Equality of opportunity for welfare defended and recanted

Journal of Political Philosophy 7 (4):488–497 (1999)
Richard J. Arneson
University of California, San Diego
Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen’s interesting criticisms of the ideal of equality of opportunity for welfare provide a welcome occasion for rethinking the requirements of egalitarian distributive justice.1 In the essay he criticizes I had proposed that insofar as we think distributive justice requires equality of any sort, we should conceive of distributive equality as equal opportunity provision. Roughly put, my suggestion was that equality of opportunity for welfare obtains among a group of people when all would have the same expected welfare over the course of their lives if each behaved as prudently as it would be reasonable to expect her to behave. My specific proposal was more demanding, holding that when an age cohort reaches the onset of responsible adulthood, they enjoy equal opportunity for welfare when for each of them, the best sequence of choices that it would be reasonable to expect the person to follow would yield the same expected welfare for all, the second-best sequence of choices would also yield the same expected welfare for all, and so on through the array of lifetime choice sequences each faces. (In the jargon of my 1989 essay, equal opportunity for welfare obtains when everyone faces effectively equivalent sets of life options.)
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DOI 10.1111/1467-9760.00088
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