On the Usefulness of Luck Egalitarian Arguments for Global Justice


  • Christian Schemmel




Much of the recent philosophical literature about distributive justice and equality in the domestic context has been dominated by a family of theories now often called ‘luck egalitarianism’, according to which it is unfair if some people are worse off than others through no choice or fault of their own. This principle has also found its way into the literature about global justice. This paper explores some difficulties that this principle faces: it is largely insensitive to the causes of global inequality, and it is so demanding that it can only give rise to weak moral claims. I go on to argue that a) understanding justice claims as merely weak claims rests on an implausible and impractical concept of justice, and b) using the global luck egalitarian argument in practical discourse is likely to lead to misunderstanding, and to be counterproductive if the aim is to tackle global inequality. While these considerations do not suffice to make a conclusive case against the luck egalitarian principle, they should be acknowledged by global luck egalitarians – as some similar problems have indeed been by domestic luck egalitarians – and need to be addressed.