Equality - Generally, an ideal of uniformity in treatment or status by those in a position to affect either. Acknowledgment of the right to equality often must be coerced from the advantaged by the disadvantaged. Equality of opportunity was the founding creed of U.S. society, but equality among all peoples and between the sexes has proved easier to legislate than to achieve in practice. Social or religious inequality is deeply ingrained in some cultures and thus difficult to overcome (see caste). Government efforts to achieve economic equality include enhancing opportunities through tax policy, subsidized training and education, redistributing wealth or resources, and preferential treatment of those historically treated unequally (see affirmative action). See also civil rights movement; feminism; gay rights movement; human rights; Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Encyclopædia Britannica)
In its prescriptive usage, concerned with social and political equality, ‘equality’ is a loaded and ‘highly contested’ concept. On account of its normally positive connotation, it has a rhetorical power rendering it suitable as a political slogan (Westen 1990). At least since the French Revolution, equality has served as one of the leading ideals of the body politic; in this respect, it is at present probably the most controversial of the great social ideals. There is controversy concerning the precise notion of equality, the relation of justice and equality (the principles of equality), the material requirements and measure of the ideal of equality (equality of what?), the extension of equality (equality among whom?), and its status within a comprehensive (liberal) theory of justice (the value of equality). Each of these five issues will be discussed by turn in the present article. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Equality)
Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. The aim according to this often complex and contested concept is that important jobs should go to those “most qualified” – persons most likely to perform ably in a given task – and not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, friendship ties to whoever is in power, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste, or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Chances for advancement should be open to everybody interested such that they have “an equal chance to compete within the framework of goals and the structure of rules established.” The idea is to remove arbitrariness from the selection process and base it on some “pre-agreed basis of fairness, with the assessment process being related to the type of position,” and emphasizing procedural and legal means. Individuals should succeed or fail based on their own efforts and not extraneous circumstances such as having well-connected parents. It is opposed to nepotism and plays a role in whether a social structure is seen as legitimate. (Wikipedia: Equal opportunity)
Equal opportunity is “the idea that everyone has an equal chance to achieve wealth, social prestige, and power because the rules of the game, so to speak, are the same for everyone”. This is a concept that can be applied to society saying that no one has a head start. This means that for any social equality issue dealing with wealth, social prestige, power, or any of that sort, the equality of opportunity standard can defend the idea that everyone had the same start. This views society almost as a game and any of the differences in equality are due to luck and playing the “game” to one’s best ability. In his textbook, Conley gives an example of this standard of equality by using a game of Monopoly to describe society. He claims that “Monopoly follows the rules of equality of opportunity” by explaining that everyone had an equal chance when starting the game and any differences were a result of the luck of the dice roll and the skill of the player to make choices to benefit their wealth. Comparing this example to society, the standard of equality of opportunity eliminates inequality because the rules of the games in society are still fair and the same for all; therefore making any existing inequalities in society fair. Lesley A. Jacobs, the author of Pursuing Equal Opportunities: The Theory and Practice of Egalitarian Justice, talks about equality of opportunity and its importance relating to Egalitarian Justice. Jacobs states that “ at the core of equality of opportunity… is the concept that in competitive procedures designed for the allocation of scarce resources and the distribution of the benefits and burdens of social life, those procedures should be governed by criteria that are relevant to the particular goods at stake in the competition and not by irrelevant considerations such as race, religion, class, gender, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other factors that may hinder some of the competitors’ opportunities at success”(Jacobs). This concept that is taken from his reading points out factors like race, gender, class etc. that should not be looked at when talking about equality through this notion. Conley also mentions that this standard of equality is at the heart of a bourgeois society, such as a modern capitalist society, or “a society of commerce in which the maximization of profit is the primary business incentive”. It was the equal opportunity ideology that civil rights activists adopted in the era of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. This ideology was used by them to argue that Jim Crow laws were incompatible with the standard of equality of opportunity. (Wikipedia: Social equality)
The term equal opportunity refers to the absence of discrimination based on involuntary personal attributes, such as sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, or sexual orientation. The concept of equality of opportunity identifies equality with open and fair competition for scarce resources but does not challenge an inequalitarian distribution of resources within society. This has sparked disagreement in political and theoretical struggles over what constitutes a “just society”. .. Read the article at encyclopedia.com Copy
Equality of outcome, equality of condition, or equality of results is a political concept which is central to some political ideologies and is used regularly in political discourse, often in contrast to the term equality of opportunity. It describes a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving equal results generally entails reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society, and usually involves a transfer of income or wealth from wealthier to poorer individuals, or adopting other measures to promote equality of condition. A related way of defining equality of outcome is to think of it as "equality in the central and valuable things in life." One account in the Journal of Political Philosophy suggested that the term meant "equalising where people end up rather than where or how they begin" but described this sense of the term as "simplistic" since it failed to identify what was supposed to be made equal. There is widespread agreement that the term is controversial. (Wikipedia: Equality of outcome)
