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The Case for Equality in Modern Society

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I will argue about modern society and its affirmation on the principle of equality, a principle that has failed to prevent the social inequalities with which we have to fight day by day in a world where people are valuable for what they have and not so are, sadly, We are all born free and with fundamental rights; But the existing shortage of opportunities to gain space in society has echoed our right to work more and more distantly as unemployment rates rise and countries declare themselves in Crisis. Why are we obliged to live according with the law and how can we say that our government of founded in the consent of the governed if we have never signed a social contract with it? John Locke says that “We have tacitly given consent as we enjoy the benefits of having a government, we are accepting it”. The American political philosopher, John Rawls, argues that in order to think about justice We have to wonder what are the ideologies with which we would agree on an initial equality situation. Then We have to put the Veil of ignorance, we do not know what is or will be our position in Society. If no one knows anything we will decide in an original position of equality since no one would have a higher negotiating power, then the ideologies that we agree with would be the right ones.

That is the idea of the social agreement that Rawls proposes: a hypothetical agreement in a situation originating in equality. He asks us to set aside our moral and religious convictions and put on the veil of ignorance. We will not choose a utilitarian system because behind the veil of ignorance we could be the repressed minority, nor a laissez-faire system because we would not want to be the poor affected by the free market. Ralws believes that two principles of justice would come out: Equal basic freedoms for all citizens, such as freedom of expression or worship and social and economic equality which will allow for inequalities that serve to improve the situation of the less prosperous members of Society.

Talking about the moral limits of contracts, a deal doesn’t have to be equitable all the time. That people ratify a constitution does not mean that what it promulgates is fair, this also does not mean that we should violate our agreements when we feel like it. Consent creates an obligation or requires that there be any component of profit or trust deposited, there may be cases in which consent is not enough to create a morally binding obligation, while in others it may not be necessary. If we imagine the perfect contract there should be two ideals: autonomy and reciprocity; a fair contract is the one that has both ideals and inherently equal power and knowledge, the paradox is that a hypothetical agreement behind the veil of ignorance is not a deviated form of a real contract, and therefore morally weaker, but a pure form of a real contract, and thus more morally potent than it.

One of the two principles of Justice is freedom, which is based on the rejection of Utilitarianism and agreeing on the right to freedom of conscience and consent, while the principle of difference will allow certain social and economic inequalities (wages) if they give some benefit to those in society in the most unfavorable position. So the redistribution of income and opportunities should not be based on morally arbitrary factors. The lack of fairness can be solved by correcting the social and economic disadvantages, but although the conception meritocratic corrects certain disadvantages is not fair at all, for example in a competition although all the competitors leave from the same starting point, there will be some who have more skills to run than others. If this worries us about inequality, could we propose to put lead in the slippers of those who run the most? Some critics of the Egalitarianism say “the only alternative to the meritocratic market Society is a levelling equality that imposing ballasts on the talented”. The principle of difference allows income inequality as long as such incentives are needed to improve the fate of the unsuccessful ones. Since incentives would generate economic growth by improving the situations for those below. On the other hand as for the effort Rawls rejects the meritocratic theory of the justice because the natural aptitudes of the individuals are not work of these. But then the hard work that is dedicated to cultivating the own competition and the effort does not deserve a reward, Rawls says that even the effort can be the product of being raised in favorable circumstances, in this influence the contingencies that can’t be attribute to us. What the meritocracy believes is that it deserves to be paid the achievement or the contribution, not the effort.

Rawls argues that “Distributive justice has nothing to do with rewarding moral demerits, although this clashes with our way of defining justice”. Distributive justice is not to reward moral merit, it does not mean that those who work hard do not correspond to the rewards given to them. But there is a difference between the morally deserved and the right to legitimate expectations, an acquired right, which is only generated when certain rules have been established: the skills that can be competed with more success are not the work of every one and the qualities that a society values most at a given moment are morally arbitrary.

On the other hand, Rawls claimed that the distribution of natural aptitudes, the whim of social circumstances, nature is not fair or unfair. They are simply natural facts. Just or unfair is the way the institutions deal with these Facts. Rawls proposes to share the destiny with the others and to take advantage of the accidents of the Nature. This presents the most attractive defense of an equal Society. We cannot have a just society by maximizing utility or guaranteeing freedom of choice. To come to a fair society we must reason together on the meaning of good life and create a public culture that welcomes the discrepancies that will inevitably arise. To claim a policy of the common good must require: an intense community sentiment (which must be cultivated from schools and education centers), establish the moral limits to markets (we are already suffering the consequences of this lack of scruples), a greater and just distribution of income and wealth (which enhances the solidarity that democratic citizenship requires), reconstruction of the infrastructure of civic life (especially enhancing public services) and finally a policy based on moral commitment that will be a more promising foundation of a just society than mere relativism or circumvention.

Sandel’s critique may presents some flaws, as he claims that Rawls ‘ theory presupposes the existence of a community whose values and concerns are implicit in people’s reasoning in the original position, thus, it is not possible to pretend that the deliberation on the principles of justice is the product of a deliberation carried out by independent actors, without ligatures or social commitments of any kind. However, this was something that Rawls himself had recognized in a series of lectures from 1980: “Dewey lectures”, in which he stated that his concern was simply to discover those moral principles that could best serve a society, with all their particular claims. It is one thing feeling identified with it or I can even be identified by the place I occupy in the same and, another very different, is to determine everything I am. Sandel himself comes to admit that the subject is a participant in the construction of his own identity. Being thus, in little differs then his vision of that of Rawls’. It does not indicate why the self should be created politically, personality, character, attitude are determined by our social environment, which includes family, school, group of friends, etc. , which are not necessarily political communities.

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