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Against Equality Again

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2009

J. R. Lucas
Affiliation:
Merton College, Oxford

Extract

Equality in the present age has become an idol, in much the same way as property was in the age of Locke. Many people worship it, and think that it provides the key to the proper understanding of politics, and that on it alone can a genuinely just society be reconstructed. This is a mistake. Although, like property, it is a useful concept, and although, like property, there are occasions when we want to have it in practice, it is not a fundamental concept any more than property is, nor can having it vouchsafe to us the good life. In an earlier paper I argued against equality by showing that the concept of equality was confused and that many of the arguments i egalitarians adduced were either invalid or else supported conclusions I which were not really egalitarian at all. Many egalitarians, however, have complained that my arguments were not fair, because I had failed to elucidate the concept adequately, or because the position I attacked was not one that any egalitarian really wished to maintain, or because I had overlooked other arguments which were effective in establishing egalitarian conclusions, or because the positive counter-arguments of my own I put forward more as a matter of taste than of serious political commitment. In this paper, therefore, I want to elucidate the concept more fully, concede what I should to my critics, point out that, even so, their conclusions do not follow, and give further reasons not only for supposing that egalitarian arguments are invalid but for discerning positive merits in some forms of inequality.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy 1977

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References

1 ‘Against Equality’, Philosophy 40, 1965, 296307Google Scholar; reprinted in Bedau, H., Justice and Equality (Prentice-Hall, 1971), 138151.Google Scholar

2 I have given an essentially similar but fuller account in ‘Equality in Education’, Education, Equality and Society, Wilson, Bryan R. (ed.) (London, 1975), 4043.Google Scholar

3 Benn, S. I., ‘Egalitarianism and the Equal Consideration of Interests’, Nomos, IX: Equality, Pennock, J. Rowland and Chapman, John W. (New York, 1967), 6465Google Scholar; reprinted in Bedau, Hugo A., Justice and Equality (Prentice-Hall, 1971), 155.Google Scholar

4 Bedau, Hugo A., ‘Radical Egalitarianism’, Justice and Equality, 173Google Scholar; or his ‘Egalitarianism and the Idea of Equality’, Nomos IX: Equality, 19.Google Scholar

5 §§ VI–VII, pp. 270–277.

6 ‘Against Equality’, pp. 302–303/145–146.

7 Benn, S. I., ‘Egalitarianism and Equal Consideration of Interests’, Nomos IX: Equality, Pennock, J. Rowland and Chapman, John W. (eds.) (New York, 1967), 65 ff.Google Scholar; reprinted in Bedau, Hugo A., Justice and Equality (Prentice Hall, 1971), 156ff.Google Scholar

8 p. 60/p. 159.

9 Davies, J. C., Human Nature in Politics (New York, 1963), 45.Google Scholar

10 See below, § VIII, pp. 277–280.

11 See, more fully, my ‘Justice’, Philosophy, 47 (1972), 229248Google Scholar, or my Democracy and Participation (Penguin, 1976), Ch. 7, 108113.Google Scholar

12 Williams, B. A. O., ‘The Idea of Equality’, Philosophy, Politics and Society, Laslett, Peter and Runciman, W. G. (eds), Series II (Oxford, 1962), 114120Google Scholar; reprinted in Bedau, Hugo A., Justice and Equality (Prentice-Hall, 1971), 121126.Google Scholar

13 Hayek, F. A., The Constitution of Liberty (London, 1960), Chs. 2, 3 and 8Google Scholar; Hogg, Quintin, The Case for Conservatism (Penguin, 1947), Chs. 16 and 26.Google Scholar

7
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