Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy - download pdf or read online

By William Letwin

ISBN-10: 0333353137

ISBN-13: 9780333353134

ISBN-10: 1349171751

ISBN-13: 9781349171750

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Sample text

Again, the fact that different freemen own unequal amounts of private property does not reduce any of them to the condition of a slave who was denied the right to own private property. 'Equality' in rights is thus liable to be misinterpreted as a demand that everyone should exercise each right to an equal extent. But this is absurd. The right of free speech does not mean that anybody need talk all the time, or that everyone should talk the same amount of time, or that nobody may remain silent.

Once alerted to this implication, rational men would respond by preferring the richer society to the equal society, provided that everyone in the richer society is at least as well-to-do as in the poorer equal society. A rational man would prefer, for instance, an arrangement in which everybody gets between (say) £7500 and £ 15,000 to one in which everybody gets £5000, assuming that the two were practical alternatives, so that one could move from one to another at will, merely according to whether private incentives were or were not permitted to operate.

Response to Risk Some, following a line of reasoning put forward by John Rawls)l believe that equality is a necessary implication of a psychological law which dictates men's preferences when facing situations of risk. Suppose, as Rawls invites us to do, that a person were asked to design the distribution of income for a community of which he would then become a member; yet the designer, though authorised to determine the distribution of income, is barred from specifying his own place in it, that being determined purely by chance.

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Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy by William Letwin


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