What Would an Economically Equal Society Look Like?


If everyone is of equal inherent moral worth then shouldn’t everyone be economically equal? Many philosophers would agree that egalitarianism is the right approach, but disagree on what this economic equality requires.

One answer is to switch to a different, socialist, economic system and ensure everyone has equal access to goods. Others have suggested that equality is possible within a capitalist economy, as long as resources are redirected or redistributed to the poor. 

Another question is what role people’s choices should play; if one person saves while another spends are subsequent inequalities justified within an overall egalitarian society?  The role of choice and personal responsibility greatly complicates the issue. Finally, we will consider whether an equal society is one in which people relate to one another in a suitable manner.

This short course considers which of these theories gives the most compelling answers and the key philosophical and policy debates that follow. It will include tutor-led discussion, considering several theories giving rival egalitarian answers to the important question of who should get what.

Programme details

Courses starts: 07 Oct 2019

Week 1:  Introduction; methods and strict egalitarianism

Week 2:  Strict equality: Why not socialism?

Week 3:  Constructing Justice as fairness: Rawls’ two principles of justice

Week 4:  Rawls’ difference principle and its critics

Week 5:  Equality of opportunity and luck

Week 6:  Equality of resources and hypothetical insurance

Week 7:  Luck Egalitarianism: Equality of what? Criticisms of luck egalitarianism

Week 8:  Relational equality

Week 9:  Implications of the views for taxation policy 

Week 10:  Implications of the views for benefit policy and non-egalitarian alternatives


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £215.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Doug Bamford

Doug Bamford is author of Rethinking Taxation (Searching Finance, 2014) and several papers in distributive justice, equality and taxation policy (including articles in the Journal of Applied Philosophy and Moral Philosophy and Politics). He blogs at Doug Bamford's Tax Appeal.

Course aims

1. to introduce students to the main contemporary egalitarian theories of economic justice, and to apply them to live policy issues.

2. To give students good knowledge and understanding of the main positions available on the above issues and some of the key arguments for and against them.

3. To give students practice in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

Course Objectives:

1. Gain an understanding of the ethical and policy issues relating to distributive justice

2. Understand the philosophical and policy issues relating to economic justice

3. Present and defend their own views on these issues

Teaching methods

Students will be asked to read one or two relevant texts each week before class. Classroom sessions will consist of a mixture of lecturing and open debate.

Learning outcomes

1. Have a knowledge and understanding of the egalitarian theories.

2. Have learnt how to offer arguments for and against the main positions introduced and have learnt skills in the analysis and critical assessment of arguments.

3. Have gained confidence in expressing ideas in open debate.

Assessment methods

Coursework will consist of either one essay of 1500 words or two or three smaller essays totalling this amount.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)