Defending the Democratic Argument for Limitarianism: A Reply to Volacu and Dumitru

Philosophia 47 (4):1331-1339 (2019)
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In this paper, I argue that limitarian policies are a good means to further political equality. Limitarianism, which is a view coined and defended by Robeyns, is a partial view in distributive justice which claims that under non-ideal circumstances it is morally impermissible to be rich. In a recent paper, Volacu and Dumitru level two arguments against Robeyns’ Democratic Argument for limitarianism. The Democratic Argument states that limitarianism is called for given the undermining influence current inequalities in income and wealth have for the value of democracy and political equality. Volacu and Dumitru’s Incentive Objection holds that limitarianism places an excessive and inefficient burden on the rich in ensuring political equality. The Efficacy Objection holds that even if limitarianism limits excessive wealth it still fails to ensure the preservation of political equality. In this paper, I will argue that both of these objections fail, but on separate grounds. I argue that the Incentive objection fails because one could appeal to limitarian policies that are different from the ones discussed by Volacu and Dumitru and which escape the problem of reduced productivity. I argue against the Efficacy Objection that limitarian policies are a partial but highly valuable step towards establishing political equality, and that they can and should complement or be complemented by other strategies.

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Dick Timmer
Dortmund University

Citations of this work

Why Limitarianism?Ingrid Robeyns - 2022 - Journal of Political Philosophy 30 (2):249-270.
Limitarianism: Pattern, Principle, or Presumption?Dick Timmer - 2021 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 38 (5):760-773.
The Limits of Limitarianism.Robert Huseby - 2022 - Journal of Political Philosophy 30 (2):230-248.
Limits to wealth in the history of Western philosophy.Matthias Kramm & Ingrid Robeyns - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (4):954-969.
Thresholds and Limits in Theories of Distributive Justice (thesis summary).Dick Timmer - 2022 - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics 15 (1).

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