Discussion Questions on Swift on Equality
1. One can distinguish between factual or metaphysical claims about the ways in which individuals are equal and normative claims concerning equality of treatment, equality as a social relation, and equality in distribution. What connection, if any, is there between claims about the ways in which people are equal and normative claims about equality? How should the three different normative claims about equality be distinguished and what relations are there between them?
2. Why should equality be a distributive ideal? What's wrong with unequal distributions of things that people care about? Swift compares (pp. 123-4) two distributions. One gives everybody 20 units of what matters, while the other gives half 25 and half 30. He writes, "But if the inequality between those who have 25 and those who have 30 . . .is simply a matter of luck- - we may well still feel that we are somehow preferring a situation that, though better overall, is worse in the particular respect that it is unfair." Do you agree? What's the connection between equality and fairness?
3. Education is both a positional and a non-positional good, while health is essentially a non-positional good. Why? How should positional and non-positional goods be distinguished? Why is it important to distinguish between positional and non-positional goods.
4. Why should those who are worse off get priority? Is "prioritarianism" (the view that the worst off should have a higher priority than the better off) any more plausible than egalitarianism?