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Equality, Luck and Hierarchy

Author(s): Ronald Dworkin
Source: Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Spring, 2003), pp. 190-198
Published by: Wiley
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? 2003 by PrincetonUniversityPress.10 on Tue.Wemustbuildconceptionsofthesedifferent dimensions of equalitythatfitwithand drawupon one another.ProfessorSamuelScheffier criticizes whathe takesto be an importantnew movementin politicalphilosoHe identifies me as a luckegalitarian.A genuinesocietyof equalityas fundamental equals mustaim at equal stakeas wellas equal voice and equal status foritscitizens. Philosophy& Public Affairs31. I do believethatluckshouldplay 1. I discussAnderson's inmy "Sovereign Virtue Revisited.no. SamuelScheffler. Scheffler's articleappearedtoolateforme tobe able to respondtoitin a generalresponse I recently ofcommentson mybookSovereign Virtue. is objectionableonlyifand to theextentthatitunderminesthatsocial The impulseto see one or anotherdimensionof and politicalequality.8." arguments 2.107. See Scheffler."' I here. In a recentarticlein thisjournal. See "Sovereign publishedto a variety VirtueRevisited. have a But moregeneralworry challengethatcharacterization abouthisthesis."Ethics113(2002): 106-43. the a on takes social and politiposes hierarchical society.2 is misconceived. 2 This content downloaded from 143. "Whatis Egalitarianism?" & PublicAffairs Philosophy 31(2003):5-39. I his definition of identifies me as a luckegalitarian.RONALD DWORKIN Luckand Hierarchy Equality. See Anderson's"What is the Point of Equality?"Ethicslog (1999):287-337. 23.not suppose that than eithereconomicorpoliticalor socialequalityis morefundamental theothers.Scheffler abeth Anderson. AlthoughScheffler thatmovementin factexcludesme.He. and supposesthateconomicinequality cal equalityto be fundamental. contrary. and I phy:"luckegalitarianism.He complainsthatluckegalitarianssubordinatesocial and politicalequalityto economicequality: he says thatmyown acforexample. That articletreatsin more detail some of the is- takestheterm"luckegalitarian" fromProfessor ElizsuesI mentionbriefly here. however. p. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .is "administrative" and presupcountofeconomicequality.

2 and 9.creativity. Ibid." I said."P Virtue. See particularly SV. so faras thisis possible."' propriate envy argued. Sovereign Virtue:The Theory Press.""argued inequalitiesare perfectly ifa schemeof redistributive taxationis in legitimate thoseinequalitiesbyindemnifying place thatmitigates people who lack suchskillsintheamountmostofthemwouldhaveinsuredto receivehad insurancebeen availableon fairterms.butratherthatpeoplebe made equal.or. ants.that theappropriate versionofthattestrequiresnot.or entrepreneurial talent.He saysthat"[Luckegalitarianism] has different butthecentralidea is commonto all ofthesevarivariants..The coreidea is that. 8. 9.in be exemptfromredistributive principle.for I But the United States. Scheffler. and PracticeofEquality(Cambridge. Scheffler denies thata person'snatural saysthat"luckegalitarianism innovativeskill.7 erlyunderstood.chap. propitself requires. taxation.as Scheffler's "coreidea" suggests.2000).340-46. See thediscussioninSV.4 "Thegeneralambitionofequalityof idea" in mybook. ability can be thebasisforlegitimate I that such inequalities.: Harvard 4.p.Luckand Hierarchy less ofa rolein fixing thedistribution ofwealththanit nowdoes in.hereinafter University SV. 6.. sationit is likelytheywouldhave insuredto have iftheyhad had that Thatlattergoal is not a compromiseor second-bestsoluopportunity. 6. Mass. intelligence. This content downloaded from 143.thatpeople be fullycompensatedforanybad luckafterithas occurred. p. p.8.overmanypages.191 Equality.. 7. in theiropportunity to insureor provideagainstbad luckbeforeit has if that is notpossible.thatpeople be awardedthecompenoccurred.6 tionthatacceptssomeinjusticeoutofnecessity. inequalitiesderivingfromunchosenfeaI did notdefendthat"core turesofpeople'scircumstances are unjust.and 9. 5."'I arguefora progressiveincometaxthatis modeledon hypothetical insuranceand therefore 3. SV. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Sovereign resources." He saysthatluckegalitarianism holds "thatanyextraincomederivingfrompeople'schoicesshould."is to makecircumstances equal undersome apI version of the then test. Itis whatequality. do not hold the much moreextreme example.2. to.107.10 on Tue.pp. Scheffler.8. 5. SV.chap.. 140. viewhe attributes to themovement..

