Envy, Levelling-Down, and Harrison Bergeron: Defending Limitarianism Against Three Common Objections

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 25 (5):737-753 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper discusses limitarianism in light of three popular objections to the redistribution of extreme wealth: (i) that such redistribution legitimizes envy, which is a morally objectionable attitude; (ii) that it disincentivizes the wealthy to invest and work, leading to a diminished social product, and, thereby, making everyone worse-off; and (iii) that it undercuts the pursuit and achievement of human excellence by depriving successful people of resources through which they may otherwise excel. We argue that these objections fail to undermine limitarianism. An elaborated defence against them, rather, reveals how the Standard Defence of limitarianism may be expanded and strengthened by relying explicitly on the importance of preventing a society of envy, avoiding harm to non-rich citizens, and ensuring that humans are given the opportunities to excel in ways that go beyond those that allow for the amassment of wealth.

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Lasse Nielsen
Palacky University

References found in this work

Natural law and natural rights.John Finnis - 1979 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Equality and priority.Derek Parfit - 1997 - Ratio 10 (3):202–221.
Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality.R. M. Dworkin - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):377-389.
Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen - 2008 - Harvard University Press.

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