The Presumption of Equality

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Many distributive egalitarians do not endorse strict equality of goods. Rather, they treat an equal division as having a special status such that departures from equality must be justified. They claim, then, that an equal division is “presumptively” just. Though the idea that equality is presumptively just and that departures from it may be just has intuitive appeal, making a case for this idea proves difficult. I argue, first, that extant “presumption arguments” are unsound. Second, I distill two general philosophical morals: luck egalitarians have not adequately defended the presumption of equality and they face serious obstacles in doing so; Rawls has defended it, but only indirectly via the contract apparatus. This approach narrows the presumption’s appeal. Third, I consider and reject two alternative ways of understanding the presumption of equality that might avoid the problems revealed by my examination of extant views. The first appeals to the idea of value pluralism. The second treats the presumption as a view about the burden of proof. I conclude, ultimately, that it is misleading to think of distributive egalitarianism as typically having the form of a presumption argument.
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Archival date: 2019-04-01
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