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

  • Cogneau, Denis

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.

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Paper provided by Paris Dauphine University in its series Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine with number 123456789/4404.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Publication status: Published in DIAL Document de travail, 2005
Handle: RePEc:dau:papers:123456789/4404
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  1. 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.
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  3. Dirk Van de gaer; & Michel Martinez; & Erik Schokkaert, 1998. "Measuring Intergenerational Mobility and Equality of Opportunity," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n780598, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
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  8. 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.
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  11. Hild, Matthias & Voorhoeve, Alex, 2004. "Equality Of Opportunity And Opportunity Dominance," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(01), pages 117-145, April.
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