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Social Theory and Practice


published on December 18, 2018

Robert Huseby

Luck Egalitarianism and the Distributive Trilemma
Accepting Exploitation?

It is generally acknowledged that most accounts of distributive justice face a trilemma pertaining to agents who are badly off, or risk becoming so, due to their own imprudent behavior: If we a) leave such agents to their own devices, some might perish, which is harsh (Harshness). If we b) force such agents to buy insurance, for their own good (or ban certain risky activities), we act paternalistically (Paternalism). If we c) secure sufficiency for such agents by taxing everyone, we exploit the prudent (Exploitation). This paper discusses how luck egalitarianism should handle this trilemma. The view defended is that luck egalitarianism should avoid Harshness and Paternalism, and accept Exploitation, by incorporating a sufficientarian constraint. The paper further shows how this can be done without violating core luck egalitarian commitments. Lastly, the paper asks whether securing sufficiency for the imprudent really amounts to exploitation as such, and whether it is, in any case, unfair.

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