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Thomas Mulligan
Georgetown University
  1. Plural Voting for the Twenty-First Century.Thomas Mulligan - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (271):286-306.
    Recent political developments cast doubt on the wisdom of democratic decision-making. Brexit, the Colombian people's (initial) rejection of peace with the FARC, and the election of Donald Trump suggest that the time is right to explore alternatives to democracy. In this essay, I describe and defend the epistocratic system of government which is, given current theoretical and empirical knowledge, most likely to produce optimal political outcomes—or at least better outcomes than democracy produces. To wit, we should expand the suffrage as (...)
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  2. Justice and the Meritocratic State.Thomas Mulligan - 2018 - New York: Routledge.
    Like American politics, the academic debate over justice is polarized, with almost all theories of justice falling within one of two traditions: egalitarianism and libertarianism. This book provides an alternative to the partisan standoff by focusing not on equality or liberty, but on the idea that we should give people the things that they deserve. Mulligan argues that a just society is a meritocracy, in which equal opportunity prevails and social goods are distributed strictly on the basis of merit. That (...)
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  3. Why Not Be a Desertist?: Three Arguments for Desert and Against Luck Egalitarianism.Huub Brouwer & Thomas Mulligan - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (9):2271-2288.
    Many philosophers believe that luck egalitarianism captures “desert-like” intuitions about justice. Some even think that luck egalitariansm distributes goods in accordance with desert. In this paper, we argue that this is wrong. Desertism conflicts with luck egalitarianism in three important contexts, and, in these contexts, desertism renders the proper moral judgment. First, compared to desertism, luck egalitarianism is sometimes too stingy: it fails to justly compensate people for their socially valuable contributions—when those contributions arose from “option luck”. Second, luck egalitarianism (...)
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  4. The Epistemology of Disagreement: Why Not Bayesianism?Thomas Mulligan - 2021 - Episteme 18 (4):587-602.
    Disagreement is a ubiquitous feature of human life, and philosophers have dutifully attended to it. One important question related to disagreement is epistemological: How does a rational person change her beliefs (if at all) in light of disagreement from others? The typical methodology for answering this question is to endorse a steadfast or conciliatory disagreement norm (and not both) on a priori grounds and selected intuitive cases. In this paper, I argue that this methodology is misguided. Instead, a thoroughgoingly Bayesian (...)
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  5. On the Compatibility of Epistocracy and Public Reason.Thomas Mulligan - 2015 - Social Theory and Practice 41 (3):458-476.
    In "epistocratic" forms of government, political power is wielded by those who possess the knowledge relevant to good policymaking. Some democrats--notably, David Estlund--concede that epistocracy might produce better political outcomes than democracy but argue that epistocracy cannot be justified under public reason. These objections to epistocracy are unsound because they violate a viability constraint: they are also fatal to democracy and all other plausible political arrangements. Moreover, there is a problem with the public reason framework itself--a problem that can only (...)
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  6. Equal Pay for All: An Idea Whose Time Has Not, and Will Not, Come.Thomas Mulligan - 2021 - In Debating Equal Pay for All: Economy, Practicability and Ethics. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 21-35.
    The proposal on offer is a radical form of egalitarianism. Under it, each citizen receives the same income, regardless of profession or indeed whether he or she works or not. This proposal is bad for two reasons. First, it is inefficient. It would eliminate nearly all incentive to work, thereby shrinking national income and leaving all citizens poorly off (albeit equally poorly off). I illustrate this inefficiency via an indifference curve analysis. Second, the proposal would be regarded as unjust by (...)
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  7. Disagreement, Peerhood, and Three Paradoxes of Conciliationism.Thomas Mulligan - 2015 - Synthese 192 (1):67-78.
    Conciliatory theories of disagreement require that one lower one’s confidence in a belief in the face of disagreement from an epistemic peer. One question about which people might disagree is who should qualify as an epistemic peer and who should not. But when putative epistemic peers disagree about epistemic peerhood itself, then Conciliationism makes contradictory demands and paradoxes arise.
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  8. Do People Deserve Their Economic Rents?Thomas Mulligan - 2018 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 11 (2):163-190.
    Rather than answering the broad question, ‘What is a just income?’, in this essay I consider one component of income—economic rent—under one understanding of justice—as giving people what they deserve. As it turns out, the answer to this more focused question is ‘no’. People do not deserve their economic rents, and there is no bar of justice to their confiscation. After briefly covering the concept of desert and explaining what economic rents are, I analyze six types of rent and show (...)
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  9.  62
    Optimizing Political Influence: A Jury Theorem with Dynamic Competence and Dependence.Thomas Mulligan - forthcoming - Social Choice and Welfare.
    The purpose of this paper is to illustrate, formally, an ambiguity in the exercise of political influence. To wit: A voter might exert influence with an eye toward maximizing the probability that the political system (1) obtains the correct (e.g. just) outcome, or (2) obtains the outcome that he judges to be correct (just). And these are two very different things. A variant of Condorcet's Jury Theorem which incorporates the effect of influence on group competence and interdependence is developed. Analytic (...)
