What is formal equality of opportunity?

Formal equality of opportunity means that every individual should be provided equal opportunity for achieving higher positions and posts. In fact, higher positions and posts should be concurred to deserving candidates on the basis of merit or fair competition.

The realization of equality of opportunity will not be achieved in a particular environment only but can be achieved in various social environments. For instance, there is a greater possibility of achievement of equality of opportunity in a democratic environment. But even in an autocratic society, it can be fulfilled if the post of autocrat is open to all individuals without any discrimination and the selection is fair, based on merit. In addition to this, the rule of the autocrat may be based on equality of all individuals in the social, economic and political areas. Similarly, a communist society may also provide equality of opportunity, if the head of the communist regime is the best qualified for the post of party membership.

Formal equality of opportunity can be established in a society which is free from guild restrictions and where there are no trade restrictions and open market policies. Similarly, it would also include equal opportunity to all individuals regarding higher positions and posts, on the basis of, merit or fair competition, in opposition to nepotism, where public offices are distributed to one‘s relatives and friends only.

Equality of opportunity can be concurred in a market economy only if the openings in business firms are publicized, so that any individual may apply for the job without any form of restriction or discrimination. In opposition to this Equality of opportunity is restricted in places where only current employees of a firm are eligible to apply to higher-level jobs. Similarly, equality of opportunity in a market setting means that loans would be provided to all individuals without any form of discrimination, on the basis of expected profit. It also requires that sale, purchase, sales of bonds, sales of shares and other economic activities, provide all firms and economic agents the same opportunities for gain. Moreover generally, equality of opportunity also requires that firms and individuals make transactions impartially for gain. In such a situation, participants in a market setting regard their competitors as potential partners for interaction. Therefore, market agents select those business partners who would help them to achieve their goals via interaction. The ideal of formal equality of opportunity is associated with public life and not private life. But there is a very thin line of difference between them and many issues related to them have often drawn up controversies. For instance issues related to inviting someone for dinner, choosing a marriage partner, formulating alliances etc., do not fall within the sphere of equality of opportunity. Although these kinds of personal issues may involve injustice and may be morally designated as wrong, these aspects of an individual‘s personal life cannot be included in equality of opportunity. Thus equality of opportunity influences the political, economic and civil aspects of a society but not every aspect of the lives of individuals.

Equality of opportunity sometimes tends to be limited in scope, as it is implemented within the political boundaries of various nation states. Although in such cases equality of opportunity can be limited in scope, if required formal equality of opportunity could also be broadened in scope. Similarly although Equality of Opportunity regarding trade may be limited in scope, (as it is implemented within the political boundaries of various nation states) but its scope may be broadened by providing a global marketplace, in which all transactions conform to formal equality of opportunity applied world-wide.

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