The complexity of the idea of equally cannot be reduced but it can be ordered and explained. Although economists are trained from an early age to steer clear of normative arguments. However, equity consideration occurs in almost every public policy discussion including that of economics.
In particular, it is a powerful theme in the debate for or against justification of public intervention, designed to promote greater equality and welfare than would be realized through the market forces.
A lot has been said about equity and these ways of thinking lie heavily on jurisprudence, social philosophy and welfare economics its difficulties as a public policy theme are not of course overcome especially when the nation is deployed as so often, as lofty principles.
Certainly there is unity of treatment of the notion of equity. Nevertheless, it has professional and disciplinary resonance. In the political economy of public policy and state action, it encompasses institutional, political and collective phenomena in particular; the criteria of equity must be capable of explaining the distributive outcomes of institutional encounter between the state and its citizens.
In the case of tax treatment, the criteria of equity begin with articulation of a principle that governs tax treatment and continues with consideration of standards that serves as model of fairness. Though a sense of fairness can be said to be the result of social consensus of the acknowledged differential abilities, with full tincture of ethical and even esthetical values. The main methodological problem in arriving at and treatment of equals equally and unequal unequally in taxation is surrounded with controversy.
Conventionally, just treatment of unequal is best achieved by direct taxes and the equal treatment of equals can be achieved at least, as well by direct, as by direct taxes. As a matter of ultimate policy concern, it is obviously not the distribution of the monetary burden of the tax that matters most to the state. On the contrary, it is the point of the tax incidence, which defines not only the real tax burden, but also the degree of fairness of the tax system.
Recapitulating the economics of the utilitarian and marginalist, social policy and political life, are not at the end transcended beyond their theoretical convention of micro-economics of public choice, which is individuated and disaggregated. This thrust is away from the real world of political conflict, social change and public policy decision, which is about commitment of resource not as a single moment of decision, but as a resources commitment which must be sustained overtime.
Although the search for public policy alternatives in decision making is neither random nor open minded. Decisions what so ever are about interests, values, preferences and probabilities, including the estimates of such probabilities. In both the formal and informal employment of decision rules, committee rules are the most familiar example which the determination of the choice process, the decision, evidently is effected by the rules of the committee. It is pertinent to note that the structure of rules and styles in any decision making collectively, definitely effects the determinates and the outcome of the choice process, including that of public policy.
As is the case, in the English Legal system, judges decide what is right as they listen to people arguing in front of them within specified rules about interpreting statutes and making appeals to custom and cases. In saying what is right, they can also for various reasons be held occasionally to go beyond what is merely in that sense right to what is fair. However, it was not meant that the first set of rules were supposed to be abrogated or destroyed. But somehow equity fiction could be called into play using the theme of evident unfairness of outcomes for individual. Therefore, the other set of rules, equity, itself becomes a system, an institution and it has to be similarly explained.
Equity in this sense of law would thus be a non-controversial solution to the problems of evaluating and dealing with institutional outcomes. A merely objective instrumentation, only in some social situation in which all participants were equal and identical in interest, values and capabilities. And which the institution of equity themselves were wholly neutral and wholly efficient.
In the words of Vinogradoff, specifically and principally in law, equity is such a help afforded by the power of individualization, the supplementing of gaps in law and the correction of harsh consequences of legal rules. Indeed, general rules do not deal with particular cases. However, he argued, the dislocation between general and particular has not merely provided grounds for recourse to some greater and more capable general rules!
For economics, and particularly the branches of welfare economics preoccupied with public choice, a comparable problem arises. Again, there is the profound disjunctive between a general theory constructed on obstructed individuality and the reality of state intervention and of individual’s experience of it. Here, however, the dominant tendencies in economics have tended to retreat rather than to construct a second body of principle analogous to lawyer’s equity. Instead, the solution is seen as the re-statement of their variant ideological positions, from the apostolic of the free market economy, to the institutional and welfarist economists, including the know all Marxists.
Notwithstanding, the point of the classic debates. Public policy is an outcome of public or collective decision, effected in decision process in institution, which are more than those loose aggregations of individual be they rational or irrational, decision makers. Social philosopher such as Durkheim concluded that X-raying a complex socio-economic and political phenomenon in a society requires a consideration of what he refers to as “social facts” in decision-making.
The major challenges that faced the twenty first century revivalist in social philosophy of society, politics and public policy was how to imbibed this question of social good and welfare, particularly in relation to distribution of who get what, evaluated according to the principle of right and fairness.
John Rawls in his discussion on politics and society, distinguish the principles of “original position” as a part of a moral theory from what happens in the working of his famous theory of “constitutional convention”. This convention which guarantees equal right of political participation to its members zooms away the problem of representation, party politics, and social position including bureaucratization. Thus the participating members of the convention having selected, legislated, constituted their principle of justice return to their place in the society and henceforth judge their claims on them social system by these selected principles of justice.
The Rawlsian society is not merely individualistic, and in the sense of conflict free, though it is stripped of interest and ideology. It is fundamentally a society contracted on the premise of the theory of “good” with the principle of justice as the original and sufficient solution to the problem of equity and the rule of law. Although he acknowledged that society is typically marked by conflict, he however observed the failure of egoism to provide a satisfactory definition of the role of justice
Rawlsian society is a just society. For him a just society is stable. A society in which people are sufficiently motivated to live up to justice, to the principle and standards which the parties in the original position would either already have enjoyed or now be concerned to legislate on. It is a society of co-operative venture for mutual advantage and characterized by identity of common interest. We are so resolute. What goes on in our minds here, has always been and will always be a product of our society in the original position. Inflicted with a call to a stable society free from tribal chauvinism, egoism, religious fracas, elite manipulation and all other forms of nepotism in our march to Nationhood.
May Allah guide us. Amen
Abdullahi M. Jidda