By Peter King
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Extra resources for Housing: Who Decides?
A generally high standard of living, even when there is considerable inequal- Peter King 29 ity, might be seen as superior to a lower standard of living distributed fairly. This might depend, of course, on whether the level of the poorest in the high standard society were better off than the commonly shared standard in the second example. However, it might also depend upon the numbers of those well above the poorest level in the richer society and thus upon whether a majority seek to preserve inequality as being in their own self-interest.
Therefore we cannot ignore the moral implications of markets. Plant is correct that outcomes can be foreseen in the sense that we know, in all probability, that there will be some inequality. It is not possible though 34 Housing: Who Decides? to indicate which individuals will be treated unequally and whether this is unjust. It is only possible if one starts from the premise that inequality is wrong by deﬁnition. But this abstract dislike for inequality hardly takes the debate any further. Plant’s argument rests on the assumption that if there is inequality the society or collective suffers and thus action is necessary regardless of the particular distribution.
The wealthy who contribute more in tax to provide universal health care and education, which they or their children then enjoy, are being treated unequally for this service as they are paying proportionately more for it. Thus, according to Ward, there ought to be a correspondence between the level of payments made by citizens and the level of service they receive. If services are to be universal so should there be a common level of payment for the provision of these services. Any level of disproportionate payment would constitute inequality, as well as being irrational according to the argument that the only germane consideration is need or merit.