Preferential policies, though they are not required by justice, are not seriously unjust; the system from which they depart is already unjust. Deliberate barriers against admitting blacks or women, however, had to be abolished--without explicit barriers discrimination could be conscious or unconscious (motivationally), thus giving support to a self-conscious effort to act impartially. The realization that a social system may continue to deny different races or sexes equal opportunity & equal access to desirable positions even after such barriers have been lifted became evident, since society automatically provides different rewards for different groups. The question is raised: How great is a social contribution to injustice, to what extent is it due to social causes not involving injustice, or to causes which are not social but biological? Can unjustly caused disadvantages be overcome by special programs of preparatory or remedial training? What grounds are to be used in assigning individuals to desirable positions? People less qualified, for whatever reason could be compensated for this disadvantage by having suitably different standards for these different groups. Obviously, this would not be a stable position. Compensatory procedures would then have to be applied in individual bases. The concept of differences advocated by liberals is too weak to combat inequalities dispensed by nature & ordinary workings of the social system. In most societies rewards are a function of demand, & many of the human characteristics most in demand result from gifts & talents. If racial & sexual injustice were reduced we would still be left with the injustice of the smart & the dumb; "at present we do not have a method of divorcing professional status from social esteem & economic reward. In the absence of this, what remains is the familiar task of balancing liberty against equality." S. Cummings.
Equal treatment for the present and the future was required in two axioms introduced in the articles by Chichilnisky of the years 1996 and 1997. These articles provide a characterization of the decision criterion that satisfies the axioms and shows that the two axioms are equivalent to physical limits in the long-run future. The author proves that maximizing discounted utility with a long-run survival constraint is equivalent to maximizing a criterion that treats equally the present and the future. The equal treatment axioms are therefore the essence of sustainable development. The weight given to the long-run future is here identified with the marginal utility of the environmental asset along a path that narrowly misses extinction. An existence theorem is also provided for optimizing according to the welfare criterion that treats equally the present and the future. The author shows that no prior welfare criteria satisfy the axioms for sustainable development introduced in her article of the year 1996.