April 21,   Luck egalitarianism vs. democratic equality

I. Left-over business from Fleurbaey

A.  "restarts"

            a.  Case 1:  learning

            b.  Case 2:  preference change  "Why should the spendthrift be rewarded for hard work and frugality he never practiced, ou of taxes raised from those who have in fact worked hard and been frugal?" (113, n. 8)

B.  How to define equality and to measure inequality

            1.  Who is worst off and by how much?

2.  Not clear how to compare distributions where in (1) the smallest egalitarian equivalent is lower than in (2), but there are few people who need this equivalent, while in (2) with a larger minimal egalitarian equivalent, many people are in need of it.  (cf. Temkin Inequality)


II.  Clarifying luck egalitarianism

A.  Forgetting the constraints of efficiency and ignoring competing moral considerations, what would an ideal egalitarian society look like according to the following:

  1. Dworkin
  2. Arneson
  3. Cohen
  4. Fleurbaey (?) 
  5. Sen (?)

B. What do these five agree about?

  1. How much compensation would they provide to those born with disabilities?
  2. How much compensation would they provide to those with expensive tastes
  3. How much compensation would they provide to those who are less efficient in transforming resources into welfare?

C. What do they disagree about?

  1. Are all of these implementations of luck egalitarianism?
  2. Which is the best formulation of luck egalitarianism?

III.  Responsibility in luck egalitarianism

  1. As both Scheffler and Fleurbaey emphasize, luck egalitarians are not only concerned to lessen inequalities for which individuals are not responsible, they are also concerned not to tamper with inequalities for which individuals are responsible.
  2. Why make such a big deal of responsibility?
  3. Is the insistence on ambition-sensitivity (to use Dworkin's terminology) an egalitarian concern, or should it be regarded as a consideration that competes with egalitarianism and constraints egalitarianism? 
  4. Does equality of resources treat people who have worked hard unequally?
  5. Regardless of anybody's theory of responsibility, the ex post level of goods, functioning, capabilities, and welfare to some person P that results from some choice that P makes will in most cases depend heavily on
    1. the tastes and choices of other people, both known and unknown,
    2. social practices, both known and unknown,
    3. government policies not instituted for distributional reasons, both known and unknown,
    4. facts about nature, both known and unknown.
    5. When we speak of luck, we may mean any of (a) – (d), though we're more inclined to speak of luck in the case when these were unknown. 
    6. Doesn't this drive us either toward rejecting responsibility altogether or toward an ex ante view?
  6. Dworkin's argument for the ex ante view
  7. Why hold people responsible, and if so, what is the proper "reward" principle?
    1. Hausman's grandfather
    2. "Vulgar libertarianism"

IV.  The underlying motivations

   A.  Luck egalitarianism

  1. Undeserved inequalities are unjust
  2. It is unfair if some people have better life prospects than others.
  3. It is unfair if some people are better off than others unless they are responsible for the inequality.
  4. The state should show equal respect

   B.  Democratic equality

  1. Citizens owe one another equal respect.
  2. Citizens must not dominate one anotherWhat do (should) Anderson and Scheffler say about (a) the motivations of the luck egalitarian (b) whether those intuitions support luck egalitarianism, and (c) whether democratic equality can respond to any of them?

   C. What should the luck egalitarian say about the motivations of Anderson and Scheffler, whether they support democratic equality, and whether luck egalitarianism is responsive to them?

   C. What do Anderson and Scheffler have to say about responsibility? How does it differ from what Dworkin, Cohen(Arneson), and Fleurbaey have to say about responsibility.


p. 124  "He [Otsuka] points out, correctly, that if A and B both insure against going blind, and only B then does go blind, B has had worse brute bad luck than A, even after he recovers [his insurance payout, not his sight] on the policy that an average prudent insurer would have bought. Ex ante equality would not require government to do more for him, however.  ex post equality would: it would require government at least to adopt . . . a "rescue" policy that awards B whatever additional funds might improve his situation. . .

            But . . . a rescue policy is irrational.  It would require a community to collect in taxes . . . enough from its citizens to fund rescues. . . . By hypothesis, such a tax program would require taking from B each year more for than purpose than he himself would think it prudent to spend on accident insurance premiums.  It would mean taking much less in taxes from him for other purposes that, by hypothesis, he deems more important, including education, community infrastructure, job investment, and unemployment relief. The community would have imposed on itself an irrational policy that each of its members knows to be irrational. . . . That is equal concern only in the Pickwickean sense of no concern for anyone.  True equal concern requires ex ante, not ex post, equality."