Ben Sachs
University of St. Andrews
Fair equality of opportunity, a principle that governs the competition for desirable jobs, can seem irrelevant in our actual world, for two reasons. First, parents have broad liberty to raise their children as they see fit, which seems to undermine the fair equality of opportunity–based commitment to eliminating the effects of social circumstances on that competition. Second, we already have a well-established principle for distributing jobs, namely meritocracy, thereby leaving no theater in which fair equality of opportunity can operate. I argue that we can solve both of these problems by conceding, in contrast to previous fair equality of opportunity defenders, that there’s no unique good associated with the right job, while insisting that there is a unique bad associated with the wrong job and holding that fair equality of opportunity should govern the competition to avoid that bad by attaining the right job. This move enables new responses to the two problems previously mentioned. In response to the meritocracy problem, I propose simply accepting that that principle should guide the distribution of jobs and all the associated goods while maintaining that there is room for a separate, non-consequentialist principle whose function is to ensure a fair distribution of chances to avoid the unique bad just identified. In response to the parental liberty problem, I argue that, for any given person, which job will deliver the unique bad I identify is contingent on her skills, and therefore, the way she is raised determines what would constitute a bad employment outcome for her, but doesn’t affect her chances of avoiding that outcome.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/147878516676712
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 60,992
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Limits of Fair Equality of Opportunity.Benjamin Sachs - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (2):323-343.
From Rawlsian Autonomy to Sufficient Opportunity in Education.Liam Shields - 2015 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (1):1470594-13505413.
From Rawlsian Autonomy to Sufficient Opportunity in Education.Liam Shields - 2015 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 14 (1):53-66.
Fair Equality of Opportunity.Larry A. Alexander - 1985 - Philosophy Research Archives 11:197-208.
Equality of Opportunity and Affirmative Action.Ovadia Ezra - 2007 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 14 (1):22-37.
Equality, Opportunity, Ambiguity.Gopal Sreenivasan - 2014 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 13 (1):82-92.
Equality and Opportunity.Shlomi Segall - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
Comment on Gavin Kerr.Ivo Wallimann-Helmer - 2013 - Analyse & Kritik 35 (1):93-97.


Added to PP index

Total views
19 ( #551,231 of 2,439,428 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #282,750 of 2,439,428 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes