PPE Research: Thomas Rowe

Thomas Rowe (PPE Postdoctoral Fellow) published an article on “Risk and the Unfairness of Some Being Better Off at the Expense of Others,” in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (2019): 44-66. Here is an abstract of the paper:

This paper offers a novel account of how complaints of unfairness arise in risky distributive cases. According to a recently proposed view in distributive ethics, the Competing Claims View, an individual has a claim to a benefit when her well-being is at stake, and the strength of this claim is determined by the expected gain to the individual’s well-being, along with how worse off the individual is compared to others (Voorhoeve and Fleurbaey, 2012: 397). If an individual is at a lower level of well-being than another, their claim to a given benefit is stronger. On this view, the strength of individuals’ claims are a function of their comparative well-being levels. In this paper, I instead argue that competing claims obtain only when a particular relationship obtains between the fates of individuals: that one individual’s gain is at the expense of another. This is a particular complaint that obtains when the fates of individuals are tied together in such a way that inequality that is to the detriment of the person who is worse off is guaranteed (or likely) to obtain. I demonstrate that this complaint arises only when individuals are exposed to a particular type of risk that allows some to gain only if others lose. As such, I propose that complaints of unfairness occur less frequently than we might think if we take the Competing Claims View to be true. A purely comparative view is unable to account for this unique complaint of unfairness. I argue that this complaint is not only independently plausible, but can serve as a foundation for a more general account of competing claims complaints.