Equality for Inegalitarians [Book Review]

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Equality for Inegalitarians, by George Sher, Cambridge University Press, 2014. Luck egalitarianism has been a leading view in analytic political philosophy since it rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. The theory holds that economic inequalities are acceptable when they are the result of choice but those due to luck should be redistributed away. Proponents generally favour extensive redistribution, on the grounds that luck -- including the luck of being born with a lucrative talent -- plays an extensive role in economic affairs. If libertarians and other defenders of property rights have long appealed to choice and effort as grounds for not redistributing wealth, the novel twist of luck egalitarianism is that it appeals to the same underlying principles, the role of choice, to make the case for extensive redistribution. The term “luck egalitarianism” was coined by a critic, Elizabeth Anderson, who challenged the theory in a famous 1999 article, “What is the Point of Equality?” George Sher’s excellent book picks up where Anderson left off. According to Sher, despite its prominence and many nimble defenders, luck egalitarianism rests on philosophically dubious foundations. We should reject it, Sher argues, in favour of a philosophy that seeks, not to neutralize the role of luck in political and economic life, but one that instead tries to ensure that people are well-enough off to live their lives effectively.
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