Prospects for Achieving Equality in Market Economies

John E. Roemer

in The Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199606061
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Economics

 Prospects for Achieving Equality in Market Economies

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  • Economics
  • Labour and Demographic Economics
  • Public Economics


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This article considers the possibility of attaining equality in principle. It begins by proposing the degree of equality that we can expect or hope to achieve in the foreseeable future. It defines the two grand strategies for achieving equality in the last century: socialism and social democracy. Markets are necessary in any complex society, and they perform both a coordination function and an incentive function. It is argued that an understanding of the relative importance of these functions is necessary in order to assess the degree to which economic equality can be achieved. The two most important institutions for achieving equality are redistributive taxation and the reduction in the variation of human capital through public education. The article discusses whether democracy can be expected to implement the kind of educational finance policies which would be necessary to eliminate dynastic variation in the distribution of human capital.

Keywords: economic equality; socialism; social democracy; redistributive taxation; human capital distribution; public education; educational finance policy

Article.  6872 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Labour and Demographic Economics ; Public Economics

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