Living with unfairness: The limits of equal opportunity in a market economy

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Equality of opportunity is often presented as a criterion which reconciles egalitarianism with principles of freedom and responsibility. This paper distinguishes between the principle of 'starting-line equality', which requires that everyone's initial opportunities, assessed in relation to what is publicly known ex ante, are equal, and the principle that equal efforts should yield equal ex post rewards. It argues that the first principle is compatible with allocation of resources through markets but, because of the division of knowledge, the second is not. If we want the opportunities which markets give us, we have to accept ex post unfairness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-236
Number of pages26
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004

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