Chapter

Issues and Influences Reviewed

Henry Phelps Brown

in Egalitarianism and the Generation of Inequality

Published in print November 1988 | ISBN: 9780198286486
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596773 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198286481.003.0009
 Issues and Influences Reviewed

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The differences between people are so conspicuous in all sorts of ways that it may well be wondered that the notion of human equality has ever been entertained. The preceding chapters have shown how it has come to be so, and the purpose of this present chapter is to review that account. It begins with the reasons for accepting or justifying inequality of treatment, status, or condition, which may be grouped under three heads: people are unequal in all sorts of ways, not least in their ability to acquire wealth and income; the need for order in every society requires a structure of ranks and an allocation of functions accompanied by appropriately differentiated standards of living; and inequalities arise from the working of the market, but this, if left unimpeded, will do more to harmonize self‐interest and raise the general level of welfare than will intervention. The next three sections deal with each of these aspects in turn, setting out the influences in the realms of thought or material circumstance that have loosened the hold of inequality and strengthened that of egalitarianism, in principle and in practice. The last section of the chapter considers the causes of the historical changes that have taken place.

Keywords: egalitarianism; equality; history; income; inequality; market; rank; self‐interest; social structure; standard of living; wealth; welfare

Chapter.  7632 words. 

Subjects: Public Economics

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