What is the name of the ideology that posits everyone's individual financial position (and the societal distribution of economic inequality) is already entirely justified, that is, individually earned by legitimate merit rather than substantially reflecting chance and privilege/disadvantage?

So far I've considered:

  • "Meritocracy" seems unclear. On one hand "meritocracy myth" seems to be a term of disparagement for this ideology, but "meritocracy" on its own is usually used in reference to policies attempting to mitigate unfair biases (i.e. implicitly rejecting the ideology).
  • "Prosperity gospel" seems similar, but implies a different specific mechanism (divine hand rather than the invisible hand of the free market)
  • Although it was one of the ideologies promoted by Ayn Rand, I don't think this is the part referred to as "objectivism".
  • "Karma" implies other forms of merit (and reward) that are often at odds with being enterprising and financially astute.

Sample sentence:

"Rand espoused [insert noun here]."

New contributor
benjimin is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • That’s called a farce
    – Jim
    Jun 22 at 14:46
  • 2
    I don't think it's quite what you're looking for, but it's at least related: "toxic individualism"
    – user888379
    Jun 22 at 18:22
  • 1
    Just-world hypothesis is similar to this, except it seems to refer specifically to a fallacious belief that people get their just reward. Are you looking for a neutral term?
    – Stuart F
    Jun 22 at 22:48
  • 1
    Maybe ultra-conservatism? "Let them eat cake"? Jun 22 at 23:32
  • I think meritocracy may be the closest fit. It's used disparagingly by people who realilze it doesn't actually exist.
    – Barmar
    Jun 23 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


I believe you are looking for distributive justice and the explanation with an example in Wikipedia seals the deal:

Distributive justice concerns the socially just allocation of resources. Often contrasted with just process, which is concerned with the administration of law, distributive justice concentrates on outcomes.

In social psychology, distributive justice is defined as perceived fairness of how rewards and costs are shared by (distributed across) group members. For example, when some workers work more hours but receive the same pay, group members may feel that distributive justice has not occurred.

MW definition:

the justice that is concerned with the apportionment of privileges, duties, and goods in consonance with the merits of the individual and in the best interest of society

  • I think the OP is looking for the concept of being just or fair by default. Your example suggests that the just or fair outcome is contingent, which seems to rule this out.
    – Pound Hash
    Jun 24 at 20:47
  • @PoundHash The Wikipedia explanation includes phrases like "perceived fairness" and "socially just allocation". I believe this makes it "by default" based on OP's criteria (already entirely justified). It should be based on some social norms, of course, and this is in the explanation also. The reward is also earned by merit and this is also included in the explanation and the MW definition. I believe this is the most fitting term. Even if there is some wiggle room, this ideology covers almost everything mentioned in the OP.
    – ermanen
    Jun 24 at 21:58

Your Answer

benjimin is a new contributor. Be nice, and check out our Code of Conduct.

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.