Why Not Be a Desertist? Three Arguments for Desert and Against Luck Egalitarianism

Huub Brouwer, Thomas Mulligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Many philosophers believe that luck egalitarianism captures “desert-like” intuitions about justice. Some even think that luck egalitarianism distributes goods in accordance with desert. In this paper, we argue that this is wrong. Desertism conflicts with luck egalitarianism in three important contexts, and, in these contexts, desertism renders the proper moral judgment. First, compared to desertism, luck egalitarianism is sometimes too stingy: It fails to justly compensate people for their socially valuable contributions—when those contributions arose from “option luck”. Second, luck egalitarianism is sometimes too restrictive: It fails to justly compensate people who make a social contribution when that contribution arose from “brute luck”. Third, luck egalitarianism is too limited in scope: It cannot diagnose economic injustice arising independently of comparative levels of justice. The lesson of this paper is that luck egalitarians should consider supplementing their theory with desert considerations. Or, even better, consider desertism as a superior alternative to their theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2271-2288
Number of pages18
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019



  • desert
  • luck egalitarianism
  • comparative fairness
  • social contribution
  • principles of stakes
  • pluralism

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