From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Checking our privilege
Social justice
Icon SJ.svg
Not ALL of our articles
The general limits of your freedom are merely these: that you do not trespass upon the equal rights of others.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Equality is the state of being equal and people get confused by that for some reason. Robert RecordeWikipedia is probably turning over in his grave. The concept of equality has a broader scope than egalitarianism which is the idea that all people are equal and deserve to be treated equally. Many of the revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries focused on political equality. These Enlightenment figures sought to create states where citizens could meet as equals, not as lord and vassal or colonizer and colonized. However many of the newly "equal" people realized how much material inequality still existed. While some people believe treating people as equals is "self-evident", attempts at achieving egalitarianism often run into problems because of differing ideas on what it is that should be "equal". How to come to a consensus on this issue is far from apparent.

Problems with determining "What is equality?"[edit]

In order to examine whether one has equality, one must first determine the components of one's equation and the numerical value of those components. When it comes to equality of people, that is more difficult than it sounds.

People are not identical[edit]

According to Stefan Gosepath, equality needs to be distinguished from identity and similarity. Identity means things are identical and similarity means things are similar,[note 1] and usually when people say "men are equal" (e.g., the Declaration of Independence) it "implies similarity rather than 'sameness.'"[1] The problem with saying things that are similar should be treated as equal is that the equation A = B literally means that A is identical to BWikipedia. The equation for similarity is A ~ BWikipedia. One may argue "Well, that is just mathematics," except identity isn't limited to that field. A = A is what philosophers call the law of identity and it is one of the classical laws of thought and one of the foundational pillars of philosophy and science. In other words, it is not a philosophical law that you want to mess around with, because it is important. As things that are similar are not identical, using an equation or philosophy that treats similar things as identical can lead to logical problems.

Consider, for example, someone who is disabled versus someone who is perfectly healthy. These two individuals are given 25,000 dollars in income. The person who is disabled has to spend 20,000 of those dollars on medical expenses, and the person who is healthy does not. Were these two people treated equally? The person who is healthy would likely say yes and the person who is disabled will likely say no.[2] Now let us argue that the government has somehow solved this problem and is now dealing with two healthy people earning $25,000. One of them lives in a city where apartments cost $8,000 more per year and these two individuals pay the same amount of income tax. Were these two people treated equally? The person living in the lower cost area would likely say yes and the person living in the higher cost area would likely say no.

I demand you make me as attractive as Giselle!

What about something like paid maternity leave? A woman may argue that such a policy is essential to their equality whereas a man may argue that equality should be based upon the hours one works, and, by giving money to the woman, the company is taking money away from his paycheck that is needed to pay for his expenses. Now let us take this scenario one step further. The woman who gets paid maternity leave is married to a doctor and they have no problems with income. The man is married to a part-time bagger at the local supermarket and the two of them are barely making ends meet. Is giving paid maternity leave to the woman treating people equally? The woman would likely say yes, the man would say no.

Or what about the hideously unattractive when compared to Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen? The hideously unattractive may argue that it is the government’s responsibility to make people find him or her to be just as attractive romantically as Tom and Gisele by promoting "an egalitarian norm that encourages the charming and the physically attractive not to shun my company" in regards to romantic relationships. Is this really something the government should be involved with?[2]

Then there is what is known as the leveling-down objection. As mentioned by Parfit, "Similarly, it would be in one way an improvement if we destroyed the eyes of the sighted, not to benefit the blind, but only to make the sighted blind. These implications can be more plausibly regarded as monstrous, or absurd." Parfit acknowledges that this is not an argument against equality per se as the blind can be compensated in other ways. Rather he was using a reductio ad absurdum to prove the following point. Equality in and it of itself is not what people want when they argue that they deserve to be treated as equals. Rather the objective is something else.[3] Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison BergeronWikipedia is a dystopian example of the leveling-down objection.[1]

Equality of whom?[edit]

I am for equality, but not for these people.

Beyond the problem that people are only similar and not identical is the problem of whom should be treated equally.