Equality of outcome is “a position that argues each player must end up with the same amount regardless of the fairness”. This ideology is predominately a Marxist ideology that is concerned with equal distribution of power and resources rather than the rules of society. In this standard of equality the idea is that “everyone contributes to society and to the economy according to what they do best.”. Under this notion of equality, Conley states that “nobody will earn more power, prestige, and wealth by working harder”. When defining equality of outcome in education “the goals should not be the liberal one of equality of access but equality of outcome for the median number of each identifiable non-educationally defined group, i.e. the average women, negro, or proletarian or rural dweller should have the same level of educational attainment as the average male, white, suburbanite”. The outcome and the benefits from equality from education from this notion of equality promotes that all should have the same outcomes and benefits regardless of race, gender, religion etc. The equality of outcome in Hewitt’s point of view is supposed to result in “a comparable range of achievements between a specific disadvantaged group – such as an ethnic minority, women, lone parents and the disabled – and society as a whole” (Wikipedia: Social equality)
Equality of Condition, introduced by Conley, is the idea that everyone should have an equal starting point. Conley goes back to his example of a game of Monopoly to explain this standard. If the game of four started off with two players both having an advantage of $5,000 dollars to start off with and both already owning hotels and other property while the other two players both did not own any property and both started off with a $5,000 dollar deficit, then from a perspective of the standard of equality of condition, one can argue that the rules of the game “need to be altered in order to compensate for inequalities in the relative starting positions”. From this we form policies in order to even equality which in result bring an efficient way to create fairer competition in society. Here is where social engineering comes into play where we change society in order to give an equality of condition to everyone based on race, gender, class, religion etc. when it is made justifiable that the proponents of the society makes it unfair for them. Sharon E. Kahn, author of Academic Freedom and the Inclusive University, talks about equality of condition in their work as well and how it correlates to freedom of individuals. They claim that in order to have individual freedom there needs to be equality of condition “which requires much more than the elimination of legal barriers: it requires the creation of a level playing field that eliminates structural barriers to opportunity”. Her work talks about the academic structure and its problem with equalities and claims that to “ensure equity… we need to recognize that the university structure and its organizational culture have traditionally privileged some and marginalized other; we need to go beyond theoretical concepts of equality by eliminating systemic barriers that hinder the equal participation of members of all groups; we need to create and equality of condition, not merely an equality of opportunity”.“Notions of equity, diversity, and inclusiveness begin with a set of premises about individualism, freedom and rights that take as given the existence of deeply rooted inequalities in social structure” therefore in order to have a culture of the inclusive university, it would have to “be based on values of equity; that is, equality of condition” eliminating all systemic barriers that go against equality. (Wikipedia: Social equality)
Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning "equal")—or, rarely, equalitarianism or equalism—is a trend of thought that favors equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term has two distinct definitions in modern English. It is defined either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people, economic egalitarianism, or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity. (Wikipedia)
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought in political philosophy. An egalitarian favors equality of some sort: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect. An alternative view expands on this last-mentioned option: People should be treated as equals, should treat one another as equals, should relate as equals, or enjoy an equality of social status of some sort. Egalitarian doctrines tend to rest on a background idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. So far as the Western European and Anglo-American philosophical tradition is concerned, one significant source of this thought is the Christian notion that God loves all human souls equally. Egalitarianism is a protean doctrine, because there are several different types of equality, or ways in which people might be treated the same, or might relate as equals, that might be thought desirable. In modern democratic societies, the term “egalitarian” is often used to refer to a position that favors, for any of a wide array of reasons, a greater degree of equality of income and wealth across persons than currently exists. Read the article at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. With all due apologies to that great thinker, I would like to suggest that unexamined concepts or ideas are not worth having and, in fact, may cause great harm. What do I mean? .....
Read the article at themoralliberal.com
To say of any two objects under consideration are equal means that one of them is neither more nor less than another in an explicitly indicated respect.
Is there then any respect in which all human beings, without a single exception, can be declared equal? Yes, there is only one. It is that they are all human, all members of one species, called *Homo sapiens*, and all having the same natural and thereby the same specific attributes that differentiate them from the members of all other species. In all other respects, any two human beings may be found unequal, one having more of a certain human attribute than another, either as the result of native endowment or of individual attainment.
When this is understood, it will be seen that there is no conflict or contradiction between saying (1) that all human beings are equal in respect of their common humanity, and (2) that all human beings are also unequal, one with another, in a wide variety of respects in which they differ as individual members of the human species.
What are we asserting when we say that all human beings are equal in respect to their common humanity?
The Declaration asserts that all men are created equal. Lincoln, in the opening words of the Gettysburg Address, speaks of this nation being dedicated to that proposition. But that proposition is not self-evident, because it is not undeniable that God exists or that God created mankind along with other living organisms and everything else in the cosmos. These things may be true. They may be believed. But they can also be and have been disbelieved and denied; it is quite possible to think the opposite. For a truth to be self-evident it must be beyond the shadow of a doubt. It must be undeniable simply because its opposite is impossible for us to think.
We can make the proposition self-evident by dropping the word “created” and rephrasing the statement as follows: All men are by nature equal. This reiterates what has already been said: Human equality consists in the fact that no human being is more or less human than another because all have the same specific nature by virtue of belonging to one and the same species. If they all have the same nature, then it cannot be denied that, in respect of having that nature, they are all equal; no one has more or less than another.
