Relational equality, mutual benefit and social insurance

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I ask whether, in democratic nation state with a relatively open economy, the state has an obligation to seek to achieve equality among its citizens. If so, where does that obligation come from? And equality of what? I argue against the luck egalitarian conception of equality of opportunity, which requires the state to compensate for the effects of contingencies for which individuals are not responsible (brute luck) and but not for the effects of those for which they are responsible (option luck). This form of egalitarianism is incompatible with the practical functioning and moral underpinning of a market economy. I discuss two views which focus on equality in social, political and economics relationships between individuals – Elizabeth Anderson’s conception of relational equality and my economic conception of mutual benefit. These approaches have a similar contractual or contractarian structure: they work from the several viewpoints of potential participants in cooperative ventures rather than the synoptic viewpoint of a moral spectator. They provide complementary justifications for social insurance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIFS Deaton Review of Inequalities
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherThe Institute for Fiscal Studies
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • relational equality
  • mutual benefit
  • social insurance
  • luck egalitarianism
  • universal basic income

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