Affirmative Action vs. Equal Opportunity Essay Sample

Some of life’ s most important decisions rely on the concept of justice; however, that idea seems to be a difficult one to define. According to Webster’s dictionary, the term justice is the “quality of being just; merited reward or punishment”. While this definition may seem abstract, justice must be clearly understood because it plays such an important role in creating the fair society that is so desirable. The many issues of judicial concern that affect that society today, for example the ethical debate between affirmative action and equal opportunity, have intrigued thinkers throughout history as evidenced in Aristotle’s Politics: A Definition of Justice.

Aristotle’s views of justice are difficult to understand because of the concept of equality and inequality. His definition of justice is “justice seems to be equality but not for everyone, only for equals. Justice is also inequality but only for the unequals.” According to Aristotle, justice was a question that focused on the relationship of the state and functioned in either an oligarchy form of government or in a democracy style. In oligarchy, which is governed by the few, justice rests on inequality where the select few is superior and everyone else is inferior. On the other hand, in a democracy equality is valued and the government is run by the many, where the poor have the same vote as the wealthy.

He argues that in a democratic state the wealthy do not necessarily have the largest say and the poor do not have a voice at any of the highest levels, but their concerns are should be equally considered in a well-ordered and justice state. Aristotle says that the interest of the whole is superior to the interest of the individual, thus stating that justice is the key to a happy community. His argument focuses on a modern hypothesis: “that the decisions of the many are less likely to be extreme and more likely to be right that the decisions of the few.” Aristotle therefore asserts, that in a community, appropriate recognition of equalities and inequalities among people will result in justice; and without justice no nation can exist properly.

The purpose of affirmative action is to manage the steady refusal of individuals, on the basics of their gender or race, from opportunities to perform and contribute in the work force. Affirmative action is an effort to develop a method of creating opportunities in education and employment for qualified individuals who are members of groups that have experienced persistent discrimination. Opponents of affirmative action want to see the “most qualified” people hired, regardless of gender, race, or age, referring to equal opportunity policies. An individual should be hired because they are the best for the part not because they are a minority unless the minority is the best.

Some people will argue that affirmative action means that the best qualified will not be hired, but it has been demonstrated that test and educational qualifications are not necessarily the best predictors of future success. Employers hire people not only on test scores but also on appearance, family and personal connections, and on race and gender preferences, indicating that talent or qualifications can be defined in many ways. So even though a person may not have the highest test scores, they still may be qualified and be hired. This is the equal opportunity that Aristotle speaks of in his passage about justice.

Aristotle expresses many complicated ideas about justice such as: that men speak of limited justice when it comes to justice of persons, a proper government has just laws and a misrepresented government has unjust laws, and the state ought to be governed by the multitude rather than the few. But his idea that people of office should be elected because of their superior excellence relates closely to the modern concept of affirmative action and equal opportunity. Aristotle says, “Men admit that justice has a relation to people and that equals ought to have equality. But equality or inequality of what?” Some say that offices should be unequally distributed according to excellence, although there may be no difference between him and the rest of the community. Aristotle says that if this is true, then the complexion or any other advantage of a man will be the reason for his obtaining the greater share.

He says that the error here is that a person cannot be judged on inequality. His analogy of the flute player best describes his “equal opportunity” attitude. “When a number of flute players are equal in art, there is no reason why those of them who are better born should have the better flutes given to them, for they will not play any better on the flute, and the superior instrument should be reserved for him who is the superior artist.” A community can be no more composed of entirely equals than entirely unequals. As a result, affirmative action is unjust because individuals are being hired on the wrong basis, but on the other hand, a community based entirely on equals will also be wrong because justice does not exist.

It is evident that Aristotle wanted equal opportunity instead of affirmative action. If one looks at the composition of various professions such as law, medicine, and academics or at higher-level government positions, one immediately notices that the people in minorities are still significantly underrepresented. Until there is both equal opportunity and fair distribution of education and advancement to all Americans, affirmative action is necessary. But expanding opportunities for people of minorities means not only expanding their access to existing jobs and education but also removing the obstacles that causes them from obtaining their goals. Giving an equal chance to all individuals based on their qualifications and not on gender or racial preferences is what Aristotle desires, and in doing so acquires a state that exists on justice.