I The distinction tastesorambitionsareexpensiveto satisfy.thananyotherinsuranceschemethataskspeoplenottolie. deepestaspects her courages selfand to arriveat heavilymoralizedjudgmentsaboutthedegreeofreButtheinsurancescheme shebearsforherownmisfortune. he says. 2 and 9.Criticshaveobjectedthatpeople no morechoose tohaveexpensiveambitionsthantheychoose to have handicaps. Thefullest This content downloaded from 143. 18-19.So I am listshold not a luckegalitarian."and demandsno morebywayofpersonalmoralizing."p. SV.I agree. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 21.""I arguedthatequal concernrequiresthateveryonebe given the benefitof a hypothetical insuranceregimethatwould meet the in has mind.12 He says thatluckegalitarianism "enneeds" he "urgent to scrutinize the fellow citizens both of . Scheffler.10 on Tue.8. able to choose among combinationsof occupationand income that peoplewithoutitarefreeto choose among. Scheffler is notmorallycompelling." areentitledtoreceivesomeformofcompensationwhentheyarehandicapped or lack marketabletalent. 113."'1 sponsibility no more invites citizenstoscrutinize has such effect: it no mentioned just their"deepestaspects.on thecontrary.butreply(withcommonsense.but not whenand just because their isjustified. thoughperhapsotherswhomScheffler moreoftheviewshe takestodefinethatgeneralposition. discussionoftheissueis in SV. In myview.butagainsttheopinionofmanytheorists)thatthepertinent questionis notwhetherpeople have chosento makesthemunbutwhetherhavingthatproperty have some property. pp. 13.& PublicAffairs Philosophy 192 fallson totalincomewithno exemptionofthatkind. 2 and 7.107.people and thatmyownwayofdrawingitfaces"difficulties.chap.chap.insistthat"thefactthata person'surgentmedicalneeds can be behavior"makes ofhigh-risk tracedto his ownnegligenceorfoolishness it"legitimate to denyhimthecarehe needs. See SV. Scheffler. See also "SovereignVirtueRevisited. p.7.'" 11.chap..14 to their can choose whether claim.Luckegalitarians. 14."and that"peopleautomatianyclaimto assistanceifitturnsoutthattheirurgentneeds callyforfeit choicesthatsimplyturned are theresultofprudentor well-considered outbadly.. thatthisdistinction argues. 15. 12.I think. I do hold one positionthatScheffler takesto be characteristic ofluck I believethatthe distinctionbetweenpeople's choices egalitarianism: and theircircumstancesis of centralimportanceto justice.because people satisfy expensive ambitions.

but his choice betweenthe two prospectsis in no way less a choice. though I added thatthe hypothetical insurancedevicemightmake drawinga linein some ofthosecases unnecessary.some ambitionsare actuallyobsessions.familiar in everyday life.or thinkssuch a lifeparticularly freeto choose amongotheroccupaappropriateforhim.p.Luck and Hierarchy 193 Someonewho is seriouslyhandicappedor withoutmuch marketable talentis forthatreasonunabletochoosemanyoccupationsthatareopen to others.He maycomb beaches and giveup a chance forwealth. strongdeterminism traitsof characterare actuallycases of mental and some unfortunate disease. 17. Scheffler.Certainstrongformsofdeterminism denythatthe is everreal:theysay thatno one is everfreeto choose other distinction than as he does choose.however.He mayregretthathe cannothave bothleisureand wealth.buttheyarefreeto overcometheirlaziness.8.Or he may become a lawyerand leave combing beaches to others. 16. as I said.to well-known complications and borderline cases.Equality.His careeris therefore Itis notlesshischoiceifhis dehischoice. I conceded thatspecial account mustbe takenof these. Mostlazypeoplehavenotchosen bytraits to be lazy. Nor is it less a choice because he did not choose to value leisuremorethanotherpeople do."But I used that phrasein a discussionoftherelationbetweencharacterand ambition. cisionisinfluenced ofcharacter."'' traits"affect ple. This content downloaded from 143.notpartofhiscircumstances. butjust findshe does.thatsomeone'scharacter and he objectsthatso do his talentsor lack ofthem.10 on Tue. Whateverhe becomes-poor beachcomberor rich lawyer-he chooses to become one and could have chosento become theother. 20. He pointsto mycomment. SV. Thisdistinction betweenchoice and circumstance is.forexamhis pursuitofhisambitions. p. Butsomeone who yearnsfora lifeof leisure.Even if is false.and that the distinctionmightbe hard to draw in certaincases. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .eventhoughthey mustsometimesmakeextraeffort at thecostof"welfare" todo so. 322. accountofthe"difficulties" facesdoes not Scheffler's mydistinction I takeup the argument havejust summarized.is nevertheless tionsand therewardstheybring.107.It is subject. My argumentrejectsthat position.Someoneblindfrombirthcannotmakearthistory his profession.and thatis nottheconsequenceofanychoicehe made.butis ratherbased on a fewindependentremarksI made.