If people from first-world countries were to argue that people should be treated equally, then they would quickly learn what it is like to live in a third-world country because there is a lot more people in third-world countries and they make a whole lot less money. Perhaps for this reason, many people who are from first-world countries and promote egalitarianism restrict equality to within the country's borders and citizenry, but why should it be this way? Egalitarians who don’t want to give all their money away have come up with various excuses such as social solidarity or that only people ruled by a system of coercion (a.k.a. government) should be treated equally.[2][4] One suspects that these reasons sound pretty hollow when the woman and her doctor husband go to a trip to Jamaica and their golf caddy learns that the woman is earning 15 times more on maternity leave than he does for the entire year and all she had to do to earn the money was sun bathe on the beach while the nursemaid (who earns even less than the golf caddy) takes care of the baby.

Let us assume that the person arguing for equality doesn't believe in giving all of their money away and therefore is using some form of domestic egalitarianism. What does this domestic egalitarianism say one should do about people who are illegal immigrants? Do they deserve to be treated as equals to people who are citizens of the higher income country? If so, what is to stop the country from being flooded by illegal immigrants? If not, what makes these illegals less deserving? What about the "dreamers"Wikipedia? Do they deserve to be treated equally with the citizens of the country they immigrated to? If so, why don't the citizens of the dreamer's home country deserve the same level of equality as the dreamers?

What about those still in the womb? Does equality begin at conception or at a later time? If there is a problem with conception and the fetus has to die to save the mother's life, does this create problems with equality as a Christian conservative might argue? What about after the baby is born? Do children deserve to be treated equally with their parents? In the USA, they don't achieve political equality until they are 18. What about future generations of people yet to be born? Do they deserve to be treated equally as current generations? If so, how are you supposed to calculate that and what does that mean in regards to resource management? If not, why not? What about hypothetical aliens from outer space? Do they deserve the same equal treatment? If so, how is that supposed to be calculated? What about sentient AIs? What about intelligent animals? If we assert that intelligent animals deserve to be treated equally, at what point do we say that an animal is not intelligent enough to deserve to be treated equally?[2][1]

What about people who have done something to cause their present state of inequality? Do murderers deserve to be treated equally as everyday citizens? Do drug-addicted homeless people deserve to be treated with fewer resources than murderer’s who have their food, shelter, and medical care paid for by the tax payer? If we attempt to solve the drug addicts problem by providing them more funds to obtain a status equal to other citizens, what is to stop them from simply using that money to buy more drugs? What about people who don’t have money because they have a gambling addiction? Is everyone else supposed to bankroll their addiction?[2][3]

What about merit? Does the farmer who slacks off and only works one day deserve to be treated equally with the farmer who works seven days a week, dusk until dawn? If he does, just ask Russia how that turned out. Does the doctor who spent years of hard work deserve no rewards for his efforts and talents? If not, how is society supposed to get people to be doctors? If he does deserve to be rewarded, then how are people being treated equally if one allows the people with the most merit to rise to the top and enjoy the fruit of one's labor? Isn't that just capitalism without any effort to prevent economic inequalities?[2][1]

Equality of what?[edit]

A further complication to the issue of equality is the "equality of what?" question. There is the issue of equality before the law, political equality, economic equality, and moral equality. In regards to moral egalitarianism, people argue for equality of resources, fair equality of opportunity (FEO), equality of capabilities, equality of welfare or equality of luck.

Equality of what?[edit]

Equality before the law[edit]

Generally speaking, equality before the law is not seen as being controversial. The following syllogism can be used to describe this type of argument.

P1: All A's are to be treated equally by B.
P2: X is an A.
C1: X is to be treated equally by B.

Where there is dispute is what those A's and B's are in regards to the law. Is everyone inside a nation's border (A) subject to the same laws (B)? If so, how does one justify diplomatic immunity, laws against illegal immigration, or the acceptability of lethal force when police use it against an armed suspect? One solution is to argue that different A's are subject to different B's. In other words, there is one set of laws for diplomats, another set of laws for illegal immigrants, another set of laws for children, and another set of laws for police. As long as a government makes their laws complex enough to account for these differences, the law's inherent complexity allows different people to be treated equally by it. This is a prescriptive use of equality as it "is present when a prescriptive standard is applied, i.e., a norm or rule."[1] Unless you want pedophiles arguing that children should be treated "equally" with people who are over the age of 18, these norms and rules cannot treat everyone as identicals.

