Desert as fit: An axiomatic analysis

Total Utilitarianism is the view that an action is right if and only if it maximizes the sum total of people’s well-being. A common objection to Total Utilitarianism is that it is insensitive to matters of distributive justice. For example, for a given amount of well-being, Total Utilitarianism is indifferent between an equal distribution and any unequal distribution, and if there would be a tiny gain in well-being by moving from an equal distribution to an unequal, we have a duty to do so. To meet the objection from justice, Fred Feldman has suggested a desert adjusted version of Total Utilitarianism ---‘Justicism’ --- which in addition to the value of wellbeing takes into account factors concerning people’s desert.1 Feldman’s suggestion is novel and interesting but his theory has been severely criticized as a theory of distributive justice.2 In the present paper, I shall try to salvage what I think might be a kernel of truth in Feldman’s suggestion, or at least a kernel that is worthy of further investigation.
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