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Title: Option Luck, Gambling, and Fairness
Author(s): BUTT, Daniel
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 19    Issue: 3   Date: 2012   
Pages: 417-443
DOI: 10.2143/EP.19.3.2172298

Abstract :
This article is concerned with the question of whether luck egalitarians should view the outcomes of option luck, understood as deliberate and calculated gambles that individuals voluntarily choose to undertake, as fair. In his last published work on luck egalitarianism, G.A. Cohen developed a supposedly paradigm example of option luck gambling in order to support his argument that option luck never maintains fairness, other than by accident. Cohen maintains instead that the most that can be said for option luck outcomes is that they are legitimate, in the sense that those responsible for them do not have the right to complain about their subsequent levels of advantage and disadvantage. The article argues that Cohen’s argument fails, and that a determination that the outcome in the case he describes is unfair is not generalizable to other instances of option luck gambles. The article contrasts two related, but distinct, intuitively plausible accounts of fairness: one that holds that inequalities between persons can only be justified if they correspond to some morally relevant difference between persons; and one that holds that justified inequalities need to result from, but need not correspond to, a morally relevant difference. If one affirms the latter account, one can plausibly maintain that the differential choices that different parties make in some option luck gambles confer fairness, rather than just legitimacy, on the ensuing outcomes. If one does accept such an account of fairness, then determining whether a particular option luck outcome is fair will depend upon a detailed appraisal of the nature of the gamble in question, and this may have significant practical implications for the justifiability of subjecting such an outcome to redistributive taxation.

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