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Equality of opportunity and other equity principles in the context of developing countries

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  • Denis Cogneau

    ()
    (DIAL, IRD, Paris)

Abstract

I propose a personal reading of some theories of social justice at a moment when the issue of equality or equity appears to be back on the ‘development agenda’. Nowadays the term equity tends to be most often associated with the equality of opportunity principle. After having briefly summarized the equality of opportunity standpoint, I review the two main criticisms that have been addressed to it inside the economic literature: the right-wing meritocratic criticism on the one hand, and the left-wing egalitarian criticism on the other. I supplement these internal criticisms with a sociological or anthropological standpoint that advocates for a more pluralist definition of justice and gives a central role to the competition between elites for legitimacy. I argue that despite its indubitable potency (even for issues like international inequalities between countries), the equality of opportunity principle is incomplete and that some meritocratic principles and some equalization of outcomes should enter into play when thinking about social justice in a given real society. Moreover, a socially relevant conception of justice should take into account cultural variations in the definition of fairness. A universalist definition of justice is better preserved when the issue of tyranny and separation of powers is considered at both the social and political levels. _________________________________ Je propose une lecture personnelle de quelques théories de la justice sociale au moment où la question de l’égalité ou de l’équité semble être revenue sur l’agenda du développement. De nos jours le terme équité semble être le plus souvent associé au principe d’égalité des chances. Après un court résumé du point de vue de l’égalité des chances, je passe en revue les deux critiques principales qui lui ont été adressées au sein de la littérature économique : la critique méritocratique de droite d’un côté, et la critique égalitariste de gauche de l’autre. J’ajoute à ces deux critiques internes un point de vue historique et sociologique qui prone une définition pluraliste de la justice et fait jouer un rôle central à la compétition des élites pour la légitimité. J’argumente que malgré son indubitable puissance (même dans le domaine des inégalités internationales entre pays), le principe d’égalité des chances est incomplet et que des principes méritocratiques et d’égalisation des résultats doivent entrer en jeu lorsqu’on réfléchit à la justice sociale dans une société réellement existante. De plus, une conception de la justice socialement pertinente doit prendre en compte les variations culturelles dans la définition du juste. Une définition universaliste de la justice est mieux préservée lorsque la question de la tyrannie et de la séparation des pouvoirs est considérée, à la fois sur le plan social et sur le plan politique.

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Paper provided by DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation) in its series Working Papers with number DT/2005/01.

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Length: 13 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dia:wpaper:dt200501

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Keywords: Distributive Justice; Inequality; Equality of Opportunity; Meritocracy; Political Economy; Development; Equity; Separation of Powers; Justice distributive; Inégalité; Egalité des chances; Méritocratie; Economie politique; Développement; Equité; Séparation des pouvoirs.;

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  1. Menno Pradhan & David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger, 2001. "Decomposing World Health Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 01-091/2, Tinbergen Institute.
  2. Bourguignon, F. & Fournier, M. & Gurgand, M., 2000. "Fast Development with a Stable Income Distribution: Taiwan, 1979-1994," DELTA Working Papers 2000-07, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  3. Collier, Paul & Dollar, David, 2000. "Can the world cut poverty in half ? how policy reform and effective aid can meet international development goals," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2403, The World Bank.
  4. Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, 2002. "The Inheritance of Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 3-30, Summer.
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  6. Erik Schokkaert & Kurt Devooght, 2003. "Responsibility-sensitive fair compensation in different cultures," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 207-242, October.
  7. Llavador, Humberto G. & Roemer, John E., 2001. "An equal-opportunity approach to the allocation of international aid," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 147-171, February.
  8. Stanley L Engerman & Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 2002. "Factor Endowments, Inequality, and Paths of Development Among New World Economics," NBER Working Papers 9259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Hild, Matthias & Voorhoeve, Alex, 2004. "Equality Of Opportunity And Opportunity Dominance," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 117-145, April.
  10. Durlauf, Steven N, 1996. " A Theory of Persistent Income Inequality," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 75-93, March.
  11. Jere Behrman R. & Alejandro Gavieria Uribe & Miguel Szekely Sánchez, 2001. "Intergenerational Mobility in Latin America," WORKING PAPERS SERIES. DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 002914, FEDESARROLLO.
  12. Fleurbaey, Marc, 1995. "Equal Opportunity or Equal Social Outcome?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 25-55, April.
  13. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-67, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Cogneau, Denis, . "The Political Dimension of Inequality During Economic Development," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/4302, Paris Dauphine University.
  2. Cling, Jean-Pierre & Cogneau, Denis & Loup, Jacques & Naudet, Jean-David & Razafindrakoto, Mireille & Roubaud, François, 2005. "Le développement, une question de chances ? A propos du Rapport sur le Développement dans le monde 2006 « Equité et Développement »," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/4390, Paris Dauphine University.

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