ADVANTAGES

Intrinsic egalitarians view equality as an intrinsic good initself. As pure egalitarians, they are concerned solely with equality,most of them with equality of social circumstances, according to whichit is intrinsically bad if some people are worse off than othersthrough no fault of their own. But it is in fact the case that we donot always consider inequality a moral evil. Intrinsic egalitariansregard equality as desirable even when the equalization would be of nouse to any of the affected parties — e.g. when equality can onlybe produced through depressing the level of everyone's life. Butsomething can only have an intrinsic value when it is good for atleast one person, i.e., makes one life better in some way oranother. The following “leveling-downobjectionindicates that doing away with inequality in fact ought to producebetter circumstances — it otherwise being unclear why equalityshould be desired. (For such an objection, cf. Nozick 1974, p. 229,Raz 1986, chap. 9, p. 227, 235, Temkin 1993, pp. 247-8.) Sometimesinequality can only be ended by depriving those who are better off oftheir resources, rendering them as poorly off as everyone else. (Foranyone looking for a drastic literary example, Kurt Vonnegut'sscience-fiction story Harrison Bergeron (1950) isrecommended.) This would have to be an acceptable approach accordingto the intrinsic concept. But would it be morally good if, in a groupconsisting of both blind and seeing persons, those with sight wererendered blind because the blind could not be offered sight? Thatwould in fact be morally perverse. Doing away with inequality bybringing everyone down contains — so the objection —nothing good. Such leveling-down objections would of course only bevalid if there were indeed no better and equally egalitarianalternatives available; and nearly always there are such: e.g. thosewho can see should have to help the blind, financially orotherwise. In case there are no alternatives, in order to avoid suchobjections, intrinsic egalitarianism cannot be strict, but needs to bepluralistic. Then intrinsic egalitarians could say there issomething good about the change, namely greater equality —although they would concede that much is bad about it. Pluralisticegalitarians do not have equality as their only goal; they also admitother values and principles — above all the principle ofwelfare, according to which it is better when people are doingbetter. In addition, pluralistic egalitarianism should bemoderate enough to not always grant equality victory in thecase of conflict between equality and welfare. Instead, it needs to beable to accept reductions in equality for the sake of a higher qualityof life for all (as e.g. with Rawls' difference principle).

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