Human equality — the personal equality of men as men, or of human beings as human — is by no means the only equality with which we are concerned in our social lives. We are concerned with what, in contradistinction to personal equality, might be called circumstantial equality that is, equality of conditions or results, equality of opportunity, and equality of treatment.
There is one very important difference between personal and circumstantial equality. Personal equality is either a fact or it is not. We say that human beings are equal as persons, not that they should or ought to be equal in that respect. With regard to circumstantial equality, we can speak both descriptively and prescriptively. On the one hand, we can say that in a given society at a certain time, all human beings are or are not politically or economically equal; and on the other hand, we can also say that whether or not they are, they should or ought to be. Under certain circumstances, they may not in fact be treated as equals, but those circumstances should be altered because they ought to be treated as equals.
The descriptive truth that, as a matter of fact, all human beings are by nature equal as persons underlies all prescriptions calling, as a matter of right, for equality of conditions, equality of opportunity, and equality of treatment.
That all human beings have the right to equal status as citizens with suffrage, that all have the right to equal treatment under the law, that all have the right to equal educational opportunity, that all have the right to a certain equality of economic conditions (to be haves rather than have-nots), together with all the prescriptive statements to which these rights lead, concerning what a just society ought to do about establishing circumstantial equality in these respects-these have their foundation in the truth that all human beings are by nature equal.
If that were not true, it would be impossible, in my judgment, to justify the demands for political and economic equality as ideals to be achieved.
From Chapter 7 of “We Hold These Truths” (1987).
This understanding of equality and inequality remains constant in all the dimensions in which things are related as equal or unequal. What differs as one distinguishes different dimensions is (1) the character of the subjects of which equality and inequality are predicated, (2) the mode of the predication, and (3) the qualifications attached to the predication. Let us consider each of these differences in turn.
1. Personal and Circumstantial Equality
The subjects being compared and regarded as equal or unequal fall into two main categories: human beings and all the external circumstances under which human beings live and act and whatever factors impinge upon their conduct and their welfare. I shall refer to the first category as human or personal equality and inequality, and to the second as circumstantial equality and inequality.
Human equality and inequality can be further subdivided into that which arises from the endowments that persons bring into this world at birth and that which derives from their attainments — the attributes or characteristics they acquire in the course of their lives, the degree to which they develop their innate endowments, and the work of their hands and minds.
Inequality in height exemplifies a human inequality that is genetically determined and so is an inequality between two persons that is a matter of native endowment. To whatever extent we are born with one or another degree of intelligence, human equality and inequality in this respect are also a matter of native endowment.
Two human beings who start out equal in their genetically determined degree of intelligence may develop that endowment to different degrees, either through what they themselves do with their minds or because of the circumstances under which they are reared, trained, and educated. In either case, they may end up unequal in their mental attainments. One may know more than the other or have more skill in the use of his mind.
Two persons born with the same capacity for engaging in a certain sport may, at a later stage in their lives, be unequal in the degree of their acquired skill in playing tennis or in swimming.
One individual may put his native endowments to work in the production of wealth or other goods, while another, with equal endowments, may squander his talents, producing nothing, or employ them less assiduously and efficiently, producing less. They must then be regarded as unequal in this respect.
The personal equality or inequality that stems from the degree to which individuals are natively endowed in one way or another, let us call natural, as contrasted with the equality or inequality of human attainments, which can be referred to as acquired. All personal equalities and inequalities are either natural or acquired.
When we turn to circumstantial equality and inequality, we confront the difference between the type of circumstantial equality or inequality that has come to be called equality or inequality of condition, and the type that has come to be called equality or inequality of opportunity.
The difference between equality of condition and equality of opportunity can best be illustrated by a race in which individuals all start out with no one affected by circumstances more or less favorable to winning the race. Their equality of opportunity consists in an equality in the initial conditions under which they enter the race. When the race is run, these same individuals end up unequal. According to the speed with which they ran the race, one comes in first, another second, another third, and so on. If prizes are awarded, the gold, silver, and bronze medals represent an inequality of conditions, which is also sometimes called an inequality of results.
The example I have used is complicated by the fact that the runners who enjoy an equality of opportunity with regard to external circumstances may enter the race unequal in their native endowments as competitors. Even if they are equal in their native endowments, they may enter the race unequal in the degree to which they, by exercise and training, have developed those endowments. Prior inequalities of endowment or attainment will, of course, affect the inequality of resulting conditions in spite of the equality of opportunity provided by the equal initial conditions under which they entered the race.
That is why it is often pointed out that if human beings are granted nothing more than equality of opportunity, inequality of conditions is likely to result. The individuals who are better endowed or better trained are most likely to end up ahead of those less well endowed or trained. An equality of resulting conditions may be achievable only by strenuous efforts on the part of society to see that its individual members are somehow given or granted such equality. When, for example, all members of a society — or all with justifiable exceptions — are given the same political status, let us say that of citizenship with suffrage, an equality of political condition results.
