Is Desert in the Details?

Modern political philosophers have been notoriously reluctant to recognize desert in their theories of distributive justice.2 A large measure of the philosophical resistance to desert can be attributed to the fact that much of what people possess ultimately derives from brute luck. If a person’s assets come from brute luck, then she cannot be said truly to deserve those assets. John Rawls suggests that this idea is “one of the fixed points of our considered judgments;”3 Eric Rakowski calls it “uncontroversial;”4 Serena Olsaretti claims that a theory must accept it to be “defensible;”5 Peter Vallentyne, to be “plausible.”6 But there is dissent. Two prominent liberal political philosophers, David Miller and David Schmidtz, have recently denied that brute luck nullifies claims of desert and, in turn, articulated..
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