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Rethinking Luck Egalitarianism and Unacceptable Inequalities


Luck egalitarianism is a social justice doctrine that holds that it is morally bad and unfair if some people are worse off than others through no fault or choice of their own. The doctrine has attracted criticisms. G. A. Cohen has defended luck egalitarianism without conceding ground to its critics by affirming that some inequalities that egalitarian justice principles do not condemn are nonetheless incompatible with an antimarket ideal of community that we should accept and—subject to feasibility constraints—implement. This essay denies that luck egalitarianism as construed by Cohen is ethically defensible. For starters, equality of condition is not per se morally desirable. The criticism that luck egalitarianism is too harsh in the treatment it urges for those who are in peril as a result of their own fault or choice remains cogent when directed at Cohen's reformulation. It remains possible that the inequalities Cohen finds to be per se undesirable are in fact instrumentally undesirable.