Equality before the law is another example of an equality of condition that a society can establish. It does so when it accords equal treatment in the courts and in other aspects of the legal process to all individuals regardless of their inequalities of endowment or attainment, regardless whether they are rich or poor, regardless of the ethnic group to which they belong, and so on.
Equality of condition may be either an equality in the status granted individuals, an equality in the treatment accorded them, or an equality with respect to their possession of one or another basic human good, such as political liberty, wealth, a healthful environment, or schooling. Their equal possession of such goods depends upon factors controlled by society, not entirely by themselves.
For our present purposes, it will suffice to subdivide equality or inequality of conditions into three main categories: political, economic, and social. Equality of opportunity (which is an equality of initial as opposed to resulting condition) can be similarly subdivided.
2. Equality That Does Exist and Equality That Ought to Exist
To say that two individuals are or are not equal in a certain respect is declarative. To say that they ought to be equal or unequal in a certain respect is prescriptive.
In the sphere of human equality and inequality, prescriptive statements make no sense. We cannot say that human beings ought to be equal or unequal in any personal respect, neither with regard to their endowments nor with regard to their attainments. All that we can meaningfully say, as a matter of fact, is that they are personally equal in this respect and unequal in that respect.
It has been suggested that individuals, entering into association with one another to form a community, should do so on a supposition that they are all personally equal in every important respect. This contrafactual supposition is defended on the ground that organized society can come into existence on the basis of a social contract only if all who enter into that contract suppose themselves to be completely equal. If a veil of ignorance about the facts, which permits them to make this contrafactual supposition, were not operative, it is thought that they would not agree to become participants in the social contract.
The social contract is a myth that can be dismissed as unnecessary for the explanation of the origin of political communities. With it goes the veil of ignorance that is thought necessary for the formation of society by means of a social contract. There is no sense in saying that human beings ought to regard themselves as personally equal in all important respects when they know the facts to be quite the contrary. Human communities of all sorts, including states or civil societies, have come into existence and have been formed by individuals who enter into such associations in spite of their well-known and acknowledged personal inequalities in many important respects.
Turning to circumstantial equality and inequality, we find that both declarative and prescriptive statements can be made with good sense. We can say that this group of individuals are or are not equal with respect to a given circumstance affecting their lives; or we can say that they ought or ought not to be equal in that respect.
For example, those who, living under a constitutional government, are accorded the status of citizenship have an equality of status. They are all equal in their possession of the political liberty attendant upon that status. However, some members of that society may not be accorded the status of citizenship with suffrage. Then, as a matter of fact, the enfranchised and the disfranchised members of the society will be politically unequal — unequal in political status and unequal with respect to political liberty.
When this is factually the case, conflicting prescriptive proposals may be advanced. Exponents of the democratic principle of universal suffrage may argue that all persons in a republic (or all with few justifiable exceptions) should be enfranchised. Opponents of universal suffrage, for one reason or another, may argue that the franchise should be restricted to persons having this or that special qualification, such as gender, skin color, or amount of property possessed.
Justice enters into the picture as regulative only in the sphere of circumstantial equality and inequality, because only there can we make prescriptive proposals. Considerations of justice do not enter in the sphere of human equality and inequality where only declarative statements can be made and prescriptive proposals are impossible. Personal equality or inequality, natural or acquired, is neither just nor unjust. It is simply a matter of fact.
It is pointless to say that if nature were just, human beings would be born equal in all important respects. Nature is neither just nor unjust in the gifts it bestows. Only human beings can be just or unjust in the proposals they advance with regard to an equality of conditions or with regard to an inequality of results.
Where an inequality of conditions exists but ought not to prevail, justice may call for rectifying this by establishing an equality of conditions in its place. With regard to individuals who make unequal contributions by the work they do or the goods they produce, justice may call for an inequality of results in the rewards they receive.
3. Equality in Kind and Inequality in Degree
We come finally to the most difficult and at the same time the most important qualification or distinction to be considered in our statements about equality, whether declarative or prescriptive. It consists in the distinction between (a) an equality of conditions that exists or ought to exist without any attendant difference in degree and (b) an equality of conditions that exists or ought to exist but which is accompanied by differences in degree and so by inequalities among those who are equal in a given respect.
The following example may make this clear. All who have the status of citizenship with suffrage are equal in their political condition and with respect to their possession of political liberty. But when the members of a society are divided into the enfranchised and the disfranchised, an inequality of political conditions exists. If that is unjust, it can be rectified by establishing universal suffrage.
Now let us consider a republic in which the suffrage is restricted. There the population will, be divided into two politically unequal segments — (a) those who have the status of citizenship with suffrage and, consequently, political liberty and some degree of political power, and (b) those who do not have the status in question, and so have no political liberty and no degree of political power.
When, with universal suffrage, all enjoy an equality of political status, it may still remain the case that some citizens elected or appointed to public office exercise a greater degree of political power than citizens who are not public officials. They are able to participate in the affairs of government to a higher degree than ordinary citizens. Here, then, we have an equality of condition that is accompanied by differences in degree and so by inequality.
