The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • James S. Coleman
Reference work entry


‘Equality’ is used to mean equality before the law, equality of opportunity, and equality of result, among other things. These types of equality are not necessarily mutually compatible. Equal distribution of benefits is often taken to be ‘natural’ (by Rawls, for example), partly because envy is ubiquitous. In welfare economics the presumed diminishing marginal utility of money implies that equality of incomes maximizes welfare, but if interpersonal utility comparisons are impossible no such presumption can be made. As well, the interdependencies between individuals in terms of welfare are such that enforced equalization is likely to reduce overall welfare.


Berlin, I. Coleman, J. S. Edgeworth, F. Y. Efficiency vs. equality Envy Equality Equality before the law Equality of opportunity Equality of result Inequality Input–output analysis Interdependencies of welfare Interpersonal utility comparisons Liberty Marginal utility of money Nozick, R. Optimal taxation Pigou, A. C. Progressive taxation Property rights Rawls, J. Robbins, L. C. Welfare economics 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James S. Coleman
    • 1
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