Stemplowska, Zofia. Rescuing Luck Egalitarianism
2013, Journal of Social Philosophy 44(4): 402-419.
Added by: Carl Fox
Introduction: There was once a luck egalitarian school of thought, according to which disadvantage arising due to bad luck was unjust—at the bar of egalitarian justice—while disadvantage arising due to choice was just, at least if the choice was exercised against the background of equal options. “Choice” in this context needed to be “genuine choice”—which, for some, meant “voluntary,” and for others, also “freely willed”—but if it was genuine, then it did not matter whether it was a silly mistake or a considered course of action: if it led to disadvantage, its presence was deemed sufficient to justify leaving the agent to bear the disadvantage. Let's call the view that choice leading to disadvantage is sufficient to justify the disadvantage, at least if choice was exercised against the background of equal options, the inflated view of choice. [...] The inflated view was so crude that in the face of criticism pointing out its crudeness, its supporters have adopted more sophisticated views, and no recent luck egalitarian has defended the crude version. These more sophisticated views recognize that the mere fact that an outcome has been chosen does not make the outcome just—not even by the standards of egalitarian justice alone. In what follows, I will argue that this dominant reading of early luck egalitarianism as committed to the inflated view is, at best, a one-sided interpretation of the iconic writings of the luck egalitarian literature advanced by its most famous proponents, namely Arneson, Cohen, and Dworkin. Their writings did not unambiguously point toward the inflated view; if the early texts were interpreted more charitably, we could have, perhaps, avoided associating luck egalitarianism with the inflated view, arriving immediately at the sophisticated versions of luck egalitarianism dominating the field today.
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Comment: Defends luck egalitarianism in general, and the originators of the view in particular, from the common criticism that it is committed to the 'inflated view of choice' which generates unpalatable conclusions because it leaves people who have made choices to bear all the consequences of those choices. Would make good further reading for anyone working on this topic.