Therefore, in the sphere of circumstantial equality, equality prevails among those who have a certain condition, and inequality prevails between the group that has it and the group that does not have it. This is an equality among all the haves and an inequality between the haves and the have-nots. In addition, among the haves, there may be differences in the degree to which they possess and enjoy the condition in question, some having more of it, some less. Here we are looking at an attendant inequality among the haves, one that exists between the individual who has more and the individual who has less.
It is difficult to name the equality and inequality we have been considering. I propose to call the equality that prevails among haves an equality in kind, and the inequality between haves and have-nots an inequality in kind. In contradistinction, I propose to call the inequality among the haves, according as one has more and one has less, an inequality in degree.
In the sphere of circumstantial equality, both types of equality may prevail in fact. All members of a society may be equal in kind as haves in a certain respect, but they may also be unequal in degree, one being a have-more, another a have-less. It is also possible, though very unlikely, that, as a matter of fact, all may be equal in kind as haves without any accompanying difference in degree.
Those who would rectify the injustice of existent inequalities of condition differ radically in the proposals they advance.
There are those who would defend the prescriptive judgment that, with respect to certain conditions, political, economic, or social, all should be equal in kind without any attendant inequality in degree. All ought to be haves with respect to this or that important human good, but among the haves, none should have more and none have less.
Opposed to them are those who would defend the prescriptive judgment that, with respect to the same conditions, all should be equal in kind, adding that such equality in kind should be attended by inequalities in degree. While all ought to be haves with respect to the human goods in question, some ought to have more, and some less.
Which of these two conflicting views is the correct view of what justice requires with respect to circumstantial equality — equality of status, treatment, possessions, and opportunity — is the question I shall attempt to answer in the following chapter "The Equalities to Which We Are Entitled".
From Six Great Ideas, Chapter 21
The standard of equality that states everyone is created equal at birth is called Ontological Equality. This type of equality can be seen in many different places like the Declaration of Independence. This early important piece of writing, which holds many of the values from United States of America, has this idea of equality embedded into it. It clearly states that “all men are created equal,that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. The statement reflects the philosophy of John Locke and his idea that we are all equal in certain "Natural Rights". Although this standard of equality is seen in documents as important the Declaration of Independence, it is “one not often invoked in policy debates these days”. However this notion of equality is often used to justify inequalities such as material inequality. Dalton Conley claims that ontological equality is used for things such as justifying material inequality by putting a spotlight on the fact, legitimated by theology, that “the distribution of power and resources here on earth does not matter, because all of us are equally children of God and will have to face our maker upon dying”. Dalton Conley, the author of You May Ask Yourself, claims that ontological equality can also be used to put forth the notion that poverty virtue. Luciano Floridi who is an author on a book about information wrote about what he calls the ontological equality principle. His work which consists on information ethics talks about the importance of equality when talking about presenting information. A short example of his work: “Information ethics is impartial and universal because it brings to ultimate completion the process of enlargement of the concept of what may count as a centre of a (no matter how minimal) moral claim, which now includes every instance of being understood informationally, no matter whether physically implemented or not. In this respect information ethics holds that every entity as an expression of being, has a dignity constituted by its mode of existence and essence (the collection of all the elementary properties that constitute it for what it is), which deserve to be respected (at least in a minimal and overridable sense), and hence place moral claims on the interacting agent and ought to contribute to the constraint and guidance of his ethical decisions and behaviour.” Floridi goes onto claim that this “ontological equality principle means that any form of reality (any instance of information/being), simply for the fact of being what it is, enjoys a minimal, initial, overridable, equal right to exist and develop in a way which is appropriate to its nature.” Values in his claims correlate to those shown in the sociological textbook You May Ask Yourself by Dalton Conley. Concluding that the notion of ontological equality is a term that describes equality by saying everything is equal by nature. Everyone is created equal at birth. Everything has equal right to exist and develop by its nature.
(Wikipedia: Social equality)
Social equality is a state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, often including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights, and equal access to social goods and services. However, it also includes concepts of health equity, economic equality and other social securities. It also includes equal opportunities and obligations, and so involves the whole of society. Social equality requires the absence of legally enforced social class or caste boundaries and the absence of discrimination motivated by an inalienable part of a person's identity. For example, sex, gender, race, age, sexual orientation, origin, caste or class, income or property, language, religion, convictions, opinions, health or disability must not result in unequal treatment under the law and should not reduce opportunities unjustifiably.
"Equal opportunities" is interpreted as being judged by ability, which is compatible with a free-market economy. A problem is horizontal inequality, the inequality of two persons of same origin and ability.
In complexity economics, it has been found that horizontal inequality arises in complex systems, and thus equality may be unattainable.
(Wikipedia: Social equality)
The equalities to which we are all entitled, by virtue of being human, are circumstantial, not personal. They are equalities of condition - of status, treatment, and opportunity.
It is our humanity that justifies our right to these equalities. By being human, we are all equal. One individual cannot be more or less human than another. The dignity we attribute to being a person rather than a thing is not subject to differences in degree. The equality of all human beings is the equality of their dignity as persons.
