The Pareto Argument for Inequality Revisited

Abstract

One of the more obscure arguments for Rawls’ difference principle dubbed ‘the Pareto argument for inequality’ has been criticised by G. A. Cohen (1995, 2008) as being inconsistent. In this paper, we examine and clarify the Pareto argument in detail and argue (1) that justification for the Pareto principles derives from rational selfinterest and thus the Pareto principles ought to be understood as conditions of individual rationality, (2) that the Pareto argument is not inconsistent, contra Cohen, and (3) that the kind of bargaining model required to arrive at the particular unequal distribution that the difference principle picks out is a model that is not based on bargaining according to one’s threat advantage.

Author's Profile

A. R. J. Fisher
Gonzaga University

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