Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time to Bring an End to Equity

"Liberal Party to face up to the fact that neo-liberalism was an abject failure." Agreed. However, the party's left flank needs to shoulder much of the blame. In the face of Martin's cost cutting, they were far too willing given up the principle of universality for the sake of means tested social programs and are still very much of that mindset. By turning every social program on offer into a form of welfare, the ability of the Liberals to offer anything other than tax cuts during elections is very limited. Means tested social programs do not win elections; the populace is not going to get excited about paying for a service that only a small percentage of the public can use. On the flip side of things, the public does not get exercised about cutting back on the services only a small percentage of the public can use. That said, even on the tax cutting front the Liberals have failed to understand why a cut to a universal consumption tax might prove more popular targeted income tax cuts.

Of course, a turn to means tested social programs to the exclusion of universal ones was part of larger trend within liberalism itself away from universal to the particular. The Liberals have increasing focused increasingly on affirmative action policies under the rubric of equity. This has proved to be a disaster for the working class. Equity sows division within Canadian society and is an anachronism given Canada's rapidly changing demographic profile. The last 6 words from the following criminal code sub clause are a great case in point. "All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered, with particular attention for aboriginal offenders." They formed the center piece of the wildly unpopular Gladue decision. Also, as it does nothing to address underlying causes of inequality, equity does little to advance equality. It only nibbles around the edges. A National daycare care system, for example, would do far more in a year for women's wage equality than 25 years of the Employment Equity Act has. The former addresses the underlying causes of the wage gap. The later hurts the cause of young white males because 50 something white males earn more than than their 50 something female colleges and it destroys the liberal ideal of a government built around merit. Hiring the "best" person for the job is a far cry from using the government as a counterpoint to perceived or actual deficiencies in the private sector employment. Worst of all, the focus on equity has meant that instead of trying to move the case of all workers forward, something that is desperately needed, liberals and progressives of all stripes have instead devoted virtually all their energies to shuffling the deck. Calls for a bigger share of the pie has been abandoned for sake of each of the ever smaller pieces having an equal amount of fruit.

Finally, the notion that the state should again adopt a paternalistic pose with regard to certain groups after a century of progressives seeking to reveal the oppressive nature of state sanctioned paternalism is indeed ironic. Residential schools and separate but equal may be part of an inglorious past, but "Afro-centric" schools are what is needed.

2 comments:

Volkov said...

If you want your merit-based system, then you need to ensure there is a level playing field from which to start. That's the key idea, or at least it should be the key idea, behind things like pay equity or even affirmative action. That you need to have a level playing field from which meritocracy can build up from. If you have a system thats inherently biased against women or non-Caucasians, then you need to ensure that you can correct the mistake.

Koby said...

1) There is no evidence whatsoever that such a bias exists inside government agencies and these organizations are the primary focus of the Employment Equity Act. What evidence on offer is that such a bias exists outside of such agencies and it is just assumed that despite 27 years of the employment equity that such bias exists inside government agencies. Such policies are only ever justified on the grounds that such measures are temporary and supported by hard evidence. Employment Equity Act fails miserably on both accounts.


2) The notion that such measures could ever address inequality in measure way is laughable. Forget the class ceiling, the biggest obstacle to women in the work force in Canada is lack of affordable childcare. The gap between wage earning does not exist until the women move into prime child barring years -- which is now the early 30s. Indeed, women in their 20s now earn more than their male counterparts. Women are still the prime caregivers in Canada and having one child yet alone two or three derails a women's career in ways that is simply not true for a man. The lack of affordable childcare impedes of ability of mothers to get their careers back on track and some cases torpedoes their careers altogether. Not surprisingly countries with more daycare access tend to have higher levels of gender equality and lower rates of child poverty.


Of course without regard to education the question has never been bias per say, but rather economic and social forces or preventing minority groups succeeding at schools in way that white kids do. The problem with such an argument is this. It makes it sound like all high achievers go on to higher education, but because of aforementioned social economic factors there are not enough of them. This is flat wrong. Poor rich students are much more likely to the go on to university than high achieving poor students. The dearth of poor minority students, in other words, has a lot more to lack of money than an insufficient number getting good grades and high SAT scores.