In the classic article, “On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice,” G.A. Cohen states that “a large part of the fundamental egalitarian aim is to extinguish the effects of brute luck on distribution.” This canonical formulation pinpoints what is distinctive of the luck-egalitarian mandate. But it also indicates that that mandate, so stated, is incomplete. The primary task of the paper is to extend what is explicit within that mandate, and in doing so, to bring it closer to completion. To that end, I defend – in the spirit of Cohen, and by arguments he pioneered – a new, expanded conception of luck-egalitarian compensation. I propose, accordingly, an amendment, seemingly friendly, to Cohen’s statement. But, in fact, my proposed amendment, and its rationale, reveal a major lacuna in the normative underpinnings of Cohen-style egalitarianism. I thereby show that, contrary to what is widely assumed, important foundational work remains to be done for the luck-egalitarian project.
This paper benefitted a great deal from written comments and discussion from Rahul Kumar, Jeff McMahan, Thomas Pogge, Miriam Ronzoni, Julian Savulescu, Daniel Star, participants in Columbia University’s graduate political philosophy reading group, and two anonymous referees for Moral Philosophy and Politics. Its deepest debt is to G.A. Cohen.
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