Responsibility for inequalities

This paper aims to specify the precise conditions under which an agent is responsible for inequalities. Admittedly, the careful examination of the conditions in question has been the main focus of contemporary egalitarianism. As a matter of fact, contemporary political philosophers take responsibility to be a core conception which in principle justifies inequalities. In particular, they tend to flesh out the conception of responsibility in terms of choice, in such a way that we should hold individuals responsible for chosen inequalities but not for unchosen inequalities. This core idea is intuitively appealing because, on the one hand, alleviation of inequalities that people do not choose would thereby be encouraged, and on the other hand, it avoids an egalitarian ‘moral hazard’: the situation in which people need care nothing for the consequences (economic or otherwise) of their own choice. G. A. Cohen thus goes so far as to say that egalitarianism successfully incorporates “within it the most powerful idea in the arsenal of the anti-egalitarian right: the idea of choice and responsibility.”.
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