Dworkin on Equality of Welfare

Justin Horn

Equality of welfare: “a distributional scheme treats people as equals when it distributes or transfers resources among them until no further transfer would leave them more equal in welfare.”

Some preliminary distinctions:

Theories of welfare:

Success theories: “a person’s welfare is a matter of his success in fulfilling his preferences, goals, and ambitions.”

Conscious state theories: a person’s welfare is a matter of “some aspect or quality of their conscious life.”

Question 5: Ben

Types of preferences

-Political preferences (regarding how goods, resources, opportunities should be distributed)

-Impersonal preferences (regarding things other than one’s own life or other people’s lives)

-Personal Preferences (regarding one’s own experiences and situation)

Against unrestricted equality of success:

-Bigoted preferences

-Selfish preferences

-Compensating Charles (question 1: Stew, Wes)

Question: How should the welfare egalitarian respond to these proposed counterexamples? If these concessions are made, is the whole motivation for welfare egalitarianism undermined?

Another distinction: (question 2: Kevin, Jeffrey, Gina)

Relative success: “success at meeting the discrete goals [one] has set for himself.”

Overall success: a personal evaluation of the value of one’s life, as a whole.

Question: Why is relative success defined in terms of “discrete goals”, rather than more general preferences about one’s life?

Against equality of relative success:

-Doesn’t matter equally to all

-Personal vs. other preferences

-Relative vs. overall success

Against equality of overall success:

-Happy Jack and Gloomy Jill

Dworkin’s “fix”: “Equality of overall success cannot be stated as an attractive ideal at all without making the idea of reasonable regret central. But that idea requires an independent theory of fair shares of social resources… which would contradict equality of overall success… altogether.”

Questions: What is Dworkin’s theory of reasonable regret? (Does he have anything like a complete theory?) Is there any way to patch up the Jack and Jill case without reference to an independent standard of fair distribution?

One more objection: Expensive tastes

-Louis the egg-eater

-Jude the (aspiring) bull-fighter

Equality and Disability

-An initial attraction

-Tiny Tim

-A lack of guidance? (Question 4: Kelly, Jordan)


Any hope for equality of welfare?

Curmudgeon’s corner: Any hope for egalitarianism?