Luck Egalitarianism: Equality, Responsibility, and Justice

By Carl Knight | Go to book overview

Introduction
Equality, Responsibility, and Justice

In a celebrated article of 1989, G. A. Cohen declared that ‘[Ronald] Dworkin has, in effect, performed for egalitarianism the considerable service of incorporating within it the most powerful idea in the arsenal of the anti-egalitarian right: the idea of choice and responsibility.’1 The general view inspired by Dworkin’s accomplishment has become known as ‘responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism’, ‘equality of fortune’, or more commonly, ‘luck egalitarianism’.2 While it is widely accepted that luck egalitarianism seeks to combine the traditionally radical idea of distributive equality with the traditionally conservative concern for holding people responsible for their actions, there is much disagreement about (1) the specific nature of its objective, (2) the most appropriate way of realizing the objective, and (3) the desirability, from various perspectives, of the objective and its particular realizations. In this work I hope to shed some light on all three of these issues.

(1) receives the briefest treatment. The version of the luckegalitarian objective that I will focus on is the view that variations in the levels of advantage held by different persons are justified if, and only if, those persons are responsible for those levels.3 This is, it seems to me, the purest form of luck egalitarianism. One might say that there is a presumption in favour of equality, because inequalities have to be justified. And the only available grounds for justification are grounds of responsibility. It is hard to see how it would be possible to give equality or responsibility sensitivity a more prominent role in an account of distributive justice without compromising one or the other. Indeed, it is argued that neither equality nor responsibility sensitivity could be given a more prominent role in such an account at all. The arguments of this book are also most relevant to the understanding of less demanding definitions of luck egalitarianism, because they appeal to similar ideas.4

(2) is the subject of a much lengthier discussion. The luck egalitarian objective is typically said to recommend that disadvantages that arise from congenital disability, poor native endowment of talent,

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Luck Egalitarianism: Equality, Responsibility, and Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Acknowledgements iv
  • Introduction - Equality, Responsibility, and Justice 1
  • Part 1 - Luck Egalitarianisms 11
  • 1 - Equality of Resources 13
  • 2 - Equal Opportunity for Welfare 44
  • Part 2 - Luck Egalitarianism as an Account of Equality 87
  • 3 - Substantive Equality 89
  • 4 - Insult and Injury 122
  • Part 3 - Luck Egalitarianism as an Account of Justice 167
  • 5 - Responsibilitarianism 169
  • 6 - The Components of Justice 197
  • Conclusion - A More Efficient Luck Egalitarianism 229
  • Bibliography 234
  • Index 246
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