Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry reviews the leading perspectives on equality. Its focus is rule-based equality. Distributive rules have the following form: a particular benefit or burden should be distributed to a person depending on whether he has a particular characteristic. According to the Aristotelian principle of numeric equality, an ethical or juridical system is egalitarian if all the benefits or burdens have to be distributed in equal parts to everyone. Some systems allocate equal shares to equals. The entry argues that a distributive system may be said to be more egalitarian the more widely benefits or burdens are dispersed.
One possible system is proportional equality: benefits or burdens are allocated in ratio to individuals' possession of specified characteristics. In many cases, the characteristic in question is merit. The most developed proportional rule of equality is that distributive differences correspond to relevant differences in characteristics. Another possible system is procedural equality, particularly those that focus on "fair" rules of distribution.
Other approaches focus on outcomes: a distributive rule is egalitarian if it reduces the differences among the quantities of goods possessed by individuals. Equality of opportunity, a classical liberal concept, refers to the equal distribution of opportunities for admission to different positions in the society.
The entry ends by characterizing modern democratic theory as neither egalitarian or inegalitarian, but rather a fusion of two principles: initial leveling and subsequent unequal distribution.