By William Letwin
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Additional resources for Against Equality: Readings on Economic and Social Policy
24 THE CASE AGAINST EQUALITY LETWIN of income distribution which yields the same expected value of income. Those who like risk would prefer a society with wide disparities of income. And only those averse to risk would do as Rawls assumes; they alone would prefer a more equal distribution of income to a less equal and hence more risky distribution. From which it follows that Rawls's argument, if it held at all, would hold only for that fraction of men who are averse to risk. How widespread is aversion to risk?
This method would fail to achieve the goal. If any person saved more than another, his consumption during that period would be proportionately smaller. If any person needed to spend more on medical services than another, his consumption of all other goods and services would be accordingly smaller. A child whose education had to be paid for out of his cash allowance might be restricted to an inadequate diet. Equal consumption allowances, in cash, would fail to insure that all persons achieved an equal level of satisfaction in consumption either at any given time or through the whole of their lives: different people are not equally skilled at turning money into real utility, and the real utilities that different people 40 THE CASE AGAINST EQUALITY LETWIN experience depend in no small measure on their different temperaments, especially on their different and to some extent self-determined capacities for enjoyment.
Suppose, as Rawls invites us to do, that a person were asked to design the distribution of income for a community of which he would then become a member; yet the designer, though authorised to determine the distribution of income, is barred from specifying his own place in it, that being determined purely by chance. He is, in effect, empowered to lay down the rules of a lottery in which he will thereafter play, but prohibited from rigging the lottery so that he would be sure to win. Under these constraints, how would a rational man design the lottery?