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Relationship between Equality and Justice Essay

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The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal. This quote by Aristotle sums up David Miller’s conjecture in the article, Against Global Egalitarianism.

Miller’s work confronts and dismantles the view that there needs to be substantial equality between humans as a matter of justice irrespective of the society they belong to. As a nationalist and minimalist, he does not fail to acknowledge and support the value of equality within individual societies but rejects the idea of extending this equality to a global level. In order to prove why equality should not be seen as an extension of social justice in a global world; he orientates his argument towards the principles of global equality of opportunity and resources.

These principles according to him require that people with similar talents and motivations are owed similar opportunity sets and resources irrespective of the society they come from. Hence, whatever opportunity or resources available to an individual in France should also be available to an individual in Ghana, as long as they share similar characteristics, which in this context would be the mere fact that they are humans.

In Miller’s opinion, advocating for such a level of equality is utopian and would not yield global justice. Instead, it would push justice so far away that people will no longer make efforts to attain it. Miller answers the why of his argument on the basis of two premises. The first premise suggests that it is impossible to neutrally measure equality in a culturally plural world. The second premise further proposes that even if it were possible to find a neutral measurement of equality, this will place an unbearable burden on productive political communities and undermine their national self-determination. With this, his conclusion rejects the idea of global egalitarianism; advocates for the absence of serious injustice in social relationships and international cooperation; and promotes the fulfillment of an individual’s right to basic needs and a nation’s right to self-determination on a global scale.

For the purpose of this review, Miller’s two arguments would be addressed separately as the metric problem (for equality of opportunity) and the dynamic problem (for equality of resources).

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The Metric Problem

In trying to prove the irrelevance of global equality in global justice, Miller makes reference to Moellendorf’s demonstration of how equality of opportunity works, i.e. the Mozambique child and the child of a Swiss executive illustration. To him, it is impossible to have identical opportunity sets on a global scale because of limitations that are inevitable such as migration rules, citizenship, and even language skills. But it would be more tangible to argue for equivalent opportunity sets which then introduces a metric problem that uses cultural understanding to determine when two opportunity sets are equivalent. According to Miller, cultural understanding makes it easy to measure the value of equality within nation-states but an attempt to do so on a global level would be difficult as such cultural understanding does not exist on a global level. Miller uses engaging illustrations such as the comparison of two villages with access to enlightenment and then the availability of a church and a school to prove that not all things are substitutable. He concludes this argument with a claim that a lack of common culture means we cannot make general judgments about equality of opportunity, hence what seems like a matter of inequality could merely be a matter of severe poverty.

Miller may have presented a realistic and pragmatic argument on how to attain global justice without global equality but his argument becomes invalid when he claims that cultural understanding makes it easy to measure equality within a nation-state but not on a global level. This is because even within a nation-state, most especially with the level of cultural diversity that exists, it remains difficult to identify and measure up valuable opportunities. Take Nigeria for example, a nation with over 100 ethnic groups with different cultures, traditions, and languages. There is a dearth of cultural understanding that avails an individual from one ethnic group similar opportunities as an individual from another ethnic group. This proves that these limitations Miller has identified on a global level can also be seen on a national level. So if he believes that cultural understanding can help promote equality within a state, then the same can be done on a global level; the ultimate goal remains that all individuals get an equal opportunity for a better life. While it is easy to agree with Miller that it is impossible to have identical opportunity sets, ensuring all individuals have equal opportunities to minimum basic necessities like health care provision, educational opportunities, access to enlightenment, and so on to achieve their potential remains necessary. It may not be easy but as long as it is possible, attaining global justice through global equality will be worth it for a more just and fair world.

The Dynamic Problem

Miller argues against the relevance of global equality in global justice through equality of resources – where he asks that we consider two societies that have been provided with equal resources but along the line due to poor policy choices, there becomes an inequality of resources. For Miller, expecting aid transfer from one country to another in such a case does not restore equality of resources between the two societies, nor should it be seen as an act of justice. Instead, it would ignore the relevance of national responsibility, create poor incentives and place unfair burdens on the aid-giving country most especially when the inequalities can be traced back to that country’s decision towards the available resources. Collective and individual inheritance comes to play when Miller has no interest in whether members of the country were in agreement with the decision or those who were not born when those decisions were made. So for him, as long as you are a part of that country, there is a collective responsibility for past actions and decisions in the distribution of resources and the present generation will have to bear both the burden and benefit.

Once again, it is safe to say that Miller may have a reasonable but selfish approach while arguing against the equality of resources. There is no harm in advocating for national self-determination and national responsibility but his claim that aid transferred between societies to restore equality caused by the society’s poor choices is a misinterpretation of global egalitarianism. Global egalitarianism deals with situations where the inequality that exists results in some sort of human rights violation like severe poverty. If a country has the means to assist in restoring social justice to another country and alleviate poverty through redistribution of resources then that country has a moral obligation and duty to do so. Over the years, the use of aid or transfer of resources as a tool to tackle global issues such as climate change, poverty, HIV/AIDS, preventable diseases, and inequality has to an extent assisted in economic, social, and political development in the aid recipient countries like Iraq, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Rwanda. Hence, it is not just an act of charity or an attempt to place an unfair burden but a sheer act of justice. More so, Miller’s claim that societies are not obligated to help the less fortunate societies dismisses the positive and negative duty that is being owed to any individual in the global system. This act of justice and equality also has a positive impact on the aid-giving countries such as building trade partnerships, allies, promotion of international cooperation and relations, etc. which all comes back to play a significant role in attaining global justice and making the world a better place for all humans.

As a nationalist, Miller is aware of the evolution of global relationships into the sort of relationships one finds within nations but refuses to not only embrace the fact that these changes have an effect on global justice but also the role of global egalitarianism. He has chosen to maintain the idea that nationality has certain features of moral significance such as political decisions, health care benefits, security, safety, etc. which makes it difficult to apply the principle of global egalitarianism. For Miller, inequality provides incentives that move people to work hard to develop important skills. Inequality increases the social pie and makes everyone better off. Inequality encourages national growth, development, and self-determination.

In conclusion, the principles of global justice cannot be viewed from a minimalist approach. The world may have an unjust nature but that does not mean that the injustice and inequality that exist should be ignored. In a world where we continue to face global challenges that violate our rights as humans, one cannot live in isolation and attempt to tackle these challenges on their own. It is more productive for everyone to work together in making a more peaceful, just, and inclusive world for ourselves and generations to come. The first step would be to have a cosmopolitan egalitarian approach where we see ourselves as more than citizens of a state and as equals.

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Relationship between Equality and Justice Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-equality-and-justice-essay/
“Relationship between Equality and Justice Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-equality-and-justice-essay/
Relationship between Equality and Justice Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-equality-and-justice-essay/> [Accessed 9 Dec. 2022].
Relationship between Equality and Justice Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/relationship-between-equality-and-justice-essay/
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