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Utilitarianism and the Disabled: Distribution of Resources

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Abstract:

Utilitarianism is more convincing than resource egalitarianism or welfare egalitarianism as a theory of how resources should be distributed between disabled people and nondisabled people. Unlike resource egalitarianism, utilitarianism can redistribute resources to the disabled when they would benefit more from those resources than nondisabled people. Unlike welfare egalitarianism, utilitarianism can halt redistribution when the disabled would no longer benefit more than the nondisabled from additional resources.

The author considers one objection to this view: it has been argued, by Sen and others, that there are circumstances under which utilitarianism would unfairly distribute fewer resources to the physically disabled than to nondisabled people, on the ground that the disabled would derive less benefit from those resources. In response, the author claims that critics of utilitarianism have fallaciously exaggerated the circumstances under which the disabled would benefit less than the nondisabled from additional resources. In those limited circumstances in which the disabled really would benefit less from resources, the author argues, it does not seem unfair to distribute fewer resources to them.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8519.00264

Affiliations: Yale University, USA

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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