Whose opportunities ? (Colloque, oct. 2009, National Library of Portugal)

Does the Difference Principle Make a Difference ?

vendredi 23 octobre 2009, par Zoltan Miklosi

Thèmes : Inégalités | Egalité des chances

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Our general concern with the distribution of socioeconomic advantages between persons may be driven by several distinct and more specific moral concerns. It may respond to the general humanitarian concern that no one should lack the resources necessary for an adequate life. It may respond to a concern with fairness, i.e. the idea that distributive outcomes and life prospects should be determined only by certain kinds of factors and not others, such as social starting places or native endowments, for example. A third source of reasons to be concerned with the distribution of economic advantages is provided by the fact that economic inequality often spills over to other kinds of social, political, or legal inequality that are objectionable on independent grounds.1 Most people endorse many of these concerns at the same time, and ordinarily it is not very urgent to keep them separate, as they often support similar measures and policies. Nonetheless, it may be a worthwhile effort to explore how, if at all, these distinct concerns could be fitted into a single, coherent conception of justice, and whether it is important to strive for such unity or nothing is lost if we settle for an array of largely unrelated concerns. My aim in this paper is much less ambitious. I intend to discuss some problems regarding Rawls’ second principle of justice that governs the distribution of socioeconomic advantages ; more to the point, I will discuss some questions about the relationship between the two parts of the second principle, i.e. the requirement of fair equality of opportunity and the requirement that the system of social cooperation ought to maximize the benefits going to the least advantaged members of society (the so-called Difference Principle). I look into the concerns these requirements may be seen as being responsive to, and I will explore the implications of the stated lexical priority of the requirement of fair equality of opportunity (hereafter FEO) over the difference principle (DP).

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par Zoltan Miklosi

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