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PPE Politics Essay

PPE Politics Essay

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Published by Oliver Phillips
Defence of Cohen's luck egalitarianism
Defence of Cohen's luck egalitarianism

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Published by: Oliver Phillips on Jan 06, 2012
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SOC30001TopicsInPPE1615words7400472
1
ʻ
A just socialist society would be one where there were no inequalitiesbetween persons traceable to brute luck but there might still be vastinequalities between persons traceable to responsible choice
ʼ
. Do you agreeor disagree with this claim?I agree with the claim that inequalities traceable to responsible choicedo not make a society unjust, whereas those traceable to brute luck do. First Iwill establish that inequalities due to brute luck are unjust. There is a slipperyslope from standard formal equality of opportunity; that there should be nodiscrimination based on random traits like gender, race, or sexual preference,to a socialist equality of opportunity; where equally random traits such asintelligence or ability also have no bearing on achievement. Following this Iwill justify inequalities due to responsible choice; full equality of outcome isunattractive and goes against most notions of just desert that we have. Thereare problems with luck egalitarianism; for example, it is difficult to decideexactly what characteristics are determined by luck, and which we choose,but overall I will conclude that there is a good case for eliminating the effectsof brute luck from a society, if it is to be just. Using the common analogy of lifeas a race: “the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not makethe race fair if some contestants have only one leg”
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Ha‐JoonChang,‘Welostsightoffairnessinthefalsepromiseofwealth’on
TheGuardian
,accessed9/11/11:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/30/fairness-inequality-free-market-growth
 
SOC30001TopicsInPPE1615words7400472
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There is an intuitive desire for some sort of equality of opportunity, or atleast a lack of discrimination, in an ideal society. The majority of people arguethat it is wrong for an individual to be punished (through being deniedemployment for example) due to her race or gender. Upon analysis, thisappears to be unjust to us because the individual did not pick her race orgender: they were
not her fault 
. The issue is with responsibility, or lackthereof. If we wish to prevent involuntary factors such as these from affectingsomebody
ʼ
s opportunities, then it seems we must also say other equallyarbitrary factors like talent should have no effect. There is a slippery slopefrom formal and substantive equality of opportunity to socialist equality ofopportunity as described by Cohen
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, later called luck egalitarianism. Of coursethis only refers to constitutive and antecedent luck (luck determining yourinnate abilities and the circumstances you came from)
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.There are issues concerning other types of luck, as at first it seems it isinescapable in all areas of life, and so almost irrelevant to our conception of justice. Resultant luck (where decisions that initially looked positive hurt youas a result of luck) and circumstantial luck (luck that determines thecircumstances you make decisions in) are a part of our choice-makingprocesses. An objection could be raised that since luck influences almost allof our life, it is futile to try and eliminate its effects. The response to thiscriticism must appeal to a distinction between
brute luck 
and
option luck 
.Option luck is the kind that influences responsible decision-making, as we
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G.A.Cohen,
WhyNotSocialism? 
,(Princeton,NJ:PrincetonUniversityPress,2009)p13
3
KasperLippert‐Rasmussen,‘JusticeandBadLuck’,
StanfordEncyclopediaofPhilosophy 
,accessed10/11/11:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-bad-luck/
 
SOC30001TopicsInPPE1615words7400472
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weigh up the pros and cons of any particular situation, before making aninformed choice whilst aware of the risks. This is comparable to the resultantand circumstantial luck described above: deliberate gambles. Brute luck onthe other hand is described by Dworkin as “a matter of how risks fall out thatare not in that sense deliberate gambles”
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. Brute luck has nothing to do withdecision-making and is usually seen as
ʻ
unfair
ʼ
in comparison to fair gambles.Most people would not feel aggrieved or that an injustice had been done tothem if they did not win the lottery, but we might feel sympathy for, or want tohelp, somebody who suddenly contracted cancer. This distinction is important,as it allows luck egalitarians to maintain an element of random chance in asociety whilst eliminating unfair brute luck.Having established that inequalities due to luck, specifically brute luck,are unjust, and defended against the objection that luck is a part of life that weshould preserve, I will now justify why the above system of luck egalitarianismallows for vast inequalities due to responsible choice. It seems intuitively truethat we do not want to compensate people for mistakes they have willinglymade; absolute equality of outcome no matter the effort expended or choicesis not a particularly attractive system as it goes against notions of just deserts.It is unjust to reward someone for laziness or bad choices in the same waythat it is unjust for someone to be punished because they were born thewrong race, or with the wrong abilities. The idea behind luck egalitarianism isthat people should get what they deserve, which is attributed solely to the
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RonaldDworkin,
SovereignVirtue
(CambridgeMA:HarvardUniversityPress,2000)p73

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