The Journal of Ethics

, Volume 14, Issue 3–4, pp 217–230 | Cite as

Justice as Fairness: Luck Egalitarian, Not Rawlsian

  • Michael Otsuka


I assess G. A. Cohen’s claim, which is central to his luck egalitarian account of distributive justice, that forcing others to pay for people’s expensive indulgence is inegalitarian because it amounts to their exploitation. I argue that the forced subsidy of such indulgence may well be unfair, but any such unfairness fails to ground an egalitarian complaint. I conclude that Cohen’s account of distributive justice has a non-egalitarian as well as an egalitarian aspect. Each impulse arises from an underlying commitment to fairness. Cohen’s account of distributive justice is therefore one of justice as fairness.


G. A. Cohen Expensive tastes Exploitation Fairness Luck egalitarianism 



This paper was originally presented at a conference in Jerry Cohen’s honour at Oxford in January 2009. I am grateful to Jo Wolff for his commentary on that occasion. I also thank Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Thomas Porter, Hillel Steiner, Peter Vallentyne, Alex Voorhoeve, Andrew Williams, and Gabriel Wollner for their comments. In composing this paper, I greatly benefitted from discussions with Jerry, some of which I have reconstructed in the main text above. I miss such conversation and so much else.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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