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April 12, 2007



"the question of whether state-imposed patterned distributions are attractive at all": indeed. A state that is powerful enough to achieve its desired "patterned distributions" is probably too strong for the good of the populace.


Chris, the cases you point to could just as well be motivated by prioritism as egalitarianism. See:

(I'm inclined to think the leveling-down objection establishes the repugnance of equality as a fundamental ideal. But at least a rough equality of resources may have instrumental value, towards maximizing general welfare.)


What about all the emphasis you have previously put on incentives? The mechanisms of welfare egalitarianism would clearly act as a disincentive to the "beneficial" course of action.

With regards to the specific case of marriage, you state in your previous post that "If marriage makes people happier, the only incentive people need is the knowledge that it does so". I don't believe this to be true. Short-term financial considerations often trump long-term happiness ones: look at working hours for example.

Mike Baldwin

If the state is to meddle at all, which it shouldn't the only consideration should be to encourage the life choice that improves the quality of the next generation and that is marriage.


Except, perhaps, people don't equate well-being with well-being. I was thinking of this while reading a new yorker piece about people with long commutes thinking they are adequately compensated by the bigger house they can afford for living further away. They trade things which are worth more to them (fun, socialising, sleeping) in exchange for things that, ultimately, are worth less. So maybe it's a culture thing too.

Peter Risdon

As the "sinister" critic of your earlier piece, I'll reply more substantively on my own blog. But in memory of Kurt Vonnegut Jr, whose death was announced today, I'll point out that I'm not the first person to think there are problems with welfare egalitarianism. here's a Vonnegut short story called Harrison Bergeron, from 1961. It's strangely relevant...



Does it help any to know that free will does not exist and that it is only an illusion?

Mark Wadsworth

Journalist to Lemmy "What do you do when you're miserable?"

Lemmy (rock's second greatest thinker after Keith Richards) "Nothing - I enjoy being miserable".

Peter Risdon

For what it's worth:


Kevin Carson

I tend to be an absolutist on the idea that we own our labor products. So I'm concerned with wealth disparity not so much on welfare grounds, as on the grounds that large concentrations of wealth were acquired in the first place in ways that violate reciprocal justice. It would be better to attack inequality from the front end, by eliminating the forms of privilege that make it possible to acquire wealth by means other than personal effort. Instead of breaking the link between income and moral entitlement, let's make it stronger.


Money issues tend to cause more harm to married couples I think. So on a marginal basis you probably cause mroe harm by causing families to be marginaly poorer than if you cause singles to be marginally poorer.

Anyway maybe welfare egalitarianism is a little close to home for egalitarians. Ie that you can say "I could live on half the money I do now and be ok" - is easy enough to say. but to say "I could be half as 'OK' as I am now and that would be alright" requires a bit mroe moral fortitude.

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