Political equality[edit]

Slightly more controversial is the idea that people should be equal in regards to politics. The two principle issues are its desirability and its feasibility.

Desirability – What about cybersynacy?[edit]

The issue of whether everyone’s voice should matter in regards to politics is as old as political philosophy itself. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were all meritocratic. In the Crito, a work most believe is representative of Socrates' philosophy, Plato’s protagonist Socrates argues:

Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say of us: but what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will say, and what the truth will say. And therefore you begin in error when you advise that we should regard the opinion of the many about just and unjust, good and evil, honorable and dishonorable.

Yeah. Socrates didn't like the wisdom of the many… and for good reason.

In the Republic, Plato argued for philosopher kings. And in Politics, the originator of political theory, argued that democracy was one of the bad forms of government though technically what we have is an oligarchy according to Aristotle’s schema.

It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.
—Aristotle, Politics 4.1294be
Watson for President?

Oligarchy was also a bad form of government according to Aristotle because the rich would use their money to influence the system for their financial gain.[note 2] The Athenian system of government, which was what Aristotle meant by democracy, addressed the problem of corruption by opting for sortition,Wikipedia which was essentially including every citizen as a potential political candidate and then playing the Athenian version of Powerball to determine who would be the public officials. This system may have had some issues, but the Athenians felt it was better than elected government. Alternatives to democracy are meritocracy (rule by those with merit), technocracy (rule by technical experts), geniocracy (rule by geniuses), noocracyWikipedia (rule by the wise), and perhaps the most effective government ever conceived… cybersynacy. That is rule by computers using Bayes' theorem. Apparently it worked pretty well in Chile until the computer was overthrown by a CIA-backed military coup.Wikipedia It is often seen in the USA as sacrilegious to disparage "democracy", but when the USA elects an autocrat-wannabe like Donald Trump as its president and the non-democratic China continues to have steady progress, are we really so sure the Athenians were wrong?


Beyond the issue of desirability is whether having people’s political voices heard equally is actually possible. In the United States, if you are voting in California, New York, or Texas, does your vote for President matter? On the other hand, if you happen to live in Florida or Ohio, does your vote matter too much? If so, then how do we have equality in politics? Or what about the issue of gerrymandering? Doesn’t that constitute a lack of political equality, despite Scalia's claims to the contraryWikipedia? What about the choices offered? If one's only two realistic choices don't reflect one's ideals, how is one's political voice supposed to be heard? Or what about the fact that to get elected, one has to spend a lot of money on advertising and that money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is who the true electors really are, a fact that is constitutionally protected in the USA thanks to Citizens United.

The Athenians warned us this would happen…

Equality of income[edit]

Karl Marx advocated something like equality of income. This form of equality is often seen as a violation of people’s "Lockean rights" because effectively redistributing wealth so that everyone is equal would impose severe limits on people's freedoms and it requires the maintenance of a "Big Brother" type of government. It would also eliminate the incentive to work hard, ultimately destroying the economy. Not even communist China advocates for this type of equality. There may be communists or feminists who still advocate for it, but few if any modern philosophers take it seriously. It has been tried. It doesn’t work. Case closed. Move on to something else.

Working to reduce wealth inequalities, on the other hand, is a commonly held belief among almost all branches of political and moral philosophy. Libertarianism, republicanism, Ayn Rand's objectivism, and whatever philosophy the US Supreme Court used to say corporations are people[note 3] are the notable exceptions. In the USA, progressive tax codes which seek to reduce economic inequality are often opposed by the Republicans who prefer to increase economic disparities through "trickle down" economics.

