On dworkin’s brute-luck–option-luck distinction and the consistency of brute-luck egalitarianism

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 3 (3):283-312 (2004)
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Abstract

Egalitarian thinkers have adopted Ronald Dworkin’s distinction between brute and option luck in their attempts to construct theories that better respect our intuitions about what it is that egalitarian justice should equalize. I argue that when there is no risk-free choice available, it is less straightforward than commonly assumed to draw this distinction in a way that makes brute-luck egalitarianism plausible. I propose an extension of the brute-luck–option-luck distinction to this more general case. The generalized distinction, called the ‘least risky prospect view’ of brute luck, implies more redistribution than Dworkin’s own solution (although less than called for by some of his other critics). Moreover, the generalized brute-luck–option-luck distinction must be parasitical on an underlying non-egalitarian theory of which sets of options are reasonable. The presupposed prior theory may be inimical to the claim that justice requires equality rather than some other distributive pattern

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