How to Account for Equality

27 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2017 Last revised: 26 Feb 2018

See all articles by Nina Varsava

Nina Varsava

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Date Written: February 25, 2018


Efforts to compare and rank distributions from the egalitarian perspective have, I think curiously, failed to take into account equality as a positive, robust good. Larry Temkin’s painstaking work on egalitarianism exemplifies the oversight. In Inequality (1993), Temkin looks exclusively at inequality in his effort to measure and compare the value of various distributive possibilities. I argue that a complete picture of the egalitarian’s perspective, or a complete account of what matters when comparing and ranking worlds in terms of inequality or equality, ought to consider the degree of positive equality in each world, not just the degree of inequality. My primary aim in this paper is to determine what makes one world better than another with respect to equality as a robust good. Building on and expanding Temkin’s approach, I take steps to work out how we might measure and compare instances of equality, and I identify complications that arise when we try to do so.

Keywords: Egalitarianism, Equality, Inequality, Philosophy and Economics, Measures of Inequality, Distributive Justice, Larry Temkin

Suggested Citation

Varsava, Nina, How to Account for Equality (February 25, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Nina Varsava (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

United States


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