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Title: 'Equality of What?' and Intergenerational Justice
Author(s): LIPPERT-RASMUSSEN, Kasper
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 19    Issue: 3   Date: 2012   
Pages: 501-526
DOI: 10.2143/EP.19.3.2172301

Abstract :
Luck egalitarian accounts of distributive justice presuppose a metric in terms of which people’s relative positions are determined. This article addresses the issue of the metric in an intergenerational setting focusing on two problems: expensive tastes and the slavery of the talented. First, on the assumption that later generations will have more expensive preferences than earlier generations – with goods that were luxuries for past generations becoming necessities, the availability of which generates little satisfaction for later generations – welfare egalitarianism recommends redistribution of resources in favour of later generations. Indeed, welfare egalitarianism allows that one generation cultivates cheap preferences among future generations thereby allowing itself to deplete natural resources. I argue that neither of these implications defeats welfare egalitarianism as an account of intergenerational justice. Second, suppose, plausibly, that work by one generation positively affects the resources at the disposal of all later generations and assume that we apply Dworkin’s idea of an auction of resources to an intergenerational setting. On these assumptions, there is a sense in which, ceteris paribus, earlier generations command more resources – to wit, more in terms of the internal resources that valuable labour power constitutes – than later generations. Accordingly, resource-egalitarianism implies that the first generation is required to be maximally productive. This implication represents a particularly damaging version of the so-called problem of the slavery of the talented, which has exercised resource egalitarians in an intragenerational setting. Overall, this paper indirectly supports welfare egalitarianism by deflecting possible criticisms of it, and by resisting resourcist proposals as to how one should accommodate the problem of the slavery of the first generation.

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