Thresholds in Distributive Justice

Utilitas 33 (4):422-441 (2021)
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Despite the prominence of thresholds in theories of distributive justice, there is no general account of what sort of role is played by the idea of a threshold within such theories. This has allowed an ongoing lack of clarity and misunderstanding around views that employ thresholds. In this article, I develop an account of the concept of thresholds in distributive justice. I argue that this concept contains three elements, which threshold views deploy when ranking possible distributions. These elements are (i) the level of the threshold, (ii) what constitutes the value of the threshold, and (iii) how benefits above and below the threshold must be allocated. I highlight three contributions that this particular account of thresholds makes: it clarifies the nature of the shift that occurs at the threshold; it resolves a common misunderstanding about headcount principles; and it shows how the arbitrariness objection can be met.
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First archival date: 2021-05-25
Latest version: 2 (2021-12-27)
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