Bernie Sanders was pretty progressive so of course he wasn't a viable presidential candidate…[5]

Moral egalatarianism[edit]

This fundamental idea of equal respect for all persons and of the equal worth or equal dignity of all human beings is accepted as a minimal standard by all leading schools of modern Western political and moral culture. Any political theory abandoning this notion of equality will not be found plausible today.
—Stefan Gosepath[1]

The accuracy of the assertion above is questionable, as many of the major religions don't hold people as having equal worth or dignity. You have to be Christian to be considered of equal worth by many Christians, you have to be Muslim according to Islam, and the Hindus have a caste system. Maybe those don't count as leading schools of modern Western moral culture? As best one can tell, Stefan is talking about philosophical schools of thought so let us restrict ourselves to philosophy.

Even within the realm of philosophy, the aforementioned statement needs to be qualified. To his credit, Stefan has done so. He argues that by being a unit (namely human) this unit deserves to be treated with equal concern and respect.[1] If you recall, the syllogism we used for law was

P1: All A's are to be treated equally by B.
P2: X is an A.
C1: X is to be treated equally by B.

In the case of moral equality, the A's are all humans and B is some form of "equal concern and respect" cultural ethic.[1] To explain and distinguish this from legal equality, let us consider the Jim Crow laws. By the logic of legal equality, Jim Crow laws were perfectly acceptable because they treat A's equally by the law. Just like diplomats when treated equally by the law get to have special privileges when compared to regular citizens, whites when treated equally by Jim Crow laws had special privileges when compared to blacks. While this may have been legal equality, it was not moral equality as blacks in the American south were not treated with equal concern and respect. In other words, they were considered as second class citizens by virtue of their skin pigmentation. What this history lesson shows us is that society has to be careful in regards to what laws and social standards it employs to ensure that people are treated with human dignity.

A complication to this line of reasoning are people like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. Do these assholes get to be treated "with equal concern and respect?" or do we get to be like MLK and judge them "by the content of their character?" Given that all societies have laws to combat criminal behavior, any respect given to them cannot come in the form of tolerance. Rather it comes in the form of due process. All people who stand accused of a crime are entitled to the right of a fair trial due to the respect given to them by the society.

An extension of moral equality is the presumption of equality. This presumption is similar to a burden of proof argument. Just like people who are prosecutors have to prove something to be true as they are the one's asserting something to be true, many moral egalitarians argue that the burden of proof rests with the people arguing for inequality rather than equality. Conflicts over this presumption can become quite controversial. Consider, for example, the problem with merit. Does the fact that a person worked hard to earn their extra income entitle them to their higher income? Many people would say yes thereby justifying the economic inequality. This view conflicts with those egalitarians who argue that economic merit cannot be a deciding factor as certain people like the severely mentally disabled lack the capacity for economic merit.[1]

Philosophies that concern themselves with moral egalitarianism[edit]

Equal opportunity / equality of resources[edit]

Perhaps the most influential political philosopher of the modern era is John Rawls as his philosophical system is often used to justify political programs like affirmative action. He promotes a principle of fair equality of opportunity (FEO). This position maintains that a society should adjust socialization so "assuming there is a distribution of natural assets, those who are at the same level of talent and ability, and have the same willingness to use them, should have the same prospects of success regardless of their initial place in the social system."[6][2] He also argues that desert should be defined by the society based upon the society's goals and their should be a principle towards equalizing holdings.[1]

There are several criticisms of FEO, chief among them being that it interferes with parental rights and the parent's desire to give their children educational and monetary benefits. Nonetheless, it is one of the predominant political philosophies and any discussion of egalitarianism would be remiss to ignore Rawls. Going in depth into this topic is beyond the scope of this page but an in-depth philosophical essay on equal opportunity can be found here. Ronald Dworkin is the other major figure in regards to resource egalitarianism. He uses a thought experiment where everyone participates in a hypothetical insurance market. Those participating in it are unaware of their own talents, abilities, and disabilities, and still have a brain capable of rationality (even though the rationality capability would be a talent). Then a redistribution scheme occurs based upon this insurance coverage. How exactly this could work outside of the realm of a thought experiment is far from clear.[4][2]

