Luck, Leverage, and Equality: A Bargaining Problem for Luck Egalitarians

Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 35, No. 3, Fall 2007

27 Pages Posted: 26 May 2011

See all articles by Matthew Seligman

Matthew Seligman

Constitutional Law Center, Stanford Law School; Yale Law School

Date Written: September 1, 2007

Abstract

The notion of choice is essential for luck egalitarians. It plays a crucial role in their conception of the justice of distributional inequalities. On their theory, the distribution that grants some members of society so little is just only if their disadvantage is the result of choices. The jobless and the homeless, for example, have far less material wealth than many other people. Whether their choices, rather than circumstance or chance, generated the inequalities from which they suffer thus determines whether they are entitled to compensation or assistance from the state.

In this article I will discuss a problem with the luck egalitarian position that only becomes apparent when distributions are considered in light of economic interactions occurring over time. In Section I, I give a precise formulation of the luck egalitarian position I wish to criticize, and will introduce the structure of procedural counterexamples to that position. In Section II, I present a bargaining problem as a procedural counterexample. In Sections III, IV, and V, I execute two strategies on behalf of the luck egalitarian to defeat the bargaining problem as a procedural counterexample, and argue that these strategies both fail. In Section VI, I address two objections to my argument. I will argue that these objections fail, and will conclude with some remarks about the limits on the role the luck egalitarian principle might play in a plausible theory of justice.

Keywords: Luck Egalitarianism, Political Philosophy, Distributive Justice

Suggested Citation

Seligman, Matthew, Luck, Leverage, and Equality: A Bargaining Problem for Luck Egalitarians (September 1, 2007). Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 35, No. 3, Fall 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1852044

Matthew Seligman (Contact Author)

Constitutional Law Center, Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06510
United States

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