The point is illustrated by an ancient and erroneous doctrine (which, by the way, takes many disguised forms in the modern world) that some human beings are by nature slaves and so are radically inferior to other human beings who are by nature their masters. If this view of the facts were correct, as it is not, all human beings would not be entitled to any equality of condition — equality of status, treatment, and opportunity.
I have concluded, in another book, entitled The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes, that man differs in kind, not merely in degree, from other animals.
The truth of the proposition that all human beings are by nature equal is confined to the one respect in which that equality can be truly affirmed; namely, their all being equally human, their having the specific properties that belong to all members of the species.
There is no other respect in which all human beings are equal. Two or more individuals may be personally equal in some other respect, such as height, intelligence, talent, or virtue, but equality in such respects is never true of all.
Individual members of the human beings differ from one another either by innate endowment, genetically determined, or by voluntary attainment, individually acquired. From these individual differences arise the inequalities in degree that make one individual superior or inferior to another in some particular respect.
In addition, one may be superior or inferior to another partly due to the favorable or unfavorable circumstances under which the individual strives to accomplish something.
For brevity of reference, let us use the phrase “specific equality” to refer to the personal equality in kind that is the one equality possessed by all human beings. Let us use the phrase “individual equality” or “individual inequality” to refer to the personal equality and inequality of human beings in all other respects, whether that be equality and inequality in degree of endowments or equality and inequality in degree of attainments.
From the declarative statement about the specific equality in kind of all human beings, what prescription follows? The answer is that all human beings are in justice or by right entitled to a circumstantial equality in kind, especially with respect to political status, treatment, and opportunity and with respect to economic status, treatment, and opportunity.
Being by nature equal, they are all endowed by nature with certain unalienable rights, unalienable because they are inherent in man’s specific nature, not merely bestowed upon man by legal enactment.
Merely legal rights are alienable. Being granted by the state, they can be taken away by the state. Natural rights can be secured or violated by the state, but they do not come into existence through being granted by the state; nor does their existence cease when they are not acknowledged or secured by the laws of the state.
As we have seen, human beings, having by nature the power of free choice, have a natural and unalienable right to liberty of action. Being also by nature political animals, they have a natural and unalienable right to political liberty and participation. Justice requires that all should be accorded the equal status of citizenship with suffrage, through which status they can exercise their power to participate in government. All citizens have this power.
Turning now from the political to the economic sphere, parallel reasoning reaches a parallel conclusion. Both as an animal generically, and as a specifically human animal, man has certain biological needs, such as his need for the means of subsistence in order to survive, and his need for certain comforts and conveniences of life, which he needs to live humanly well. Economic goods are the goods that man by nature needs in order to survive and, beyond that, to live well — to engage successfully in the pursuit of happiness,
These include more than food and drink, clothing and shelter. They include schooling as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for knowledge and skill; a healthful environment as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for health; ample free time from toil or earning a living as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need to engage in play for the pleasure of it and in the pursuits of leisure for the improvement of his mind by engagement in all forms of learning and creative activity.
The existence of natural right leads us to the conclusion that every human being is entitled to whatever economic goods any human being needs to lead a good life.
Just as all human beings are entitled to a political equality in kind, so they are all entitled to an economic equality in kind.
In both the political and economic sphere, justice requires only as much equality of conditions as human beings have a natural right to on the basis of their natural needs. The statement of the matter just made occupies a middle position between the two extremist views.
At one extreme, the libertarian maintains that the only circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled is equality of opportunity. He argues for this view on the ground that such equality tends to maximize individual liberty of action, especially freedom of enterprise in the economic sphere.
The libertarian rightly thinks that attempts on the part of organized society to establish an equality of economic condition other than an equality of opportunity will inevitably result in government regulations and interferences in economic activities that restrict individual liberty of action and put curbs on freedom of enterprise. Where he is wrong is in failing to see that such curtailments of freedom, made in the interests of justice, are proper limitations of liberty. His error lies in asking for more liberty than justice allows.
At the opposite extreme, the egalitarian maintains that the circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled should not be merely an equality in kind that is accompanied by inequalities in degree. It should be more than that. It should be the extreme form of circumstantial equality, which is an equality of condition attended by no inequalities in degree.
Stated in political terms, this would mean that all should be haves in the sense of having political liberty and power, but no individual should have more, and none less, of the power that all should have because it is requisite for participation in political life.
Stated in economic terms, this would mean that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of the economic goods needed to live humanly well, but also that all should have the same amount of wealth. None should have more, and none less, of the wealth that everyone needs for the successful pursuit of happiness.
The middle position between these erroneous extremes, in both the political and the economic spheres, calls for a moderate, not an extreme, form of circumstantial equality. With regard to the possession of political or economic goods, real goods that every human being needs, it calls for no more than everyone is entitled to by natural right. It is willing to settle for no less.
A moderate or justly limited equality of conditions is an equality in kind, with respect to either political or economic goods, but one that is accompanied by inequalities in degree that justice also requires. Justice requires only that all shall be haves. It does not require that all shall be haves to the same degree. On the contrary, some are entitled by justice to more, and some to less, of the goods that everyone is entitled by justice to have.
Two additional reasons can be given for rejecting the wrong prescription concerning equality of conditions that the egalitarian recommends on the basis of man’s specific personal equality.
