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Equality of Opportunity and the Family Harry Brighouse (Dept of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison) Adam Swift (Centre for the Study of Social.

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Presentation on theme: "Equality of Opportunity and the Family Harry Brighouse (Dept of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison) Adam Swift (Centre for the Study of Social."— Presentation transcript:

1 Equality of Opportunity and the Family Harry Brighouse (Dept of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison) Adam Swift (Centre for the Study of Social Justice and Balliol College, Oxford)

2 Plan Set out conflict between conventional equality of opportunity and conventional view of the family Outline our theory of ‘family values’ (familial relationship goods (FRGs)) Explore conflict between FRGs and conventional equality of opportunity Stress limitations of conventional equality of opportunity

3 Argument ‘The family’ is more important than conventional equality of opportunity but Properly understood, the family does not disrupt conventional equality of opportunity as much as is commonly thought, and The conflict with conventional equality of opportunity is not the actual (or effective or relevant) conflict

4 Conventional equality of opportunity Rawlsian FEO: “Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity”; “supposing there is a distribution of native endowments, those who have the same level of talent and willingness to use these gifts should have the same prospects of success regardless of their social class of origin” (Restatement, p.44)

5 FEO and the family “although the internal life and culture of the family influences, perhaps as much as anything else, a child’s motivation and his capacity to gain from education, and so in turn his life prospects, these effects are not necessarily inconsistent with FEO…If there are variations among families in the same sector in how they shape the child’s aspirations, then while FEO may obtain between sectors, equal chances between individuals will not.” (TJ, p.301) This too concessive even for conventional view?

6 What needs to be respected for ‘the family’ to be respected? Fishkin, Rachels, Schoeman, Richard Miller talk about “autonomy” or “integrity” of family, of “right to raise one’s children”, “parental nurturance” as barriers to equality. Too vague. We need to explore (i) what is valuable about parent-child relationships (why preferable to state-run child-rearing institutions?) and (ii) what do parents need to be free to do to, with and for their children if they are to realize those values? Methodological insistence on specificity of relationship to assess kinds of partiality justified by the relationship

7 The Relationship Goods Account of Family Values meeting children’s developmental interests (moral, physical, cognitive, emotional) meeting children’s immediate interests including in security and enjoyment of the intrinsic goods of childhood providing a sense of continuity with the past (children) and future (parents). parental enjoyment of a distinctively valuable relationship in which they are intimate with someone for whom they play a central fiduciary role (the non-fiduciary interest in acting as a fiduciary) NB: our account focuses on parents and children, not third party interests.

8 Parent-child interactions and familial relationship goods (FRGs) First approximation: Yes: Bedtime stories and accompanying children to church or cricket. Activities of this kind are central to intimate sharing of lives and enthusiasms No: Elite private schools and bequest of property. These are not (normally) essential for the parent-child relationship to contribute its FRGs

9 Points about the first approximation Extent to which (e.g.) bedtime stories cause violations of FEO (or other inequalities) is a matter of social/institutional design Could be prioritaian/incentives argument for permitting non-FRG-realizing interactions (but these do not go via value of family) Parents of children who would otherwise have worse prospects than under FEO may (arguably) help their children to prospects they would have under FEO

10 Complication 1: Elite private education and bequest do sometimes contribute to FRGs Certain kinds of education, or property, are important to familial identity and relationships Response: OK, but what families need is range of options by which to realize FRGs, not any particular means; families can go for means that disrupt equality less Subtle issue because spontaneity and discretion are important; monitoring/regulation inimical to healthy familial relationships (e.g. helping with homework) But spontaneity/discretion won’t justify elite private education and bequest of property

11 Complication 2: Wanting child’s life to go better is aspect of love If I love my child and not yours, then I care more that my child’s life go better than that yours does. Denying me the opportunity to promote my child’s interests in general is denying me the opportunity to act on a distinctive loving motivation Note that the motivation here is not that my child’s life go better than yours, it’s that it goes better than it otherwise would. But this is enough to motivate the pursuit of competitive advantage as means to that end

12 Response to complication 2 Yes, OK, both giver and receiver realize FRG when well-being is promoted by loved one But this kind of FRG is secondary and parasitic and less weighty. Not weighty enough to beat FEO where that is the conflict. Interest in FEO is more weighty than interest in being free to give/receive benefits to loved ones in general (though not more weighty than interest in enjoying intimate loving relationship and its primary or core FRGs)

13 FEO is not the effective/relevant distributive goal Discussion so far rather artificial in that FEO is artificial foil for the family We’ve been assuming just distribution of resources between parents, as if only distributive issue were what they may do that might interrupt FEO. (Imagine parental resources as stolen goods) What families need to be free to do with, to, for each other to realise FRGs is separate issue from extent to which they may legitimately act to realise those goods for themselves and their family members in any given circumstances We cannot infer what parents may legitimately do for their children in the real world from what they would be justified in doing in an idealised world where family values conflict only with FEO

14 Equality of Opportunity for FRGs? The goods realized by the family are valuable for all Treat ‘the family’ and FRGs as object of egalitarian concern (rather than as obstacle to egalitarian goals) by incorporating FRGs within a distributive paradigm Poverty is major obstacle to enjoyment of FRGs in rich societies – many parents cannot meet their children’s material and educational needs adequately while also spending the time necessary for valuable intimate relationships

15 Conclusion Family and equality do not conflict as much as the prevalent discourse of ‘family values’ suggests We can respect the partiality constitutive of valuable parent-child relationships while altering the social environment so as to reduce massively its impact on FEO (and on other distributive goals) FRGs can themselves be regarded as among the distribuenda of a complete theory of distributive justice Rather than conceiving them as obstacles to egalitarian goals, those who care about ‘family values’ should be more specific about their content and worry more about those least able to enjoy them

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