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Cultural Exemptions, Expensive Tastes, and Equal Opportunities

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The most well-known liberal-egalitarian defence of cultural rights, provided by Will Kymlicka, presents culture as a primary good, and thus a resource that ought to be distributed according to some fair egalitarian criteria. Kymlicka relies on the intuition that inequalities between persons that are the result of brute luck rather than personal choice are unjust in making the case for various multicultural rights. This article makes two main claims. First, the standard luck egalitarian intuition on which Kymlicka's argument relies cannot justify what he calls ‘polyethnic rights,’ in particular cultural and religious exemptions from generally applicable laws. Second, I argue that such exemptions are justifiable by appealing to the public value of fair equality of opportunity, properly construed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2006-01-01

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