Justice requires that public institutions treat each person as an equal. A complete theory of justice should provide an account of those principles which both best organize and defend our various sentiments about justice and tell us which institutional arrangements and public policies will, in a given set of circumstances, best serve to ensure that our society is or becomes a just one. In the pluralistic liberal democracies of developed western societies we all accept the notion that governments, if they are to be just governments, must not play favorites. Governments have a duty to treat each person with equal concern and respect, or as a free and equal moral person, and to organize their activities so that, so far as possible, they are neutral between various competing conceptions of how one ought to live one's life. In accepting this we all agree that political discourse is to be limited to those options which can be seriously defended from an egalitarian plateau. We reject any position which can be shown to count some for more than one, or others for less than one. This agreed upon egalitarian plateau has come to be called the neutrality principle.
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