EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY AND OPPORTUNITY DOMINANCE
|Matthias Hild a1 1 and Alex Voorhoeve a2 1 |
a1 Darden Graduate School of Business Administration
a2 University College London
All conceptions of equal opportunity draw on some distinction between morally justified and unjustified inequalities. We discuss how this distinction varies across a range of philosophical positions. We find that these positions often advance equality of opportunity in tandem with distributive principles based on merit, desert, consequentialist criteria or individuals' responsibility for outcomes. The result of this amalgam of principles is a festering controversy that unnecessarily diminishes the widespread acceptability of opportunity concerns. We therefore propose to restore the conceptual separation of opportunity principles concerning unjustified inequalities from distributive principles concerning justifiable inequalities. On this view, equal opportunity implies that that morally irrelevant factors should engender no differences in individuals' attainment, while remaining silent on inequalities due to morally relevant factors. We examine this idea by introducing the principle of ‘opportunity dominance' and explore in a simple application to what extent this principle may help us arbitrate between opposing distributive principles. We also compare this principle to the selection rules developed by John Roemer and Dirk Van de Gaer.
1 We thank Brian Barry, Ken Binmore, Alex Brown, Jerry Cohen, Marc Fleurbaey, Dirk Van de Gaer, Jeroen Knijff, Peter Postl, John Roemer, Robert van der Veen, Peter Vallentyne, Jo Wolff and an anonymous referee for this journal for helpful discussions and comments on earlier drafts. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Analytical Philosophy National Postgraduate Conference in Reading, the Workshop on Equal Opportunity at the University of Bayreuth, the Political Theory Seminar at Yale University, the Meeting of the Society for Social Choice and Welfare at Caltech, and the Economics Seminar at London Metropolitan University. We thank the participants of these conferences for their comments. Alex Voorhoeve's research was supported by the Dr Hendrik Muller's Vaderlandsch Fonds, the Bisschoffsheim Stichting, the Radboudstichting Wetenschappelijk Onderwijsfonds, the UCL Graduate School and the AHRB. Matthias Hild acknowledges research support by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena (California).