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Meritocracy and Privilege

Duration:
43 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 24 July 2013

Around 14,000 babies will be born in the UK this week, but it's almost certain that none of them will have the same privileged start in life as the new royal baby. We're all born equal; some, of course, are more equal than others. But does it matter? And what should we do about it? Today politicians of all shades have signed up very publicly to the principle of equality of opportunity, but the reality is that our nation is as divided as ever. It's claimed that the richest 10% of the UK are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10%. For some the answer is not just to level the playing field, but to tip it in favour of the most disadvantaged; in the name of equality, positively to discriminate in favour of those who have been denied their chance in life by an accident of birth. Can you ever impose equality, or is the only just and fair answer to allow people to rise or fall on their own merit? If we really believed that inequality was unjust and morally indefensible, wouldn't we be doing something to redistribute incomes and opportunity? Or is the real moral problem the fact that most people - and certainly, most middle class people - sign up to the principles of egalitarianism, but only want "equal chances" for everyone else's children? When it comes to their own they'll do everything they can to ensure they get a head start. Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Anne McElvoy. Witnesses: PROFESSOR PETER SAUNDERS - Professor of Sociology at the University of Sussex, JOHN CLARKE - Historian and writer, ANDREW LILICO - Economist with "Europe Economics" who writes for the Daily Telegraph, PROFESSOR JONATHAN WOLFF - Professor of Philosophy at University College London.

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