13th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Beard

Simon Beard

What is Bad about Bad Brute Luck? – An Intergenerational Puzzle

Luck egalitarians hold that, where possible, the distribution of goods should not be affected by brute luck, i.e. That people should not be made ‘worse off through no fault or choice of their own’. In this essay, I wish to consider two competing ways in which this claim can be interpreted. One approach is that brute luck is in itself bad and luck egalitarians should try to neutralise brute luck directly. The second is that whilst there is nothing intrinsically bad about brute luck, its effects upon the distribution of goods can be bad so that luck egalitarians should try to neutralise these effects. I illustrate the difference between these two views with an example of the intergenerational effects of brute luck. In such cases, the brute luck of one generation may be a direct consequence of the choices of previous generations, choices for which this generations cannot be held responsible. Intuitively a luck egalitarian might be drawn in this case towards the view that there is nothing bad about this kind of brute luck and that only its effects upon the distribution of goods are worth neutralising. However, this approach is not without its problems. I finish by illustrating two such difficulties, that neutralising only the distributional effects of bad brute luck may offer no escape from its injustice and that it may subvert to the moral purposes of those involved, even if these are compatible with luck egalitarianism. Whilst I do not think that these difficulties are insurmountable for luck egalitarianism, I conclude that they greatly diminish the moral motivation behind it, making it less appealing for this kind of case.