In the luck egalitarian literature, one influential formulation of luck egalitarianism does not specify whether equalities that do not reflect people’s equivalent exercises of responsibility are bad with regard to inequality. This equivocation gives rise to two competing versions of luck egalitarianism: asymmetrical and symmetrical luck egalitarianism. According to the former, while inequalities due to luck are unjust, equalities due to luck are not necessarily so. The latter view, by contrast, affirms the undesirability of equalities as well as inequalities insofar as they are due to luck. The symmetrical view, we argue, is by far the more compelling, both by internal luck egalitarian standards and in light of the external rightist emphasis on choice and responsibility to which luck egalitarianism may partly be seen as a response. Our main case for the symmetrical view is that when some people, against a background of equal opportunities, do not exercise their responsibility to the same degree as others, they cannot justifiably call for equalizing measures to be put in place. Indeed, such measures would be positively unfair. The symmetrical view, accordingly, rejects compensation in such cases, whereas the asymmetrical view, implausibly, enjoins it. We also examine two objections to this argument. First, that this view fails to qualify as genuinely egalitarian, instead collapsing the notion of equality into the notion of desert. Second, that the opposing asymmetrical view, in contrast to the symmetrical view, can draw support from its compatibility with sufficientarian concerns. Both objections are rebutted. We conclude that luck egalitarians are best served by endorsing the symmetrical, luck-neutralizing stance.
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2014, Vol 17, Issue 2, p. 335-346