Equalizing Income versus Equalizing Opportunity - A Comparison of the United States and Germany
Germany has lower posttax income inequality than the United States and
hence is doing better according to a strict egalitarian fairness ideal. On the
other hand, the United States is doing better than Germany according to a
libertarian fairness ideal, which states that people should be held fully respon-
sible for their income. However, most people hold intermediate (responsibility-
sensitive) positions, and hence it is interesting to study and compare fairness
according to these positions.
Only if peoples' preferences are characterized by substantial degree of indi-
vidual responsibility, the United States is considered less unfair than Germany.
If we hold people responsible for the unexplained variation, the United States
is considered fairer than Germany for all levels of responsibility sensitiveness.
If we, on the other hand, demand compensation for the unexplained variation,
Germany is fairer than the United States for all levels of responsibility. The
latter may be seen as the preferred approach as it follows a 'bene¯t of the