First of all, the specific equality of all members of the human species is accompanied by individual inequalities of all sorts, both in endowments and attainments and in what use individuals make of their endowments and attainments.
To recommend the prescription that all human beings are entitled to a circumstantial equality of conditions, political and economic, that should involve no differences in degree is to neglect or overlook the existence of significant individual inequalities in degree among human beings. These personal inequalities in degree call for circumstantial inequalities in degree.
A second reason for rejecting the extremism of the egalitarian looks not to its injustice, but to its practical unfeasibility. More liberty than justice allows is possible in society, but more equality than justice requires cannot be sustained.
To recommend that all should be haves with respect to political liberty and power, but that none should have more and none less, is to recommend a form of direct democracy so extreme that it certainly would not be practically feasible in any state of considerable size; having a population so large that all its members could not deal with each other face to face, nor when confronted with the complexity of problems that states and governments must deal with in the contemporary world.
In the economic sphere, to recommend that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of whatever economic goods human beings need to live well, but that none should be richer and none poorer in their possession of wealth, is to recommend an equality of conditions that has never existed, except perhaps in monasteries where the monks, taking the vow of poverty, participate equally in what wealth is available for the community as a whole.
If, under secular conditions, all individuals or all families were somehow to come into possession of the same amount of wealth, in whatever form, that absolute equality of economic condition would not last for long. A magic wand would be needed, not only to bring it into existence, but also to make it endure. No one has ever worked out a plan whereby, short of magic, this extreme form of economic equality might become feasible.
The equalities to which we are all entitled, by virtue of being human, are circumstantial, not personal. They are equalities of condition - of status, treatment, and opportunity.
All human beings are in justice or by right entitled to a circumstantial equality in kind, especially with respect to political status, treatment, and opportunity and with respect to economic status, treatment, and opportunity.
In both the political and economic sphere, justice requires only as much equality of conditions as human beings have a natural right to on the basis of their natural needs.
From Six Great Ideas, Chapter 22
The justice of treating equals equally and unequals unequally in proportion to their inequality is the justice that entitles some to have more and some to have less in varying degrees. Because it is a point of the greatest importance, let me repeat two qualifications: (1) none less than enough for the purpose and (2) none more than is compatible with everyone having enough.
As Alexander Hamilton pointed out, unless political power is proportionate to political responsibility, the responsibility cannot be effectively discharged. Citizens in public office must therefore, exercise more political power than when they are not in office.
Here, then, in a constitutional government with universal suffrage, all persons, except infants and the pathologically disabled, are politically equal as citizens with suffrage. All have the requisite minimal measure of power for participation in public affairs. Some of them, holding public office, have in varying degrees more power and a greater voice in public affairs.
Those have more political power legitimately only if they have it because of the power constitutionally vested in the office they hold. They have it illegitimately if they have it through the undue influence they are able to exercise because of their massive wealth, their social standing in the community, their personal charisma, or some other form of privilege or prestige.
The political picture we have just surveyed provides us with a model to adapt in dealing with economic equality and inequality.
The first principle of justice here as in the political sphere is the principle of rendering to each what belongs to all by natural right. All have a natural right to that sufficiency of economic goods which is enough to provide them with the wealth they need to lead decent human lives, lives not crippled by economic deprivation to a degree that amounts to destitution.
Are some human beings rightly entitled to more wealth? Why does justice require the economic inequality in degree?
The second principle of justice provides the answer to these questions, as it does in the political sphere. But the economic application of that principle is somewhat different.
Those who have more wealth are not entitled to it by natural right. Their entitlement derives from what they do, not from what they are as human beings.
In the political sphere, what those entitled to more political power do is to discharge the functions of the political offices they hold, for the performance of which they are constitutionally responsible. In the economic sphere, what those entitled to more wealth do is to make a greater contribution to the production of wealth.
That is certainly the principal, if not the only, way in which they can come into legitimate possession of more wealth. They possess it illegitimately if they come by it through theft, or seizure, or through exercising any influence on the distribution of wealth other than the merit of their productive contribution.
The second principle of justice, as applied in the economic sphere, can be initially stated as follows: To each the wealth that he produces. This maxim makes sense only in the simple case in which each individual works by himself to produce wealth. In that case, the man who produces more is by right entitled to all that he produces.
When we pass from the simple to the more complex case in which men work together to produce wealth, under a variety of arrangements and by a variety of productive means, the maxim must be reworded as follows: To each in proportion to his contribution to the total wealth that all engage cooperatively in producing.
If all who are engaged cooperatively make equal contributions, which is unlikely in most instances of complex economic operations, then each is entitled to share equally in the distribution of the wealth produced. When, as is more likely, the contributions of those engaged cooperatively are unequal, justice requires that the results shall also be unequal, unequal in proportion to the inequality of contribution.
Those who have made a greater contribution are justly entitled to more wealth than those who contribute less. Two qualifications must be immediately attached to this rule.
First, all, in one way or another, must be equal on the economic base line that is determined by that minimal measure of sufficient wealth to satisfy man’s economic needs. To this much everyone has a natural right.
