Is unequal unfair? On the legitimatin of income inequality in a democracy

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In this thesis it is evaluated to what extent income inequality is fair in a democracy. Four factors are defined that determine the legitimacy of income inequality. The first factor was identified by aggregative democrats, and states that the voting procedure should be fair. The second factor, identified by republican and deliberative democrats, states that income inequalities in a democracy can only be justified if they are not that large that they cause domination of some people over others, and in that regard takes the influence of money on political power into account. In this thesis it is argued that those two factors by themselves are not enough and that other factors, that consider the way income is earned, also play an important role, although they are overlooked by both aggregative, republican and deliberative democrats. More specifically, these other factors are ‘effort’ and ‘contribution to society’. ‘Effort’ indicates that the distribution of income should be reflective to ambition, so that differences in income that purely arise from differences in personal choices are legitimated. ‘Contribution to society’ means that income distribution should also be reflective to one’s contribution to society, so that one’s income corresponds to the value one adds to society. It is shown that these factors also coincide with what people in a democracy actually think is fair.
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