Economics and Philosophy

Essays

Reformulating Equality of Resources

Christian Arnspergera1

a1 FNRS and Université catholique de Louvain

Ronald Dworkin's (1981) theory of equality of resources draws heavily on conceptual tools developed in economic theory. His criterion for a just distribution of resources is closely connected with two economic ideas: first, the idea that a distribution of resources reflects a concern for equality if it is envy-free; second, the idea that such an envy-free distribution of resources is attainable as a competitive equilibrium from equal split. The objective of this paper is to show that the criterion of equality of resources has been misinterpreted by normative economics, largely due to Dworkin's own lack of precision, and that it needs to be reformulated in order to be intelligible. The dimensions along which the reformulation is needed concern (1) the nature of the preferences used in what Dworkin calls the ‘envy test’ and (2) the nature of the envy test itself.