Arguing for Equality

Arguing for Equality

Arguing for Equality

Arguing for Equality


John Baker grew up in New York but has lived mainly in Britain and Ireland since 1968. He teaches moral and political philosophy in the Department of Politics, University College, Dublin.


Imagine a country with no poverty. No one sleeps under bridges; no one looks through garbage for food. On the contrary: everyone has what you or I would call a decent home and a decent standard of living. There's no division into rich and poor, and anyone in a position of authority is democratically elected. Since people's work is meaningful and satisfying, they aren't compelled to do jobs they hate. Neither is anyone snubbed or patronized for belonging to the wrong class, or forced to bow and scrape. Women and men treat each other as equals; skin colour is irrelevant to your prospects in life; and you don't have to suffer for being Irish or Jewish or disabled or gay.

That would be a society of equals: the kind of society this book recommends. Today, it exists only in the imagination, and the belief in equality is out of fashion. But I shall argue that an equal society is both possible and desirable. The first step in that argument is to state more precisely what equality is. Then I'll say a little more about what an egalitarian society might look like.

Equality Defined

No simple definition of equality will do. Certainly, equality doesn't mean that everybody is or should be the same: people are different, and long may they remain so. Nor does it simply . . .

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