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]."

  • 1
    Is the notion that 'everyone's individual financial position (and the societal distribution of economic inequality) is already entirely justified' even remotely tenable when A is born into r/Royalty and B into poverty? Jun 23, 2022 at 10:01
  • 1
    I strongly doubt that there can be any answer other than one that posits a divine or supernatural cause. How could anyone think that outcomes are already, by their nature, just or fair without recourse to such causes?
    – Pound Hash
    Jun 24, 2022 at 20:50
  • How about "cluelessness"?
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 23, 2022 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


There is no label for this specific view, although it can be said that something like it (i.e. the view that the government should not attempt to change the the distribution that results from unconstrained economic activity) is an implication of the broader theory of libertarianism.

Typical proponents of libertarianism, however, do not use the concepts of desert and merit in the way in which they are used in this question; they see such concepts as applicable only in the context of specific transactions. They may thus say that one deserves to be paid a certain amount because one is in a contract that says so, but would regard it as meaningless to say that one either deserves or fails to deserve something apart from such arrangements.

The view outlined in the question also has a certain affinity with Nietzscheanism, but it is, again, no more than an affinity, as Nietzscheanism is concerned with power, not economic status.


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, 2022 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, 2022 at 21:58
  • Distributive justice is, as the quotations in this answer indicate, the label for a particular topic in political theory; there are many different and conflicting theories on that topic. The OP is asking for the term for one substantive theory of distributive justice.
    – jsw29
    Jul 23, 2022 at 14:58
  • In my opinion, this is as specific as it gets and I've explained further in the above comment as well. It is the social psychology aspect that makes the term ideally suited for the concept/belief.
    – ermanen
    Jul 23, 2022 at 18:05

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