Shlomi Segall: Should Egalitarians Care about Chances?

Datum: 16 september 2015
Tid: 10:00–12:00

Shlomi Segall, Associate Professor vid the Department of Political Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Telic egalitarianism is the view that equality matters for its own sake. Equality of outcomes improves the state of the world in at least one respect. But what about chances? Should egalitarians care about equal chances? And if so, how ought they to balance the concern for equal chances with that for equal outcomes? Some egalitarians (Broome, Otsuka, Voorhoeve & Fleurbaey) have argued that equal chances are valuable, while a minority (Wasserman, Eyal) disagree, retorting that ‘equal chances are nonsense’. The paper sympathises with the latter and seeks to show that while equal chances have no value for telic egalitarianism, such a concern may be valuable for other reasons.

Lotteries, rescue cases (save the five vs. save the one), and distribution under uncertainty typically pit the concern for equal outcomes against the concern for equal chances. I begin by showing that these generate several concerns that people often confuse with those of telic egalitarianism, but in fact are distinct. The most important of these are impartiality and respect for the separateness of persons. Once lotteries are seen as distributive mechanism (as opposed to an impartial means of arbitration) several distribuenda present themselves, outcomes and chances obviously being the most important (but not exclusive) ones. The paper then identifies two views that both allege an egalitarian value for equal chances. What I call the weak distributive view of lotteries (Broome) argues that equal chances have an egalitarian value that may mitigate the disvalue of unequal outcomes. In contrast, the strong distributive view (Otsuka, and Voorhoeve & Fleurbaey) argues that equal chances are of such value that may sometimes altogether trump that of equal outcomes. I identify some problems with both views, concluding that egalitarians qua egalitarians should only care about outcomes.

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