Federal Inequality Among Equals: A Contractualist Defense

GLOBAL JUSTICE, pp. 236-255, Thomas Pogge, ed., Blackwell 2001

Metaphilosophy, pp. 236-255, 2001

29 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2011

Date Written: 2001


Federal political orders often exhibit a conflict between the ideals of equality and political autonomy, since individuals in different sub-units often enjoy systematically different standards of living conditions. While federal arrangements may be theoretically attractive to avoid despotism, such federal inequality would appear to conflict with the principles of egalitarian cosmopolitans. The paper argues that individuals' interest in equal shares of income and wealth may be legitimately weighed against their interest in political control enjoyed by their sub-unit, as long as the inequalities do not engender misery, domination or unfair procedures. The reasons for sub-unit autonomy include reducing the risk of domination, increasing the responsiveness to local preferences, and reducing the burdens of decision-making. These arguments also suggest that states may not always be the appropriate sub-units in legitimate federal orders.

Keywords: Justice, equality, contractualism, federalism, subsidiarity, autonomy, EU

Suggested Citation

Follesdal, Andreas, Federal Inequality Among Equals: A Contractualist Defense (2001). Metaphilosophy, pp. 236-255, 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1750993

Andreas Follesdal (Contact Author)

Pluricourts ( email )

P.O. Box 6706
St. Olavs plass 5
0130 Oslo

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