According to Oxfam’s latest report, by 2016 the richest 1% will own more than all the rest of people in the world. For many, the current and increasing inequality among individuals is deeply worrying. For many of us this is because we believe that equality matters. That is, we hold the view that how desirable a state of affairs is not only depends on the extent to which value is maximised but also on how equally it is distributed among individuals. The underlying idea is that there are no reasons why all those individuals who can be recipients of value should not receive it equally. Who these individuals are depends on what we take the currency of distribution to be. That is, the particular value that should be enjoyed equally. If we accept egalitarianism of well-being, then equality will apply to every individual that can have a well-being of her own. If we believe that it is resources or opportunities for well-being what should be equalised, then equality will apply to all those that can benefit from them. Of course, one could nevertheless restrict the scope of equality to a subset of these individuals. But that would no longer be an egalitarian view. Just as view that claimed that aggregated well-being should be maximised only on Wednesdays would no longer be a version of utilitarianism.
On any of the versions of egalitarianism presented above, the individuals among whom value should be equalised are all those whose lives can go well or badly. They include all sentient beings.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.