A fair society would encourage equality of opportunity for all instead of enforcing equality of outcomes, a Guardian newspaper commentator has declared.
Julian Glover’s comments came as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a new 750-page report on inequality in Britain. The report doesn’t mention any of the high profile religious liberty cases which have hit the headlines in recent years.
Mr Glover questioned the EHRC’s obsession with equality of outcomes, and he warned that the EHRC’s “definition of a fair society is one that champions the constant reduction of unequal outcomes.”
Mr Glover added: “I think the EHRC has a wrongheaded idea of fairness. It measures the extent to which people’s lives are different, and then calculates the action needed to make them more the same. The assumption is that equality is what we all want.”
Mr Glover went on to explain that a valid alternative to enforcing equal outcomes, would be to provide everyone with equality of opportunity which would then allow them to realise their potential.
He said: “This overlooks the possibility that the actions needed to compel equality may be seen as unfair by those who do not benefit from them.
“An equally valid idea of a fair society may be one in which people are given the space and the right to strive for inequality: advantage achieved by their own efforts.”
He added: “The corollary of rejecting equality as a goal, and placing greater responsibility on individuals, must be to increase opportunity by reducing unfair advantage.”
The Commission’s triennial report, which tracks inequality in Britain from birth to retirement, has been released today.
A comment piece in The Daily Telegraph also cautioned: “Fairness is not the same as equality, yet this report – ‘mandated’ by the Equality Act – is the first of a series of three-yearly investigations intended to place policy‑makers under pressure to address the perceived injustices they uncover and justify the existence of quangos like the EHRC.
“Yet do we really know what we mean by fairness? David Cameron said it was about ‘giving people what they deserve – and what people deserve depends on how they behave’.
“No such moral judgments are made in the EHRC report: its underlying assumption is that it should be possible to equalise outcomes when the most sensible ambition of government should be to ensure everyone has the best possible chance to succeed.”
A spokesman for the Government Equalities Office said: “When people are treated fairly, everyone in society benefits. That’s why this government is committed to tackling all forms of inequality and discrimination, and we welcome the EHRC’s contribution to the debate. We will be studying the review’s conclusions carefully.”
But despite its length the report, entitled How Fair is Britain, makes no mention of a number of high profile religious liberty cases such as the Christian nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient.
The supposed link between social problems and inequality achieved widespread attention because of a influential book known as The Spirit Level.
However, critics have previously cast doubt on the book’s claims.
Professor Julian le Grand, in a review of the book, warned that The Spirit Level’s authors could be ascribing problems to inequality that were actually the result of cultural differences or out and out poverty.