Luck Egalitarianism: Equality, Responsibility, and Justice

By Carl Knight | Go to book overview

4
Insult and Injury

1. Introductory Remarks

Despite its prominence and many internal disputes, luck egalitarianism had, until the late 1990s, failed to attract high-profile external criticism from an egalitarian perspective. This changed, however, with the publication of Elizabeth Anderson’s thought-provoking article ‘What Is the Point of Equality?’.1 A fixed conviction of egalitarian justice is, in Ronald Dworkin’s terms, that a government treats all its citizens with equal concern and respect.2 Anderson arrestingly claims that luck egalitarianism fails to express equal concern and respect for individuals. Contemporary egalitarian philosophy is consequently not only objectionable to conservatives but embarrassing to egalitarians.

She is not alone in making these claims. Several writers have argued that the roles of equality and responsibility in luck egalitarianism are far more problematic than its proponents suppose. According to some there is nothing particularly egalitarian about rewarding those who act responsibly and penalizing those who act less responsibly. It is claimed that luck egalitarianism’s dedication to full responsibility sensitivity makes a mockery of its supposed commitment to equality. That same dedication makes it frivolously redistribute in some cases and turn its back when its assistance is most in need. As we shall see, some have gone even further than Anderson, and suggested that the conservative opponents of social equality will welcome luck egalitarianism with open arms.

Two broad categories of reasons for these kinds of conclusions may be distinguished. In section 3 I will examine the charge that luck egalitarianism disrespects or insults both those it compensates and those who pay for the compensation. I will call this the insult argument. In sections 4 and 5 I will consider the injury argument–that is, the allegation that luck egalitarianism illegitimately abandons or injures either certain badly off individuals or society as a whole. I will maintain that the critics’ arguments in some cases fail to apply

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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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