Sufficiency of capabilities[edit]

Amartya Sen argues that what society should seek is basic capability equality, not equality of resources. To pursue this type of distributive justice, one must carefully determine people's capability sets. If one chooses the wrong ones, this has the potential to hamper one’s freedom. If each person were able to achieve the threshold level for the capabilities necessary for a minimally decent life, then basic capability equality would be achieved. Sen did not list what those capabilities were, but Martha Nussbaum, another capability philosopher, did and she included sexual satisfaction. One wonders how she expects society to maintain basic capability sufficiency in that area. Elizabeth Anderson has promoted a narrower scope of the capabilities approach. She argues that one should focus on social relationships and public infrastructure rather than resources in order to address social inequalities.[4] As capability is a sufficiency approach to distributive justice as opposed to one that pursues equality, this could be seen as a challenger to egalitarianism rather than a subset of it.

One criticism of the capabilities approach is that it doesn't enforce personal responsibility. Consider the drug abuser or the gambler. If society were to provide resources so that they can reach basic capability sufficiency and these individuals kept squandering the resources given to them, then why should society maintain this exercise in futility? Dworkin considers equality of capability to be an unstable compromise between equality of resources and equality of welfare.[2]

Equality of welfare[edit]

The idea behind equality of welfare is that there is some inherent human well-being and over the course of one's life and this well-being should be equal to other humans. In an absolute sense, advocating equality of welfare is absurd. The person who looks like a goat is never going to achieve the same level of "welfare" as the Tom Brady type of G.O.A.T.[note 4] But if one uses equality of welfare as a guiding principle rather than a steadfast rule, then it is a serious challenger to Rawls’ equality of resources. People don't desire resources per se. Rather they want the happiness that can be brought about by those resources. There are several criticisms of welfare equality, chief among them is that people's unreasonable expectations of what is necessary for their happiness (the person who "requires" filet mignon) and people’s adaptive preferences (a.k.a. being happy with less) can interfere with a fair distribution of resources. In general, the problem is that people's desires are subjective rather than objective and trying to equalize something that is subjective is next to impossible.[2][4]

There appears to be some dispute among philosophers as to whether utilitarianism is a challenger to egalitarianism or a subset of it. Some argue that the initial assumption of utilitarianism that each person deserves to be treated as a unit can be viewed as concretizing moral equality. Rawls criticizes this view by arguing that utilitarianism that involves neglecting the separateness of persons does not contain a proper interpretation of moral equality as equal respect for each individual.[1] One utilitarian counter-argument to Rawls' criticism is that the pursuit of equality can cause people to die. If utilitarianism is considered a subset of egalitarianism, this would be where it would fit. In welfare economics,Wikipedia utilitarian functions and Rawls functions are seen as polar opposites. It is probably best to have the other wiki explain as the author’s knowledge of Pareto optimality and Klador Hicks efficiency is a bit amateurish:[7]

A utilitarian welfare function (also called a Benthamite welfare function) sums the utility of each individual in order to obtain society's overall welfare. All people are treated the same, regardless of their initial level of utility. One extra unit of utility for a starving person is not seen to be of any greater value than an extra unit of utility for a millionaire. At the other extreme is the Max-Min, or Rawlsian utility function. According to the Max-Min criterion, welfare is maximized when the utility of those society members that have the least is the greatest. No economic activity will increase social welfare unless it improves the position of the society member that is the worst off. Most economists specify social welfare functions that are intermediate between these two extremes.

