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How Much Redistribution Should There Be?, 112 YALE LAW JOURNAL 2291 (2003)


An egalitarian theory must also answer a second question, the question posed in my title, namely "How Much Redistribution Should There Be?" To do this, an egalitarian theory must develop a conception of nonsubordination that explains how the equalisandum, whatever it is, must be distributed in order for no person's fortune to be subordinated to any other's. Put slightly differently, an egalitarian theory must develop a view of what counts as an equal distribution of the equalisandum. Because the equal distribution will almost certainly not be the distribution produced in the ordinary course of economic and social activity, this means that an egalitarian theory must develop an account of redistribution.

This second question (the question concerning how much redistribution there should be) has been less intensively investigated than the first question (concerning the proper equalisandum). However, the second question is not any less central to egalitarianism (or any less important generally) than the first, and, as my title indicates, it is the question I explore here. I shall develop a view that is implicitly accepted by most egalitarians, namely that nonsubordination requires redistribution to follow moral responsibility, specifically by eliminating luck's differential effects on persons' fortunes while leaving persons fully to bear the consequences of their (morally responsible) choices. I shall consider certain central features of this responsibility-tracking egalitarianism more carefully and completely than others have done, and this will lead me to conclude that the view's dual ambitions are unattainable, so that much of the most prominent philosophical discussion of egalitarianism involves a fundamental mistake. Finally, I shall introduce a new account of egalitarianism based on a new conception of nonsubordination that avoids some of the errors of the responsibility-tracking view.

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