MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Can Luck Egalitarianism Justify the Fact that Some are Worse Off than Others?

Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


According to luck egalitarianism it is bad or unjust if someone is worse off than another through no fault or choice of her own. This article argues that there is a tension in standard luck egalitarian theory between justifying absolute and comparative welfare levels. If a person responsibly acts in a way that brings her welfare level below that of others, this is justified according to the theory. However, even if we can say that the person's new welfare level is justified in absolute terms, it is less clear that her now being worse off than others, is justified (a similar idea is explored by Susan Hurley). The reason is that while she has in one sense chosen her (new) welfare level, she has not chosen to be worse off than others. Her relative standing, something with which egalitarians ought to be concerned, is determined by her choices in conjunction with the choices of all others. But no individual controls the choices of all others. Hence, for any one individual it is the case that her relative standing is beyond her control. Some responses to this problem are available. It is doubtful, however, that these are entirely successful.