Luck egalitarianism[edit]

Luck egalitarianism maintains that the values of choice and responsibility matter in regards to distributive justice. If you are stupid enough to buy a home in natural-disaster prone Florida, society has no obligation to help you achieve equality. You knew the risks and you did it anyway. If you didn't buy enough insurance to cover you for those risks, then you only have yourself to blame.[note 5] In other words, the only obligation society has to people is to address inequalities that were not a result of personal choice. At some level, personal choice has to matter in regards to equality in order to maintain responsible behavior. Criticisms of luck egalitarianism is that it leads to abandonment of people who have made poor choices and does not guarantee them a minimum level of well-being.[4][2][1]

Criticisms of moral egalitarianism[edit]

Lockean rights[edit]

Unlike utilitarianism which does have some inherent equality components expressed by Jeremy Bentham’s dictum “each to count for one, none to count for more than one,” it is difficult to view theories based in Lockean rights as being based in equality. This is the type of philosophy that underlies libertarianism. To understand the inherent problem, consider the following thought experiment. All of the world's resources have been evenly divided among the people who existed in the world at a certain point in time, then a month later a new person is born. What right to resources do they have? According to right-wing interpretation of Lockean rights, providing that person with resources would infringe upon the right to liberty of the people who own all of the property. Thus they are under no obligation to help the new person who has been born. One may argue that property should be provided to him or her by their parents, but what if their parents have been careless with their finances and the neighbor now owns the resources? Well that is just bad luck according to the right wing interpretation of it. The left-wing view is more sympathetic and supposes that some form of compensation can be rendered to them, though critics question whether the doctrine is normatively stable.[2][1] One might argue "Why does this matter?" Beyond the problem that the Republicans are fans of libertarianism is the fact that the USA's Declaration of Independence is based on Lockean rights. You know, that whole "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," thing. In a very real way, the pursuit of liberty conflicts with the pursuit of equality. For such reasons, ideologies promoting liberty are often seen as opponents of equality rather than supporters of it. To visualize the inherent conflict, consider what would happen to the liberty of the individuals of a first-world country if they decided to try and make people in a country like India equal with them. Clearly this would hamper the liberty and effective freedom those living in the first-world country have due to a diminished access to resources when compared to their present situation.

It's my body and I can do with what I want with it[edit]

Much like libertarianism, Nozick has argued that a person's natural talents are owned by themselves as they own their bodies. By extension, this means that if they are a more productive member of a society than someone who lacks natural talents useful for economic production, then they are entitled to the money and property earned from the exercise of those talents. In other words, the state has no business enforcing redistribution from a more productive member of society to a less productive one because it violates property rights. Nozick theory of equality is diametrically opposed to Rawls and other forms of egalitarianism. If Nozick is right, then Rawls is wrong, and vice versa.[4] Another argument that is similar to this is the argument of merit/desert. Essentially the argument goes, "If I work hard for my money, then why are other people entitled to it?”[2]

Sufficiency vs. equality[edit]

Frankfurt offers another powerful criticism of the concept of egalitarianism.

The mistaken belief that economic equality is important in itself leads people to detach the problem of formulating their economic ambitions from the problem of understanding what is most fundamentally significant to them. It influences them to take too seriously, as though it were a matter of great moral concern, a question that is inherently rather insignificant and not directly to the point, namely, how their economic status compares with the economic status of others. In this way the doctrine of equality contributes to the moral disorientation and shallowness of our time.[4]

Frankfurt argues that what really matters is not equality per se, but sufficiency. Based on his line of reasoning, the resource or welfare difference between person A and person B is a trivial matter and what really matters is whether both person A and person B can lead fulfilling lives irrespective of how their lives compare with one another. Moreover, making the equality comparison is shallow.[4]

The prioritarian objection[edit]

Prioritarianism is a form of consequentialist ethics similar to utilitarianism only it prioritizes the interests of those individuals that are worse-off instead of treating people equally. See the problem? Enough said. More thorough discussions of the prioritarian objection can be found here, here, or here if one is interested.

