William Letwin's Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy PDF

By William Letwin

ISBN-10: 0333353137

ISBN-13: 9780333353134

ISBN-10: 1349171751

ISBN-13: 9781349171750

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Extra info for Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy

Example text

Though now embedded in our language, 'equality' is in this context an unfortunate term, because many people read into it the implication that everyone should possess and exercise these rights in equal degree. Properly understood, 'equality of opportunity' means that everyone should enjoy the right to enter any occupation for which he is qualified by skill and that nobody should be denied access to an occupation arbitrarily or captiously: that is, on grounds of personal characteristics other than his ability to do the job.

One might as well maintain that the desired end of public health morally justifies the extermination of all persons who are ill. Neither does the fact that enforced distribution has been installed by democratic procedures make it morally right. One might as well maintain that the enslavement of a black minority by a white majority would be right if decided on by a democratic procedure, honouring to the hilt the rule of one man, one vote. Tyranny by a majority is not less tyrannical than tyranny by a minority; and even a democracy violates the wishes of some citizens whenever it adopts laws other than those which command universal assent.

This is the notion that if a man's income rises from £5000 to £6000 (while prices and all other relevant considerations remain constant), the additional utility provided by that additional £1000 is less than the additional utility provided by the £1000 that previously raised his income from £4000 to £5000. Properly understood, this asserted principle must contain a kernel of truth. Income is generally desired for the sake of the consumption which it permits. And as to consumption, it seems clear that a law of diminishing utility operates.

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Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy by William Letwin


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