Res Publica

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 21–38 | Cite as

What is Wrong with Sufficiency?

  • Lasse NielsenEmail author


In this paper, I ask what is wrong with sufficiency. I formulate a generic sufficiency principle in relation to which I discuss possible problems for sufficientarianism. I argue against the arbitrariness–concern, that sufficiency theory need only to identify a possible space for determining a plausible threshold, and I argue against the high–low threshold dilemma concern, that multiple-threshold views can solve this dilemma. I then distinguish between currency-pluralist and currency-monist multiple-threshold views and test them against two different versions of the widely shared ‘ignorance of inequality objection’ to sufficientarianism—a benefit-driven and a burden-driven version. I argue that currency-pluralist sufficiency views are better capable of responding to the former than currency-monist views. However, I show that no existing sufficiency view can provide a plausible response to the burden-driven version. Hence, I conclude that the problem of unequal distribution of burdens above the thresholds represents an overlooked threat to the sufficiency view, in any version.


Distributive justice Sufficiency Equality Pluralism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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