Justice, Horizontal Inequality and Policy Trade-offs

Stewart, Frances, and Arnim Langer (2011). "Justice, Horizontal Inequality and Policy Trade-offs" Paper presented at the 8th annual conference of the HDCA, 6-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands.

This paper considers approaches to justice and equality taken by selected philosophers and economists. The focus of these thinkers has been mainly related to vertical inequality or inequality among individuals. The paper considers the implications of the approaches for horizontal (group) equality or and argues that while it may be possible to justify some vertical inequality, the arguments for horizontal equality in important capabilities are much stronger. It considers that for groups, functionings (or outcomes) are a good (and sufficient) indicator of underlying core or basic capabilities, avoiding the difficult measurement issues raised by capabilities. However, while there are strong reasons to aim for horizontal equality in multiethnic societies, social psychologists suggest that policies to achieve this would get little support in such societies because the ‘scope of justice’ tends to be limited to a person’s own group. The paper concludes by presenting some empirical evidence from three African countries showing strong support for redistribution across groups in one, Ghana, but much less in the two others, Kenya and Nigeria. It argues that these differences are likely to stem from the different histories of the three countries, but they suggest it is possible to find support for redistribution in multiethnic societies, and the different histories may suggest ways in which such support can be promoted.
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