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Bringing about equality

Marshall, Christopher (2017) Bringing about equality. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.wng69b23c38k

Abstract

Sometimes people ought to do something for the sake of equality but it would be wrong to force them to do it. Contrariwise, sometimes it would be permissible to force people to do something for the sake of equality but it is unclear whether they ought to do it without coercion. This gives rise to moral obstacles to redistributing benefits and burdens in unequal situations of different degrees and kinds. In these situations, what are individuals required to do, permitted to do, and forbidden from doing for the sake of equality? In this thesis, I address four aspects of this problem. I defend the following central claims. When we fall short of realising equality using the coercive power of the state, individuals have an egalitarian reason to take up the moral slack and voluntarily redistribute their own wealth, even when this makes them worse off than they would be if society were equal. It is sometimes permissible for individuals to flout property laws in the name of equality by dispossessing people of things that they are legally, but not morally, entitled to. This is often true when property laws are severely unjust and is sometimes true when property laws are only partially unjust. Egalitarian justice requires people to benefit each other by making a productive contribution to society in order to realise a Pareto optimal level of equality. This is neither implausibly morally demanding, nor commits one to the view that justice licences legally coercive job allocation. Sometimes, due to brute bad luck, indivisible harm will occur and cannot be fairly divided. Some views say that it is wrong to harm innocent people in the course of defending yourself from an equivalent harm, but permissible to “duck” harm even though you foresee that doing so will lead to an innocent person being harmed as a result. I argue that, by the lights of such views, the mode of agency used to impose or redistribute harm makes no difference to permissibility.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Christopher John Marshall
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Otsuka, Michael and Voorhoeve, Alex
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3652

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