Thinking Negative: Reasons for Equal Economic Freedom and Equity
There are a great many reasons to not value freedom above equity. Which is good news for debaters facing the NCFCA LD value topic: Resolved: In the realm of economics, freedom ought to be valued above equity.
Google offers 49,100,000 results for “definition of equity” and the first was: “the quality of being fair and impartial.”
This seems all in for the negative, since when would economic freedom be a good thing without “the quality of being fair and impartial”? Most of us wouldn’t want to be buying, selling or investing and not treat others fairly and impartially. And we wouldn’t want to be treated unfairly by those on the other side of each transaction either.
Maybe the negative could ask in cross-examination: so you believe that in the realm of economics people should be treated unfairly and with partiality? Why not treat people fairly? In the realm of economics, why not value equity, “the quality of being fair and impartial” as an equal partner with freedom?
The negative need not argue that equity should be valued above freedom, just that freedom and equity are equal values working together (in the realm of economics). Equality before the law is key foundation for a just society, and in the marketplace, the realm of economics, this tradition of treating people fairly and impartially is central.
Treating people fairly doesn’t meaning being non-judgemental. A New York Times article a few years ago on law school graduates not finding law-related jobs featured a young law school graduate who had spend a year or two unemployed. She was pictured in the article with her tattoos visible. Law firms might not want to hire someone with visible tattoos. They might think their clients would be put off by this. (Though for law firms defending repeat criminals, maybe tattoos would help reassure clients?)
So treating people differently on the basis of how they look or behave (or have behaved in the past) is not necessarily unfair. After all, employers consider the education of those who apply for work. They make judgements on the basis of skills and education they think important for the job. Dictionaries have two main definitions of discrimination, the first to recognize a distinction and second to recognize an “unjust or prejudicial distinction.”
Another central feature in the realm of economics is choice and competition. Just as consumers can chose between various competing goods and services, from food and clothing, to songs and colleges, so employers can choose between job applicants for those they think best qualified. In a healthy economy job applicants have an similar opportunity to choose between different employers that offer them jobs (though in a slow economy, there are usually fewer job offers).
The economic freedom of employers to discriminate by making “unjust or prejudicial distinctions” among job applicants means those employers lose the opportunity to hire the most productive people. And in an open economy with competition, other firms benefit when they can hire capable employees that other employers discriminate against. Market economies historically have undercut ethnic discrimination, which is why racists in the American South and in South Africa needed legislation to stop businesses from hiring qualified black workers.
So perhaps the affirmative could argue that even when employers discriminate against job applicants unfairly, the market system punishes those who discriminate and provides opportunities for competitors.
Here is the full Walter Williams State Against Blacks documentary from PBS. The half-hour documentary is followed by an entertaining half-hour debate.