Distinguishing Equality from Fairness

Equality vs Fairness

In most democracies, the state aims to protect fundamental human rights and provide equality in areas such as life, liberty, and happiness. The idea of equality is based on the belief that all people are created equal and should not be discriminated against due to differences in religion, gender, race, or social class. However, there is also the concept of fairness, which is similar to equality but has some subtle distinctions. Fairness requires the state to treat individuals based on what they deserve rather than just their headcount. The concept of fairness demands that people should be treated according to merit and their contributions, not just equally. This article will explore the concepts of equality and fairness to highlight their differences.


Consider a family with two children, one of whom is a newborn. Can both children be treated equally? No, because their needs are different due to their different ages. In a classroom, where all students are of a similar age, a teacher may use the concept of equality more often than the concept of fairness.

In society, not all groups are equally well-off or advanced to the same levels. This requires the state to adopt the concept of fairness, taking into account the disadvantages faced by certain groups, whether these disadvantages are social, financial, or educational. This inequality necessitates that the government treats different sections of society differently to help them all develop to a specific stage.

Equality prevents governments from discriminating against people based on factors like religion, caste, and gender, ensuring that everyone feels treated fairly. The rule of law is an example of equality where the law applies equally to everyone, rich or poor. Providing equal opportunities for development is another example of equality. However, even when given equal chances or opportunities, not all individuals improve their status in life to the same level.


The concept of fairness becomes relevant when considering the treatment of individuals with different abilities or limitations. For instance, can a healthy person and a person with a disability be treated equally? No, although the state cannot discriminate based on perceived shortcomings, the concept of fairness demands that preferential treatment be given to those with limitations. This could include reservations in educational institutions or job opportunities in industries. Fairness implies being just and not adhering to the concept of equality rigidly, even if some people may lack opportunities and still have resources distributed equally.

Key Takeaways

  • Equality implies no discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, gender, etc., such as equal pay for men and women at the same level of administration or management.
  • Reservation for disadvantaged and underprivileged classes is an example of fairness, while the rule of law is an example of equality.
  • Fairness requires treating individuals based on what they deserve and their contributions, not just equally, taking into account the specific needs and limitations of different groups.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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