p. 19.withoutmakingsomeassumptionsabouttheresourcesa good lifeshouldhave availableto it.theydo. 20. that "[w]ecannotdescribethechallengeoflivingwell.whichis theissuenowin point. 264). He also notesthatI withtheirambitionsand take"consesaythatpeople usually"identify" fortheirown personalities.10 on Tue.andneitherdoes Scheffler. was only thatordinarypeople do notthinkthemselvesabsolvedfrommoralrebecause theyhavenotchosenthemotivesoutofwhichthey sponsibility of and thatalso appliesto thechoicestheymakein deploycourse act. thatjusticerequires"(SV.p.& PublicAffairs Philosophy 194 I did notintendto distinguish in thatwaycharacterfromlackoftalent. toK. 40.in mydiscussionofethicalparameters.argueoverscholasticdifferences butmakeno effort to defendtheir amongthemselves.I think.2' II mainchargeis thatluckegalitarianism ignoresthetraditional Scheffler's heartofegalitariantheory. There 2001.Luckegalitarians."'" He objects that quentialresponsibility take also for consequentialresponsibility theirexceptionmanypeople because talents allygreat theythinktheydeserveto keep all theincome theseproduce. 63-68.8. ingthata goodlifeis a lifesuitedtothecircumstances This content downloaded from 143. 290. generalviewagainstcriticsof theirwhole approach. SV. he says.and thathelpto definewhatis important to theirlives. 26April Appiah."Equality referring he saw.or to locate their opinionsin any deeper and more embracingaccount of equalityas a 18.Butit does notfollowthattheyidentify withtheirhandicaps orlackoftalent. 21.'"Mypointin thepassage he refersto. 20. Scheffler alsoendorsesProfessor remark thatitis difficult toreconAnthony Appiah's cilemyviewthathandicapsaregroundsforcompensation witha claimI makein a differVirtue(see SV. Scheffler.thatis.20Yes.p. in the sense thattheythinkoftheseas advantages and central theywanttokeep.andwe have.)Appiahdidnotexplainthedifficulty is no obviousinconsistency: I emphasized.however.He saysthatpeople identify ents.We musttherefore find some suitableaccountof thewayin whichresourcesenterethicsas parameters of the no alternative buttobringjusticeintothatstorybystipulatgoodlife. n.6) whichis thatpeopleshouldtaketheirgeneral entpartofSovereign circumstances intoaccountas "parameters" in decidinghowto live. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .(See Scheffler. Ibid. bothofwhichofcourseaffect how successfulone is.Surelyallbuta few in thosewayswouldprefer ofthosewhosuffer thattheirhandicapswere curedand thattheirtalentswereimproved.Anthony ofWhat?"TheNewYorkReviewofBooks.chap.107. withtheirexceptionaltalingtheirtalents.

