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Political equality, plural voting, and the leveling down objection

David Peña-Rangel

Politics, Philosophy & Economics, 2022, vol. 21, issue 2, 122-164

Abstract: I argue that the consensus view that one must never level down to equality gives rise to a dilemma. This dilemma is best understood by examining two parallel cases of leveling down: one drawn from the economic domain, the other from the political. In the economic case, both egalitarians and non-egalitarians have resisted the idea of leveling down wages to equality. With no incentives for some people to work hard social productivity will likely decline, further lowering people's wages and thus leaving everybody all-things-considered worse off as a result—hence “never level down.†On the other hand, however, the argument against leveling down does not appear to pass muster in the political sphere: denying political equality in the form of “one person, one vote†(OPOV), for example, by giving a higher share of voting power to people with, say, more education seems straightforwardly objectionable, even if such a voting scheme would improve the outcomes of all people, including those who are ultimately left with fewer votes. Thus, a fundamental tension arises: we can either endorse the widely-affirmed “never-level-down†thesis, which says that sacrificing people's well-being exclusively for the sake of promoting equality can never be the right thing to do, or we can endorse the principle of “one person, one vote.†But we cannot do both. I defend this dilemma against a view I call the compatibility view: roughly, that because OPOV is strictly necessary to advance some weighty, non-egalitarian interest people have, accepting OPOV as a principle of justice is compatible with one's rejection of leveling down.

Keywords: the leveling down objection; level down; relational equality; time-slice inequalities; entire-lives egalitarianism; plural voting; weighted votes; Pareto requirement; one person one vote; sortition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1177/1470594X221087470

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