natural individual judgment of what is equitable and to accept the judgement of a self-appointed moral authority.1

The apparent complexity, strategically and tactically, is extraordinary. However, it is largely self-generating. I have likened this type of phenomenon elsewhere to viral infection.2 Such negative transmission of a resentful and, ultimately, nihilistic ideology arises from a few basic principles: the refusal to test any ideological assertions against empirical evidence; systematic lying and camouflaging of reality; the use of emotive coercion and intimidation, rather than reasoned argument; and accusing those in opposition or are attempting to uncover the truth of exactly the same (or worse) practices. In other words, classic deflection, deception and misdirection, as practiced by congenital liars, criminals, ideologues and con artists through the ages. Unfortunately, many well-meaning and intelligent people are taken in, and even assist in this process, by its superficial appeal to fairness and the opportunity to burnish their own virtuous self-image.3

Today, virtually every organ of state, institution and organisation has been captured by the ideas of postmodern identitarianism through the trojan horse of EDI, including the academy, law, education, the corporate world and the media – even the scientific media.4 The threats – to livelihood and even to actual freedom – are becoming real, as rules, policies and even laws are deployed in the name of compliance. If it is still possible, this perverted interpretation of equity engaged in by the postmodernists has to be exposed and purged from all our institutions, which otherwise risk failing.

From this rather pessimistic assessment of where we stand today it may, nevertheless, it may be possible to discern and retrieve a reconstructed and improved concept of equity. First, the meaning of equity as understood by Equity Theory, that of the individual judgment of fairness, has to be reinstated. The individual judgment of fairness is the benchmark for any free and effective society. However, in the spirit of fairness, the postmodernists are right that there must be, for fairness to be actual and not simply perceptual, a collective, social correlate of the individual judgment, some societal input into attending to the problems within the concept of equality of opportunity. Let me expand on these two points.

Equity Theory states that equity is the state in which the ratio of one’s own input (into work or any other activity) to the rewards reaped (monetary or some other form of appropriate recognition) is judged similar by oneself to the ratio of input to rewards for another person, usually in a similar place or occupation, a comparable someone in other words. Being a ratio, though, it is actually scalable, meaning that it is possible to compare oneself to another in a very different situation. This requires, clearly, a great deal of transparency and honesty. For example, considering someone who earns disproportionately more, one would have to go through a self-reflective process to consider relative inputs in terms of hours worked, but also temperament, educational level and skillsets achieved over time, responsibilities and such things as penalties for failure.

As we are social beings, this sense of fairness extends beyond how we ourselves feel treated to others close to us and, beyond that, to others that we feel an affinity to and even, at the most abstract, moving outward, to others in general. The sense of fairness belongs within our own experience but is not limited to feelings just for ourselves. But unlike the EDI agenda which captures the aspect of our sensibility towards others to advance an agenda of minority interests to which the majority are coerced into accepting, equity in its natural state is a homeostasis achieved through the negotiation between individuals, that both realises and acts upon the norms of society.

Societies as they have evolved towards modernity and the development of prosperous economies are able to offer more services to individuals and more opportunities. The state as the representative will of the people should be responsive to the will of the people for opportunities for advancement of their fundamental desires for economic and physical well-being, and opportunities to do something meaningful with their life. The natural norm of a society of free and prosperous individuals is for opportunities to be extended equally to all (the converse is true; in societies marked by oppression and want, there is a tendency to hoarding, both of opportunity and goods). However, the agreed norms of society also extract a quid pro quo: that the will of the majority prevail, which is that all, unless there are exceptional circumstances, abide by the convention that individuals avail themselves of the opportunities that society offers, such as being a good citizen, being educated and working for a living.

There exists, therefore, a symbiosis between the sense of fairness (internal to the individual) and equality of opportunity (prevalent in the norms of society, reflecting the will of a people) that we can refer to as the proper sense of equity. However, this is not a static concept, either for the individual or society at large, but changes over time and with circumstances. The freer and wealthier a society becomes the more possibility that the individuals who make it up becomes sensitised to inequities in opportunity and the more augmented the sense of ‘opportunity’ becomes. Such a society also becomes more capable of addressing inequities of opportunity, for example improving avenues for education and training, implementing policies that deal with the difficulties of the genuinely disadvantaged and providing medical or technological solutions to many disabilities.

