Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama: Luck Egalitarian

Here's an interesting piece from The New Yorker by George Packer. Packer cites a little bit from Obama's exchange with Joe the Plumber:

Obama: I do believe that for folks like me who have worked hard but also frankly been lucky—

Joe: Yeah.

Obama: —I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress who I just met over there who—things are slow and she can barely make the rent.

And apparently Warren Buffett is also a luck egalitarian:

They have this idea that it’s “their money” and they deserve to keep every penny of it. What they don’t factor in is all the public investment that lets us live the way we do. Take me as an example. I happen to have a talent for allocating capital. But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into. If I’d been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless. I can’t run very fast. I’m not particularly strong. I’d probably end up as some wild animal’s dinner. But I was lucky enough to be born into a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing—and make a lot of money doing it. The least I can do is help pay for all that.

Jeezsch.... Haven't any of these people read Liz Anderson????


729 said...

Just out of curiosity, do you find that the criticisms of Elizabeth Anderson's view of Democratic Equality are completely unconvincing? My impression is that there's difficulties with both positions, and I'd actually like to know how folks weigh in on it.

Spiros said...


I think Anderson's criticisms of luck egalitarianism are pretty compelling. (So are Hurley's, btw.) However, I also find the core moral intuition that drives LE (luck= getting what you don't deserve; justice = getting what you deserve; therefore justice involves counteracting luck) compelling.

Glaucon said...

This is only tangentially about luck egalitarianism. I wanted to pick up a copy of Equal Freedom, edited by Darwall (essays by Dworkin, Skinner, Scanlon, Rawls, Cohen, Sen). The asking price for a used copy on Amazon is $598.78. $598.78 for a frickin paperback!?!? Is it me or is there something majorly fubar about that? One would have to be one lucky egalitarian to afford it.

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