Equality vs Fairness
In most democracies of the world, fundamental human rights are sought to be protected, and the state strives to provide equality in matters pertaining to life, liberty and happiness. This concept of equality of all is based on the premise that all men are created as equals by God and the state must not discriminate between people based upon perceived differences of religion, gender, color of skin, cast and creed. However, there is a similar concept of fairness that is very similar to the concept of equality though there are subtle differences between the two. Fairness demands state to give to one individual according to what he deserves and not on the basis of head count. The concept of fairness demands that people should be treated according to merit and their contributions and not equally. Let us take a close look at the concepts of equality and fairness to highlight their differences.
Let us start from our own home. If you have two kids, and one of them is a newborn, can you treat both children on the concept of equality? No, certainly not. While the toddler has a different set of requirements that may include storybooks and poems besides educational toys, the requirements of a newborn are very different and remain confined to mostly feeding. This means it is difficult to treat children equally in a family as they belong to different ages that make their requirements different. In a class, though all kids being of equal age, a teacher uses the concept of equality more often than the concept of fairness.
In a society, not all sections are equally well off or are advanced to same levels. This requires state to adopt the concept of fairness keeping in mind the backwardness of a certain class of people, whether this backwardness is social or financial. There can even be educational backwardness. This inequality demands that government treat different cross-sections of the society differently to let them all develop to a particular stage.
Equality is a concept that bars a government from discriminating between people based on their religion, caste and creed, gender etc, so that, there is no disillusionment among the people, and they feel as if they are being treated equally by the government. The rule of law is one such example of equality where the law is same for all, whether rich or poor. Providing all the people same opportunities to develop is one strong incident of equality. Though this is important, despite getting equal chances or opportunities, not all individuals improve their rank or status in life to the same level.
This brings the concept of fairness to light. Can you treat a healthy individual with someone who is blind or lame, on the same footing? No, though the state cannot discriminate on the basis of the perceived shortcoming of the handicapped individual, the concept of fairness demands that he be given preferential treatment because of his limitations. For example, he can be given reservation in educational institutions and this reservation can even extend to jobs in industries. Fairness implies being just, and not sticking to the concept of equality even though, some people may be lacking opportunities and yet be distributed resources equally.
What is the difference between Equality and Fairness?
• Equality in the eyes of government implies no discrimination based on religion, cast and creed, gender etc. such as same pay at the same level of administration or management to a man as well as a woman.
• Reservation for poor and deprived and unprivileged classes is an example of fairness whereas rule of law is an example of equality.