At the same time, no society can progress unless there is dissent and criticism of what exists. Dissent from the accepted norms of society is what changes the discussion in society and sensitises individuals to inequities. Reason and the evidence of the past and present indicate that this happens best in a society that prioritises the freedom of the individual. The point of equilibrium in such a society is represented by tolerance of others that also places demands on individuals and a cost to dissent, which is the right to disagree and disapprove of the dissenter. While the issues underlying and motivating the equity (EDI) agenda are real (though exaggerated and hypostasised), the agenda itself seeks to impose conformity on society, which must then be backed up by coercive measures. Besides the potential economic costs on society, the danger is that rather than generating tolerance, adaptation and gradual acceptance of difference, it will result in backlash, social fracture and hatred of the other.

The goal must be a society which is considered fair by most of its population, in which there is continual progress towards reducing inequities of opportunity to zero, even though this cannot realistically be obtained as every development brings new challenges. The goal can never be equality of outcome, because this is to engage in a type of reductionism – invariably about people’s earnings – which is unrealistic in anything other than a feudal society and undesirable in anything but a communist society – the ultimate forms of power and wealth inequality. A free and equitable society is one in which people negotiate the norms of fairness in relation to themselves and others from a panoptic viewpoint and, at the same time, place demands on themselves and others and have demands placed on them by others. This is why a fair society is one of individual and social resilience.

In contradistinction to the postmodernist view that a moral code that favours a supposedly oppressed minority (the hallmark of all authoritarian political ideologies) should be imposed on individuals using the authority of government and social institutions, in a fair society government and social institutions represent the will of the individuals who make up that society and inhabit or utilise its institutions. Principles which can be inferred from this that would underlie such a social settlement and would constitute any government’s priorities must include:

  • The basis of the nation and its economy lies in the people, its principal asset
  • The common good rests on the good of each individual
  • Recognition of the common desires and the necessity of the freedom to pursue those desires

In the pursuit of fairness, policies of government and non-governmental organisations should include:

  • ‘Blindness’ strategies in assessing merit developed and encouraged widely
  • Technical, educational, psychological, etc. support systems developed
  • A greater awareness of the different types of disadvantage and research into how these can be solved or mitigated


1. Many have noted ironically that the postmodern left has been using Orwell’s 1984 as a textbook rather than a warning, drawing the parallels between rightthink and EDI or thoughtcrime and the various fabricated ‘phobias’. Tellingly, 1984 also ends with the realisation by Winston Smith that he loves Big Brother.

2. Don Trubshaw (2020). The Spectre Haunting the West: Marxism and the Contagion of Resentment. Societal Values (Online): https://www.societalvalues.co.uk/the-spectre-haunting-the-west-marxism-and-the-contagion-of-resentment/

3. Cui bono? Actually, a number of different types of people. As mentioned, well-intentioned liberal-minded people get to feel they are doing something good, sticking up for the victims of oppression, as long as they are able to swallow a certain amount of intellectual sophistry. Then there is a cadre of people who make their living from identity politics: researchers and authors, lecturers, diversity champions, and so on, who are believers and opportunists, very often from the very minorities championed by the advocates of identity politics and, predominantly, middle class. Then there are a minority who genuinely hate the West and want to see every vestige of it utterly destroyed, for whom identity politics is the perfect opportunity to critique endlessly every aspect of its culture, society and history. Finally, the very few (ultimately tending to one individual) who see in the chaos to come the perfect opportunity to establish a totalitarian rule of whatever system is supposed to rise when democratic society collapses.

4. Bo Winegard (28 Aug 2022). The Fall of ‘Nature’: A once-respected journal has announced that it will be subordinating science to ideology. Quillette (Online):  https://quillette.com/2022/08/28/the-fall-of-nature/?fbclid=IwAR0qxCHOH1pDI74GlUl1jcmS7MAZUhTMG03m-C5HcQFIpd6U3v1WduVIfrc

By Don Trubshaw

Don Trubshaw is a co-founder of the website Societal Values. He has a PhD in the philosophy and sociology of education and teaches in Higher Education.

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