The Uneasy Marriage between Law and Equality

10 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2015 Last revised: 30 Apr 2015

See all articles by Pauline C. Westerman

Pauline C. Westerman

University of Groningen, Faculty of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2015


There are two ways in which the social ideal of equality has found expression in the law: in the principle of equal treatment and in the principle of non-discrimination. In this article the meaning of these two legal principles is analysed, in order to answer the question to what extent they can be said to contribute to equality in the sense of an equal distribution of collective resources. It is argued that whereas the first just requires decision-making to be rule-based, the second principle demands that rules should be based on sound categorical distinctions. Neither of the two can, however, sensibly be linked to equality as equal distribution. The article concludes that the only way to establish such a link is by adding to the principle of non-discrimination “financial resources” as a suspect ground.

Keywords: principle of differential treatment; principle of equality; principle of equal treatment; principle of non-discrimination; right to equality

Suggested Citation

Westerman, Pauline C., The Uneasy Marriage between Law and Equality (January 1, 2015). Laws 2015, 4, 82–90, University of Groningen Faculty of Law Research Paper 2015/19, Available at SSRN:

Pauline C. Westerman (Contact Author)

University of Groningen, Faculty of Law ( email )

9700 AS Groningen

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