"On the Usefulness of Luck Egalitarian Arguments for Global Justice"

Global Justice: Theory Practice Rhetoric 1 (2008), 54-67

Abstract: Much of the recent philosophical literature about
distributive justice and equality in the domestic context has been
dominated by a family of theories now often called ‘luck egalitarianism’,
according to which it is unfair if some people are worse off than others
through no choice or fault of their own. This principle has also found
its way into the literature about global justice. This paper explores
some difficulties that this principle faces: it is largely insensitive to
the causes of global inequality, and it is so demanding that it can only
give rise to weak moral claims. I go on to argue that a) understanding
justice claims as merely weak claims rests on an implausible and
impractical concept of justice, and b) using the global luck egalitarian
argument in practical discourse is likely to lead to misunderstanding,
and to be counterproductive if the aim is to tackle global inequality.
While these considerations do not suffice to make a conclusive case
against the luck egalitarian principle, they should be acknowledged
by global luck egalitarians – as some similar problems have indeed
been by domestic luck egalitarians – and need to be addressed.

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