How Far are We Away from Equality?

by David Benoit

People are protesting for equality in America—racial equality, financial equality, religious equality, sexual equality and ultimately, the culmination of all of the equalities: class equality. Of course equality is elusive, if at all practical. How do we know if it is amongst us? Do we truly know what equality is? Is equality quantifiable?

I don’t know if we will ever see true equality, but I do know that we can measure it. A practical, numerical method of gauging equality in our society can be demonstrated by what is called the Gini Coefficient. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing perfect equality and 100 implying perfect inequality, the coefficient measures the distribution of wealth within a society. The number can demonstrate the extent to which liberty and equality have coalesced through the government and the capitalistic leadership.

Now, the trick is to stay below 50 on the Gini Coefficient. If a government were to cross the 50 threshold, its population would officially be considered inequitable.  Can you guess which region in the Untied States has the greatest inequality? I’ll give you a hint: you’re standing in it. Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, the states with the highest disparities in wealth are THE SOUTH! I guess the South is good for business. Although, there may be sweet justice, and it’s New York. The Empire State is the numero uno state with the greatest income disparity at a Gini Coefficient number or 49.9… Holy shit, they barely made it. New York is 0.1 point away from being an official inequitable State. I guess that’s what they get for having Wall Street.

For reference, the U. S. isn’t doing too well as a whole either. Trundling along the bottom of the margin, we come in at a solid 48, just two points away from formal inequality, and arguably headed directly to it. However, there is hope. We are faring better than Portugal who maintains a 52.2, but not better than China, where their residents maintain a bit more equality than we do at 46. Perhaps the American Dream is more attainable in China.

Through the emotional and political gymnastics of balancing so much diversity in our wonderful country, we have our representatives to offer us leadership and a path to success through domestic policies, financial polices, monetary policies, social policies and many other policies whereby a representative intends to lead. However, while we’re wading through the muck, which representative will bestow upon us the greatest bang for our vote? A representative of liberty and equality can only be demonstrated in the role of either a trustee versus a delegate. In essence, these two are political foes that often embody the central argument concerning who the people feel should govern them. The differences set the stage for arguments in which compromises can establish moderate policy for a government. That much we could only hope.

The trustee is the representation of liberty and is granted power by the people to govern based upon the trustee’s own personal beliefs. A trustee may appeal to personal principal, but they are most likely not concerned with democratic principals as liberty may also not need to be concerned with democracy. Considered a definition of freedom, a person may not be able to obtain liberty without proper financing (“fuck-you money”) or property. Only the elite have truly obtained liberty, while those who are not elite — the middle and lower classes — are disillusioned in their pursuit of elite status due to the growing socioeconomic divide that has become the status-quo imposed on the non-elite. This all goes hand-in-hand with freedom in that to obtain freedom one must be a financially viable elite as well.

Let’s not break out the pitchforks just yet. The elites do have their place in society. With unprecedented population growth it is obvious that not everyone is or will be elite, which is something that the average white middle class male must do their best to wrap their heads around. The power elite is composed of people whose positions enable them to overstep ordinary situations and environments. As demonstrated in the midterm election, little to no democratic participation (hence: not getting out there and voting) and the consistent people’s entrustment of the government to the elites, votes and decisions by the trustee-representative may offer little transparency and differ from the population at large. Decisions and votes may be controversial and could garnish detrimental political repercussions on the representative. A great shining example of such a controversial decision was the Bush Administration’s CIA intelligence methods

On the not-to-distant other side of the political representative spectrum, the delegates’ role is to make decisions that they believe reflects the will of the people, therefore ensuring greater equality within their represented districts. The greatest transparency of government can be guaranteed with that of the delegate as a representative due to an active, broad participation of the population. Most challengers to the incumbent begin their campaigns as a delegate deploring the decision and actions of the trustee incumbent. This form of leadership may guarantee a greater equality between peoples, though a delegate may discount the greater public good of the whole of the government in favor of the district. The delegate-representative may create a community of altruism, but, ironically, if left unchecked by the trustee-representatives, the community could easily spiral into a welfare state. Public participation and transparency are the essence of maintaining a fair government with a delegate-representative.

Success of egalitarian democracy has yet to be determined within our country. However, there is room for optimism. Politicians understand that their power over the people will soon be limited further and that the political machine, put in place by financial institutions, will soon fall falter at the behest of the people’s will to be governed by the will of their votes. Maybe I’m being naïve, but there are ebbs and flows in all cycles and processes. The basis of renewed form of government must be that  “political leaders do not violate the basic consensus, or ‘democratic mold,’ if they wish to be successful in gaining their objectives, because once these fundamental restraints were broken the otherwise passive public would become aroused and would organize against the offending leaders.” Education in these matters was lit in 2008. Greater movements are solidifying to ensure the capture of our ever-elusive equality. In the spirit of the political horseshoe, where polar opposite political factions find common ground, the culmination of Ferguson, New York, Occupy, Tea Party, or what ever you wish to be called, is sweeping the nation and giving US citizen’s a greater understanding of what the difference between liberty and equality are and the balance we choose within their lives by electing those politicians wishing to truly represent the people keep the country from teetering of the number 50.

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