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  10.  74
    How East Meets West: Justice and Consequences in Confucian Meritocracy.Thomas Mulligan - 2022 - Journal of Confucian Philosophy and Culture 37:17-38.
    "Meritocracy" has historically been understood in two ways. The first is as an approach to governance. On this understanding, we seek to put meritorious (somehow defined) people into public office to the benefit of society. This understanding has its roots in Confucius, its scope is political offices, and its justification is consequentialist. The second understanding of "meritocracy" is as a theory of justice. We distribute in accordance with merit in order to give people the things that they deserve, as justice (...)
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  11. Should Current Generations Make Reparation for Slavery? [REVIEW]Thomas Mulligan - 2019 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):847-847.
    A brief review of Janna Thompson's *Should Current Generations Make Reparation for Slavery?* (2018, Polity Press).
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  12.  77
    The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality. [REVIEW]Thomas Mulligan - 2022 - Business Ethics Quarterly 32 (1):199-202.
    A review of Katharina Pistor's *The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality* (2019, Princeton University Press).
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  13.  59
    A Bayesian Solution to Hallsson's Puzzle.Thomas Mulligan - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    Politics is rife with motivated cognition. People do not dispassionately engage with the evidence when they form political beliefs; they interpret it selectively, generating justifications for their desired conclusions and reasons why contrary evidence should be ignored. Moreover, research shows that epistemic ability (e.g. intelligence and familiarity with evidence) is correlated with motivated cognition. Bjørn Hallsson has pointed out that this raises a puzzle for the epistemology of disagreement. On the one hand, we typically think that epistemic ability in an (...)
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  14. Uncertainty in Hiring Does Not Justify Affirmative Action.Thomas Mulligan - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1299-1311.
    Luc Bovens has recently advanced a novel argument for affirmative action, grounded in the plausible idea that it is hard for an employer to evaluate the qualifications of candidates from underrepresented groups. Bovens claims that this provides a profit-maximizing employer with reason to shortlist prima facie less-qualified candidates from underrepresented groups. In this paper, I illuminate three flaws in Bovens’s argument. First, it suffers from model error: A rational employer does not incur costs to scrutinize candidates when it knows their (...)
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  15. A Note on the Epistemology of Disagreement and Politics.Thomas Mulligan - 2016 - Political Theory 44 (5):657-663.
    Martin Ebeling argues that a popular theory in the epistemology of disagreement--conciliationism--supports an egalitarian approach to politics. This view is mistaken for two reasons. First, even if political parties have the epistemic value that Ebeling claims, voters should not regard each other as epistemic peers--which conciliationism requires that they do. The American electorate is strikingly heterogeneous in both its knowledgeability and its rationality, and so the necessary epistemic parity relation does not hold. Second, for technical reasons, the beliefs that a (...)
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  16. What's Wrong with Libertarianism: A Meritocratic Diagnosis.Thomas Mulligan - 2017 - In Jason Brennan, David Schmidtz & Bas van der Vossen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Libertarianism. New York: Routledge. pp. 77-91.
    Some people may think that libertarianism and meritocracy have much in common; that the libertarian's ideal world looks like the meritocrat's ideal world; and that the public policies guiding us to each are one and the same. This is wrong in all respects. In this essay I explain why. -/- After providing an overview of meritocratic justice, I argue that meritocracy is a more compelling theory of distributive justice than libertarianism. Meritocracy better protects the core value of personal responsibility; incorporates (...)
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  17. Social Choice or Collective Decision-Making: What Is Politics All About?Thomas Mulligan - 2020 - In Volker Kaul & Ingrid Salvatore (eds.), What Is Pluralism? Abingdon, UK: pp. 48-61.
    Sometimes citizens disagree about political matters, but a decision must be made. We have two theoretical frameworks for resolving political disagreement. The first is the framework of social choice. In it, our goal is to treat parties to the dispute fairly, and there is no sense in which some are right and the others wrong. The second framework is that of collective decision-making. Here, we do believe that preferences are truth apt, and our moral consideration is owed not to those (...)
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  18. The Limits of Liberal Tolerance.Thomas Mulligan - 2015 - Public Affairs Quarterly 29 (3):277-295.
    Political philosophy has seen vibrant debate over the connection, if any, between liberalism and pluralism. Some philosophers, following Isaiah Berlin, reckon a close connection between the two concepts. Others--most notably John Gray--believe that liberalism and pluralism are incompatible. In this essay, I argue that the puzzle can be solved by distinguishing the responsibilities of liberal states to their peoples from the responsibilities of liberal states to other states. There is an entailment from pluralism to liberalism, and it in turn implies (...)
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  19. On Harry Frankfurt’s “Equality as a Moral Ideal”.Thomas Mulligan - 2015 - Ethics 125 (4):1171-1173,.
    A retrospective essay, written for the 125th anniversary of Ethics.
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  20. On the Very Idea of a Just Wage (Editorial).Huub Brouwer & Thomas Mulligan - 2018 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 11 (2):iv-vi.
    An introduction to the special issue of the Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics: "On the Very Idea of a Just Wage".
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