Are all persons of equal moral worth? Is variation in income and wealth just? Does it matter that the allocation of income and wealth is shaped by undeserved luck? No one deserves the family into which they are born, their innate abilities, or their starting place in society, yet these have a dramatic impact on life outcomes. Keeping in mind the extreme inequality in many countries, is there some obligation to pursue greater equality of income and wealth? Is inequality inherently unjust? Is equality a baseline from which we judge other distributions of goods? Do inequalities have to be justified by people somehow deserving what they have, or by inequality somehow improving society? As a view within political philosophy, egalitarianism has to do both with how people are treated and with distributive justice. Civil rights movements reject certain types of social and political discrimination and demand that people be treated equally. Distributive justice is another form of egalitarianism that addresses life outcomes and the allocation of valuable things such as income, wealth, and other goods. The proper metric of equality is a contentious issue. Is egalitarianism about subjective feelings of well-being, about wealth and income, about a broader conception of resources, or some other alternative? This leads us to the question of whether an equal distribution of the preferred metric deals with the starting gate of each person’s life (giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity to compete and succeed) or with equality of life outcomes. Egalitarianism also raises a question of scope. If there is an obligation to pursue distributive equality, does it apply only within particular states or globally?
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