Dworkin on equality Notes for September 20

Professor Green writes

I had to take my son to an appointment again. Sorry, it’s been an unbelievably bad several weeks in my house. Fortunately, the notes carry on, courtesy of the instructor who shows up each and every time. Take it away Professor Brown!

Professor Brown writes

We spent some time on welfare economics, then plowed into Dworkin. We covered option luck and brute luck. We think Dworkin thinks that if you can buy insurance, then we no longer worry about whether a particular (insurable) bit of brute bad luck actually happens to you.

Daniel wondered whether this only made sense if one at least had the option of fully insuring against the brute bad luck or, my wondering, if you had the option of over-insuring, so that you would then be better off if the bad-luck thing happened. In other words, insurance renders ambiguous the notion of good versus bad brute luck, but only in circumstances in which there are no limits to insurance.

I think people who believe in essential human nature would have trouble with the idea that certain losses were fully insurable (e.g. the death of one's child), but I wonder whether Dworkin wouldn't shrug and say "Pity you have such extravagant preferences."

We talked about the line between handicaps/cravings and preferences. So we're pretty much ready to tackle talents (starting gates etc.) next time.

This page was written by Michael Green for Freedom, Markets, and Well-being, PPE 160, Fall 2010. It was posted September 20, 2010.
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