Equality as an Ideal

Release Date
January 30, 2012


Poverty & Inequality

Prof. Mark LeBar considers what kind of social or political ideal we ought to have, with a specific focus on equality. There are numerous types of equality, and philosophers tend to be concerned with what LeBar refers to as normative equality, which is concerned with how we as individuals ought to treat others.

Within the realm of normative equality, LeBar discusses four plausibly defensible candidates:
  • Equality of welfare
  • Equality of resources
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Equality of luck
After reviewing each item, he finds some common problems:
  • Incompatibility: If, for instance, equality of welfare is pursued, it renders the other types of equality impossible.
  • Measurement: What does it mean to have equal opportunity? How do you compare my opportunities to your opportunities?
  • Subjectivity and vagueness: What is welfare? Is a scholarship to a dance school as valuable as a scholarship to law school?
  • Production: The theories above deal with the provision of goods but ignore the production of goods. In almost all cases, however, altering the provision of goods affects the production of goods.
Despite some of the issues with normative equality, LeBar still thinks that equality is an important human ideal. Specifically, he thinks that moral equality, looking at the equality of relations with one another, is important.