in drawingup hiswill.10 on Tue. 24. Scheffler.Luckand Hierarchy 195 He generouslysaysthatI am "one generalsocial and politicalvirtue. Scheffler. Ibid.107. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Scheffler's Virtueis explicable."Theupshotis thatDworkin's politicalinfluence idealofequalitydoes notrequireorevenpermitan equal distribution of 22.is a hierarchical shows a preoccupation concern"is a sovereignvirtueof government withthe questionofhow powerfulofficialsshoulddistribute the comwealth to their and the more basic social and ignores munity's subjects of dimensions political equality. 35. commonresources.thatwhen.8. This content downloaded from 143.22 writerwho can be interpreted as attempting to anchorluck-egalitarian principles in an ideal of equality . p. that"itis noteworthy.'Whatis Equality?. thoughtphilosophyhappilyfreeofthatparticularstrategy. Scheffler.in his He says.I believe.and thenadds."23Buthe adds immediately not the same as the social and politicalideal I have described. thetestatorexampleis hardlyan important one. the ideal of treatingpeople as that"[Dworkin's] ideal ofequalityis equals.Myclaimthat"equal ideal. so thatmyemphasison economicequalityin twoearlychaptersofthatbook signalsan indifference in to social and politicalequalityand therefore a toleranceofhierarchy.first.and tastes. 25.In facthe supportshis claimwithonlytwo I think.ambideconstructive tions. arguments. The chaptersofSoverhas inmindaredominatedbya verydifferent Scheffler image: eignVirtue thatofa groupofsettlersagreeingamongthemselveshowbestto divide withno hintofautocracy.whichis thatthedimensionsofequalityaresomehowcompetitive. second argumentnotesthatI rejectwhatI call equalityof Scheffler's as a goal."25 Although literary theorymakesmuch use of criticalmaneuversofthiskind-callingattentionto an author's imagesand examplesand arguingthatthesebetraya hiddenagenda-I In anycase. .to divide hiswealthamonghischildren. 34. spiteoftherestofmybook.he says. 23. pp. ofa wealthyman who is decidinghow. 13-15.Equality.onlyon readingof Sovereign thedangerousassumptionI describedearlier."24My administrative ideal. . p. famoustwo-partarticle. each ofwhomhas different needs.'Dworkinfirstbroachesthe questionofhowtheideal oftreating people as equals mightbestbe aphe does so withreference to theexample pliedto issuesofdistribution.

myreasonsare exactlythosehe denies I have: I say that"no tyranny could advance theparticipatory goals anyegalitarian wouldalso aim to secure. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 30. 29. and the kind of equal distribution with is not social or even.with'benevolenttyranny.in anycase.itis true. 33.29Itcould of idealism.chap. p. why rejectequality be realized. Scheffler."32Scheffler modernconditions.onlythrough an extravagant totalitarianism that forbidsany politicaldiscussionat all. 37. 194-98."'26 is hispowertoaffect howotherpeople term:someone'spoliticalinfluence vote."30In fact. p. Scheffler. 28. 32. 27.Wewanttoeliminate.27Bill Gates and KennethLay both have had much greaterthan Butso didThomasJefferson. WalterLippmann averagepoliticalinfluence. 31.10 on Tue. takethisopportunity one political valueas fundamental so thatothers not. In fact. See SV." "forother edges in a footnotethatI wouldrejecta benevolenttyranny reasons.107.chap. 76.28But we certainlydo not want to mindorinfectious eliminateextrainfluencethatcomesfroma powerful and that is I influence as a goal."31 community Scheffler citesJohnRawlsas a theoristwho differs fromme because Rawls's"questionis whichprinciplesofjusticeare most consistent. tothedegreewe can. in withthefreedom and equalityofpersons. SV.n. Scheffler. SV. that saysthatmyownproject"contrasts sharplywithan egalitarianism beginsfromthe questionof whatrelationships among equals are like and goes on fromthereto considerwhatkindsof social and political are appropriateto a societyof equals.8. 4. pp. SV. p.I emphasizeratherthan denigratetheimportanceofpoliticalequalityunderstoodin a moresattwicerefersto my statementthatdistributive isfactory way.p. This content downloaded from 143. influencethatcomes frommoney.byselecting are subordinate-notby designating a particularvalue as the one with an interpretive whichone "begins"-butthrough methodthatemphasizes 26. 37. 187.4 andio. Scheffler.Scheffler butthenacknowlequalitymightbe producedbya "benevolenttyrant.extra and MartinLutherKing.""33I musttherefore institutions to saythatI did mean to addressthosequestions. pp. 31.36-37.& PublicAffairs Philosophy 196 of resourcesthatit does power.as he himself require incompatible hierarchy ButI define"influence" as a technical says.