Second, since the amount of wealth available for distribution is limited, no one should be in a position to earn by his productive contribution — to earn, not to steal or seize — so much wealth that not enough remains for distribution, in one way or another, to put all individuals or families on the base line of economic sufficiency.
None, in short, should be rendered destitute by the distribution of wealth in unequal amounts, even if that distribution can be justified by the inequality of individual contributions.
If the amount of wealth available for distribution is limited, then the amount of wealth that anyone can justly acquire must be limited so that enough of the finite supply is left for a just distribution in accordance with natural rights. This principle of limitation on an otherwise just acquisition of wealth was first enunciated by John Locke in the chapter on property in his Second Treatise on Civil Government.
That those who contribute unequally shall receive unequally in proportion to the inequality of their contribution is a principle of justice that must be made subservient to the principle of justice that calls for an equal distribution to all of that minimal measure of wealth everyone needs. Justice according to natural rights takes precedence in the economic sphere over justice according to the equality or inequality of the contributions made to the production of wealth.
A just economy, is one in which no one is destitute, in which all individuals or families participate in the general economic welfare, at least to the extent that all have the degree of wealth to which everyone is entitled on the basis of needs, and in which some have more wealth justly earned by the greater contribution they make to its production.
It must be pointed out that, in any population, some are not able to make any contribution to the production of wealth. This runs parallel to the fact that, in the political sphere, some are not able to participate by exercising political power — infants and the pathologically disabled. They must be taken care of by families, by private charities, or as wards of the state. Their disfranchisement is just.
In the economic sphere, infants must also be taken care of, either by families or as wards of the state. In addition, there are individuals who suffer disabilities that render them unable to make any contribution to the production of wealth. They, too, must be taken care of, either by families, by private charities, or by the state.
Their basic economic needs are the same as those of their more fortunate fellows who are able to contribute to production and do so according to their abilities. Justice requires that their economic needs be satisfied by having enough wealth to live decent human lives.
This leaves us with a third group — those who have the ability requisite to engage in the production of wealth but cannot find employment in the economic sphere and, therefore, cannot earn by work either the minimal sufficiency that everyone needs or more than that. Justice requires that they be sustained by welfare payments, but only if their inability to find work is no fault of their own.
The welfare payments received by those who are both able and willing to earn a living, but cannot do so because they are unemployed through no fault of their own, make them dependents in the way that children are. This is an indignity that no adult human being should be forced to suffer. To avoid the injustice thus suffered by individuals able and willing to work, economic arrangements are thoroughly just only when they make it possible for everyone who is able and willing to earn a living to find work.
The following comment concerns the degrees of ability that underlie the different degrees of contribution that individuals can make.
These differences come, first of all, from differences in native endowment. Some are some with talents or aptitudes that make them able to make a greater contribution than that which can be made by others with inferior endowments.
Another explanation of different degrees of ability looks to what use individuals make of their inborn talents and aptitudes — the degree to which, by their own efforts, they fulfill their innate capacities. Those who start equal in the degree of their endowments may end up unequal in the degree of their attainments. It is even possible for individuals with inferior endowments to attain a development of themselves that surpasses attainments achieved by individuals of superior endowments. The former do so by making more of their inborn gifts than the latter.
Still another explanation lies in the favorable or unfavorable circumstances under which individuals make the effort to develop themselves. Those deprived of adequate schooling, for example, may thereby be prevented from making good use of their inborn gifts. As a result, their ultimate attainments may be inferior to those achieved by others who, with inferior endowments, have the advantage of better schooling.
Schooling is only one instance of many circumstantial factors that can influence the degree of ability an individual attains. Favorable circumstances facilitate reaching greater attainments; unfavorable circumstances hinder individuals from achieving all they can.
The point just made introduces equality of opportunity into the picture. All must have an equal opportunity to employ their innate and acquired abilities in productive work. Equal opportunity for employment should operate in a manner that engages those of superior ability, whether innate or acquired, in tasks or functions that are more productive. When those of superior ability are forced by unfavorable circumstances to take inferior jobs, equality of opportunity is not working as it should.
Equality of opportunity does not come into conflict with equality of condition when the latter is given precedence, as it should be because it is based on the first principle of justice: To all equally according to their needs. Nor does it come into conflict with the inequalities of condition that justice also requires when these result from the operation of the second principle of justice: To each in varying degrees according to the functions performed or to the contributions made.
On the contrary, equality of opportunity facilitates the just operation of that second principle by providing equally favorable circumstances for all to make the most of their unequal talents and aptitudes and to put their acquired virtues, moral and intellectual, to the best use in political activity and in the production of wealth.
From Six Great Ideas, Chapter 23
The Equality Wheel shows what a healthy relationship looks like.
We are the same on the inside.
Equality doesn't mean Justice.
For Progressives, “Equality” seems to be the driving force – everyone MUST be equal no matter what area of life is being viewed. Anything that promotes or allows “inequality” must be stamped out. Freedom is reserved for the realm of “free from bad consequences”. (granitegrok.com)
Capitalism and equality are like oil and water, most of us have water.
A quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher goes along the lines of "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."