The fault is-up-to-them objection[edit]

There are a variety of these types of arguments such as “Why should people who have spent their money frivolously on themselves demand to be treated with more resources when those resources must be taken from people who have been more prudent with their money?” Some of these arguments have been touched on earlier and we shall not elaborate on them further.[3]

The stigmatizing objection[edit]

This an interesting point brought up by Elizabeth Anderson. People like Rawls argue that people like the blind are “bad brute luck” people and therefore are entitled to extra resources, but this labeling by Rawls is imparting social stigmas by quantifying the level of people’s inferiority. As Anderson puts it, "[p]eople lay claim to the resources of egalitarian redistribution in virtue of their inferiority to others, not in virtue of their equality to others" and she feels that viewpoint is incompatible with the respect for human dignity.[3]

The tutelage objection[edit]

This is another argument made by Anderson and one that is also voiced by libertarians. In order for any agency to equally distribute resources, they would have to know a lot of information about people and then make 'grossly intrusive, moralizing judgments of individual's choices' and that intrudes upon the private sphere. In other words, government has to intrude upon people's [[privacy] and liberty in order to achieve Rawlsian equality.[3]

The complexity objection[edit]


This is an argument brought up by Walzer (among others). The argument he makes is that egalitarians are oversimplifying the issue of justice and setting up a false monism by only focusing on equality. Other things are important to justice such as merit/desert, efficiency and qualification.[3] By ignoring or minimizing the importance of these other factors, the egalitarians are committing a selective attention fallacy.

Domestic vs. global[edit]

If one promotes domestic equality and does not promote global equality, then one risks hypocrisy.[4] For example, if a western feminist argues for "Equal pay for equal work," then why does that mean the money should go to her and not to someone living in Mexico who makes far less than she does? Does the border between one's home country and one's neighbor mean that the people living on the other side of the border do not work as hard? That sounds a bit racist…

Equality in relation to political policies[edit]

Affirmative action[edit]

To the extent that it is based in philosophy and is not simply ad hoc, affirmative action is based on Rawls’ FEO.[6] When it is applied to people who are citizens (like African Americans in the case of the USA), then it can be seen as a form of domestic egalitarianism. Where this egalitarianism can run into philosophical difficulties is with people like illegal immigrants as now one has to deal with "Equality of Whom" issues.


It is difficult to describe a feminist position on egalitarianism due to the fact that feminists are not unified in what they believe in. It is sort of like atheism in that respect, though atheists are unified by something they don't have a belief in rather than a poorly defined affirmative belief. What can be said is that feminism and egalitarianism are not the same. The scope of egalitarianism is broader as egalitarians are concerned with all of humanity whereas feminists are only concerned with female rights and not all feminists believe in equality. Equating the two leads to an illicit conversion fallacy. Any philosophy or belief system that focuses strictly on one groups set of rights runs the risk of infringing on another groups set of rights. The classic example of this is white supremicism. In that case, focusing only on the rights of whites led to infringement of the rights of blacks. Other examples include how India's upper caste infringes on the rights of the lower castes, how the Rohingya are marginalized because of the attitudes of other groups in Burma, and the "right" of the super-rich to bribe government so they can take their money offshore and not be taxed as high as they should be. This last "right" infringes on everyone else's "right" to pay less tax.

In the case of male/female comparisons to determine what the societal objective should be, the issue of equal rights is complicated by the fact that the genders are genetically distinct from one another. Unlike the genetic ancestries of homo sapiens which have only had 300,000 years or so to evolve into different "races", gender is 2.5 billion years old.[8] During that time genders have developed a process called sexual differentiation and this process does affect the brain. Ignoring this fact leads to logical fallacies. In the case of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, it has led to prison rape in the USA.[9][10][11] Essentially, the reason this has occurred is because politicians, in their infinite wisdom, decided to disrespect the law of identity. Similars are not identicals and it is a logical mistake to treat them as such. Any philosophy that attempts to address gender issues that doesn't recognize the fundamental differences between the genders is going to encounter similar philosophical problems. How these differences translate into "equality" when often times different gender roles are assumed in marriages out of a need and (hopefully) desire to raise children is difficult to say. The issue is complex and often oversimplified by those who seek to address it.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Please accept my apologies for using circular definitions. I suspect people already know what those things are and giving elaborate definitions for simple concepts like equality, identity, and similarity would just serve to confuse people.
  2. Some things never change.
  3. Reification?
  4. Brady has earned that title as much as at pains us to admit it.
  5. Which, quite frankly, is a view that has some merit. Why is the USA constantly rebuilding homes in disaster-prone places with federal tax dollars?