" Sovereign does suggest and institutional concretelegislative detail.thathumanlivesare of "equal importance"(SV.Chaptersii and 12defendraciallysensitiveadmissionsand hiringpoliciesnot on traditional theconditionsofgenuinesocialequality justice.and ittherefore shouldand shouldnotbehave..not butionthatanysocietyachievesis a function ambition:itdeclares. This content downloaded from 143. on "LiberalCommunity. definesthatinterpretive to Sovereign Virtue 34.againstformidable according conceptionofdemocracy. 38.p. on "Equalityand theGood Life. Scheffler.10 on Tue.actingtogether by'thepeople'meansgovernment ofself-government" in a collectiveenterprise as fulland equal partners (SV.itis unclearwhyeconomicequalityshouldnotbe supposed thathe seems to denyit.107.The distrito have the independentauthority ofitslawsand policies.on "PoliticalEquality.thatchapterarguesthatfree theory"includingdistributive egalitarian mandarinsand insiston inand equal citizensmustrejectgovernment byadministrative dependentmoralagencyone byone:"Wedo notengagein politicsas moralagentsunless and an adequatepoliticalprocessmust we sensethatwhatwe do can makea difference.betweenpoliticalequalityand the otheraspectsof justice(SV.Luckand Hierarchy and interdependencies interrelations among all the politicalvalues. 182).8." arguesthat"politicalcommucommunallifeis nitieshavea communallife. man lifeand about each person'sresponsibility equalityandtherestofthebooktries p. 188).to preservethatpotentialpowerforeveryone"(SV. in an overallaccountof a societyof to come them together supposing Virtuedoes tryto developegalitariantheoryin some equals. 202).Chapters 1and2 setoutan accountofdistributive to showhowthisaccountis supportedbyand supportsotherdimensionsofequalityand othervalues."that"ethicalindividualism" formembersofa genuinely community. 5) and it principle. obstacles. p. defendsa conceptionofdemocracythat"blursthedisChapter4.butbyidentifying groundsofrestorative actionplansbe judgedon theirpracticalpowerto helprealthataffirmative and insisting ize thoseconditions.p. and [in]evenmorebasiccommitments to realizethatvalue in his own life"(SV. lookstoward"a plausibletheoryofall thecentralpoliticalvalues-of democracy.p. 358).197 Equality. strive..but aspectsofthe same ideal of politicalassociation"(SV.and partofwhatdetermines is an appropriate Chapter6. 4). 223). egalitarian personalphilosophy 35. TheIntroduction as a fundamental p. liberty and civilsocietyas wellas ofequality-thatshowseach ofthesegrowingout ofand reaboutthevalueofa huflectedinall theothers.Chapterto definesanddefendsa "partnership" towhich"government byall thepeople." tinctionbetweeninputand output.3But he I think.genderand otherformsof discrimination?. deScheffler emphasizestheimportanceofthecontemporary rightly bate about racial.Chapter3 exploreshow"thefreedomand equalityofpersons"is bestunderone another:thatchapterargues"thatlibertyand equalityare not stoodas supporting independentvirtues. flowsfromand exacerbatestheseotherchallengesto equal citizenship.and thesuccessorfailureofa community's whetherits members'livesare good or bad" (SV.thedegreeto whicheconomicinequalityboth underestimates.Chapter5.p.Butit steadilyophowpoliticalofficials poses hierarchy. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . In anycase. p.

ButthechallengeI describemustbe metin someway.at everylevelof politicaldecision.the moreexciting.complexlegalstructure that onlyitsproperty in itscitizensand officialsenactand enforce.but noteconomicequality.8. Underanystructure zens facebleakerprospectsfortheirentirelives-or at leastless glowing ofequals themaprospects-thanothers. resourceswiththat questionwouldremainwhetherlaws thatdistribute Nor is it are to consequence justified. This content downloaded from 143. justifieswhateverdistribution Ordinary politicsis a matterofpeople and theirrepresentatives voting in one wayratherthananother.whethertheyshouldvoteto changetheirlaws so as moreperfectly to recognizetheequal importanceofeverycitizen'slife.in SovereignVirtue. 4 Jun 2013 19:22:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10 on Tue. enough say thatifwhat Rawls essentials"are satisfied.but thefull. opportunity variedor interesting thanotherscould.Ifthelaws weredifferent ofwealthwouldin consequence even minorrespects.It is nota questionofdisbasic needswere cretepriorobligation.thedistribution oflawsthatwe can imagine.some citibe different. It is hardlyenoughto say (althoughmanypoliticalphilosophersapparentlythinkit is enough)thatsocietyowes everyonecare fortheir mostbasic needs.My anis complex.and in a genuinecommunity joritymustexplainto thosewhose prospectsare worsewhyit has not underwhichtheirprospectswould be chosen a different arrangement better. swer.and theissue persists.and it is of coursecontroversial.butofequal status. productive.198 & PublicAffairs Philosophy and taxlaws.107. thenproceduralfairness called "constitutional the play of ordinarypoliticsproduces.Ifeveryone's had an to theirlivesmuch still make but some citizens met.It is an inescapablepartofthatquestionin whatwaysand towhatdegree people'sresourcesshouldbe permittedto varywiththeirluck.