For the past fifty years or so, liberal political theorists in the Anglophone world have taken it as axiomatic that the unequal distribution of advantage among human beings—not merely of social position, but also of natural endowments—is, in John Rawls’s famous phrase, “arbitrary from a moral point of view,” or inconsistent with the principles of justice or fairness. Not only is the mere fact of the unequal distribution unjust or unfair, they have claimed, but its injustice or unfairness must be seen to diminish our degree of moral responsibility for the actions we take. Each individual’s allotment of natural and social advantage, on this account, determines in important ways the choices that he or she will make and therefore renders traditional notions of merit or desert highly suspect. For some of these theorists, indeed, the way in which we play the cards we are dealt is itself simply a function of those cards, and inequalities deriving from our choices and effort are taken to be as morally arbitrary as those attributable to our talents and aptitudes.
Eric Nelson, The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God