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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Libertarians and egalitarians both favor equality of opportunity but have different concepts of opportunity

Some (many?) conservatives and libertarians seem to think that they favor equality of opportunity while the progressives or egalitarians favor equality of outcome. Not so, the egalitarians say that they too favor equality of opportunity not outcome.

 Their view of opportunity includes the following consideration. If someone is ill,or poor or has some disability then they cannot enjoy equality of opportunity. A chronically debilitated,poor person does not have the same opportunity to obtain employment or get health care insurance or buy nutritious good or decent housing. Just as the modern day liberals ( progressives) have co-opted  the term liberalism from the use of the word  as in classical liberalism (now libertarianism), they seem to have co-opted equality of opportunity to mean much more than equality under the law which is typically the sense in which libertarians and conservatives  use the term.

The egalitarian ethic is not just an abstract principle but an imperative to do something about the inequality of  opportunity. Charity would be one method of mitigation of inequality but while many sincere progressives and egalitarians volunteer and contribute to charities their broader solution is government enforced redistribution of resources to lessen whatever inequality that is of particular concern at that time.

Here , of course, is the area  in which conservative and libertarians and  progressives part company  and it becomes clear that the opposing groups do not seek the same rules of society.They both may favor equality of opportunity but mean different things by the word.

Now what about the term social justice?

To the progressives social justice means taking action to mitigate instances in which there is unequal access or unequal opportunity that is brought about by many societal factors , such as poverty  and poor public schools.

 The classical liberal concept of justice is the securing to individuals a domain in which they are protected from interference from others and from agencies of the state while Rawls et al  maintain  that limited view of justice does not recognize "that distributive shares ..are often determined by factors that are "arbitrary" from a moral point of view,eg the inheritance of certain factors, intelligence ,strength ,social advantage,wealth  that are just the luck of the draw and the recipients are not deserving of those advantages. even if they work hard and use those advantages well those accomplishments are still arbitrary from a moral point of view.As Hayek said, the term justice does not need a modifier.

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