Equality and Information

Ethical Perspectives 19 (3):469-499 (2012)
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Traditional outcome-orientated egalitarian principles require access to information about the size of individual holdings. Recent egalitarian political theory has sought to accommodate considerations of responsibility. Such a move may seem problematic, in that a new informational burden is thereby introduced, with no apparent decrease in the existing burden. This article uses a simple model with simulated data to examine the extent to which outcome egalitarianism and responsibility-sensitive egalitarianism (‘luck egalitarianism’) can be accurately applied where information is incomplete or erroneous. It is found that, while outcome egalitarianism tends to be more accurately applied, its advantage is not overwhelming, and in many prima facie plausible circumstances luck egalitarianism would be more accurately applied. This suggests that luck egalitarianism cannot be rejected as utopian. Furthermore, while some argue that, in practice, luck egalitarianism is best realized indirectly, by securing equality of outcome, our evidence suggests that a luck egalitarian rule of regulation offers a far more accurate implementation of the luck egalitarian ideal than does an outcome egalitarian rule of regulation.
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