Choice, Equality and Cost
Chapter 10: Equity and equality
Equity means fairness. It means that the entitlements are as they ought to be. It means that each member of society is getting his or her just deserts. Fairness can refer to the beginning. Ex ante each contestant is known to enjoy the appropriate opportunities when the starting-gun goes off. Fairness can refer to the race. In-period each runner is seen to experience the same treatment within the accepted guidelines of the rules. Fairness, finally, can refer to the finish. Ex post each player is believed to have been accorded the prize that they deserve. No one is getting less than they deserve. No one is getting more. Fairness is a moral absolute. It is a correct procedure or an equilibrium outcome. In that sense it is different from equality, which is merely a statement of fact. Jill is precisely as tall as Jack. John is precisely as fat as Bill. There is no suggestion that they ought to be the standard size. Equality is measuring up. That is all. This chapter is concerned with fairness. Yet it is concerned with sameness as well. The reason is that, rightly or wrongly, equity is often the moral principle that is invoked to make equality a desired objective and not just a dispassionate yardstick. Many people attach normative significance to a levelling of interpersonal distance. Many people say that in core areas of social life it is proper for the disparities to be kept within manageable limits.
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