Lees hier het pdf van dit artikel. Social-liberals seek a just distribution of welfare. Our starting point is equal opportunities for all: each individual should have equal opportunities to build his or her own life. But what happens when this results in major social and economic inequality in practice? Is this still a just distribution of welfare? In other words, if we all start with equal opportunities, do we just have to accept unequal results?

If based on equal opportunities, unequal results are just to be accepted

Many participants in the discussion seem to accept the existence of inequality. But it should be limited. “Unequal results are to be accepted until a certain level”, says a biomedical researcher. “If the level of inequality is too high, it is unhealthy for our society. The question is to what level inequality is accepted.” An advisor in the field of spatial planning underlines that inequality is just part of reality. “But too much inequality threatens the sense of solidarity on two sides: the richer part will isolate itself from society, and the poorest part will feel excluded, and might therefore radicalise.” A D66 city councillor shares this realistic approach, referring to the logic of inequality. “We have to accept there will always be unequal results, since there are unequal starting points. And there is the factor of fortune.” An economics student does not only accept the existence of inequality, but supports it as well. “An equal distribution of welfare is needed to keep the economy balanced. It must be worth it to take the risks of entrepreneurship or to accept large responsibilities.” At the same time, the level of inequality must be limited. “But we should not aim to fully level out the distribution of welfare. We should only aim to make it a little less unequal.”

Unequal results are hard to accept, since the very idea of equal opportunities is an illusion

Some of the participants in the discussion did not focus as much on equal results, but rather on the difficult concept of equal opportunities. The very idea of equal opportunities is not realistic, because of “natural circumstances” and “individual chances and threats” which, by default, create unequal opportunities. A sculptor underlines the inequality right from the beginning. “To offer equal opportunities for all is an illusion. All individuals have a different start in this world. This already is unequal. We can only try to decrease the differences in opportunities as much as possible.” A financial controller joins his view. “Equal opportunities is not the way it works in life. We were all born with different talents. And the exact place of birth is important as well. Besides, in the system of capitalism, it is not about equal opportunities. It is about equal access to money, and equal access to knowledge.” A few alternatives to the concept of equal opportunities were introduced in the discussion. “The distribution of power is the key element”, according to the financial controller. “More money, more knowledge, a better network, good health and more talents result in more power. More power means the capacity to live your life the way you wish. But the concentration of power in a small group might hamper others in living their lives.” A communication professional stresses the difficulties of equal opportunities for the sustainability of our planet. “We have to leave the idea of equal opportunities for all to increase our welfare. We should talk about equal opportunities to live and to develop ourselves. The unrestrained pursuit of welfare destroys our natural resources.” An information management professional keeps it short and simple: “Equal opportunities for all is a wonderful ideal. But we all know we will never achieve this ideal situation.”   Heeft dit artikel uw interesse gewekt? Klik hier voor meer info en abonnementen. - - Dit artikel verscheen in idee nr. 6 2014: A Divided World, en is te vinden bij de onderwerpen debat, kansengelijkheid en ongelijkheid.