Democratic equality involves all three principles and in doing so reflects and integrates these several egalitarian ideas. Justice is not compromised by this integration; it is constituted by it. Mitigating the moral arbitrariness of certain contingencies: Before addressing the criticism that democratic equality only mitigates, but does not eliminate, moral arbitrariness, it is helpful to see how far fair equality of opportunity and difference principle go in this direction compared to the alternatives Rawls argues against. What principle would assure us that positions and advantages are open to all in an intuitively appropriate way? As capitalist democracies developed, the feudal idea that birth into a social class should determine opportunity became more and more unacceptable. A first approximation to a better principle governing opportunity calls for “careers open to talents.” 26 When careers are “open to talents,” we judge people for jobs and offices according to the actual talents and skills they display, not irrelevant traits such as their class background, race, gender, sexual orientation, or family connections. This idea is the core of anti-discrimination legislation. In American society, with its long history of racism, just as in other societies with histories of race and caste discrimination, we know that social practices can lead to the mis- and
underdevelopment of expectations, talents, and skills, even after discrimination becomes illegal. The same point is true of gender-biased attitudes, with their long cultural and religious roots. If we then judge people solely on the basis of “careers open to talents,” remaining on the face of it race or gender “neutral,” we may leave in place the strong effects of unfair practices and morally arbitrary social contingencies. Consequently, the very concern that leads us to embrace careers open to talents actually leads us to a stronger principle Fair equality of opportunity addresses these worries by requiring compensatory and preventive institutional measures. For Rawls, public education offers one way to minimize the effects of race and class background. Of course, Rawls would have to intend a more uniform or equitable quality of public education than what we see in the United States, where de facto residential segregation and unequal political power lead to basic inequalities between the best surburban schools, serving rich white children, and the worst rural and urban schools, serving poor minority and white children. The effect is that schools end up replicating, not reducing, class and race inequalities. 27 Even if we had more equitable public schools, fair equality of opportunity might also require programs aimed at early educational intervention for preschool children, like Head Start, or comprehensive day care programs of the sort that exist in some other countries. The day care programs might also be required to provide fair equality of opportunity to women.
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