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Pocket Equality

Pocket Equality

    Let’s say that the country of Elbonia has been discriminating against left-handed people for the past 800 years. Eventually the lefties organize politically and they fight for their rights. How will the lefties know when they have won the fight?

    Conceptually, equality happens when everyone is treated the same. You can easily measure that for an issue such as voting. If lefties have the right to vote, and full access to information, and there are no reports of intimidation at the polls, you’re probably there.

    And you can easily examine laws to see that they apply equally to lefties and righties. You can even check to see if juries comprised of both lefties and righties convict all types of people at the same rate in all parts of Elbonia.

    But how do you measure economic equality? Obviously you could measure the average salaries for both lefties and righties, and you could measure rates of hiring. But somewhere along the path to full economic equality, the country will have pockets that favor righties and pockets that favor lefties. For example, some companies will be actively recruiting lefties to comply with political pressures, and other companies will continue discriminating, perhaps at a subconscious level. Some regions in Elbonia will be more progressive and others will lag. And lefty entrepreneurs might start doing some discrimination of their own by hiring mostly lefties.

    My question is this: When the lefties can find plenty of employers that favor lefties, and the righties can find plenty of employers that favor righties, and the occupations and compensation across all of these jobs are similar, has economic equality been achieved? This is an important question for Elbonia because the nation might reach “pocket equality” decades before every individual employer starts treating lefties and righties the same. Somewhere on the path to economic equality, the problem transforms into one of mobility and information. And in the modern age, neither mobility nor information is much of an obstacle.

    By analogy, an army of a hundred fighters can defeat an army of a thousand if the smaller army has better mobility and information. The trick is for the army of a hundred to catch small groups of fighters from the larger army in isolated situations, kill them and run. Repeat.

    My view is that left-handed Elbonians have full economic equality when the only obstacles to equal pay are mobility, information, and strategy. And that point happens when perhaps only half of the employers in Elbonia have become enlightened.

    I was thinking about this as I read a pundit’s article that said American women make 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, but in metropolitan areas, young women are starting to earn more than young men. (Most of my readers already know that the 70 cents figure is bogus, but that’s another issue.) My question is this: When should women declare victory in economic equality? Is pocket equality close enough?

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